Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To Canada To Freedom

The Eliza Anderson
In Washington Territory on September 24th 1860 an African American named Charles Mitchell, hid away on a boat heading to Canada for freedom.

Charles Mitchell was a 14 year old African American slave.  He had been born in Maryland to a white man and a mother who was a slave.  At some point he had become the property of James Tilton, and was brought to Washington Territory when Tilton became the Washington Territorial surveyor.  Even though Washington territory was in theory free soil, the Dred Scott Decision had made the United States unable to ban slavery in its territories.

In trying to make his escape to Canada Mitchell took work on the ship the Eliza Anderson as a steward.  He had hid away on board in the pantry, but was discovered before the ships arrival in Victoria.  Washington’s territorial governor; Henry M McGill was on board, and he had Mitchel placed in confinement.

When the Eliza Anderson arrived in Victoria word got out that Mitchell was being held on the ship, and prevented from seeking his freedom.  A Victoria lawyer, Henry Crease took up the case and had a writ of habeas corpus was drawn up demanding the boy be released to Canadian authorities.  Neither the ship’s captain John Fleming nor Governor McGill were willing to give Mitchell over to the Canadians, but he was removed from vessel and given over to the town’s black community.

James Tilton filed protest with the Canadian government, but nothing came from it as the Canadian’s considered Mitchel a free man.  Tilton’s appeals for the return of his property, to Washington, DC also went unanswered.  The local Washington Territory newspaper showed the attitudes of the time, when the “Olympia Pioneer and Democrat”  wrote “As with most mulattoes, he (Mitchell) lacks stability, and has not the faithfulness and gratitude which distinguishes the pure African, and was remarkable in his mother's people for the several generations they have been held in Maryland.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sent Back ToThe South Carolina Coast

The USS Stettin an iron steamship achieved it fourth naval victory September 23rd 1863 against the CSS Diamond.

The Stettin was built in Sunderland, England 1861.  She was an iron screw steamship and weighted in at 480 tons.

The USS Bienville a side wheel steamer captured the Stettin on May 24th 1862, as it was attempting to run the Union blockade north of Charleston, South Carolina.  The Stettin was loaded with lead, quinine, saltpeter and other cargo from the Bahamas.  She was taken by the New York Prize Court, purchased by the Union Navy on September 4th 1862; she was commission the USS Stettin and placed under the command of Master Edward F Devens.

The Stettin was assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and was sent back down to the South Carolina coast.  Her first capture was the Aries on March 28th 1863.  Then came the steamers the St John’s and the Havelock, the second of these was set on fire.  The Stettin then achieved a fourth victory on September 23rd 1863 against the steamer to CSS Diamond.

When the war was over the USS Stettin was decommissioned at the Boston Navy Yard April 6th 1865.  She was sold to Richard Baker Jr at public auction June 22nd 1865 and renamed the Sheridan.  She was stranded September 24th 1866 and lost.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Both Sides Of The River

The Battle of Shepherdstown or the Battle of Boteler’s Ford was the end of the Maryland Campaign and was fought September 19th and 20th 1862.

Confederate General Robert E Lee’s army of Northern Virginia waited after the Battle of Antietam for the Union to make another assault, when none came the two armies pulled together a truce so the wounded could be recovered.  Lee began his trip back to Virginia on the night of September 18th 1862, leaving a rear guard under Brigadier General William N Pendleton to hold Boteler’s Ford.

In the early evening of September 19th 1862 Union Brigadier General Charles Griffin sent the 1st United States Sharpshooters and the 4th Michigan Infantry to Boteler’s Ford.  The Union men attacked Pendleton’s troops, capturing four cannon before Griffin recalled them.  Pendleton reported the incident to Lee, reporting that he lost all forty-four of his artillery pieces.

On September 20th 1862 the Union sent a reconnaissance force made up of Major Charles Lovell’s Brigade of United States Regulars.  The Regulars crossed the Potomac entered Shepherdstown, Virginia and encountered Confederate Major General A P Hill’s division about a mile from the river.  Hill’s men attacked under a heavy Union artillery fire.  Two more Union brigades were ordered across the river.  There was a clash along the heights along the river, which caused the Union to withdraw from the Virginia side of the river .  The day wore on, ending with both the Union and Confederate troops on either side of the Potomac River in a tactical stalemate.

Following this battle Union General George McClellan settle his Army of the Potomac into a defensive position along the Maryland bank of the river. Casualties for both sides combined were about 700, of this number 269 casualties were from the Union 118th Pennsylvania Infantry; the “Corn Exchange Regiment”, for who this was their first battle.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In Nashville

The 173rd Ohio Infantry mustered into Union service on September 18th 1864 for one year.

