Friday, June 28, 2013

Put On A Dress And Take A Ship

The ship, the St Nicolas was captured with the use of disguise June 28th 1861 by a War of 1812 veteran and a pirate fighting adventurer.

The plan to capture a commercial sailing ship on the Chesapeake Bay and add it to the Confederate Navy was hatched by George Hollins.  Hollins was born in Maryland September 20th 1799 and at 15 he joined the United State Navy, even serving during the War of 1812 on Lake Erie.  When the Civil War started Hollins was commanding a ship in the Mediterranean.  He returned to the United States resigned his commission, and offered his service to the Confederacy.

Very shortly after joining the Confederate Navy, Hollins met another Marylander, Richard Thomas Zarvona.  He was born October 27th 1833 on the family plantation known as Mattapany.  Zarvona was an adventurer.  He had attended the United Military Academy at West Point in 1850 for a short time, fought pirates in China, and fought with Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy.

These two men set up a plan to seize the St Nicolas, a commercial ship and put it into use in the Confederate Navy.  Zarvona recruited some sketchy men in Baltimore, Maryland and they boarded the St Nicholas, along with Zarvona who went on board disguised as a woman using the name Madame La Force.  Hollins came on board the St Nicholas at its next port of call.  With all the conspirators on board they met in Zarvona’s cabin, where they armed themselves and then surprised and capture the crew on June 28th 1861.  Hollins took command of the ship.  They stopped the St Nicholas on the Virginia side of the Chesapeake to take on a Confederate crew.  They planned to use the ship to capture the sloop, the USS Pawnee, but it sailed out before the St Nicholas got there, instead they captured three other commercial ships carrying cargos of coffee, coal and ice.

For this action Hollins was given a promotion to Flag Officer and sent to command the Confederate fleet at New Orleans, Louisiana.

If you are interested in reading more about the men involved check out Richard Thomas Zarvona (1833-1875) and George Nichols Hollins (1799-1878)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shot Off His Horse

Union Brigadier General Charles Garrison Harker was killed June 27th 1864 during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

Charles Garrison Harker was born December 2nd 1835 in Swedesboro, New Jersey.  As a young man, he worked in a store owned by United State Congressman Nathan T Stratton.  Stratton worked to get Harker an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He graduated in 1858 and joined the 2nd United States Infantry on garrison duty at Governor’s Island in New York Harbor.  He would go on to see service in the Oregon and Washington Territories.

When the Civil War started he assigned to train new recruits in Ohio.  With a couple of promotion he was by October 24th 1861 the Captain of the 15th United State Regulars.  He would then move onto the 65th Ohio Infantry and become their Colonel on November 11th 1861.  Harker and the 65th would be in the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth.  He would move up to command a brigade in the Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Cumberland.  For his actions during the Battle of Chickamauga on Snodgrass House Hill, Harker received a promotion to Brigadier General on September 20th 1863.

As the Atlanta Campaign got rolling in 1864, Harker was commanding a brigade in Union Major General Oliver Otis Howard Corps.  Union General William Tecumseh Sherman made an attempted to push Confederate troops out from behind their lines on Kennesaw Mountain.  During the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain while leading his men on June 27th 1864, Harker was shot off his horse, receiving a mortal wound.  He died the same day.  Harker is buried in the Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery in Swedesboro, New Jersey.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Navy Man Of The West

Union Rear Admiral Andrew Hull Foote died June 26th 1863.

Andrew Hull Foote was born September 12th 1806 at New Haven, Connecticut the son of Senator Samuel Augustus and Eudocia (Hull) Foote.  He was a good student and received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point in June 1822.  Only six months later he left West Point on December 4th 1822 and joined the United State Navy as a midshipman on the USS Grampus.  He became a Lieutenant in 1830.  In 1837 Foote serving on the USS John Adams circumnavigated the globe.  In 1849 he became the commander of the USS Perry sailing off the coast of Africa.  It was this duty that caused him write the book “Africa and the American Flag” about the evils of the slave trade.  In 1958 Foote became the commander of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, where he would be serving when the Civil War started.

On June 29th 1861 Foote was promoted to Captain and took over the command of the Mississippi River Squadron.  In February 1862 the now Flag Officer Foote in conjunction with Union General Ulysses S Grant captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.  This was followed in a few days by the fall of Fort Donelson.  Foote was wounded in this battle.  After this he joined with Union General John Pope in a campaign against the Confederate held Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River.

With a promotion to Union Rear Admiral he was on his way on June 26th 1863 to take command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron when he died of Bright’s disease.  Foote is buried in the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Holding An Importain Bridge

The Battle of Staunton River Bridge took place June 25th 1864 in Halifax and Charlotte Counties, Virginia.

