The Battle of Fort Fisher, N.C.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Confederate Naval Yard-- Richmond, Va.

This past week, the good folks at HMdb, Historical Marker database spotlighted a marker located in Richmond.

The Naval yard began in 1862 on both banks of the James River and served as the base, construction site and headquarters of the James River Squadron. At one time it was commanded by Admiral Raphael Semmes. Ships built and based there included the CSS Virginia II and others.

Here also, the CSS Navy fashioned a prototype of an artillery mounted railroad car that Lee used at Savage Station June 29, 1862.

On April 3, 1865, Confederate troops burned the yard and destroyed the vessels during the evacuation of Richmond.

After the Civil War, Trigg Shipyards continued military shipbuilding in Richmond.

Another River Shipyard. --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fort Harrison-- Richmond, Va.

The September 14th Macon (Ga) Telegraph had an article about Richmond's Fort Harrison by Chuck Meyers.

Fort Harrison and its four sister forts (Johnson, Gilmer, Hoke and Gregg) are part of the National Park Service's Richmond National Battlefield Park.

It was built in 1862 and named for Lt. William Harrison, a Confederate engineer, and designed to protect the strategically important Chaffin's Bluff on the James River. An engagement occurred at it September 29, 1864 involving Union General Butler's forces called the Battle of Chaffin's Farm.


The actions took place on both Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, 1864 and were a part of the Siege of Petersburg.

On September 29th, 2,500 troops from Union General Benjamin Butler's Army of the James attack and overwhelmed the 200 Confederates under Major Richard Cornelius Taylor and captured the fort.

Union General Hiram Burnham of Maine was killed in the assault and the fort renamed in his honor.

Realizing the fort's importance, the next day, Robert E. Lee ordered a counter attack which failed and the fort remained in Union hands for the rest of the war.

In 1930, a preservation society called the Richmond Parks Corporation built a log cabin at the fort and that remains today as the visitors center.

The fort is in great shape and well worth a visit.

From Wikipedia.

So, old gen. Ben. did have some fort success, certainly not against the one in North Carolina.

The Big Boom Theory. --B-R'er

Fort Fisher's 150-pdr Armstrong Gun-- Part 5-- Empire Complicity and the Scamp

Definitely gathered that the writer wasn't happy about Britain's open aid to the Confederacy, then, there was the scamp.

Continuing with the article on the front page of the February 11, 1865 Harper's Weekly. No author was cited for it. Nice engraving of the gun, however.

"The gun is bronzed and mounted on a mahogany carriage, highly varnished. The whole piece is finished in the finest style. It was fired a very few times during the action. During the confusion attending the occupation of the works by the Union troops some mischievous person stole the sights. (The Scamp!)

The Armstrong guns are manufactured exclusively under the auspices of the British Government, and Admiral Porter, in his official report, states this fact as if it were conclusive proof of the British Government or someone high in authority, had presented the gun to the Confederate Government."

Alright, Who Stole the Sight? --Old B-Runner

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fort Fisher's Major James Reilly-- Part 3

His military stone was dedicated October 24th at Oakdale Cemetery. On it are listed battles he took part in: Yorktown, Peninsula Campaign, Manassas, South Mountain. Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Washington, NC, Suffolk Campaign, Gettysburg, and 1st and 2nd Battles of Fort Fisher.

The memorial service was attended by his great granddaugthers Mary Scott Betham and Mary Alice Crowley of Wilmington, and Catherine Reilly Steele of Gatlinburg, Tn. Also, two reenactors portraying his battery, one from NC and the other from Maine were there.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Civil War Burials in St. Louis

Persons of interest buried in St. Louis, Missouri. These two cemeteries are adjacent to each other. Bellefontaine was established in 1849. Calvary was established in 1857 and is a Roman Catholic cemetery.