The 173rd Ohio Infantry was organized in Gallipolis, Ohio.  Most of the men were from Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.  They mustered into Union service for a one year term, under the command of Colonel John H Hurd on September 18th 1864.  The men were sent to the Defenses of Nashville in the Department of Cumberland, where they were assigned to guard duty.  The 173rd was in the town during the Battle of Nashville on December 15-16th 1864, and guarded the prisoners there until February 1865.

The 173rd was mustered out of service at Nashville, Tennessee, discharged on July 5th 1865 at Camp Dennison, Cincinnati, Ohio.  The regiment lost 108 men during their service.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Stovepipe And Blindness

Confederate Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was promoted Brigadier General on September 6th 1864.

Adam Rankin Johnson was born February 8th 1834 in Henderson, Kentucky the son of Thomas J and Juliet (Rankin) Johnson.  He attended local schools before going to work at the age of 12 in a local drugstore.  He moved to the Hamilton Valley, in Burnet County, Texas in 1854, where he became a surveyor.  Johnson also supplied and drove stagecoach for the Butterfield Overland Mail stations, and was a noted Indian fighter.

When the Civil War started, Johnson returned to his native state of Kentucky, and joined Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry as a scout.  He escaped being captured at Fort Donelson, and received a promotion to Colonel for his and his regiment’s actions well behind Union lines in Kentucky.  In a raid against Newburg, Indiana, Johnson with twelve men captured the city by using two joints of stovepipe he mounted to an old wagon convincing the Union presence it was a cannon.  This was how he picked up the nickname “Stovepipe”.  In 1863 Johnson took command of a brigade in Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry.  When Morgan’s raid came to an end at the Battle of Buffington Island, Johnson led 350 troopers across the Ohio River to safety.  He was appointed Brigadier General September 6th 1864.  An accidental shot by one of own men on August 21st 1864 at the Battle of Grubb’s Crossroads blinded Johnson.  He was captured by Union soldiers and spent most of the rest of the war in Fort Warren as a prisoner of war.

After the war ended and Johnson was paroled, he returned to Texas.  Even though he was blind, Johnson founded the town of Marble Falls, Texas; known as “The Blind Man’s Town”, founded the Texas Mining Improvement Company  and worked to try to harness the Colorado River for water power.  He died October 20th 1922 in Burnet, Texas and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas.  His body was laid in state in the Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Man Of The 37th

Union Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Black was made Major of the 37th Illinois Infantry September 5th 1861.

John Charles Black was born January 27th 1839 in Lexington, Mississippi the son of Rev. John and Josephine (Culbertson) Black.  His father who was a Presbyterian minister moved the family to Danville, Illinois in 1847.  Black attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

On Lincoln’s call for troops Black along with his brother William P Black join the 11th Indiana Infantry as privates on April 14th 1861.  The 11th was a three month regiment, and after being mustered out of service,  they organized Company K of the 37th Illinois Infantry.  Black was made the Major of the 37th on September 5th 1861.  He was wounded at the Battle of Pea Ridge March 7th 1862.  On July 12th 1862 Black was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 37th.  During the Battle of Prairie Grove, December 7th 1862 Black led his men against a fortified Confederate position, suffering heavy casualties before being forced to retreat.  Black would be wounded in the action and would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his service there.  He would go on the command a Brigade.  Black resigned his commission August 15th 1865.

Black passed the bar and opened a law practice in 1867 in Danville, Illinois.  He would become the United States District of Attorney in Chicago, Illinois.  He was the Commissioner of Pensions 1885-89.  Black was elected to the United States Congress in 1893.  In 1903 he made the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic.  Black died August 17th 1915 in Chicago, Illinois, and is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville, Illinois.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Blockade Runner To Blockader

The USS Memphis was purchased by the Union Navy September 4th 1862 from a New York City prize court.

The USS Memphis was built by William Denny and Brothers in Dumbarton, Scotland in 1861 as a Confederate blockade runner.  The ship was a 791 ton screw steamer, and it sported seven guns.  The Memphis was making a run on the Union blockade on June 22nd 1862, when it ran aground entering Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.  Confederate troops were able to get her partially unloaded the next day and tow her to safety.  The Memphis was captured leaving Charleston with cargo of cotton July 31st 1862 by the USS Magnolia a side wheeler.

At a prize court in New York City the Union Navy bought the Memphis on September 4th 1862.  She was commissioned on October 4th 1862 the USS Memphis, under the command of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Pendleton G Watmough.  The Memphis was assigned to the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron and on October 14th 1862 she captured a British steamer heading for Havana, Cuba.  In January 1863 with help of the USS Quaker City the Memphis captured the CSS Mercury heading for Nassau, Bahamas with a cargo of turpentine.  The USS Memphis began operating on the North Edisto River near Charleston, South Carolina in March 1864.  A Confederate torpedo boat the CSS David attempting a run, hit the Memphis with a couple of torpedoes but they didn’t explode.  The Memphis served out the war doing her blockading duty.

