Ford’s Theater

2 02 2012

As part of my little tour of Washington, D. C. back in June 2011, I walked over to Ford’s Theater. I’d never been there before. The current complex has a much larger footprint today, but you can still make out the original building (click on all the below images for larger ones):

The Petersen House across the street, where AL died, was closed for renovations:

 

There’s a lot of cool assassination ephemera in the basement museum, including the door to the President’s box, the gun that did the deed, the boot that Dr. Mudd cut off Booth’s broken leg, and one of the hoods worn by (most of) the conspirators as they made their way from their cells to the courtroom:

   

But my favorite was this fundraiser quilt that was signed by notable figures of the day, including my two favorite Georges:

   

I feel bad for Zach Harton (2nd panel, top row), don’t you?

The tour concluded with the reconstructed theater:

  

Of course, I’m always looking for the sights and sites less seldom seen. In this case, it was the back of the building, and as usual I had the place to myself. I made my best bet as to which doorway was the one used by Booth to exit the building, mount his Peanut-tended horse, and make his escape up the alley (he had to make a left right around the spot where I took the first photo below). Even without the lovely Carol Merrill’s help I think I picked the right door, based on what I found on the threshold:

    

Craig Swain’s visit to the Ford’s Theater museum.

Robert Moore’s relative was on stage that fateful night!





Lt. Charles Minor Blackford, Wise Troop, On the Battle

13 09 2012

July 20th*

This day I spent lying down and taking remedies. By night I was so much better I determined to go back to my company reaching them about nine o’clock much worn down by my ride. The men welcomed me gladly. They had seen no yankees and very little expected the storm that was to break over our heads so soon. A bed of leaves was made for me and I laid down to rest. My own opinion was that a great battle was going to be fought the next day. The thoughts of a thinking man the day before a battle are necessarily solemn, he may be buoyant and hopeful, yet there is a dread uncertainty that comes over his thoughts both as to himself and those dependent on him which makes him grave and almost sad. I was tired and despite the thoughts of the next day’s work I soon dropped off to sleep and never moved until roused by my servant, John Scott, early Sunday morning. He told me to get up, something was going on, he did not know what but I’d better get up and make ready. I soon discovered what was about to happen. All the troops around me were up and cooking their breakfast, though it was scarcely light, and every one seemed to think an attack was about to be made upon our lines, but no one knew where. We supposed it would be made down towards the center where it was made on the 18th.

The bivouac of our squadron was on the extreme left near the Henry house as it was called. Mrs. Henry, who lived in it, and was so very old and infirm she refused to be moved out of it. She was said to have been a Miss Carter, and to have been one of the family who once owned the Sudley farm nearby. Mrs. Henry’s house during the day became a strategic point of great importance and was much torn up by shot and shell, by one of which she was killed. In her yard General Bee was killed and near it Colonel Bartow. Near it also it was that General Jackson formed his heroic brigade and received the baptism of fire during which he received the immortal name of “Stonewall”. A few days after the battle I got a piece of cedar post from the ruins of the house, and cut some crosses and other things which I sent home as mementos, and which I still have.

We were thrown into line about sunrise on the brow of a hill which overlooked Bull Run, with quite a wide valley (two hundred yards at least), below us. On the other side the bluff rose quite steeply, but on the top of it there was an open field. We were placed in that position to support a battery of artillery, whose I did not find out for it was moved very soon after the battle began to rage on our extreme left above the stone bridge.

I was still weak and John Scott brought me out to the one of battle another cup of coffee. He also brought some oats for my horse, which had not finished eating when I mounted him. He got an ammunition box to put the oats in and the horse was eating while I drank the coffee. We could distinctly hear the rumble of the yankee artillery on the pike beyond run, and there was no doubt they were moving in force toward the stone bridge and the Sudley farm and proposed to turn our left wing and sweep down on our side the run and our line. While we stood thus listening to the rumbling artillery and watching the dust as it arose from many hostile feet, we noticed a Federal battery of four guns suddenly dash out of the woods and throw itself into battery in the open space on the other side of the run above the bluff. We were much interested in the beauty of the movement, all of which we could see plainly, as it was not more than five hundred yards distant, but in a moment they opened upon our lines. The first shells went high above us, but the second were better aimed, and one of them struck the box out of which my horse was eating and shattered it to fragments, and then went on amongst the infantry behind us. John Scott did not move, or show any signs of fear. Having fired those two rounds they limbered up and left us as quickly as they came, and before our battery had done them any injury. When I noticed the first fire in some way I never dreamed the creatures were firing at us, so I went on drinking my coffee, but I was very rudely awakened from the dream by the second round when my indifference was changed to indignation, that they should actually have the impudence to fire at us on our own ground, and when we were doing them no harm.

After this there was a lull for a half hour while we remained in line of battle, but with no enemy in sight, then we heard the sound of cannon and musketry on our left, towards the stone bridge. We were moved up nearer the fighting, two other companies having joined us, and the whole thing being under the command of Lieut.-Col. Thomas T. Munford, of our regiment. The sounds indicated that the battle was growing fast and furious on our left, and that our lines were slowly being driven back, at which we were not surprised, as we knew we had but a small force on our left, and it was then obvious that the enemy was hurling upon it their whole force. We waited orders with great impatience and anxiety, for we saw our people were giving way and we could not see why we could not be of use. The battery we were supporting had been moved and there were no other troops very near us. I think Colonel Cocke forgot us, at all events we remained in the same position until near three o’clock in the evening.

About nine o’clock Generals Beauregard and Johnston, with their respective staffs, dashed by us, about fifty persons, handsomely dressed and mounted, and making a very grand show, and one which appealed to our enthusiasm very much, though all of us thought that one of the two generals should have been up with Colonel Cocke much earlier. Doubtless, however, they had good cause for the delay. Immediately behind them, at a sweeping gallop, came the “Washington Artillery,” a battalion of sixteen guns. This was the most inspiring sight I ever saw, and fills me with emotion whenever I think of it now. One not familiar with artillery can little imagine how grand a sight it was. Each gun had four horses, with outriders and officers on horseback and several men mounted on the gun; then the caisson of each gun with its four horses and the like equipment of men, making thirty-two in all. their ammunition wagons, forges and ambulances, all at full speed, making a processions, which under the circumstances, was very inspiring. Following the battalion next camp “Hampton’s Legion” of infantry under Col. Wade Hampton. Then a long and continuous line of infantry came pouring by as our troops were moved from the center and right wing to meet the attack on the left.

It is very easy, of course to criticise the conduct of the battle, and it is very unfair, as the critic does not know the inside causes, but while we stood there in nervous anxiety we all concluded our generals had been out-generaled, and the enemy had gained a great point upon them in transferring so many troops without their knowledge to the left, and forcing that wing back as they did. Our troops were put to a great disadvantage when run directly into a fight after moving at almost double-quick from six to ten miles on a hot July day, yet many of them were put to the test. We wondered also why, after it was discovered how the attack was made and that the enemy had stretched out his column from Centreville parallel to our front in the march towards Sudley, an attack was not made on his column, or upon the rear of his column, cutting him off from his base. Instead large forces, even after sending troops to the left, were idle all day at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords. No use was made of the cavalry until late in the day and then it was scattered about in small detachments, each acting under different orders, its attack was of little avail except to increase the panic of the enemy inducing a greater loss to them of the material of war. If when the enemy commenced to break, a column of cavalry had crossed Bull Run half way between Manassas and the stone bridge, and opened fire upon them as they moved back on the Warrenton Pike the victory would have been far more disastrous to the enemy and our gain in material so much the greater.