As the Siege of Petersburg continued the Confederate troops had become dependent on supplies coming in on the Danville, Richmond and South Side Railroad lines.  Union General Ulysses S Grant knew that if those could be cut, the Confederates would have to abandon Petersburg.

On June 22nd 1864 Grant sent 5,000 cavalry and 16 pieces of artillery under the command of Union Brigadier Generals James H Wilson and August V Kautz to destroy those railroad lines.  Despite being harassed by Confederate Major General WHF Rooney Lee, the Union troops were able to destroy 60 miles of railway over three days.

They reached the Staunton River Bridge, along which ran the Richmond and Danville Railroad and was the vital supply line for the Confederates in Petersburg.  The bridge was being held by 296 Confederates under the command of Captain Benjamin L Farinholt.  Farinholt had received intelligence warning him of the Union approach, giving him time to request reinforcements.  The extra men; about 640, arrived on the morning of the battle June 24th 1864.  Knowing he was being watched Farinholt ordered the train station to his south to keep running a train, making it appear he was receiving a large number of troops.  Also helping along this impression was Mulberry Hill plantation owner Mrs. Nancy McPhail, who informed the Union commanders that there were 10,000 Confederate troops at the bridge.

At about 4pm on June 24th the Union troops arrived on the northern side of the Staunton River Bridge. Kauts had his cavalry dismounted and advanced.  They attempted to capture and hold the bridge long enough to set it on fire, but were quickly repulsed.  Other Union men occupied a ditch about 150 yards from the bridge, where they made several charges, sustaining heavy casualties, gaining no ground.  About sunset WHF Rooney Lee arrived on the scene, attacking Union troops in the rear.  This forced Wilson and Kautz to retreat.

The next morning Farinholt advanced into the vacated Union lines.  They buried 42 Union dead.

If you would like to read more about the BATTLE OF STAUNTON RIVER BRIDGE  this is a good place to start.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Holding The Gaps

George H Thomas
The Battle of Hoover’s Gap a part of the Middle Tennessee Campaign was fought June 24th 1863.

After the Battle of Stones River, Confederate General Braxton Bragg established a line from Shelbyville to Wartrace along the Duck River, this included holding the Bellbuckle, Hoover’s and Liberty Gaps.  Union leaders fearing that Bragg would go to the support of Vicksburg pushed Major General William Rosecrans to attack Bragg’s position.

Rosecrans made a move towards Shelbyville on June 23rd 1863 to get Bragg’s attention, while the mass of his troops headed for the Gaps.  On June 24th 1863 Union Major General George H Thomas attacked Hoover’s Gap.  Thomas used Colonel John T Wilder’s mounted infantry known as the “Lightning Brigade” armed with Spencer Rifles to spearhead the attack.  They met Confederate Colonel J Russell Butler’s 1st Kentucky Cavalry, and pushed them back 7 miles, before Wilder’s men came up against Brigadier General William B Bate’s brigade.  Wilder entrenched on the hills to the south of the gap and held throughout several Confederate attacks.  More units arrived on both sides and everyone settled down hold their position.

On June 26th 1863 the Confederate force began pulling back.  Although rain made moving slow Rosecrans pushed Bragg’s men until they fell back to a defensive line at Tullahoma.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Skirmish In The Pass

The first Battle of Monterey Pass; a skirmish in size, was fought June 22nd 1863 as the Confederates moved into Pennsylvania.

Confederate Captain Robert B Moorman, who was commanding Company D of the 14th Virginia Cavalry, was ordered east from the Greencastle, Pennsylvania area on June 22nd 1863.  He was to obtain horses which were reported to be available in the vicinity.  The cavalry moved on east coming to Monterey Pass they ran into Union cavalry.  There was a short skirmish after which the 14th Virginia withdrew back towards Hagerstown, Maryland where they joined up with Confederate General Richard S Ewell.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Builder Of American

Union Colonel Charles Ellet Jr died June 21st 1862 from a mortal wound he received at the Battle of Memphis 15 days earlier.

Charles Ellet Jr was born January 1st 1810 in William Penn Manor, Buck, Pennsylvania.  He studied civil engineering in Paris, France at the Ecole Polytechnique.  He designed the first wire cable suspension bridge built in the United States in 1842.  It spanned the Schuylkill River at Fairmount, Pennsylvania, and was 358 feet long.  There were other bridges to follow including the 770 foot long footbridge at Niagara Falls.  Ellet also engineered canals and railroads in Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as building flood control dams on local rivers.  In 1850 he was directed by the United States Secretary of War Charles M. Conrad to survey the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and make plans to improve navigation.  Ellet wrote a pamphlet in 1855 called “Coast and Harbor Defenses, or the Substitution of Steam Battering Rams for Ships of War”.