The Memphis was decommissioned May 6th 1867 and sold to the V Brown & Co in New York.  She was renamed the Mississippi and put to work as a freight ship.  On May 13th 1883 she was gutted by a fire while docked in Seattle, Washington and abandoned.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Escaped From A Den Of Lions

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery on September 3rd 1838.

Frederick Douglas, whose real birth date is unknown, was an orator, social reformer, statesman, writer and an escaped slave.  He tried to escape slavery the first time when his owner a Colonel Lloyd hired him out to the plantation Freeland, but was unsuccessful.  In 1836 with a new owner named Covey he tried and failed again.  In 1837 Douglass met a free black woman in Baltimore, Maryland; Anna Murray, and fell in love.  Murray’s freedom and Douglass’ feelings for her made him want his freedom even more.

Finally Douglass made good his escaped on September 3rd 1838 by boarding a train disguised in a sailor’s uniform at Havre de Grace, Maryland.   Murray gave him her savings to cover his traveling cost, and obtained the uniform for him.  Douglass had gotten identification papers from a free black sailor.  He got off the train in Wilmington, Delaware and boarded the steamboat “The Quaker City” for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He then continued on another train, until reaching the safe house run by abolitionist David Ruggles in New York City.  Once he was safely in New York, Douglass sent for Murray, she joined him and they were married in the city September 15th 1838.

At a later date Douglass would write of his arrival in New York City, “I have often been asked how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the 'quick round of blood,' I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: 'I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.' Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

Clean Out The Town

The Battle of Mile Hill a cavalry skirmish fought September 2nd 1862 near Leesburg, Virginia was a set up to the start of the Maryland Campaign.

Following the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run [Second Manassas], Confederate General Robert E Lee decided instead of pursuing his opponent into their fortifications near Washington he would turn and move into Loudoun County, reorganize and plan his invasion into Maryland.   At the time Loudoun was occupied by Union troops operating out of Harpers Ferry.  Lee ordered General J E B Stuart’s cavalry into Loudoun in advance of the army’s movement as a screen.

The 2nd Virginia Cavalry under the command of Confederate Colonel Thomas T Munford was sent to secure the river crossings and town of Leesburg, Virginia.  On September 2nd 1862 as Munford approached the town, he split his command sending a squadron commanded by Captain Jesse Irvine Jr directly into town, while the rest of the regiment moved toward Edward’s Ferry.  Irvine moved into town and ran into the Union Loudoun Rangers at the courthouse.  The Rangers fell back to the north end of town and the position being held by Cole’s Maryland Cavalry.  Cole’s men were fighting dismounted and began engaging Irvine.  About that time Munford’s command attacked the Union men from their rear, having flanked them from the river and approaching via Smart’s Mill Lane.  Cole had his command attempt to mount but may of the men were killed or wounded before they could get to their horses.

Those Union men who got to their horses briefly engaged Munford.  They retreated towards the Catoctin Mountains, reaching the road to Waterford and a gap in the mountain.  The Confederates chased Cole’s men for two miles.  The Union cavalry had 7 killed, 33 wounded and 15 captured, while the Confederates lost 2 killed and 5 wounded.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Highlanders Follow Your General

Union Brigadier General Isaac Ingalls Stevens was killed in the Battle of Chantilly September 1st 1862.

Isaac Ingalls Stevens was born in Andover, Massachusetts March 25th 1818.  He graduated 1839 from the United States Military Academy at West Point at the top of his class.  He entered the Army Corps of Engineers and was promoted to First Lieutenant by 1840.  During the Mexican American War Stevens saw action at the Battles of Cerro Gordo, Vera Cruz, Churubusco, Chapultepec and others.  He would write a book about his experiences in 1851.  On March 17th 1853 Stevens was named the Governor of the newly created Washington Territory.  On his way to his new post Stevens made a survey across the prairie for a possible railroad route.  He was elected to and served the Territory in the United States Congress from 1857 to 1858.

When the Union was defeated at the First Battle of Bull Run [First Manassas] Stevens accepted a commission as the Colonel of the 79th New York Infantry, which was known as “the Cameron Highlanders”.  He was appointed Brigadier General September 28th 1861 and led men at the Battles of Port Royal and Secessionville.  Stevens’ men were transferred to the IX Corps and made part of Union Major General John Pope’s Army, where they fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run [Second Manassas].  At the Battle of Chantilly on September 1st 1862 Stevens raised the fallen regimental colors of his old 79th New York and shouted at the men, "Highlanders, my Highlanders, follow your general!"  As he charged ahead of his troops Stevens was hit by a bullet in the temple and died instantly.  His body was brought to Newport, Rhode Island and buried in the Island Cemetery there.