James Eads-- bridge architect and ironclad builder
Sterling Price-- Confederate general
Don Carlos Buell-- Union general
John McNeal-- Union general involved in Palmyra Massacre
Francis E. Brownell-- Medal of Honor for killing James Jackson May 24, 1861, who had just shot Col. Elmer Ellsworth
Thomas Hart Benton-- US Senator involved in Manifest Destiny

Others of Interest buried in Bellefontaine. This is just a very short list of famous people buried there. Check out the site on Wikipedia

William S. Burroughs-- inventor
William S. Burroughs-- writer
Adolphus Busch-- beer
William Clark-- explorer as in Lewis and Clark


William Tecumseh Sherman
Daniel M. Frost-- CS General
Dred Scott

Others of interest:
Tennessee Williams

Some Graves to Visit the Next Time on Route 66. --Old B-R

Fort Fisher's Major James Reilly-- Part 2

James Reilly was an ordnance sergeant in the US Army when he surrendered Fort Johnson and was the sole defender.

He resigned from the US Army and joined the 10th NC Artillery, Co. D, which became known as Reilly's Battery and served in the Army of Northern Virginia until 1863 when he was promoted to major and transferred to Fort Fisher where he became second in command under Col. William Lamb. It was he who surrendered Fort Fisher after Col. Lamb and Gen. Whiting were wounded. So, Reilly had the misfortune to have to surrender two forts in the Wilmington area.

After the war, he returned to Wilmington, NC, and lived there the rest of his life operating the Wilmington and Brunswick Ferry. He died in 1894 and is buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

An Interesting Story. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fort Fisher's Major James Reilly-- Part 1

One of those many, many heroes of the Civil War who are not known to the general public.

Dozens of people gathered at Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery this last weekend to dedicate a new marker for Major James Reilly who surrendered Fort Fisher, was imprisoned in Maryland (probably Point Lookout). Even though offered a higher position with higher pay, he refused and remained in prison. From Wild Geese Today.

He had the nickname of "Old Tarantula" and was born in Ireland in 1823. After serving in the British Army, and crossed the Atlantic to the United States and joined the He served in the Seminole Indian War and was severely wounded in the Mexican War.


On January 7, 1861, while the sole military person at Fort Johnson in Smithville, NC, now Southport, he surrendered Fort Johnson to a large force of North Carolina militia

Continued. --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 26, 2009

Running the Blockade: At Fort Fisher-- Getting That Cannon Bug-- Lincoln Signed It-- Explosions in Savannah--

Running the Blockade: Some New News About an Old War.

1. AT FORT FISHER-- Mr. and Mrs. Frank R. Shaw made a $103,000 endowment to the St. Andrews Scottish Heritage Center. They told of their ancestry, and their grandfather, John W. Shaw was captured at Fort Fisher and imprisoned at Elmira Prison in New York.

2. GETTING THAT CANNON BUG-- You say you've always wanted to fire a cannon. Well, now is your chance. Vicksburg National Military Park is looking for volunteers to dress as Civil War soldiers and fire the park's 12-pounder Napoleon cannon.

3. LINCOLN SIGNED IT-- The October 20th Fox 28 TV in South Bend, Indiana, says that a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln is on display at the Center for History in South Bend. It is on loan from Indiana University. It was printed a year after the original and signed by Lincoln to be sold at a charity auction.

4. EXPLOSIONS IN SAVANNAH-- The October 20th Savannah Now reported that the explosions heard in town the night before were from the movie "Conspirator" which is being filmed there. Savannah is standing in for Washington, DC. Robert Redford is directing it and it is about the trial of Mary Suratt. The explosions were fireworks celebrating the end of the Civil War.

Now, You Know. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scout Restores Cannons In Illinois

Danny Daniels, a Boy Scout in Oregon, Illinois has spent 35 hours removing rust from a pair of Civil War cannons at the Ogle County courthouse. He did this as part of the requirements for attaining Eagle Scout status, the highest a Boy Scout can get.

The Ogle County courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and was built in 1891. The cannons were placed there between 1898 and 1900. One is a Columbiad cast in 1846 in Boston. The other is a Parrot cannon, cast in 1864,

There is also a Soldiers Monument designed by famed Illinois sculptor Lorado Taft 19 1911 and dedicated in 1916 to those who served from Ogle County in the War of 1812, Mexican War and Civil War. World War I veterans were added later.

