Tuesday, April 29, 2014

African American Officers

The Confederate 1st Louisiana Native Guard was disbanded by order of General John L Lewis on April 29th 1862, as Union troops entered and took over the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Following secession, Louisiana’s Governor Thomas Overton Moore, made a request for troops in April 1861.  In response to this call a committee of free New Orleans blacks called a meeting at the Catholic Institute on April 22nd 1861, at which around 1,500 free African American men enlisted.  Most of the men were French Speaking Creoles.  Moore made these men part of the state’s militia, forming the 1st Louisiana Native Guard on May 2nd 1861.  There were three white officers appoint to command the regiment, but the company commanders came from among the men of the regiment, making this the first North American military unit to have African American officers.   Among these officers were Lieutenant Andre Cailloux, who would latter die fighting the Confederacy, and Lieutenant Morris W Morris who was not only African American, but also Jewish.

The men of the 1st were never used in any Confederate military action, and the men had to use their own money to buy uniforms and weapons. The men mostly found themselves part of parades and grand reviews.  They were forced to disband on February 15th 1862, because of a new Louisiana law, stating that only white men could be part of the militia.  Governor Moore reinstated the 1st on March 24th 1862 when Union Admiral David G Farragut’s navy sailed into the Mississippi River.

When Confederate troops under the command of Major General Mansfield Lovell left New Orleans the General of the Louisiana Militia; John L Lewis ordered the 1st disbanded on April 29th 1862, telling them to go home, and to hide their guns and uniforms. Union Major General Benjamin F Butler, after accepting the surrender of New Orleans approached some of the members of 1st to fight for the Union; about 10% were willing and would become the Union 1st Louisiana Native Guard, latter known as the 73rd United States Colored Troops.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Maine's Three Month Men

The 1st Maine Infantry answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers, completing the raising of their regiment on April 28th 1861.

When President Abraham Lincoln made his first call for troops in April 1861, the State of Maine was required to raise one infantry regiment for three months of military service.   In Maine the one regiment of infantry was raise by reorganizing 10 state militia companies and was completed on April 28th 1861 at Portland, Maine.  The 779 men were mustered into the three month regiment on May 3rd 1861 under the command of Colonel Nathaniel Jackson as the 1st Maine Infantry.

The First Maine was shipped to Washington, DC where they served from June 1st 1861 until August 1st 1861.  The men spent their whole service with the 1st camped at Meridian Hill, defending Washington, DC.  When the 1st was mustered out of service on August 5th 1861, many of the men found they had signed enlistment papers for two or three years of service.  Eight companies of these men were transferred to the 10th Maine Infantry.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Short Service

A side wheel merchant steamer was captured by the Union Navy April 27th 1862, becoming the USS Diana.

The Union Navy captured a side wheel merchant steamer on April 27th 1862 at New Orleans, Louisiana.  The side wheeler was named the USS Diana and was turned over to Union General Benjamin F Butler.  The Diana had been built in 1858 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania and was a 239 ton side wheeler.  She went to work for the Union Army as a transport ship until November 1862, when she returned to Union naval service.  During the time the Diana was in service with the navy she assisted in the capture of 2 blockade runners, an attack on the Confederate hold of Bayou Teche, Louisiana, and the destruction of the CSS J A Cotton in January 1863.

On March 28th 1863 while preforming reconnaissance in Grand Lake, Louisiana the Diana was recaptured by the Confederates.  A few weeks letter a Union force destroyed her.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Useless Useless

On April 26th 1865, Union soldiers caught up with John Wilkes Booth at the Garrett Farm, and killed him.

Union Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger learned through interrogation that John Wilkes Booth and David E Herold were at the Richard Garrett Farm near Port Royal, Virginia.  In the early morning hours of April 26th 1865 Conger accompanied 25 Union soldiers from the 16th New York Cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Edward P Doherty. They surrounded the tobacco barn that Booth and Herold were hiding in, and demanded their surrender.  Herold gave himself up, but Booth refused, so the soldiers set the barn on fire.