As these troops were passing towards the enemy another dismal line was moving back in the opposite direction. I shall never forget them. They were the wounded, some walking, some on stretchers, some in ambulances, all seeking the field hospital, which was near us in the woods, and all giving proof of their persons as well as their tongues of the terrible carnage on the left, and many giving discouraging tidings that our line was slowly giving way. Troops, certainly none but veterans, should never, if possible, be taken into action so as to see a field hospital or to meet the wounded or demoralized men. It has a bad effect and renders them unsteady.

The news given by the wounded men made us very impatient. We felt there was certainly something for us to do but no orders came. About eleven o’clock we were moved again further to the left, but though within range of artillery we had no actual fighting. The enemy continued to advance and at last, about mid-morning we saw signs of demoralization on the part of some of our troops; but about that time we saw a long column of troops in the same direction moving towards us, which, at first, we thought was the enemy, but to our infinite relief we found was General Jackson’s brigade which had just been put off a train of cars on the Manassas road. They doubled quick into action and met the enemy’s line and were soon heavily engaged. I was not near enough to mark the fighting, or rather my view was too much obstructed to get a view, but we could tell by the constant roar of cannon and musketry that the contest was severe. It was soon after this that Jackson won his “Stonewall,” as I have stated before. I got permission to ride a little distance from our command to get a closer view, and while out in an open field viewing the contest the best I could a bright-eyed boy of some sixteen years of age came up to me with a wounded hand and arm and spoke to me by name. I did not remember ever having seen him before, but he said he remembered me when I was a student at the University of Virginia and that his name was Everett B. Early of Charlottesville. He had run away from home and gone into the fight and been wounded. He had dressed his wound and was on his way back to take a hand again. He gave me a very intelligent account of the battle.

I was kept in a state of great excitement all day and found it hard to set on my horse from weakness induced by my recent sickness. We had nothing to eat. About four it became obvious that the advance of the enemy had been stopped. Then there was a sudden pause in the firing on their side, and when we could hear cheers and shouts on our lines. We were told by a wounded man that Sherman’s and Ricketts’ battery had been captured and that the enemy were slowly retiring. Still we were kept waiting though the sound of firing showed us the enemy was now in full retreat and the time for the cavalry had come. About five o’clock an officer came up and told Col. Munford the enemy were in full retreat across Bull Run, and ordered him to cross the stream and make for the pike to cut them off if possible and that Col. Radford with the rest of the regiment had already gone. Both parts of the regiment crossed about the same time, and we dashed up the hill, but the order had come too late for much good to be done. We were received by a scattering fire from the routed column, but they had generally thrown away their arms, and those who had not done so did so as soon as they saw us. It was a terrible rout and the face of the earth was covered with blankets, haversacks, overcoats, and every species of arms. We joined Col. Radford and the other six companies of the regiment as we reached the pike and followed the fleeing yankees, capturing many prisoners, until we came to a block in the road made by a great number of abandoned wagons, cannon and caissons, ambulances and other material at a bridge over a creek about two miles of Centreville. Further advance was checked, or at all events we went no further. From the other side of the creek and on top of the hill the enemy had been able to halt a battery long enough to fire one or two shots at our column, one of which killed Captain Winston Radford, of Bedford, a most excellent man and citizen and the brother of our Colonel. Beyond this our loss was very small and my company had only one or two wounded slightly.

Just as we crossed Bull Run I saw Edmund Fontaine, of Hanover, resting on a log by the roadside. I asked him what was the matter, and he said he was wounded and dying. He said it very cheerfully and did not look as if anything was the matter. As we came back we found him dead and some of his comrades about to remove the body. It was a great shock to me, as I had known him from boyhood, and though he was younger than I was we had met during many visits to Hanover when I was younger. We went into bivouac a little after dark, for it had become cloudy and was very dark.

It was a day long to be remembered, and such a Sunday as men seldom spend. To all but a scattered few it was our first battle, and its sights and wonders were things of which we had read but scarcely believed or understood until seen and experienced. The rout of the enemy was complete but our generals showed much want of skill in not making the material advantages greater. The Federal army was equipped with every species of munition and property, while ours was wanting in everything.  They were stricken with a panic; wherever the panic was increased by the sight of an armed rebel it discovered itself by the natural impulse to throw away arms and accoutrements and to abandon everything in the shape of cannon, caissons, wagons, ambulances and provisions that might impede their flight, yet they managed, despite their flight, to carry off much. They only lost some thirty-odd cannon, for example, while with proper management on our part they would not have reached the Potomac with two whole batteries and so with other properties.

Had there been even a slight demonstration on Centreville that evening the panic would have been so increased that we would have made more captures in cannon, small arms and wagons.

During the evening, as I was riding over part of the field where there were many dead yankees lying who had been killed, I thought by some of Stuart’s regiment, I noticed an old doll-baby with only one leg lying by the side of a Federal soldier just as it dropped from his pocket when he fell writhing in the agony of death. It was obviously a memento of some little loved one at home which he had brought so far with him and had worn close to his heart on this day of danger and death. It was strange to see that emblem of childhood, that token of a father’s love lying there amidst the dead and dying where the storm of war had so fiercely raged and where death had stalked in the might of its terrible majesty. I dismounted, picked it up and stuffed it back into the poor fellow’s cold bosom that it might rest with him in the bloody grave which was to be forever unknown to those who loved and mourned him in his distant home.

The actual loss of the enemy I do not know but their dead extended for miles and their wounded filled every house and shed in the neighborhood. The wounded doubtless suffered much. Their own surgeons abandoned their field hospitals and joined the fleeing cohorts of the living, and our surgeons had all they could do to look after their own wounded, who of course were the first served. They received kind treatment however, and as soon as our surgeons were free they rendered all the aid in their power.

The enemy had permitted no doubt of the result to cross their minds, and had not kept it a secret in Washington that the final attack was to be made on Sunday. The day was therefore made a gala day by all the classes, and they came in great numbers in every possible conveyance to enjoy the rebel rout and possible share in the rebel spoils. Members of Congress and cabinet ministers, department clerks and idle citizens followed the advancing column in all the confidence of exhorting confidence, and there were not wanting many of the hack-load of the demi-monde  with their admirers to compete the motley drew. Along the road and amidst abandoned cannon and wagons we found many a forsaken carriage and hack with half-eaten lunches and half-used baskets of champagne, and we received most laughable accounts from the citizens on the roadside of the scenes they saw and the sharp contrast between the proud and confident advance and the wild panic of the flight. The men of our company got many a spoil not known to the ordnance department or used by those who filled the ranks.

We bivouacked in the field and without tent or any shelter but the oilcloths, a vast supply of which we had laid in from those upon which our foes had slept the night before. They were of the very best material and we gladly abandoned ours or kept them to throw over our saddle in the rain. A battle is not a sanitarium for the sick or the cold ground a good bed for a feverish and chilly man. I was so worn and weary that I had no doubt whatever that when I awoke in the morning I would be very ill. Before I laid down I fortunately found an opportunity to send a telegram to my wife and owing to a fortunate accident it got off the next morning and relieved the minds of my people at home and the friends of all my men.