Always good to see the youth of America getting involved with history such as this.

From Ogle County News.

Congratulations Danny. --Old B-R

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some More Info on General Hawley

He moved from North Carolina to Connecticut at age 11 because his father, a preacher, was transferred there. He lived the rest of his life in that state. He was a staunch abolitionist, lawyer, and journalist.

In 1861, he helped Col. Alfred H. Terry raise the 7th Connecticut and became the lt. colonel of the unit, eventually its commander.eral Joseph Hawley

He was involved in actions along the seacoast and was at Charleston in 1863 and involved with the Battle of Fort Wagner.

He was Connecticut's governor from 1866 to 1867, US Representative from 1872-1875 and again 1879-1881 and US Senator from 1881 to 1905, dying two weeks after leaving that seat.

He is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Connecticut.

I Had Never Heard of Him, But This Was an Important Man, Especially If You Live in Connecticut. --Old B-Runner

General Joseph Roswell Hawley

On September 26th, I wrote about Captain Albert Parks Hurt and five men from Fayetteville, NC, going to Wilmington to ask for food and supplies for their town. They dealt with General Hawley, who I had never heard about, so did some Wikipedia research.

General Hawley was a good friend of General Terry, who led the victorious Army at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, January 15, 1865. In January of that year, Hawley succeeded Terry in divisional command while he was at Fisher.

He later joined his friend as Chief of Staff for the X Corps, Army of the James. After the capture of Wilmington, Hawley took command of forces in southeastern North Carolina. In June, after the Confederate surrender, he rejoined Terry as Chief of Staff for the department of Virginia until October when he returned to Connecticut.

He was breveted major general September 1865 and mustered out January 15, 1866.

He later served as governor of Connecticut for one term and two terms at US Representative.

Surprisingly, he was born October 31, 1826, in Stewartsville, NC. His father was a preacher.

Like, Boo!! No Food for You. --Old B-Runner

Fort Fisher's 150-pdr Armstrong Gun-- Part 4-- Empire Complicity and the Scamp

I came across an article in the February 11, 1865, Harper's Weekly that featured a picture of Fort Fisher's Armstrong gun on the front page. It was accompanied with an article which I will quote here. It was all one long paragraph. I have added paragraphs to make it easier to read.

"In Fort Fisher our army found a splendid 150-pound Armstrong Gun weighing 15,739 pounds. Upon it was the inscription 'Sir W. C. Armstrong & Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne. No. 9.' (Does this mean that it was the ninth cannon of this type made?)

This was quite evidently a present to the rebels from some prominent British gentleman if not from the inventor himself. (Ahh, the British supporting the Rebels,)

Great care had been taken of it, and general Whiting gave especial orders that it was not to be fired except under the pressure of necessity. It had the appearance of having been recently mounted."

So, the British More-or-Less Backed the Confederates. Who'd Have Figured That. --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blocakade Runner Scottish Chief

One of the two blockade runners found by Tampa, Florida, that were sunk after a Union naval attack in 1864. Its wreck has recently been identified.

Captain William Russell built the stern-wheel Scottish Chief for Captain Banks and installed the machinery of the Brothers steamship in it.

Later, I saw that the Scottish Chief was a sidewheel steamer built in Wilmington, NC in 1855. It was 123 feet long, 18 feet wide, had a 4-foot depth and weighed 102 tons and one deck.

It was offered for sale in an 1856 advertisement and wasn't mentioned in the Wilmington papers after that, so was possibly sold. Perhaps to Tampa?

I'm not sure about whether it was sidewheel or stern, but if going to sea, I think sidewheel would be preferable.

From the Cape Fear River Steamers Blog.

Finding a Lost Ship. --B-R

Fort Fisher's 150-pdr Armstrong Gun -- Part 3

The Fort Fisher gun is one of two presented to the Confederacy by friends in England. The other one was at Fort Caswell and also captured. This one was sent to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It is believed to have been scrapped during World War II.