Booth could be seen moving around inside the burning barn.  Union Sergeant Boston Corbett, claimed to have seen Booth raise a gun to shot, and so he fired at Booth. The shot struck Booth in the neck.  He was dragged from the barn and placed on the porch of the Garrett farmhouse.  The bullet had gone through several vertebrae and partially severed his spinal cord.  As he got close to dying, Booth said, "Tell my mother I died for my country."  He then asked that his hands be held up where he could see them and said his last words, "Useless, useless."  It took him three hours to die.

In Booth’s pockets were the pictures of five different women, a candle, a compass, and his diary.  In the diary Booth had written of President Abraham Lincoln, "Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment."

To read some eyewitness accounts of The Death of John Wilkes Booth check this web site.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

It Wasn't A Mire Diversion

The First Battle of Franklin was fought in Williamson County, Tennessee on April 10th 1863, taking place near where the more famous battle of the same name would happen in 1864.

On April 10th 1863 Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn advanced his cavalry, about 6,000 strong, north from Spring Hill, Tennessee, towards Franklin, Tennessee.  His force would run into skirmishers of Union Major General Gordon Granger.  Granger had received a report of an attack to his north in Brentwood, Tennessee, and thought Van Dorn’s attack was a mire diversion.  When Granger learned that there was no threat to Brentwood, he decided to drive Van Dorn.  When the Union commander sent orders, he found that one of his subordinates had already initiated an attack.

The 4th United States Cavalry under the command of the Brigadier General David S Stanley came in behind Van Dorn’s troopers by crossing the Harpeth River at Hughes’ Ford.  The Union troopers captured Freeman’s Tennessee Battery, but loose it when Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest made a counterattack.  Finding Union cavalry in his rear, Van Dorn withdrew back to Spring Hill, leaving the Union in control of the area.  This battle cost the Confederates 137 and the Union 100 casualties.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Final Fight

The Battle of Appomattox Court House, the final engagement for the Confederate General Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, was fought April 9th 1865.

Confederate Major General John B Gordon’s Corps and General Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry formed at Appomattox Court House and attacked Union General Philip H Sheridan’s cavalry at dawn on April 9th 1865, pushing the first line, commanded by Union Brigadier General Charles H Smith back.  Hitting the second line of Union cavalry commanded by Brigadier General George Crook slowed Gordon’s advance.  The Confederate continued their advance and reached the crest, where they found the entire Union V Corps in line.  The Confederate cavalry seeing the Union force withdrew and moved off toward Lynchburg, Virginia.  Union General Edward O C Ord’s soldiers advanced on Gordon’s men, as the Union II Corps started a movement to the northeast on Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet Corps.

It was at this point, with Lee’s army surrounded on three sides, that one of Lee’s staff; Colonel Charles Venable rode in for an appraisal of the situation.  Gordon told him to "tell General Lee I have fought my corps to a frazzle, and I fear I can do nothing unless I am heavily supported by Longstreet's corps."  It was upon receiving this news that Robert E Lee said, "Then there is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant and I would rather die a thousand deaths."  Lee rode out with three of his aides shortly after to meet with Union General Ulysses S Grant to arrange for surrender.  This last action at Appomattox Court House caused the Union 260 and the Confederates 440 more casualties.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A French Louisianian Confederate

Confederate General Jean Jacques Alfred Alexandre Mouton was killed leading a charge April 8th 1864 during the Battle of Mansfield.

Jean Jacques Alfred Alexandre Mouton was born February 10th 1829 in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of Alexandre Mouton, a former Governor of Louisiana.  He attended St Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and following his graduation, received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.  His trip north would be the first time Mouton was exposed langue and customs other than French.  He was an average student and struggled with English, but graduated from the Military Academy in 1850, ranking 38 out 44.  Shortly after graduating Mouton resigned his commission and took a post as an assistant engineer for the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad.  In 1853 Mouton left this position to become a grower of sugar cane in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.  He was also at that time a Brigadier General in Louisiana State Militia.