Despite my gloomy anticipations as to the effect of my health I slept like a top and awoke the next morning after daylight feeling very much better. I was aroused by a hard rain falling on my face. I got up at once and crawled into my wagon, which fortunately had come up during the night, and then I had my breakfast owing to John Scott’s thoughtfulness. I had heard nothing about my brothers, Capt. Eugene Blackford of the Fourth Alabama and Lieut. W. W. Blackford, of Stuart’s regiment of Cavalry. Both, I knew, had been engaged but I could not hear anything of them.

About eight o’clock, a staff officer from somewhere rode up and delivered an order calling for details to gather up arms and spoils from the field and to carry prisoners to the rear. I was sent with twenty men to report to Colonel Evans on the latter duty. When I reported I found also a small detail of infantry and the colonel put me in charge of the whole detachment and turned over to me several hundred prisoners, who looked very uncomfortable in the rain, with orders to take them to Manassas, six miles to the rear. Before we started Colonel Evans took me into a house in the yard of which he had his headquarters and introduced me to Colonel O. B. Willcox and Captain Ricketts of the Federal army, both of whom were wounded and prisoners. Willcox and Evans seemed very good friends and called each other Orlando and Shanks respectively – “Shanks” being Evans’ nickname at West Point. Willcox was courteous but Ricketts was surly and bitter and complained about his accommodations, which were very much better than those of his captor in the yard or than those of the vast proportion of our wounded men and officers. He had a comfortable room and bed and two surgeons to attend his wounds. One would suppose he expected the rebels to have a first-class hotel on the battlefield ready to receive him and that they had violated all the rules of civilized warfare in failing to do so.

We carried the two officers, placed under my care, in an ambulance, and we made them as comfortable as possible. We made rapid progress and I soon delivered my charge to some officer at General Beauregard’s headquarters. I had some pleasant chats with Colonel Willcox.

The sights of this day were terrible and more heartrending than those of the day before. Our preparations for the battle, so far as the care of the wounded was concerned, were very imperfect and we were called on to provide for those of both sides. The result was that many of both sides suffered much, but no difference was shown them save in the matter of priority of service. The surgeons were busy all day but still many wounds remained undressed for fully twenty-four hours. Luckily it was not very hot and the rain was a comfort.

Blackford, S. L., Blackford, C. M.,  Blackford, C. M.  III, Letters from Lee’s Army or Memoirs of Life In and Out of The Army in Virginia During the War Between the States, pp. 26-36.

*While this “letter” discusses incidents that occurred on July 21, Blackford may have started writing it on the 20th. Keep in mind that this collection had been edited twice – the last time by Blackford’s grandson – by the time it appeared in this publication. It is apparent that this account is not wholly a contemporary letter, and so has been classified here as a memoir.





Pvt. William Z. Mead, Co. C, 1st VA Cavalry, On the Battle

16 05 2012

The First Virginia Cavalry.

Copy of a letter from a member of Col. Stuart’s 1st Virginia Cavalry Volunteers, to his friend on James River, after the battle of Bull’s Run, on 21st July, in which he was engaged:

Fairfax Station, Camp Lee,

Fairfax C. H., Va., 26th July 1861

My Dear Sir: It has occurred to me to-day (the first day of anything like rest, we have had for several weeks,) that I could not do better than to try and entertain my friends with some account of the battle of “Bull’s Run,” the grandest blow, probably, ever struck for freedom, and certainly the most complete, which hard won victory ever achieved on the American continent. If no one else, your little sons, who, I understand, are training themselves for the field of some future day, will surely be interested in knowing about the great and bloody struggle, by which the liberties of their country were preserved and secured to them forever. I say preserved, for the effect of the battle has certainly been to demoralize throughout the armies of the invader, and to change the public opinion of the North; perhaps, also, to win the sympathy of the great powers of Europe. You and the ladies must also have looked to the issue of that day, with anxious hearts,, for many of your friends were there – all to share in the glory – and some to give their blood in our holy cause. And still others, though I trust few, to yield their lives, to protect the homes, and the mothers, and the little ones there.

Friday, 19th July, was a stirring day in the camp at Winchester, occupied as you know, by the army of the Shenandoah, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. At 4 A.M. the division was put in motion, 25,000 strong, with our Cavalry 750 strong., under Col. J. E. B. Stuart at the head of the column.

The roll of the drums, and the sound of the bugles, awoke the whole town; and as the solid columns moved rapidly away, the astonishment and consternation of the people were plainly perceptible – for not one, civilian or soldier, knew the meaning of that sudden movement.

Gen. Patterson, with 30,000 men, was within twelve miles of the city, which was thus to be left to its fate, unprotected, save by a few thousand new troops. What could it mean? The end will show the consummate generalship which planned, and the patriotic zeal which perfect the manoeuvre. For at that very moment, Patterson was marching for Harper’s Ferry, there to embark on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for Washington – there to unite with McDowell, Crush Beauregard at Manassas, and advance to Richmond. Johnston saw through it all, and hastened by a forced march to join Beauregard, before Patterson could reach Washington, and there crush McDowell, and hurl his broken columns back on the Federal city. This he did. On Saturday night, Beauregard and Johnston had united – and that night the troops intended for the engagement, 35,000 in number, slept on their arms, on the North side of Bull’s Run, three miles North of Manassas Junction. Many thousand of the Confederate troops, who were to be in action, we detained by railroad collision, caused by the criminal conduct of a treacherous conductor, who was shot by order of the Commanding General.

On the following day, Sunday July 21, at 6 A.M., the troops were formed in line of battle, in the shape of the letter V, the apex toward the enemy. Gen. Beauregard took command of the right wing, Gen. Johnston of the left, and late in the day, President Davis, in person, took charge of the centre. He rode a splendid grey charger, and inspired the troops to almost frenzied enthusiasm, by his noble bearing and stirring words of encouragement. At 9 1/2 A.M. precisely, the first gun was fired by the enemy from a 32 pounder upon our right. The enemy were in three divisions, the right and left of 15,000 each, and the centre of 25,000 men. Gen. Scott himself was at Centreville, four miles off; and nearer in view of the battle field, were many members of the Northern Cabinet and Congress, and large numbers of ladies from Washington, who had driven out in elegant equipages to witness the demolition of the rebels, as one would look upon a game of chess.

The battle opened with artillery on both sides, commencing on our right and spreading rapidly to the distance of over three miles, from wing to wing. In about an hour the infantry were in position, and Jackson’s brigade fired the first volley. The cavalry was stationed on the wings. Our cavalry, 1st Regiment, under Col. Stuart, in rear of the left, and Col. Radford’s Regiment in rear of the right. We were then placed, and ordered to dismount and stand by our horses until needed. The battle commenced raging, with deadly ferocity, all along the lines – the roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry being almost deafening. By the large number of wounded and dead, brought by the ambulances to the rear, it was evident that the enemy were fighting well. For five hours, the storm of shot and shell raged, column after column being hurled in vain against our intrepid young heroes – so largely outnumbered and out disciplined, as they were, they never for a moment faltered or retreated. At half-past 2 o’clock it was rumored that the enemy was defeated on the right by Beauregard – not so, however, on the left, where, it id conceded, the hardest fighting was done. General Johnston saw that his division was being terribly mutilated, and was about to be surrounded by the New York Zouaves, and the New York 8th Regiment, with several other regiments of Regulars covered [...]. At 3. P.M., Johnston saw that he must withdraw his exhausted troops, for the enemy were, even then, deploying far over to the left, to surround and cut them to pieces. Then it was that he sent for Elzy’s brigade, consisting of the Maryland Regiment, the 1st Tennessee, and the 17th Virginia, and one Louisiana Infantry, Beckman’s small battery of artillery and Stuart’s Regiment of Cavalry. He told the officers that the day would be decided in 15 minutes, and they could turn the scale. The devoted column, in whose hands rested the great issues of the conflict, moved rapidly forward. Regiment after regiment, mutilated and exhausted, passed us with mingled looks of despair and hope. Not even the piles of dead and rows of wounded on the way, made one of those young spirits quail or fall from the ranks. As we approached the field, the victorious shouts of the enemy were heard behind the woods. The arrangement was as follows: To first break the column of flanking troops, by a cavalry charge, and thus give the infantry and artillery time to form – the first in front, and the last on the left flank. The brigade which we were about to relieve, was fighting on a wooded ridge, on the side of which, and running at right angles to our lines and the enemy’s was a lane through the woods, and emerging therefrom on the enemy’s right flank. Along this road, four regiments, headed by Ellsworth’s Zouaves, were deploying successfully, thus:

Just as the head of the flanking brigade of our enemy appeared in the wood, the bugle of our cavalry sounded “to the charge,” and on we dashed, with the heroic Stuart at our head. As we emerged from the woods, Sherman’s battery opened on us with grape, killing at the first fire 19 horses and 11 men, and wounding many. But there was no stopping, nor did the bugle sound “to the rear,” until we had completely broken the enemy’s lines.

The brigade of Elzy then formed on the hill, in the place of the noble Bee’s, and the artillery opened with terrible execution on the extreme left. Ten minutes more, and Gen. Johnston said the day was decided, the enemy routed, and one of the most precipitate and terror-stricken flights began, to be found in the history of warfare. The pursuit was conducted by Gen. Cocke’s Brigade with the entire body of cavalry, piously called by the Yankees, “those infernal hell-hounds,” and Beckman’s artillery. We pursued eight miles on the left flank. We cut off an immense number of prisoners, and found scattered along the line of the retreat, cannon, flags, arms, wagons, ambulances, provisions, haversacks, horses, saddles, &c., in any quantity. All the roads from Bull Run to Fairfax Court House, and beyond, were lined with articles thrown away by the panic stricken enemy.

At the latter place we captured several hundred stands of arms, and several loads of ammunition. They were at the depot, destined for Richmond. In fact, most of the prisoners say that they expected to go directly through Richmond.

The lines of our army now extend from Fairfax Court House off to the right and left, to a great distance. What the next move will be, nobody knows, but all agree that if Lincoln determines on prosecuting the war, the next battle will be fierce and more bloody than the last.    *   *   *

Last Sunday I was on the battle field where we fought so hard, as Sergeant of an escort for Gen. Beauregard. All the great chiefs of the Revolution were there to pay their respects to the comparatively young hero of the day. You have heard our Generals described so often, that I will not undertake a further description. I reviewed with mournful awe the hushed and peaceful fields which so lately re-echoed to the deadly roar of battle. I stood where the terrible Sherman battery stood and surrendered. I paused by the graves of many a dear, young and cherished friend, with its modest slab of wood and its simple inscription. I rode through the silent lane, down which Stuart’s terrible charge of light cavalry was made. I saw the mangled horses – and the graves of those who so heroically fell at the head of the column. And as I witnessed all this in the peaceful sunlight of the Sabbath, I could not restrain those tears which God has granted to relieve the pent up sorrow of human bosoms. Oh! this cruel war, those desolate hearth stones; those weeping mothers! where, where will it end? The glow of our victory is great – the lustre of our arms shines forth before the world; but I would give my right hand to-day if God would dry the weeping eyes of mothers and sisters, by permitting the war to cease.

W. Z. Mead

Augusta (GA) Daily Constitutionalist, 8/20/1861

Clipping Image

William Zacharia Mead on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Hittin’ the Road…

5 06 2011

…to our nation’s capital – and Capitol.

In a few hours I’m heading to Washington, DC where I’ll be presenting my program on Peter Hains to the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable. Tomorrow I plan on doing some sightseeing, starting off by paying a visit to All Not So Quiet on the Potomac host Ron Baumgarten, who works in town in the Winder Building, home today of the U.S. Trade Representative. I hope then to hit Ford’s Theater and the National Building Museum, which is a beautiful structure and originally housed the Pension office. For monuments I’m taking along my paperback copy of Testament to Union to help guide me about – lots of walking.

The meeting starts at 7 PM in the Rayburn House Office Building., and runs until about 8:30.

On the way home on Tuesday I hope to stop by Manassas National Battlefield Park, and will proceed to Winchester for some field work on my upcoming Collateral Damage article and to hopefully meet up with e-quaintance Robert Moore, aka Cenantua.

So, a busy couple of days ahead.





“The Conspirator” Trailer

27 01 2011

It looks like Robert Redford’s The Conspirator will be making its debut on tax day, April 15, 2011.  Here’s the trailer (hat tip to Hop Tak):





Hunton’s Lieutenant

10 05 2010

This weekend I received the following from a reader:

I was just playing with Google tonight and missing my Dad at the same time.  He died in 1999.  He grew up in the Leesburg, VA area, born in 1910, the youngest of 6 children and 5th boy to Dr. Eppa Hunton Heaton, a country doctor.
 
I typed my Dad’s name: Eppa Hunton Heaton into Google to see what might come up.  And for a while I read some articles about Eppa Hunton who I already knew was a Colonel in the Civil War in VA. 
 
Somehow I ended up on your page: “#101a-Col. Philip St. George Cocke” .  I was scanning down through the long article and Lieutenant Heaton caught my eye as did Colonel Hunton.
 
The story in my Dad’s family is that at some point, and I’m assuming that this Lieutenant Heaton is my great-grandfather, he asked Colonel Hunton for leave so he could get married.  He promised the Colonel that he would name his first son after him.  And my grandfather was the lucky recipient of Eppa Hunton Heaton.  Even though my Dad had four older brothers, none of them got this wonderful name until my Dad was born.  His real name was Eppa Hunton Heaton, Jr. but he was called Willy as a boy and Bill as an adult.
 
His oldest sibling, Medora (“Dora”) was 16 years older than he was and the only girl.  He called her “Sis” so all of his children called her “Aunt Sis”.  She was married and living in Detroit in 1940 and Bill came up north to see her and stayed.  He soon was enjoying the party circuit of Detroit’s finest families.  My maternal grandfather was a friend of Henry Ford’s and a third generation Detroiter.  Anyway, the poor country boy fell in love with the wealthy city girl and the rest is history.  He was 30 and she was 19 when they married in January of 1941. He served as a Lieutenant in the Navy during the war.
 
Anyway, thought I’d pass this family story on to you.  I’m assuming you don’t know about it.
 