The 150-pdr at Trophy Point is the most photographed artillery piece there.

The gun tube weighs 15,737 pounds. It was described by one Union officer as "the most elegantly furnished piece of artillery I ever saw..." It was a muzzle-loader, but one of the most advanced weapons of its day and made of steel with iron bands, unique "shunt" rifling system that allowed easy loading, studs on the shell loosely guiding the round on its way down the bore.

When the gun was fired, the shell "shunted" to a set of shallow grooves and tightly nipped on its way out, insuring accuracy.

The gun fired two types of shell rounds; a shell which anticipated the modern "shaped charge" with a heat-activated fuze, and the other a flat-nosed, armor piercing range for short range work against ironclad ships.

Lack of ammunition limited the guns effectiveness.

There are many pictures of the one at Fort Fisher, both in its original position of the fort and at West Point.

There is a photograph of the Fort Caswell one at

It was picked out of the rubble of that fort after the explosion.

Interesting story. I am not sure of the guns range, but I am sure it was far, perfect for keeping those pesky blockaders at bay. A real friend to blockade-runners.

Glad a Copy at Least is Coming Back. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trophy Point, USMA

Trophy Point, just as the name suggests, features cannons that have been captured in America's wars. In 1837, a Military Academy Board of Visitors determined that West Point should be the site of the military's war trophies.

During the Civil War, many USMA graduates became generals (on both sides), and nearly 50 captured Confederate cannons were added to the collection.

The cannons on display were either captured or surrendered to US forces in the War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War and the Spanish-American War. Cannons from World War I to the present are located in the West Point Museum.

In 1897, General John S. Schofield dedicated the 46 foot tall granite shaft called the Battle Monument, which stands as the most prominent memorial. It is there to honor fallen regular army troops from the Civil War.

Of course, the Fort Fisher Armstrong gun, which I have been writing about, is also at Trophy Point and is a major attraction.

Trophy Point is also one of the most popular attractions in the whole Hudson Valley commanding an impressive view.

A nation's Trophy Case. --Old B-Runner

Monday, October 19, 2009

USS Oneota, Monitor

The USS Oneota, a Canonicus class monitor, was built by Alexander Swift in Cincinnati. It was launched May 21, 1864, but not completed until the war was over, June 10, 1865. The Oneota was 2,100 tons, 223 feet long, 43.4 feet beam, 85 crew, and mounted 2 X 15 in. Dahlgrens in a single turret. Evidently, it was never commissioned before being sold back to its builder

On April 13, 1868, it was illegally sold, along with its sister ship, the USS Catawba, to Peru which violated a treaty the United States had signed with Peru.
The sale was allowed to proceed, but Swift & Co. were made to pay fines equal to one-third of the sale.

It served in the Peruvian Navy as the Manco Capac. In 1879, a war broke our between Bolivia and Chile and the ship was sunk to prevent capture.

The wreck still exists and was discovered in 2007, two and a half miles offshore of Arica in 100 feet of water.

The Fate of a Monitor. --Old B-R

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fort Fisher 150-pdr Armstrong Gun-- Part 2-- Returns to Fort Fisher

The US Military Academy was gracious enough to return the Armstrong gun tube to Fort Fisher a few years ago. Sadly, I didn't get to see it, but I did see the carriage that was made for it. I also was told the state site had plans to have a replica tube made and placed on that carriage.

In November 2004, the cannon arrived at Fort Fisher and remained on display until February 2006. That's the original gun tube that was at the fort when it fell. It weighs 16,000 pounds (sure glad I didn't have to pay the postage on that one).

The original carriage was described as almost being like house furniture. It was mahogany and rosewood with a high finish with brass fittings.

This was probably the first time since 1866 that an original cannon from the fort was back at it. The current 32-pdr at Sheppard's Battery is not an original.