When the Civil War started Mouton organized a company from Lafayette Parish, and was elected the Captain of the company which would become part of the 18th Louisiana Infantry.  He would be elected Colonel of the 18th, and set to making them a disciplined regiment.  One of his soldiers said of Mouton, "As a drillmaster, he had few, if any, equals. I have seen him drill the regiment for an hour in a square, the sides of which were equal to the length of his line of battle, without once throwing a company outside or recalling a command when given. He was a strict disciplinarian and allowed no deviation from orders either by officers or soldiers."  The first action for Mouton and the 18th was at the Battle of Shiloh, where they took on Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops and where Mouton was wounded.  Back in Louisiana, Mouton and 18th took part in the Battle of Labadieville.  Mouton’s Louisiana brigade was part of Confederate force that kept the Union out of the Bayou Teche area of Louisiana.

At the Battle of Mansfield Mouton’s men were the lead unit in the Confederate attack.  It was while in the lead that Mouton was shot and killed on April 8th 1864.  He was buried on the battlefield, but in 1874 Mouton’s body was moved to St John’s Cemetery in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Like The Fires Of Hell

On April 7th 1863 nine Union ironclads neared Fort Sumter to attack the Confederate held structure.

Nine Union ironclads, outfitted with the heaviest cannon to be used in naval warfare up to that time, steamed slowly into Charleston Harbor on April 7th 1863.  They were moving in for an attack on Fort Sumter.  At about 3 pm the Fort under the command of Confederate Colonel Alfred Rhett opened up on the Union ships, in what one Union man said was like "the fires of hell were turned upon the Union fleet. The air seemed full of heavy shot, and as they flew they could be seen as plainly as a base-ball in one of our games."

The Confederate batteries in the Forts of Charleston Harbor fired off more than 2,200 rounds during the battle, while the Union ironclads only fired 139 shots.  The Union guns hit Fort Sumter 55 times during the fight, leaving the Fort pretty much intact.  The ironclads didn’t make out as well during the roughly hour long battle, one of the ships, the USS Keokuk received over 90 hits, and it was only with dedication and skill that her sailors and commander Alexander C Rhind, kept her afloat until the next morning.  Among the remaining ironclad there were disabled guns, and damaged smokestacks and turrets.  Union Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont who led the fleet, withdrew ships and did not renew the fight.

The Union side reported 23 casualties, while the Confederates in the Forts had 14.  The Confederates were even able to salvage one of the Dahlgren guns from the wreck of the Keokuk, which would be mounted on the Fort. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Grand Army

The Grand Army of the Republic [the GAR] was founded April 6th 1866 in Decatur, Illinois.

When the Civil War came to an end the veterans wishing to stay in contact created many organizations.  These groups were created at first for sake of camaraderie and their shared experiences, but later became a political power.  The eventual leaders  of the organizations was the GAR which was founded by Benjamin F Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois on April 6th 1866.

The GAR, which welcomed both black and white Union veterans, quickly became an arm of the Republican Party.  They worked towards voting righted for all black Union veterans.  In the 1880’s the GAR began to work on federal pensions and with the founding of old soldiers’ homes.

The members of the GAR wore military style uniforms at meetings.  The organization could be found in every one of the State as well as several foreign countries.  At the state level the GAR groups were known as “Departments”, at the local level they were called “Posts”.  “Posts” were numbered consecutively as they formed, with the rule that each of the “Posts” be named for an honored deceased person.  The GAR even had one woman who was a member, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who had fought in the Civil War as part of the 2nd Michigan Infantry under the name of Franklin Thompson.  In the 1890’s the GAR had about 490,000 members, all honorably discharged Union veterans.  They held National Encampments, annually from 1866 to 1949.  These Encampments were multiday events with formal dinners and memorial services.  The last Commander of the GAR was Theodore Penland of Oregon, and last member was Albert Woolson of Duluth, Minnesota who was 109 years old when he died in 1856.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out the web site A Brief History of the Grand Army of the Republic

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Mounted Attack With Sabers Drawn

A part of the Appomattox Campaign, the Battle of Amelia Springs was fought April 5th 1865.

