Tuesday, June 25, 2013

150-years-ago -- THE MARCH TO GETTYSBURG

[Excerpted from Hood's Texas Brigade: Its Marches, Its Battles, Its Achievements by J.B. Polley (New York, 1910)]

Maj. Gen. John B. Hood
(Library of Congress)
Coincidentally with the northward march of Longstreet's corps from the vicinity of Millwood, Va., General Jeb. Stuart, at the head of all the cavalry belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, save the brigades of Robertson and Imboden, began a ride that, whatever its aim and hope, served only to detach his command from the army and deny to General Lee early and accurate information of the movements of the Federal army. Not until June 29th did General Lee learn, and then only through a scout traveling on foot, that General Hooker had led the Union army to the north side of the Potomac, and was marching it toward Gettysburg. This news called for an immediate change of plan. Ewell's corps, then far to   the north on the march to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, was recalled, and A. P. Hill's  corps was sent across South Mountain to Cashtown, a little town on the turnpike leading from Chambersburg to Gettysburg, eight miles east of the latter.

The Texas Brigade, on the afternoon of the 27th, camped in a grove of magnificent timber about a mile north of Chambersburg. Commissary trains were belated, and when long after dark they arrived, 
brought only slender rations of rancid bacon and musty flour. In the country roundabout there was a superabundance of all kinds of eatables. The Federal soldiers that had marched through Virginia had taken, with the strong hand, whatever they wanted from the people down there, not even offering to pay in greenbacks. General Lee's order strictly prohibited depredations on private property, but would there be any violation of that order if Confederate soldiers persuaded the good citizens of Pennsylvania to sell them provisions and accept in payment therefor Confederate money? Surely not.

There was no violence used, no threats of any kind made by any Confederate soldier, and none of the citizens complained of having been intimidated and robbed. The greater part of the supplies that found their way into camp were paid for in Confederate money, the rest were voluntary offerings. Soldiers as hungry as were the Confederates could not be expected to refuse proffers of food, even when they suspected such proffers were made through unwarranted fear of ill-treatment. The demanding and the giving were both good-humored; not a house was entered save upon invitation, or consent obtained; not a woman or child was frightened or insulted, not a building was burned, or ransacked for hidden silver and other valuables ; all that was wanted, all that was asked for, all that was accepted, was food. And thus it happened that a member of the Fourth Texas who came into the camp of the Texas Brigade after dark on the 30th of June was able write as follows :

"Remembering the brigade late that night, at its camp near Chambersburg, and being very tired, I lay down near the wagons and went to sleep. Awakened next morning by Collins' bugle, and walking over to the camp, I witnessed not only an unexpected but a wonderful and marvelous sight. Every square foot of an acre of ground not occupied by a sleeping or standing soldier, was covered with choice food for the hungry. Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese squawked, gobbled, quacked, cackled and hissed in harmonious unison as deft and energetic hands seized them for slaughter, and scarcely waiting for them to die, sent their feathers flying in all directions; and scattered around in bewildering confusion and gratifying     profusion appeared immense loaves of bread and chunks  of corned beef, hams, and sides of bacon, cheeses, crocks of apple-butter, jelly, jam, pickles, and preserves, bowls of yellow butter, demijohns of buttermilk, and other eatables   too numerous to mention.

"The sleepers were the foragers of the night, resting from their arduous labors — the standing men, their mess-mates who remained as camp-guards and were now up  to their eyes in noise, feathers and grub. Jack Sutherland's head pillowed itself on a loaf of bread, and one arm was wound caressingly half-around a juicy  looking ham. Bob Murray, fearful that his captives would take to their wings or  be purloined, had wound the string, which bound half a dozen frying chickens around his right big toe; one of Brahan's widespread legs was embraced by two  overlapping crocks of apple-butter and jam, while a tough old gander, gray with  age, squawked complainingly at his head without in the last disturbing his       slumber; Dick Skinner lay flat on his back — with his right hand holding to the legs of three fat chickens and a duck, and his left, to those of a large turkey — fast asleep and snoring in a rasping bass voice that chimed in well with the     music of the fowls.