That Would Have Been Something to See, an Actual Cannon from the Fort Returning to It.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fort Fisher 150-pdr Armstrong-- Part 1

HMdb, Historical Marker database recently ran an article about the 150-pdr Armstrong gun captured at Fort Fisher January 15, 1865.

At the time it was considered one of the most-advanced artillery pieces in the world and was made in 1864 by Sir W. G. Armstrong & Co. in England and was said to be a gift from private donors in England to the Confederacy (most likely from folks with interests in blockade-running). It was a rifled, muzzle-loading cannon.

After its capture, it was shipped to the Military Academy in 1865 and had a prominent place at Trophy Point for the next hundred years until deterioration of the wooden carriage. A new, identical carriage was made and the gun was returned in 1982 as a gift from the USMA Class of 1932.

One Magnificent Gun. --Old B-R

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wilmington's Pine Valley's Streets Named After Confederates-- Part 3

I also did not see a Maffitt Drive which would have been named after Confederate blockade-runner John Newland Maffitt, CSN.

Other Confederate Names:

Longstreet Drive (had it been a street, it would have been Longstreet Street)
Joe Wheeler Dr.
Beauregard Dr.
Robert E. Lee Dr.
Pickett Dr.
Jeb Stuart Dr.
John S. Mosby Dr.
Stonewall Jackson Dr.
Johnston Dr.
Early Dr.
Pettigrew Dr.
Pemberton Dr.
Chalmers Dr.
Van Dorn Dr.
Greenhowe Dr.--named for the famous Confederate spy Rose O'Neal Greenhowe, who died by drowning while evacuating the blockade-runner Condor.

Kirby Smith Dr.
Ewell Dr.
Robert S. Garnett Dr.

Definitely NOT a Politically-Correct Subdivision These Days. I Salute Them. --Old B-Runner

Wilmington's Pine Valley's Streets Named After Confederates-- Part 2

More Confederate names.

REILLY DRIVE-- Named after Major James Reilly who surrendered Fort Fisher to Union forces after Lamb and Whiting were wounded. He had also been an artillery sergeant in the US Army before the war and had surrendered Fort Johnston in Smithville (now Southport) to NC militia in 1861.

ROBERT HOKE ROAD-- General and native North Carolinian whose division was at Sugar Loaf north of Fort Fisher during the battle and also commanded forces in the Wilmington Campaign.

JOHN D. BARRY DR.-- Born in Wilmington and attended UNC. Rose through the ranks to become colonel of the 18th NC and slated for promotion to brigadier general but lost it after a disabling wound. Died shortly after the war, some saying over giving the order to fire at Chancellorsville which led to the wounding of Stonewall Jackson.

I got ahold of a street map and did not see a William Lamb Road which would have been named after Fort Fisher's commander.

I did see a whole lot more Confederate names, however.

Next. --Old B-R

Wilmington's Pine Valley Streets Named After Confederate Veterans

The October 7th Wilmington (NC) Star-News ran a column by My Reporter where people ask questions that the staff expertly answer. The question today was about why the streets of Pine Valley are named for Confederates.


Not all are named for Confederates. HAIG DRIVE is named for the British general. REAGAN COURT for either the former president or John H. Reagan, the Confederate post master general. SEMMES DRIVE gets its name from Raphael Semmes, the commander of the CSS Alabama.

Pine Valley grew up around the Pine Valley Country Club and was founded in 1955, just before the 1961 centennial of the Civil War. In New Hanover County, streets are either named by the developer or neighborhood residents. The city annexxed Pine Valley in 1983 after a bitter fight.


WHITING COVE-- after General W. H. C. Whiting who commanded the defenses of Wilmington and was mortally wounded at Fort Fisher.

BRAGG DRIVE-- after General Braxton Bragg (I don't think I'd want to live on this road).

More Names to Come. --Old B-R

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis-- Part 5


On the second day of the battle, the 124th NY was on Houck's Ridge by the Round Tops and Devil's Den.