Leslie Heaton Evans

Cumberland, RI

Lieutenant Heaton in this case is Henry Heaton, who commanded a section of Capt. Arthur Rogers’ Loudon (Leesburg) Artillery at Bull Run.  According to this book, Henry Heaton was born ( also the a son of a doctor) on 3/18/1844 at Woodgrove, the family homestead, and died on 5/17/1890.  He was a state senator from Loudon and Fauquier counties.  He also had a brother, Capt. N. R. Heaton, a sister, and seven other siblings.  Further correspondence with Leslie established that her great-grandfather was in fact Henry’s brother Nathaniel, who was in command of Co. A of Col. Hunton’s 8th Virginia Regiment at Bull Run.  Both Nathaniel and Hunton would still have their respective commands two years later as part of Garnett’s brigade of Pickett’s division at Gettysburg.   It appears that Nathaniel later became superintendent of the Bates County government nitre works, where he also commanded troops thrown together to oppose Union General David Hunter in the summer of 1864.  According to Findagrave, Nathaniel Rounceville Heaton was born 1/11/1824, died 2/3/1893, and is buried in Katoctin Baptist Church Cemetery in Purcellville, Loudon County.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

17 02 2010

The way I heard the story, in response to complaints of baseball purists that actor Ray Liotta’s portrayal of baseball legend “Shoeless” Joe Jackson batting right and throwing left was in contrast to the fact that he batted left and threw right, Field of Dreams director Ron Shelton quipped, “Did they notice he is currently dead?  I guess that’s another mistake we made.”  Or words to that effect.

I had to remind myself of that story frequently while reading Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.  This book requires the suspension of a whole lot of disbelief.  After the vampire-induced death of his mother, Abe devotes himself to the eradication of the creatures from the country.  Abe’s father’s inability to repay a debt to his vampire loan shark (the senior Lincoln’s many faults were frequently referred to, as were the positive traits he passed on to his son) is what led to Nancy Hanks’ murder.  It turns out that vampires were the movers and shakers, the money-lenders, the men behind the men in 19th century America, though they stretched back all the way to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke settlement.  They also played a role in the institution of slavery, striking deals with human slaveholders for prey.

Abe was a self-taught vampire hunter at first, but early on was trained by a friendly bloodsucker.  He hunted with crossbow and knives, but his weapon of choice was his trusty axe.  Over the years, he enlisted the help of first Jack Armstrong of  Clary’s Grove, then friend Joshua Speed, and later Ward Hill Lamon.  But none of them could help Abe during what would be his last confrontation with the undead in Ford’s Theater in April, 1865.  Or was it his last?

Throughout, Grahame-Smith weaves Abe’s nocturnal hunts in with the “known” history.  As you’d expect, much of that “known” history has some unknown facets: was Ann Rutledge the victim of a vampire?  Take a wild guess.  But here’s where the book disappointed me.  Not just the fact that there were inaccuracies, but that the miscues would have been easy enough to correct without affecting the story one iota.  For the record, I reviewed an advance reading copy (aka bound galley aka uncorrected proof).  The following may be corrected in the book when it is released next week:

  1. The military career of Edgar Allan Poe is discussed.  Grahame-Smith states that when Poe was transferred to Ft. Moultrie in South Carolina, he was not near a town.  Ft. Moultrie is hard-by Charleston.
  2. Grahame-Smith describes Lincoln’s cabinet in the spring of 1861, including Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  Simon Cameron, not Stanton, was Lincoln’s first Secretary of War.
  3. Robert E. Lee is said to have been a friend of Lincoln’s before the war.  The two were not acquainted, though Lee’s opponent George McCellan appears to have had numerous dealings with Lincoln in the 1850s, and they established a friendship of sorts.
  4. Grahame-Smith writes that Our American Cousin was a new play in 1865.  It was written in 1858.

There are other hiccups – these just happened to stick with me.  But guess what?  Vampire’s aren’t real (at least, I think they aren’t).  Unless you’re a fourteen-year-old girl, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to you.  If you can overlook that minor detail, I think these little mistakes shouldn’t concern you much.

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Springfield, IL: Part V – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential (Library and) Museum

15 12 2009

On Sunday, Oct. 11 this year my family and I visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL (see overview of the trip here).  The ALPLM complex is located only a few blocks from our hotel, and comes under the purview of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.  Due to budget restrictions, the Library is not open on weekends: that’s why “Library and” is parenthetical in the title of this post.  Here are shots of the complex (buff buildings) from our hotel room, my son and me outside the museum, and the then closed library across the street (click on the thumbs for a larger image):

  

Inside the museum we paid our fees ($22 for two adults and one 11 year-old) and, with recommendations from Mike Kienzler in hand, started on our journey.

Basically, the museum consists of an open receiving area, a theater, two “journeys” which center on the two phases of Lincoln’s life, an artifact display (Treasures Gallery), a play area for kids (Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic), and the Ghosts of the Library program. Photos are permitted only in the receiving area (Plaza) and Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic.  Museum security is very strict with photo limitations – don’t press your luck.  There’s also a museum store, a cafeteria, and an Illinois Gallery.

This museum is not what comes to mind when old fogies like me think of museums.  The trend today is away from stuff – artifacts – and towards multi-media experiences, lots of 3-D models, recreations, etc; more or less the telling of a story with fewer limitations on how it’s told.  It will work for some folks, and won’t work for others.  It is what it is.  Frankly, I didn’t mind; my kid loved it, and there were some very cool artifacts in the Treasures Gallery and sprinkled along the Journeys for the over 40 crowd.  To me, the rubber dummies looked like rubber dummies.  But maybe my mind’s eye isn’t what it used to be.  Younger folks, the ones who will be taking their kids to this museum some day, are a lot better at believing, and so are maybe more receptive to the influence of this kind of approach.

In the Plaza, we were first greeted by lifelike rubber models of the Lincoln family as they may have appeared prior to leaving Springfield for the White House.  This is a very popular photo stop, as everyone wants to get their picture with the Lincolns.  While the museum has staff there who are happy to take pictures on your camera, it’s hit or miss on whether or not they know how to use it.  All of the first set of us with the “dummies” came out blurry, but we had another staff member take the pictures later and they turned out OK.

  

Taking Mike’s advice we started with the film Lincoln’s Eyes.  This, like the rest of the museum, is not a traditional approach, but a multimedia enhanced film guided by an artist commissioned to paint the portrait of Lincoln that is posted outside the theater.  Whether this is the real artist, or an actor portraying a real or fictional artist isn’t quite clear to me.  I got that kind of feeling more than once in the museum.  Below are images of the portrait and of the film’s poster.

 

Next we took the first of the two Journeys, Pre-Presidential Years.  The tour starts off in a recreation of what a teenaged Abe’s log cabin may have resembled.  We proceeded past a lifelike depiction of a slave auction, which Abe may or may not have seen in New Orleans and through the New Salem store.  One of my wife’s favorites was the models of Lincoln, Willie and Tad in his law office where mayhem ruled.  My son loved the TV production panel, with Tim Russert commenting on the candidates of 1860 with modern graphics, and paid political announcements – we sat through it twice.  Below are photos of the lifelike young Lincoln and his cabin, which is accessed off the plaza.

 

Then it was on to Journey Two, The White House Years.  This tour is accessed off the plaza via the south portico of the White House, where we were greeted by Mary Lincoln and a display of dresses – reproductions – of prominent ladies of the era.  Then we walked through the Whispering Gallery, with asymmetrical framings of many of the anti-Lincoln cartoons produced during his presidency, accompanied by whispered criticisms of him over the sound system, which moved through the years as we walked.  Then came a touching tableau of the Lincoln’s vigil over the dying Willie on February 5, 1862.  While muffled sounds of revelers and music can be heard from downstairs, Lincoln stands in the doorway of his son’s room, one of Willie’s dolls dangling forlornly from his father’s hand, while Mary hovers over the bedridden boy.  Two weeks later Willie was dead, and we find Mary in mourning, sitting in a White House alcove in the dark, rain pelting on the windows.