"The scene is utterly indescribable, and I shall make no further attempt to      picture it. The hours were devoted exclusively to gormandizing until, at 5 p. m.,marching orders came, and leaving more provisions than they carried, the Texans moved lazily and plethorically into line — their destination, Gettysburg."  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

150-years-ago -- The capture of the Maple Leaf by Confederate prisoners.

The Richmond Daily Dispatch: June 25, 1863

Confederate prisoners started out on the journey into
captivity on the Catawba, above, leaving from New Orleans.
They then transferred to the Utica and then the Maple Leaf
which they captured and then escaped to freedom to fight
another day. (Library of Congress)

The capture of the shipsteamer Maple Leaf by a party of Confederate officers, prisoners, who were being carried to Fort Delaware, has been published. We have been furnished with the following correct and intelligent account of the capture by one of the officers who participated in it:

On the evening of June 2d the shipsteamship Catawba left New Orleans, having on board Billy Wilson's Zouaves, who were returning to New York, their enlistment having expired, and about fifty Confederate officers, prisoners of war. On the 8th she anchored off Fortress Monroe, and the Confederates were then transferred to the shipsteamer Utica. On board the Catawba the treatment they received at the hands of the Federal could not have been better. They received the same accommodations as the Federal officers, and no restraint whatever was placed over them. When transferred to the Utica there was a change for the worse. The fare we received was bread, bacon, and coffee — all of the poorest quality. But little attention was paid to what we did or how we fared. On board this steamer, as also before leaving New Orleans, was discussed the practicability of capturing the steamer and escaping, and it was generally resolved that if opportunity offered we were to take possession of the vessel to which we might be transferred, and then try to make our way to the Confederate lines.

On the 9th, about 2 P. M., we were transferred to the shipsteamer Maple Leaf, and immediately steamed up to Fort Norfolk, where we lay all night. On the morning of the 10th, forty seven other C. S. officers were taken on board, and we then started for Fort Delaware. The guard consisted of a detachment of twelve men, under command of Lt. Dorsey; there was then on board the Maple Leaf 96 Confederate officers. We lay off Fort Warren a short time; while there Judge McGowan, of Arizona, made known to me that the hour was near when we would be free; the Judge also made the matter known to other C. S. officers, in all about 25, and they were all who know what was going on. At about 1 P. M. we put out on our way to Fort Delaware, a gunboat following in our wake; some began to despair of success, but the gunboat was very slow, for we soon-left her far behind. When off Cape Henry Judge-McGowan collected a crowd of probably ten of our officers, and moved near the guard stationed in the cabin; hearing the row commence below the Judge very easily seized three guns and handed them back to the other officers; one  of the Yankees to ran downstairs, and I think refused to surrender, where upon the Judge gave him a blow over the head with a gun; not surrendering at this, a loaded gun was presented at him, upon which he surrendered.

