The Battle of Fort Fisher, N.C.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Troops Came to U.S. Capitol in 1861 and Wrecked It-- Part 2: Different From 160 Years Ago

The most recent chapter in the history of the U.S. Capitol took place 160 years later.

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, photos showed  the halls of the building filled with thousands of rifle-toting National Guard troops tasked with securing the nation's capital city.  They rested on floors that just a week earlier rioters had overrun.  And some even carried Confederate flags.

But, this time they will not be staying in the Capitol, but put up in local hotels.

Troops also stayed overnight in the Capitol building during World War II and after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968 during black riots.  According to U.S. senate history, they had also been called on to maintain order on at least three other times.

The scene this past Wednesday was also remarkably different than 160 years ago.  A bust of Lincoln and a plaque commemorating the earlier quartered regiments were located above napping guard members.  A group of black guardsmen took photos with a statue of Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks.

Most wore face masks, and many observed social distancing amid the virus epidemic.

--Old Secesh

Troops Came to U.S. Capitol in 1861 and Left It In a Total Mess-- Part 1

From the Jan. 14, 2021, Washington Post "Troops lodged in the Capitol in 1861.  It was a wreck when they left" by Meryl Sonmez.

What with that huge turnout of National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. for President Biden's inauguration this Wednesday, I thought this article I found was appropriate.

At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln, fearing for the safety of Washington, D.C., called out for thousands of soldiers to come to town on April 15, three days after Fort Sumter was attacked.  Three days later, they began arriving. 

Ohio Senator John Sherman, younger brother of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, recalled in his memoirs, "The response of the loyal states to the call of Lincoln was perhaps the most remarkable  uprising of a great people in the history of mankind."

But, he noted that they were not trained soldiers and had no discipline.  Some were housed in the Capitol building and they  wrecked it, getting bacon grease on the walls, swinging from ropes hanging from the ceiling of the dome and debating if they should ask for more booze

This greatly frightened the people who had to work in its hallowed halls and rooms.

--Old Secesh

Saturday, January 16, 2021

January Civil War Dates: Fall of Fort Fisher

From the American Battlefield Trust 2021 calendar.

JANUARY 1, 1863

President Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.

JANUARY 15, 1865

Fall of Fort Fisher, North Carolina.   (How could I have forgotten this date yesterday?  Duh!)

JANUARY 19, 1862

Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky.

JANAUARY 28, 1864

Operations around New Bern, North Carolina.

JANUARY 30, 1862

USS Monitor launched at Greenpoint, Long Island, New York.

JANAUARY 31, 1865

Robert E. Lee assumes command of all Confederate armies.

JANUARY 31, 1865

The U.S. House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment.

--Old Secesh

December Civil War Dates: 13th Amendment and Stones River

From the American Battlefield Trust 2021 calendar.


DECEMBER 6, 1865

The 13th Amendment ratified, officially abolishing slavery.


Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

DECEMBER 11, 1862

Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. begins.

DECEMBER 12, 1862

USS Cairo sinks in the Yazoo River, Miss.  Hit a torpedo (mine).

DECEMBER 15, 1864

Battle of Nashville, Tn. begins.

DECEMBER 18, 1865

The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery becomes a part of the U.S. Constitution.

DECEMBER 31, 1862

Battle of Stones River(Murfreesboro), Tenn. begins.

--Old Secesh

Thursday, January 14, 2021

American Battlefield Trust, Williamsburg, Va.-- Part 2: The 'Bloody Ravine'


69 acres saved

In the first pitched battle of the Peninsula Campaign, nearly 41,000 Federals and 32,000 Confederates clashed in the mud and poring rain at Williamsburg on May 5, 1862.

The Trust is working to save an additional 29 acres of this largely unprotected battlefield, including action around the famous "Bloody Ravine."  Of course, with the current Confederate hatred going on in the state, preserving these acres for posterity looms even more important.

Full page photo by Robert James.

Thanks, Trust.  --Old Secesh

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

American Battlefield Trust, December 2020: Battle of Williamsburg-- Part 1

As a member of the American Battlefield Trust, I receive the  calendars.  This is from the 2021 calendar which had a preliminary page for December 2020.

Since the organization works to save American battlefields from the American Revolution, War of 1812 and Civil War, each month they feature a different battlefield with a full page current photo as well as information.  There is also writing on specific days telling what happened.

I didn't know they had December 2020 in it until I opened it up.