On a stroll through the White House kitchen we heard the staff scuttlebutt, including speculation about Mary’s sanity.  Lincoln’s office is arranged as it may have appeared when Lincoln revealed plans for an Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet, with attendant rubber sculptures of each member.  The wall and floor coverings are brightly colored and ornate, as were those in the Lincoln Home we visited the day before – I think we imagine Victorian furnishings less vibrantly, but I’ll accept that the museum did its homework.  On exiting the room we could hear criticisms of the EP, this time with accompanying holographic, hectoring images, then we were led into a Hall of Shadows where AL ultimately signs the document.

The next few presentations depict the progress of the war, including an expansive Gettysburg mural.  My son’s favorite was a time-lapse map of The Civil War in Four Minutes.  As various battles are highlighted, the casualties mount in the lower right corner.  He watched it twice.  Nearby is a wall of dozens of photos, with touchscreens to access background on each one.

A tableau of Ford’s Theater frames the assassination, and another shows Lincoln lying in state in Springfield in the Capitol’s Hall of Representatives.  Lincoln’s casket was open for viewing in “real life” – the catafalque in the tableau is so high, and the casket inclined to such an extent that I couldn’t see if this detail was recreated.  The final exhibit explores efforts of American’s to “Hold On” to Lincoln by collecting items he may have owned or touched.

Here are a few images of the entry to Journey Two.  A few figures are hanging out near the entry: John Wilkes Booth, George McClellan, U. S. Grant, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.  Check out the juxtaposition of McClellan and Grant: Mac imperious, properly holding cup and saucer, little finger extended, looking down on HUG; Grant gripping his cup ham-handedly, bothersome and useless saucer at his side, looking like he’s set to kick Mac’s ass.  I felt compelled to step between them.  (Funny – at 5’11” I’m taller than both these guys, but it doesn’t appear that way in the photo.  Am I shrinking?)

     

[Every narrative of a good guy needs a bad guy.  I don't need to go into the problems I have with narrative history and its limitations, because I already talked about them here.  So let's accept the validity of a narrative format and go from there.  It's obvious who the good guy is going to be at the ALPLM.  And there's certainly no shortage of bad guys in AL's story.  Stephen Douglas, arguably.  The Radical Republicans.  Rabid Yankee abolitionists.  Fire-eating southern separatists.  Newspaper editors nationwide.  Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Braxton Bragg, Nathan B. Forrest et al.  The Confederate Congress.  John Wilkes Booth.  A nut-job wife.  All are likely candidates.  But all, if they are even mentioned in the displays or over the sound system of the museum, fade to static background noise behind the overarching presence of the great evil of AL's life: you guessed it, George B. McClellan.  In Lincoln's Eyes, he even appears as one of the divisive panels pulling the quilt of the nation apart.  What are the servants in the recreated kitchen of the White House overheard complaining about?  The limited reach of the Emancipation Proclamation?  The slaughter of U. S. Colored Troops?  No, of course not.  It's that traitor McClellan.  All of this is set up by the depiction of Mac outside the entrance to the White House.  Ah well, what are you gonna do?  Gotta roll with it.]

After Journey Two we took in Ghosts of the Library.  Don’t miss this.  It’s a special effects wonder.  I think I figured out how they did it at the end, but still I’m not positive and nobody’s talking.  An actor (or is it?) describes to the audience the importance of documents and artifacts in learning about the past.  Are the items we can see during the program actual artifacts and documents?  Probably not, but it really doesn’t matter.  It’s the message that counts.  But damn, this is one cool show.  I didn’t see a single fidgety kid in the audience.

The Treasures Gallery will appeal to traditionalists.  There are a number of swell items in here, none sweller than one of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats, complete with worn fingerprints on the right side outer and inner brim, where he would grip it to tip the hat to passers by.

The last stops on our tour were Mrs. Lincoln’s Attic and the Museum Store.  The Attic is really a glorified play area, though I was glad to see that my son – who will never get a job cleaning giraffe ears – is at least taller than Willie at the same age.  It also has a doll house version of the Lincoln Home my wife really liked. 

  

The gift shop I thought had a particularly poor selection of caps and shirts.  In fact, the tee shirts we did end up buying were clearance items we found the next day on a quick return trip – after all the discounts were taken, they were $4 each!

All-in-all, the ALPLM is a must see.  If you’re old (like me), it may not be what you’re used to, and folks do hate change sometimes.  But I watched the younger patrons, and they seemed pretty immersed in the whole experience.  Take an open mind with you.  I give it two thumbs up, and hope to get a chance to see the library at some point.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part VI

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JCCW – Maj. William W. Russell

3 09 2009

Testimony of Maj. William W. Russell

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 228-234

WASHINGTON, March 5,1862.

Major WILLIAM W. RUSSELL sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. What is your rank and position in the army?

Answer. I am major and paymaster of the marine corps.

Question. Were you attached to the staff of General Patterson during his advance into Virginia; and if so, how did you become so attached, being an officer of the marine corps?

Answer. From current reports and rumors I became convinced that General Patterson’s column would be engaged in the valley of Virginia, and I sought leave of absence from the Secretary of the Navy to endeavor to join General Patterson’s staff, where I thought I could be useful. I held a semi-civil position here as paymaster of the marine corps at the time. Having a great many friends south, and being a southern man myself, when my brother officers were resigning all around me, I thought it my duty to endeavor to do something for the government which had supported me for eighteen years, and something out- aide of my ordinary semi-civil duties. I obtained permission from my department and authority from the commandant of my corps to transact my business during my absence. General Cameron gave me a letter to General Patterson. General Scott, finding that I was going, also gave me a letter, though I made no application to him for it. I went up and joined General Patterson at Martinsburg, and he immediately placed me on his staff as one of his aids.

Question. What movements did General Patterson make after you joined him?

Answer. On the 15th of July he moved from Martinsburg on Bunker Hill with about 18,000 men and took possession of that place. He remained there until Wednesday morning, the 17th, when he marched to Charlestown. The only rebel force we observed on the march was a detachment of cavalry, said to be commanded by Colonel Stuart. The Rhode Island battery, on the right of our column, expended several shots in dispersing them.

Question. Were you aware of any reconnoissance being made from Bunker Hill towards Winchester?

Answer. No, sir; I was not. I heard some rumors of a reconnoissance made by some of General Sanford’s staff, but there were so many stories told I did not rely upon them. Colonel Thomas advanced several miles on the road with a portion of the cavalry under his command. I do not think any extended reconnoissance was made.

Question. What information had you relative to the force of the enemy?

Answer. A deserter presented himself at the headquarters of General Patterson at Bunker Hill, who seemed to be of a very communicative disposition. From his statement, the captain of engineers made a diagram of the works and defences of Winchester. I have it here. It reads “Defences of Winchester, obtained from a deserter from the confederate army, and believed to be reliable. J. H. Simpson, captain of engineers.” The deserter was so very communicative that I had some curiosity to find out something about him. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was from the neighborhood of Bunker Hill. A son of a merchant whose house we occupied there was a smart, bright little fellow of some thirteen or fourteen years of age. We were very careful to protect the property left in his charge, and at my request sentinels were posted about his father’s store. He had every confidence we would protect the property and pay for what we got there. I asked him about this man. In the first place, ae a deserter I did not believe him, because he was a perjured man, and had deserted the flag he had sworn to support. This boy stated that this man and his brother were worthless characters, who resided within two miles of Bunker Hill; that he would work a few days and then loaf about the drinking establishments ; that he had no character or reputation in the community in which he lived. I stated the information I had thus gained.