Capt. [Oliver J.] Semmes [son of Admiral Raphael Semmes] then proceeded to demand the surrender of the Lieutenant of the guard. That gentleman, Lieut. Dorsey, was considerably surprised, and wished to reason about the matter; but Capt. S. told him it was of no use to reason — the boat was ours. He then demanded to see the Captain of the boat, which was, of course, refused him. Guards were placed over the engineer and pilot, with orders to keep the boat on the course she was then running. After running about six miles below Cape Henry we stood in towards land. When within about four hundred yards of the shore the steamer lay to, and seventy-one Confederate officers landed in Princes. Anne county, Va. Previous to landing the question as to what we should do with the boat was discussed and settled. We were landing on a shore of which we knew nothing. There were officers on board who could not walk; also, the wife of Capt. Dale, of the steamer. It was therefore concluded that Capt. Dale and Lieut. Dorsey should be placed under solemn oath to continue on their course to Fort Delaware, and not to communicate any of the circumstances of our escape to any one until their arrival at that place. They violated their oaths, but to no purpose. The route we traveled it would be imprudent to disclose. Suffice it to say we received the best of treatment from the patriotic citizens of North Carolina throughout our whole route, and although completely surrounded by Yankees we were to no danger of being betrayed by the citizens. This was the kind of Union sentiment we found in North Carolina. The thanks and everlasting gratitude of the whole party are due to Capt. Saunders, of the Camden County Guerillas, and Lieut. Gordon, of Currituck, who, with their company, were untiring in their exertions in our behalf. Our escape was miraculous indeed--seventy one officers escaping through over seventy miles of country closely guarded by Federal pickets and scouting parties, consisting of 600 troops, who were constantly scouring the country in pursuit of us.
The following is a partial list of C. S. officers who escaped off the Maple Leaf:
Col A. A. Witt, Lt L Kelsy, Lt Libby, 10th Ark; Lt D Nation, Capt L D Mathews, 15th Ark; Capt J D Wolf, A C S, 14th Ark; Capt Jos. Long. Capt J Giesecke, Lt J Schlick, 4th Texas Cav; Perser E A McGowan, Diana; Lt. Jno Smith, Lt J Weish, Lt Z M Porter, Arizona Battalion; Lt Broyle, 7th Texas Cav; Lt H. Wilkinson, C S A, Miss; Lt J M Obley, Choctaw Battalion; Capt Pronett, Lt, Andrew, 1st Ala; Lt D Estis, 9th Tenn Cav; Capt O J Semmes, C S Artillery; Capt E A Scott, Lt D Kirkland, 9th Lt Cav; Capt D H Creath, Gen Bee's staff; Capt G W Holloway, 1st La Bat Inf; Capt G L Fusilier, Gen Taylor's staff; Capt J J Atkinson; Capt E Holmes, Lt Wm Nelson, Lt Sam Aliston, Lt Aug. Burgniens, Lt Wm H Rogers, Crescent La Vols; Lt Jos Hinsofi, Miles's Legion; Lt Chas Comfort, 11th La; Lt T W Brown, 9th La Bat Inf; Lt J Webre, 28th La; Lt Jules Durbiege, Diana; Lt Chas Roupel. C S A; Lt A O Morse, C S Artillery; Lt T D Melville, 18th La; Lt H Fiek, Queen of the West; Lt R Stark Jackson, Lt Geo W Stafford, 8th La Vols; Lt D Hughes, Miles's Legion; Lt W C Jeter, Lt E Carmonche, 4th Lt; Lt J Guillebeau, 30th Lt.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Gettysburg Campaign
(National Park Service)
[Excerpted from Gettysburg by Frederick Tilberg, National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 9, Washington D. C., 1954]

       [Gen. Robert Edward] Lee [at left] had suffered an irreparable loss at Chancellorsville when "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded. Now reorganized into three infantry corps under Longstreet, A. P. Hll  and Ewell, and a cavalry division under J. E. B. Stuart, a changed Army of Northern Virginia faced the great test that lay ahead. "Stonewall" Jackson, the right hand of Lee, and in the words of the latter "the finest executive officer the sun ever shone on," was no longer present to lead his corps in battle.
    Lee's plan of campaign was undoubtedly similar to that of his invasion which ended in the battle of Antietam in September 1862. He then called attention to the need of destroying the bridge over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg and of disabling the Pennsylvania Railroad in order to sever communications with the west. "After that," he added, "I can turn my attention to Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington as may seem best for our interest."
       The long lines of gray started moving on June 3 from Fredericksburg, Val., first northwestward across the Blue Ridge, then northward in the Shenandoah  Valley. On June 9, one of the greatest cavalry engagements of the war occurred at Brandy Station. Union horsemen, for the first time, held Stuart's men on even terms. The Confederates then continued their march northward, with the right flank constantly protected by Stuart's cavalry, which occupied the passes of the Blue Ridge. Stuart was ordered to hold these mountain gaps until the advance into Pennsylvania had drawn the Union Army north of the Potomac. On June 28, Hill and Longstreet reached Chambersburg, 16 miles north of the Pennsylvania boundary. Rodes' division of Ewell's corps reached Carlisle on June 27. Early's command of 8,000 men had passed through Greensburg on June 26 and on the 28th had reached York. Early planned to take possession of the bridge over the Susquehanna at Columbia, and to move on Harrisburg from the east. Lee's converging movement on Harrisburg seemed on the eve of success.

Monday, June 17, 2013

150-years-ago -- The war in the Southwest-- Murfreesboro, Vicksburg.