December featured  a picture of part of the Williamsburg, Virginia, battlefield by Robert James.

There was also a smaller picture of Prospect Hill at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP, in Virginia by Chris Landon.

--Old Secesh

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Fort Wool Today-- Part 8

The fort was decommissioned in 1953 as a military installation.  Of course, since it was named for U.S. general John Ellis Wool, its name would not have to be changed now since the passage of the 2020 Defense Bill.

It was turned over to Virginia.  In the 1950s, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) was constructed right next to the fort, with its southern island connected to the fort  by an earthen causeway.  The HRBT opened for traffic in 1957.  In 1967 and again in 1970, the City of Hampton developed the fort into a park which could be accessed by the passenger ferry Miss Hampton II.

The fort can also be seen by  westbound vehicles on approach to the HRBT  southern tunnel, which carries Interstate I-64 across the mouth of Hampton Roads.

The island the fort sits on is now called  Rip Raps and it continues to settle.  Occasionally the casemates of the original fort are put off limits for safety reasons.

On 28 April 2007, a garrison flag was raised over the fort for the first time to salute a Parade of Tall Ships passing by it as part of the 400th anniversary of the settlement of nearby Jamestown.

What caused me to become more aware of the fort and write about it in my Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog (it was built as a result of the British occupying the Chesapeake Bay during that war and, of course the attacks on Washington, D.C., and Baltimore), was that the fort has now been turned into a bird sanctuary and is off limits to people.

There Needs To be Some Sort of Compromise Between Nature and People Here.  --Old Secesh

Friday, January 8, 2021

Fort Wool During World War II-- Part 7

Again, anti-submarine nets were stretched across the harbor between Fort Wool and Fort Monroe.

Battery 229 with two 6-inch shielded guns on long range  carriages was constructed on a rebuilt Battery Horatio Gates from March 1943 to January 1944.  The work was completed and the shielded  carriages were installed; however, the gun tubes were not installed.

On 30 September 1943, the installation was  completed on an SCR-296A radar to provide fire control for Battery 229, which of course, was never needed.

The previous six-inch guns were scrapped in 1942-1943.  Battery Lee's  four 3-inch guns were transferred to Fort Story (across the bay by Virginia Beach), two each in 1942 and 1943.

In 1946, Battery Hindman's pair of three-inch guns were transferred to Fort Monroe as a saluting battery.

--Old Secesh

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Fort Wool's Endicott Batteries and World War I-- Part 6


In 1885, the Endicott board met and determined that the coastal defenses of the U.S. needed to be updated.  As a result, all but a small part of Fort Wool's  western end of the fort were demolished to make room for what eventually became five batteries.  

As funding became available they were constructed starting in 1905  Fort Wool's armament was of relatively smaller-caliber, rapid-firing guns because Fort Monroe  had the bigger guns.  The three-inch guns were primarily emplaced to protect underwater mine fields from minesweepers.  Some of the mines, still called torpedoes at the time were stored at Fort Wool.


In 1917 and 1918, all but two of the six-inch guns at Fort Wool  were removed to potentially be sent to the Western front in Europe.  The remaining guns were shifted to Battery Gates.

During both wars, submarine nets  were stretched across the harbor from Fort Monroe to Fort Wool.

--Old Secesh

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Fort Wool in Chesapeake Bay-- Part 5: The Sawyer Gun

The range of the Sawyer gun, with extended elevation, extended all the way to Confederate-held Sewell's Point in Virginia, 3 miles away (where Norfolk Naval Base is now located).  The Confederates had built an impressive fort there complete with  bastions, a redan and three artillery batteries mounting 45 guns.

The Sawyer gun was rifled and could fire a shot further and with more accuracy than the usual smoothbore cannons in use.  It was one of several rifled artillery pieces developed by Sylvanus Sawyer. Sadly for him, none of his designs were widely adopted by Union forces.

A weapon of  the type at Fort Wool was tested at nearby Fort Monroe in 1859.  Two different Sawyer weapons, a 24-pounder rifle and a 3.67-inch were used at the Siege of Richmond in 1864-1865.  The 24-pounder burst on the tenth fire and the 3.67 was rarely used.

Fort Wool had a ringside seat for the Battle of Hampton Roads between the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor during what is referred to as the Battle of the Ironclads on March 9, 1862.  The Sawyer gun fired on the Virginia, but no damage was done to the ship because of her armor.