Question. Did you state it to General Patterson?

Answer. I think I stated it in his presence. I said that on general principles I would not believe a deserter, because a man who would be false to his oath would be false in his statements.

Question. What was your opinion at that time relative to the force of the enemy?

Answer. I had no opinion about it. I did not believe a word that I heard. We had no positive means of getting information. They were all idle rumors, that I did not think were reliable at all. On the 17th we marched to Charlestown, not seeing any rebel force on that march, and encamped in and around that place with the whole of our army.

Question. During your service with General Patterson, were you aware of the receipt by him of any despatches from General Scott, relative to the movement of his column? If so, state what they were.

Answer. On the night of the 17th, General Patterson and his staff having all retired, I was sitting on the porch of the house we occupied as headquarters. Between twelve and one o’clock at night a special messenger arrived with a despatch for General Patterson. He was accompanied hy one of General Sanford’s aids; I do not now recollect who it was. That despatch I took up to the adjutant general of the column, Colonel Fitz-John Porter. I woke him up, and he read it in his bed, I reading it at the same rime. Colonel Porter arose from his bed, and exhibited it to Captain Newton, the chief of the engineer corps of that army. After some little discussion, of which I do not recollect the particulars, (it did not amount to much,) Colonel Porter requested me to take the despatch to General Patterson and wake him up. I suggested that I had but lately joined his staff, and would prefer his doing it. I thought it was a despatch of very great importance. He said, “You better take it.” I replied, “I will do so,” and proceeded to General Patterson’s room, where I aroused him from his sleep, and handed the despatch to him. It was as follows:

“HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,

“July 17, 1861—9.30 p.m.

“I have nothing official from you since Sunday, but I am glad to learn from the Philadelphia papers that you have advanced. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front, whilst he re-enforces the Junction with his main body. McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy beyond Fairfax Court-House. The Junction will probably be taken to-morrow.

“Major General PATTERSON,

“United States Forces, Harper’s Ferry.”

I read from a copy which I got at the War Department, and I believe it a true copy of that despatch. After General Patterson had read it twice over he turned to me and asked me if I had read it. I told him that I had. He then asked me what I thought of it. I replied that I had lately joined his staff, and would beg that he would ask Colonel Porter, or some other officer who had been with him longer than I had, as I did not like to give him an opinion. He said, “I desire your opinion, sir.” I then replied, “I will give you my opinion, honestly and without hesitation. I look upon that despatch as a positive order from General Scott to attack Johnston wherever you can find him; and if you do not do it, I think you will be a ruined man. It will be impossible to meet the public sentiment of the country if you fail to carry out this order. And in the event of a misfortune in front of Washington, the whole blame will be laid to your charge.” Those were as nearly the words as I can now recollect. He said, “Do you think so, sir?” I repeated that that was my honest conviction. He then said, “I will advance to-morrow. But how can we make a, forced march with our trains?” I said, “Sir, if you cannot send them across the river into Maryland, we can make a bonfire of them.” I then said, “General, have you positively made up your mind to this advance?” He said, “I have.” “Then,” said I, “I hope you will allow no one to influence you tomorrow in relation to it.” The next morning orders were sent to the different brigades and divisions to cook three days’ rations, and to be ready to march at a moment’s notice. I had no conversation with any one in relation to my interview with General Patterson up to 9 o’clock in the morning. About 9 o’clock I was in the room occupied as an office, when several prominent officers of the column appeared. I think they had been summoned there by the general. General Patterson entered and said, “Gentlemen, I have sent for you, not for the purpose of consulting you as to the propriety of the movement I intend to make, but as to the best mode of making it.” I then left the room. After these officers had separated I was told by the general that he did not think the Pennsylvania troops would march, and that an order had been issued for them to be assembled on their parade grounds that afternoon, that he might consult them in person. He did so. He appealed to them in very strong terms to remain with him a week or ten days; that they had promised him that in the event of a battle taking place they would stand by him, and he desired them to intimate, when the command “shoulder arms” was given to each regiment, whether they would comply with his wish. Several of the Pennsylvania regiments came to a shoulder when the order was given—one (Colonel Patterson’s) with but one exception; but the majority in the others failed to respond. I was near General Patterson during the whole time, and heard his speech to them. The advance was not made.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did General Patterson, at any time when he was addressing the troops, propose to march on to Winchester?

Answer. No, sir; not to my knowledge. General Patterson did not ask the troops whether they would advance against the enemy at Winchester. He asked them if they would remain with him. I think it due to those troops to state their condition as to clothing. They were very poorly clothed, indeed. Many of the men had their pantaloons patched with canvas from the flies of the tents, and their garments were particolored. They had received very hard treatment; were very badly clad, and many of them were without shoes. I did not hear General Patterson, before any regiment of Pennsylvania troops, ask them if they would advance against the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Had you any conversation with any of the officers in relation to this advance?

Answer. After I left the room, which I did while this discussion was going on, and which I had no curiosity to hear, Colonel Abercrombie, who commanded one of the brigades, came to me and asked me what I thought of the proposed movement of General Patterson. From the relations that existed between Colonel Abercrombie and General Patterson, I felt satisfied that he already knew my views about the proposed movement. When conversing in reference to the movement of the trains, and the suggestion that if they could not be saved, I thought that, under the circumstances, they should be burned, Colonel Abercrombie desired to know how the men could get along without their cooking utensils. I suggested that there were plenty of trees and bushes between Charlestown and Winchester, and the men could cook their meat as they did in California, by holding it before the fire. Then he remarked, “You would place everything on the hazard of the die; sacrifice our line of communication, and in all probability cause the command to be cut off.” I told him that I thought General Patterson was just in the position to place everything at that hazard; that if he failed to move, I was satisfied that, no matter how pure his intentions might be, he would be overwhelmed by public sentiment. I told him that as to cutting off our communication, I felt perfectly satisfied that the people of this country would open the line of communication if he took the risk suggested. The colonel did not agree with me, and our conversation ceased.
Question. You spoke some time ago about some information furnished by a deserter. Had General Patterson, that you know of, any reliable information in regard to the enemy?

Answer. Not that I know of. I think I should have heard it if he had had any.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. You deemed Bunker Hill an important position for the purpose of holding the enemy?

Answer. Well, sir, Bunker Hill was, I think, 10 miles from Winchester, and at Charlestown we were 22 miles in another direction. By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you not at Bunker Hill directly threaten Johnston?

Answer. By our advance from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill we threatened him.

Question. When you turned off to Charlestown from Bunker Hill, did you not intimate to the enemy that you were leaving him, and that he was free to move where he pleased?

Answer. If putting more miles between us and the enemy was such an intimation, we made it.

By the chairman:

Question. As a military man, in your judgment, was there any insuperable obstacle or barrier to your detaining Johnston there, if you had pursued him vigorously from Bunker Hill?

Answer. I think if we had advanced on Johnston, our men could, in all probability, have marched as fast as he could. Having only 10 miles the start of us, he could not have got to Manassas much before we could. If he had attempted to pull up the railroad as he passed along, we should then have overhauled him.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did General Patterson send you to Washington with despatches for General Scott? If so, what took place at that interview?