A force of Confederate cavalry under the overall command of Major General Fitzhugh Lee, and made up of the units of Brigadier Generals Martin Gary and Thomas T Munford, and Major General Thomas L Rosser attacked a brigade of Union cavalry on April 5th 1865.  The Union brigade was led by Brigadier General Henry E Davies, and was returning from scouting mission, where they burned Confederate supply wagons near Paineville, Virginia.  With the two cavalry units meeting up close to Painesville a running fight began continuing through Amelia Springs, Virginia and almost reaching Jetersville, Virginia.  The attacks were made in a mounted combat style with drawn sabers.  Jetersville is about 6 miles from where Confederate General Robert R Lee’s troops were concentrating.

When Davies’ troops closed in on Jetersville they were able to rejoin with other Union forces.  The Confederates gave up the chase and returned to Amelia Springs.  Total casualties were about 250, with the Union reporting about 158 total casualties, with about 30 killed.

There was also a fight that night between two Union divisions commanded by Brigadier General Nelson A Miles and Major General Gershom against the Confederate rear guard near Amelia Springs commanded by Major General John B Gordon.  The Confederates held off the Union attack and Lee’s army continued their march.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Only One Battle

Union Colonel Alfred M Wood enlisted on April 4th 1861 in the 84th New York Infantry, also known as the 14th Brooklyn.

Alfred M Wood was born April 19th 1825.  On April 13th 1858 he was made the Colonel of the 14th New York Militia.

When the Civil War started Wood enlisted in Brooklyn, New York on April 4th 1861 for three years’ service in the 84th New York Infantry, which is better known as the 14th Brooklyn.  He was wounded and captured at the First Battle of Manassas; where Wood led his regiment in two attempts to capture Henry Hill.  It was during this attack that Confederate General Thomas J Jackson, whom the 14th was charging against, gave the Regiment its nick name of the “Red Legged Devils”.  Wood would be exchanged and returned to duty.  Do to the wounds he received at Manassas, Wood was discharged on October 18th 1861.

Wood became the Mayor of the city of Brooklyn in 1864.  After the war ended he spent a great deal of time helping the veterans of his old regiment the 14th Brooklyn.  Wood died July 28th 1895, and is buried in the Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, Nassau, New York.

If you would like to read more about the life of Alfred M. Wood this is a good site.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bitter Bitter Tears

The Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia fell to Union control April 3rd 1865.

Union General Ulysses S Grant had been working toward a takeover of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia for nearly ten months.  On April 1st 1865 Grant crushed Confederate Robert E Lee’s line at Five Forks, and Grant kept up the pressure the next day all along the Confederate’s Petersburg line.  Lee’s line collapsed.  That same night the Confederate government in Richmond evacuated the city leaving on the last open railroad line, with the army leaving right behind them.  As the Confederate soldiers left, they set fire to the armory, bridges and warehouse, a fire that burned out of control and spread through the city.

On the morning of April 3rd 1865 the mayor and some other elite citizens surrendered Richmond, and Union troops entered the capital city.  The Union soldiers fought and put out the fires, but not before it burned about 10% of the city.  Mary Fontaine a resident of Richmond, Virginia wrote that she "saw them unfurl a tiny flag, and I sank on my knees, and the bitter, bitter tears came in a torrent."  Among the first Union troops to enter the city were the black troops of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, many of the city’s residents considered this proof that their world was over.

President Abraham Lincoln toured the city just a few days later with his son Tad.