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
June 17, 1863
The Siege of Vicksburg dragged on throughout June 1863.
(U.S. Army Center of Military History)
          The armies at Tullahoma and Murfreesboro are getting a little nearer still. Our cavalry drove the Federals out of Readyville to within two miles of Murfreesboro, on the 4th inst. --It is positively ascertained that Rosecrans has sent from 15,000 to 25,000 men to Grant, and his movements during the last week indicate a retrograde march towards Nashville. It is said that his headquarters are in that city, and that all his heavy artillery has been sent from Murfreesboro across the river to Edgefield, about five miles from Nashville. If Rosecrans has not taken shelter in that city, he will soon be starved out, as the Cumberland river is falling rapidly, and in a few days navigation will be finished, thus leaving him only a railroad line of communication by which to receive his supplies. This line he knows from experience can be rendered useless by Confederate cavalry raids, and he will hardly trust it. His forces have occupied Liberty — a small town in DeKalb county, 38 miles northwest, of McMinnville, and on Bragg's right.
          From Vicksburg we have nothing reliable The Western papers are, as a general thing, as little particular about the reports they publish as the Western news agents are about their telegrams. The Natchez Courier, of the 2d, has several wild reports brought by a lady who had gotten through from Vicksburg. According to her account, the Yankees had made their second attempt to escape by way of Yazoo river, but had been met and driven back by Gen. Johnston. The same General had driven them back in another attempt at Snyder's Bluff. She also states that the wagon road from Vicksburg to Jackson is clear and the bridge over the Big Black all right. It is positively asserted that the enemy are evacuating the whole line of the Memphis and Charleston railroad. When Grant asked for 50,000 reinforcements a few days ago, Hurl but replied that he did not know where they were to come from unless Memphis and the railroad lines were evacuated. We presume that movement has been decided on. So it appears that the whole Federal army of the West except that under Rosecrans, and a goodly portion of even that, is to be hurled upon Vicksburg. The Mississippi river has fallen 25 feet, an unprecedented fall at this season of the year, and one which is likely to incommode greatly the operations of the Yankee gunboats.
          General Taylor's victory at Ashland, La., broke one of the points of investments around Vicksburg. He dispersed about 2,000 Federal troops at Camp Perkins, placed there as a guard to the outlet of the main army from Grand Gulf to Milliken's Bend. The attack was short and decisive. According to the accounts from all sides a few Federals escaped to a gunboat which was riding at anchor a short distance off; the most, however, were either killed, wounded, or captured. There are a series of these camps, commencing at Grand Gulf and extending to Lake Providence, thus forming a half circle in front of Vicksburg in the Louisiana parishes of Madison and Carroll. For some time it was through this channel that Gen. Grant obtained a portion of his supplies, and on this route he marched most of his army to the base of operations against Vicksburg, located at Grand Gulf. The Jackson correspondent of the Mobile Tribune, writing on the 4th inst., says:
          It is not at all improbable that Port Hudson will be evacuated and the forces there joined with those of Johnston. This idea is speculative, but highly probable. If so, Grant may yet find himself in a rebel trap from which there is no escape; but I have little faith in bagging the Yankee army, as they are the best runners and thieves on the continent. The successful passing of our batteries by the Yankee gunboats, and the possession of the month of Red river by the Federals, renders the possession of Port Hudson of but little consequence or practical usefulness.
          The latest advices from Vicksburg put our losses down at 5,000 altogether for the entire campaign.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The Richmond Daily Dispatch
June 13, 1863
Private Charles Chapman of Company A,
 10th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, left, 
and unidentified soldier. This unit fought
at Brandy Station.
(Liljenquist Family Collection, 
Library of Congress)
The fight at Brandy Station — position of Affairs at Fredericksburg.
          The following dispatch, dated Washington, June 9th, is the only notice of the fight in Culpeper which has reached the New York papers:
          A severe engagement took place this morning between our cavalry and that of the rebels, under Gen. Stuart. The locality at which it occurred was Beverly's ford, on the Rappahannock, five miles above Rappahannock Station and about the same distance below the Sulphur Springs.
A dispatch from below Fredericksburg, dated the 7th, estimates the number of Confederates there at 30,000. The dispatch adds:
        Although the crossing of the Rappahannock at this point was for the third time effected on Friday evening, our forces have advanced no further than the open plain behind the rifle-pits from which the enemy was driven, or rather in which the greater part of his sharp shooters, on whom he depended to held the ford, were captured. The brigade of General Neil crossed over yesterday at ten o'clock and took a position on the left. In the evening Gen. Shaler, who has innately been promoted for conspicuous gallantry displayed at Fredericksburg and Marye's Heights five weeks ago to day, joined us with his brigade. Two lines of battle — the first consisting of Gen. Hewe's forces and the second comprising Shalar's troops — were formed plainly in right of the rebel and under the of back artillery yet very quiet on both. sides. The Sixth Vermont Volunteers, of the brigade commanded by Colonel Grant, were thrown forward as skirmisher, and suffered the only casualties inflicted by the enemy yesterday.
          The movement thus far has been conducted differently from the previous advances of our troops. When the army crossed before heavy guns on the heights — a mile, at least, from the river — were relied upon to cover the laying of the pontoons. This time two batteries of field artillery were brought quite down to the bank of the stream, and the diagonal fire which they unceasingly maintained not only kept the rebels silent in their rifle-pits, but successfully prevented the approach of any reinforcements which would otherwise have joined them. Len's orders were that the ford should in no case be given up, and the Florida troops within the rifle-pits were expected to hold them against all comers; but when the shell, and shrapnel, and grape, and canister began to rain down upon them, they were compelled to lay low, and when, an our fire ceased for an instant, the 5th Vermont and 26th New. Jersey regiments charged up the steep ascent, the rebels had no time to get away.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