Answer. General Patterson sent me to Washington to explain to General Scott the reason of his not moving against Winchester. He sent me on Friday, the 19th, and I arrived here on Saturday morning. I immediately called upon General Scott at his private quarters, and found him there with several of his staff. I stated to him what General Patterson had directed me to say to him, as nearly as I could. I exhibited to him the sketch made by the captain of engineers, giving the plan of the fortifications at Winchester, and the forces that occupied them, as stated by the deserter. General Scott seemed very much annoyed at the failure of the troops to advance, and said to me, “Why did not General Patterson advance?” I said, “Sir, General Patterson directed me to say to you that he understood your orders to him were to make demonstrations; to hold Johnston, not to drive him.” The general turned in his chair very fiercely on me, and said very excitedly, “I will sacrifice my commission if my despatches will bear any such interpretation.” Seeing the excited manner of the general, I begged to be excused for the present, and said I would call on him again at 12 o’clock, at his office. I then left him. I called at 12 o’clock, and he informed me that the Secretary of War had the day before relieved General Patterson from the command of that column, and had ordered General Banks to succeed him. I will state, also, that at this time I urged upon General Scott the request of General Patterson that re-enforcements should be sent him to enable him to make the movement on Winchester. And after my return my impression was that if they would give General Banks 25,000 men, and let him force his way through and take possession of Winchester and Strasburg, it would be an important movement at that time. That same movement seems now to be taking place under General Banks, other troops being placed in position at his old camps. On Monday morning, the 22d of July, I left this place on my return. On my arrival at Sandy Hook, a mile this side of Harper’s Ferry, I observed some officers I had left at Charlestown, and a number of troops. I called to them and asked them what they were doing there. They said that the whole army was at Harper’s Ferry. That was the first knowledge I had of any contemplated movement from Charlestown to Harper’s Ferry.

Question. Did you not understand when you advanced from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill that your object was to whip Johnston, or at least to hold him there?

Answer. To hold him; not to allow him to re-enforce Manassas. There is another thing that convinced me that my view of the despatch to which I have referred was correct. Another despatch was received by General Patterson from General Scott, on the 18th, as follows :

“SIR : I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy; if not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or at least had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and I suppose his superior, in numbers. Has he not stolen a march, and sent re-enforcements towards Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win victories. The time of volunteers counts from the day of mustering into the service of the United States. You must not retreat across the Potomac. If necessary, when abandoned by the short-term volunteers, intrench somewhere and wait for re-enforcements.”

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What was the temper of the troops on the receipt of orders to move from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill, and while at Bunker Hill?

Answer. The march from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill was made in admirable order. I rode along the line several times to convey orders from the right to the left, and there did not seem to be any dissatisfaction that I could observe. The men preserved the order of march, and seemed to be in very good spirits.

Question. Did any dissatisfaction manifest itself at Bunker Hill?

Answer. I heard of none. The men violated the regulations somewhat, by foraging around, as all soldiers will.

Question. Did you hear of any expression of opinion to the effect that the men did not want to make an advance?

Answer. I heard some of the officers speak of the certainty of the Pennsylvania troops claiming their discharge at the expiration of their term of service.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question Where was that?

Answer. I do not know. It was a general rumor.

Question. At Charlestown you heard of great dissatisfaction?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was there any dissatisfaction among the troops at going to meet the enemy?

Answer. I do not know that the men ever had that point—that they were going against the enemy—presented to them. Many of the men were in very bad condition as to clothing, &c. There was a regiment there from Indiana that was in as bad, if not a worse, condition than any regiment I have seen. General Patterson did not address that regiment. But they volunteered through their colonel to remain, without the suggestion of any one. Many of the men had no shoes, and the feet of some of them were so cut and injured by the flinty roads over which they marched that their officers had to order them to be carried in the wagons. Yet they volunteered through Colonel Wallace, their commander, to advance on Winchester, or against the enemy.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did the troops know they were retreating when they left Bunker Hill?

Answer. I do not think that either the officers or the men were aware that they were retreating, except from the direction that they took. After General Patterson was relieved, General Banks invited me to remain and occupy the same position on his staff that I had on General Patterson’s. I did so until after he moved across the Potomac with the main body of his army and encamped on this side. The movement across the river was made hy General Banks after full consultation with all the highest officers in his command, who voted each separately that it would be highly imprudent and dangerous to attempt to continue the occupancy of Harper’s Ferry with the small force left under his command; and that it could be held by means of guns mounted on the Maryland side, and without risk to his troops. On their advice he acted. He never surrendered, during the time I was up there, the place of Harper’s Ferry, but always kept a guard there for its protection.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you, before you went up there, hare any conversation with General Scott; and if so, what did he tell you as to what he wanted done?

Answer. After receiving permission, and the order from General Cameron to proceed to join General Patterson, I called on Colonel Townsend, the assistant adjutant general, and offered to convey any despatches he might have for General Patterson’s column. While there General Scott heard my voice and called me into his room, and inquired when I was going. I told him. He then asked why I did not come to him for a letter to General Patterson. I told him I knew he was very much engaged, and I was almost afraid to ask to see him. He then directed Colonel Townsend to write a letter and bring it to him to sign. I think he remarked that we were in the same boat, meaning that we were both southern men, he from Virginia and I from Maryland. I said to him, “General, I have made up my mind that the column of General Patterson will be engaged by Sunday.” He replied, “It may be before that, but it cannot be long before it is.” I told him then that I would hurry and try to join General Patterson as soon as possible, which I did. I will remark here, that what I have stated in my testimony are entirely impressions of my own. And my advice, if it may be so called, to General Patterson as to an advance, was to meet the sentiment of the country, and what I conceived to be the first wish of the people—the defeat of the army of the rebels in front of Washington.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What were your relations with General Patterson while with him and subsequently?

Answer. The first time I ever met General Patterson was at Martinsburg, when I presented the letters of General Cameron and General Scott, recommending me to his notice. General Patterson’s bearing towards me was exceedingly kind; he extended to me every courtesy and confidence during the time I was with him, and, in consequence, I have always felt the liveliest feelings of gratitude towards him. His impressions of my services may be obtained from this letter:

“HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA,

“Harper’s Ferry, July 25, 1861.

“MAJOR : I regret that in relinquishing the command of this department I can no longer avail myself of your services on my personal staff. For the promptness and gallantry with which those services were tendered at a critical moment, and the zeal and fidelity with which they have been discharged throughout, I can only offer you my cordial thanks.

“I remain, with great regard, very sincerely, yours,

“R. PATTERSON,

“Major General Commanding.

“Major W.W.Russell,

“United States Marine Corps, &c.”





Ford the Potomac Like They Did

12 08 2009

FordLast year, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association conducted a tour of the battlefield (yes, there was a pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Antietam) that commenced with a crossing of the Potomac via Boteler’s/Blackford’s/Pack Horse Ford, the same ford used by Union forces – including the 20th Maine and 118th Pennsylvania – on September 19-20, 1862.  The turnout wasn’t overwhelming (I didn’t make it either, having been in town the preceding weekend), but the reaction to the tour was.  So the SBPA has determined to repeat the tour again, this time on September 19, and this time with two tours scheduled.  One is to be led by SBPA board member Tom Clemens, and another by Tom McGrath, author of Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign.  The tour will begin with a crossing of the Potomac by foot at the ford, a tour of the battlefield, and a picnic on the field.  All this for $25.  Go here for information and to make reservations, and to order Mr. McGrath’s book if you wish.  Visit Brian Downey’s Behind Antietam on the Web for a recap of last year’s tour.








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