Union Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton had Ellet appointed Colonel of Engineers in March 1861, and set him creating the Union Ram Fleet.  He had nine steam ships converted to vessels.  These ships were designated the Mississippi Ram Fleet.  While he was on board the USS Queen of the West, Ellet was mortally wounded, being shot in the knee during the Battle of Memphis on June 6th 1862.  He died fifteen days later June 21st 1862 at Cairo, Illinois.  He is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

From Three Months To Three Years

The 5th Ohio Volunteer Infantry originally a three month regiment, was on duty June 20th 1861 at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, Ohio.

The 5th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized April 20th 1861, for three months service at Camp Harrison.  They were mustered into service May 8th 1861 and moved to Camp Dennison where the men were on duty until June 20th 1861.  When their three months were up, most of the men reenlisted and the regiment was reorganized for three years under the command of Colonel Samuel H Dunning.

The men of the 5th were sent in 1862 to the Shenandoah Valley, where they received heavy casualties at the First Battle of Winchester in March.  Following that the Battle of Port Republic on June 9th 1862 saw the 5th faced with 244 casualties.  At the Battle of Antietam on September 17th 1862 they took part in the fighting in the Cornfield, and pushed the Confederates they faced south of the Dunker Church, before running out of ammunition and having to fall back.  The next year the 5th had replaced its lost men and was in action at the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  Later that year the 5th was transferred to the western theater and became a part of the XX Corps, serving under General Joseph Hooker, where they would fight at the Battle of Lookout Mountain.  In 1864 - 1865 the 5th was with Union General William T Sherman and took part in the March to the Sea and the Carolina Campaign.

Serving throughout the Civil War the men of the 5th Ohio fought in 28 battles.  They mustered out of service July 26th 1865.  There were 146 men killed or mortally wounded, and another 57 who died from disease while serving.

If you would like to read more about the FIFTH OHIO VOLUNTEER INFANTRY  is a good web site.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Celebration Of Freedon

Juneteenth also called Freedom or Emancipation Day, celebrates the day that the abolition of slavery was announced in Texas on June 19th 1865.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became effective on January 1st 1863, but it meant little to the slaves in the Confederate states.  This was true for the African Americans living in bondage in Texas.  On June 18th 1865 Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with 2,000 troops to reinstate Federal law and control.

Standing on the balcony of Ashton Villa in Galveston on June 19th 1865, Granger read General Order Number 3, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”  The former slaves took to the streets of Galveston in celebration.

The next year on June 19th 1866 the celebration known as Juneteenth began in Texas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Civilian For The Union

An Ohio civilian, William Hunter Campbell was hung June 18th 1862 for his action in what has become known as the Great Locomotive Chase.

William Hunter Campbell was born September 9th 1839 in Fox, Carroll, Ohio the son of Samuel and Sarah (Hunter) Campbell.  He was described at the time of the Civil War as “a man of two hundred twenty pound, handsome as Apollo, and of immense physical strength, which he was slow to use when roused, though good-natured and clever.”

Campbell was in Kentucky in 1862 visiting friends in the 2nd Ohio, when he was recruited to steal a train from Confederate territory and bring it through Union lines.  The man who recruited him was James J Andrews, who was also a civilian.  Andrews also brought in 22 soldiers from the 2nd, 21st and 33rd Ohio.  All the men went south, wearing civilian clothing and met up in Marietta, Georgia.  They all got on a train pulled by the locomotive called The General, except two on April 12th 1862.  When the train stopped in Big Shanty, Georgia, Andrews, Campbell and the other Ohio men stole the train.  The train was chased as it moved north in what has been called the “Great Locomotive Chase”.  When the train ran out of fuel near Chattanooga, Tennessee the raiders were captured.

Campbell being a civilian was placed on trial and was convicted as a spy.  He was taken; along with six of other men, to the corner of Fair ST and South Park Ave in Atlanta, Georgia on June 18th 1862 and hung.  Campbell’s execution didn’t go quite right, it was described that “two of the seven, Campbell and Slavens, being very heavy men, broke the ropes, and fell to the ground insensible. In a short time they recovered, and asked for a drink of water, which was given them. Then they requested an hour to pray before entering the future world, which lay so near and dark before them. This last petition was indignantly refused, and as soon as the ropes could be adjusted, they were compelled to re-ascend the scaffold, and were again turned off!"  Campbell was buried first near where he was hung, but was moved April 25th 1866 to the Chattanooga National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Hamilton, Tennessee and reinterred near the Ohio Memorial.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cutting Through The Screen

In Loudoun County, Virginia on June 17th 1863 the cavalry fight known as the Battle of Aldie took place.