150-years-ago -- SIEGE OF PORT HUDSON May 27-July 9, 1863

[National Park Service]

Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner, Confederate
commander of Port Hudson.
(Library of Congress)
Port Hudson was the site of the longest siege in American history, lasting 48 days, when 7,500 Confederates resisted some 40,000 Union soldiers for almost two months during 1863. Realizing that control of the Mississippi River was a key military objective of the Union, the Confederacy in August 1862, had its forces erect earthworks at Port Hudson. In 1863, Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks moved against Port Hudson. Three Union divisions came down the Red River to assail Port Hudson from the north, while two others advanced from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to strike from the east and south. By May 22, 1863, 30,000 Union soldiers had isolated 7,500 Confederates behind 4 ½ miles of earthen fortifications. On May 26 Banks issued orders for a simultaneous attack all along the Confederate perimeter the following morning. The first Union assault fell on the Confederate left wing, which guarded the northern approaches to Port Hudson. Timely reinforcements from the center allowed the Confederates to repulse several assaults. The fighting ended on the left wing before the remaining two Union divisions advanced against the Confederate center. Here the Confederates repulsed the Federal advance across Slaughter's Field, killing approximately 2,000 Union soldiers. Union casualties included 600 African-Americans of the First and Third Louisiana Native Guards. Free blacks from New Orleans composed a majority of the First Louisiana Native Guards, including the line officers. Former slaves commanded by white officers composed the Third Louisiana Native Guards. Led by Captain Andre Cailloux, a black officer, the two regiments made their advance on the extreme right of the Union line. Captain Cailloux was shot down as he shouted orders in both French and English.
Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks,  Union commander
at Port Hudson. (Library of Congress)
Another attempt to take Port Hudson failed on June 13, when the Confederates inflicted 1,805 casualties on the Union troops while losing fewer than 200. The Confederates held out until they learned of the surrender of Vicksburg. Without its upriver counterpart, Port Hudson, the last Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River, lacked strategic significance and the garrison surrendered on July 9, 1863. Today, the Port Hudson State Commemorative Area encompasses 889 acres of the northern portion of the battlefield, and has three observation towers, six miles of trails, a museum, a picnic area and restrooms. Four thousand Civil War veterans are buried at the Port Hudson National Cemetery, which stands just outside the old Confederate lines.
The Port Hudson State Commemorative Area is located at 236 Highway 61, in Jackson. The park is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, there is a fee for admission. Groups are requested to call 1-888-677-3400 in advance. Visit the park's website for further information.

Attack on Port Hudson at 150th anniversary reenactment 2013.
(Photo by Mike Jones)