--Old Secesh

Monday, January 4, 2021

Fort Wool in Chesapeake Bay-- Part 4: Name Change and the Sawyer Gun

The fort was originally named after John C. Calhoun, President Monroe's Secretary of War, who was a southern secessionist.  That wouldn't do once the Civil War started and the North renamed it Fort Wool in 1862, after Major General John  Ellis Wool, a War of 1812 , Mexican War hero and now Civil War officer as commander of Fort Monroe.

The fort received its first guns now.  Initially there were 10 guns mounted.  These guns were fired at Confederate positions across Chesapeake Bay and at Confederate ships.

A long-range experimental  cannon, the Sawyer gun, was installed at Fort Calhoun in mid-1861.  The weapon was rifled and had much longer range and accuracy.  An illustration in an August 1861 newspaper  shows it mounted on a high-angle carriage.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Fort Wool in Chesapeake Bay-- Part 3: An Association With U.S. Presidents

Continued from December 30, 2020.

Fort Wool has a little-known association with U.S. presidents.

President Andrew Jackson, broken-hearted after the death of his wife and in ill-health, came to Fort Wool in the late 1820s and 1830s and, in effect, made the fort into his "White House."  He built a hut on the island and spent time watching ships pass by.

He even made key policy decisions from there.  Ironically, his Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, had become the president's arch rival at this time, by threatening to pull South Carolina out of the Union.  This was a move that Jackson effectively squelched, at least for the time being.

In the mid-1840s, President  John Tyler took sanctuary on the island after the death of his first wife.

President Abraham Lincoln also visited the island.

--Old Secesh

Saturday, January 2, 2021

15 Years and 5545 Posts Later, Still Here

Most people will tell you that having one blog is one too many.  Well, I have considerably more than  that.  Unfortunately, I am interested in way too many things.  That is why I have eight blogs.  Having just one blog would be a walk in the park.

My first post in this Civil War blog was November 1, 2007.  This grew out of my Cooter's History Thing blog which covers all things history.  So many of my posts to it were about the Civil War, I figured to spin this one off.  In 2012, I spun my Running the Blockade: Civil War Navy blog off this, again because so many posts were about that aspect of the war.

My main emphasis on the war is navy and Fort Fisher, anyway.

My signoff name of Old Secesh comes from the northern putdown of Confederates, calling them "Secesh" or "Sesh".  The Confederacy seceded from the Union.  I adopted that as my name.

So, 5545 posts as of this one and we still haven't won the war and I believe we are definitely going to lose the Second Civil War going on right now.

I am, however, interested in all aspects of the war, not just Confederate.  Of course, I am interested in all aspects of anything to do with history.

Spending Way Too Much Time on These Doggone Blogs.  --Old Seceh

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fort Wool in Chesapeake Bay-- Part 2: Lee to the Rescue, Not

Construction of what became Fort Wool began in 1826 and after various delays, by 1834 about half of the second tier had been completed.  But then it was discovered that the man-made island the for sits on was  settling.  It is still settling in the 21st century.

A young second lieutenant and engineer by the name of Robert E. Lee was transferred there to help Captain Andrew Talcott in its construction as well as Fort Monroe across the bay.  Lee was given the task of stabilizing the island, but found the island wouldn't hold even two tiers of gun chambers.

The fort never reached its intended size even with the addition of more base stone.

Work began on the fort again in 1858, but the coming of the Civil War brought it to a halt.  The back of the fort remained open.

--Old Secesh

Fort Wool in Chesapeake Bay-- Part 1: Because of the War of 1812

I wrote about this fort in my November 14 and 16 Not So Forgotten: War of 1812 blog entries.  This fort was constructed to keep an enemy fleet out of the Chesapeake Bay after the experience with the British in that war.  It and Fort Monroe to the north would provide a crossfire to stop an enemy.

From Wikipedia.

Fort Wool is a decommissioned  island fortification now known as Rip Raps Island.  originally it was named Castle Calhoun of Fort Calhoun after  Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and later renamed for  Major General John Ellis Wool (1784-1869).

The general was a veteran of three wars:  War of 1812, Mexican War and the Civil War.  He was the oldest general on either side during the Civil War.

Fort Wool was one of 40 forts constructed after the War of 1812.  This was known as the Third System of U.S. forts.  It was constructed on a shoal of  ballast stones dumped by ships entering the Chesapeake Bay and was originally constructed to have three tiers of gun chambers as well as a barbette tier at the top, altogether mounting  216 cannons.

--Old Secesh