Confederate Major General JEB Stuart’s cavalry was screening the march being made north by General Robert E Lee’s troops advancing into Pennsylvania.  On June 17th 1863 the Union cavalry commander Brigadier General Alfred Pleasonton decided to cut through this screen, by sending Brigadier General David Gregg’s division west out of Manassas Junction on the Little River Turnpike toward the town of Aldie, Virginia.

In the early morning, Confederate Colonel Thomas Munford led the 2nd and 3rd Virginia Cavalry from Upperville on towards the Bull Run Mountains looking for forage and doing some reconnaissance.  When he reached Aldie he put out a line of pickets and then moved the rest of his men northwest on the Snicker’s Gap Turnpike.  Around 4 pm the Union’s 1st Massachusetts Cavalry ran into Munford’s pickets and pushed them in.  The 1st Massachusetts was then confronted by the 5th Virginia Cavalry who pushed the Union back to their main line.  Then the 1st joined by the 4th New York Cavalry charged, but the Confederates with some help from some sharpshooters drove the Union Cavalry back and secured their lines and hold of Ashby’s Gap Turnpike.  The 1st Massachusetts was trapped in a curve on the Snicker’s Gap Turnpike and lost 198 of their 294 men, one detachment almost eliminated in hand to hand fighting.

Somewhere around 8 pm the fighting died off.  Munford took his men and moved west towards Middleburg.  The Union lost about 305 men, dead and wounded, the Confederate side had losses of about 110.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

To The Memory Of Patriots

The Henry Hill Monument built by the 5th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery on the Manassas battlefield, was dedicated June 11th 1865.

Just eight weeks after Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant, Lieutenant James M McCallum of the 16th Massachusetts Battery received orders to oversee the building of a monument.  He oversaw soldiers from the 5th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery in the building of two monuments on the Bull Run battlefield.   The monument located on Henry Hill would be twenty feet tall, topped with a two hundred pound shell.  There are pedestals on each corner which are also topped with shells.  It is built from local sandstone, and took the men just four days to construct the monument.

Union General Samuel P Heintzelman, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs and Major General Orlando B Wilcox attended the dedication of the monument held on June 11th 1865.  There were speeches given by chaplains from Illinois and Kentucky, followed by a firing of artillery located on Henry Hill.  The inscription on the monument reads, “To the memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run, July 21st, 1861.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Led There By Slaves

Union Colonel James Montgomery took African American soldiers led by Harriet Tubman on June 2nd 1863 on the Combahee River Raid.

Three Union gunboats set off from Beaufort, South Carolina up the Combahee River on the night of June 1st 1863.  Colonel James Montgomery a former Kansas “Jayhawker” led several Union infantry regiments including the all black 2nd South Carolina Infantry.  Harriet Tubman had received information from local slaves as to the location of mines placed by Confederates along the river.  As Tubman guided the boats up the river, they picked up slaves hiding along the river waiting to be rescued; they would eventually take 750 of these “contrabands” onboard.

The three boats carried the Union troops, which went onto shore June 2nd 1863, with the mission to remove mines from the river, seize supplies, and destroy the South Carolina plantations of the Hayward, Lowndes, and Middleton families.  They moved quickly, and by the time the Confederates learned of the raid the damage had been done.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A New Commander

At the Battle of Seven Pines [also called the Battle of Fair Oaks], Confederate General Joseph Eggleston Johnston was wounded, and the command of the Army of Northern Virginia was turned over the next day June 1st 1862 to General Robert E Lee.

Confederate General Joseph Eggleston Johnston was criticized by Confederate President Jefferson Davis for a lack of aggressiveness.  He was the senior commander at the First Battle of Manassas, and was defending the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in 1862 against a superior number of Union troops commanded by Major General George B McClellan.  Facing greater numbers Johnson wanted to concentrate his force in fortifications around Richmond, but was overruled by Davis.  First he prepared for a siege at Yorktown, but then withdrew to Williamsburg where he fought a battle on May 5th 1862.  On May 7th 1862 Johnson’s men turned back an amphibious attack at Eltham’s Landing.  Each movement however placed Johnson’s army closer to Richmond, until he was only about six mile away.

A part of the Peninsula Campaign, at the Battle of Seven Pines Johnson was operating on the offensive.  Seeing that McClellan’s army was divided by the flooded Chickahominy River, he attacked on May 31st 1862.  The battle was a tactical draw, but it halted McClellan’s advance.  Johnson was wounded about dusk, in the right shoulder and chest by an artillery shell.  He was evacuated to Richmond, Virginia.  That day, June 1st 1862 the command of the Army of Northern Virginia was turned over to his West Point classmate Robert E Lee.