The regiment was called the "Orange Blossoms" because they were from Orange County and wore orange ribbons on their uniforms. Their commander was Col. Ellis, who was described by Captain Charles Weygant as "a rather cold, harsh, ambitious man who sometimes chilled us with his terrible bursts of profanity." But, "In that indescribable soldierly quality which--for want of a better term--we shall call dash, he was unsurpassed by any officer in our Corps."

The 124th was trying to protect the 4th NY Battery which was under attack by the 1st Texas and 15th Georgia. Major James Cromwell of the Orange Blossoms rode to the front of the lone and led a charge that drove the Confederates back. He had just yelled, "The day is ours! when he was struck by a bullet and fell dead from his saddle.


The Confederates rallied and came back. Col. Ellis mounted a counter charge yelling, "My God! Mt God, men! Your major's down; save him! Save him!" Again the Confederates fell back. Ellis stood up in his stirrups waving his sword just as a bullet slammed into his forehead and down he went, dead.

The fighting raged hand-to-hand. The Southerners eventually won the day and took possession of the Devil's Den and Houck's Ridge and had captured three cannons. Ward's 2,200 man brigade, of which the 124th belonged, had suffered 781 casualties.


A picture of Ellis is on page 87. Part of the caption reads: "A New York City lawyer, he ventured to California, becoming a fireman and then a sailor. Voyaging to Hawaii, he made friends with the island's kings and was appointed commander of Hawaii's navy. When he learned that the king had no warships, Ellis returned home to become a steamer captain."

From the Time-Life Books Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide pages 85 and 87.

Brave Men, All. --Old B-Runner

Battle of Yadkin River Bridge-- Part 1

The May 10, 2008, Salisbury (NC) Post had an article about this battle being listed as one of America's most-endangered battlefields by the Civil War Preservation Trust.

The battle, fought April 12 1865, took place at the Trading Ford in the heart of Old Rowan between present day Davidson and Rowan counties. It was one of the earliest known places to cross the Yadkin River.

During the Revolutionary War, General Nathaniel Greene foiled Cornwallis' British pursuit here as well.

The danger to the battlefield comes from the planned High Rock Raceway track and parking lot located on 200 acres right in the heart of the battlefield. Construction of it would also block access to the ruins of the 1818 Ithiel Town Bridge and the ferry used by Jefferson Davis fled to elude capture at the end of the war.

More to Come. --Old B-Runner

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis-- Part 4

For someone who had never heard of this guy before last month, I sure am becoming knowledgeable. He was quite the hero.

I looked him up in my Civil War books and found two accounts concerning him.

Stephen W. Sears in his "Gettysburg" book, had this to say. (pages 273-274)

Confederates under Hood approached the Union line, "the 124th New York's Colonel Van Horne Ellis and his major, James Cromwell, determined that their best hope lay in a counterattack. Ellis and Cromwell mounted and took their places for the charge. To a staff man who urged them to lead on foot, Colonel Ellis said only, 'The men must see us today.' At the cry of 'Charge!' from Major Cromwell, the New Yorkers rushed from the west face of Houck's Ridge at the double-quick. The first Texas reeled back from some 200 yards under the surprise onslaught."

An officer of the 124th wrote, "Roaring Cannon, crashing rifles, screeching shots, bursting shells, hissing bullets, cheers, shouts, shrieks and groans...." Then, a second line of Confederates approached and "pored into us a terrible fire which seemed for an instant to bring down a quarter of our numbers."

"Major Cromwell tumbled dead off his horse, shot through the chest. Then Colonel Ellis was down, shot through the head." Captain Charles Weygant took charge and only around one hundred men were left to fight.

Now, this is up close and personal action. Being mounted or carrying a flag in battle drew extra attention from the enemy.

A Story of a Brave Regiment and Their Leaders. --Old B-R

Running the Blockade: Cancelled-- Bad Shape-- Getting Up Close and Personal

Some New News About an Old War.

1. CANCELLED-- The October 6th South Florida Times reports that the Nov. 11th Homestead Veterans Day Parade has been cancelled amid the controversy of the Confederate flag. It has been cancelled for at least a year. The Miami Dade NAACP says they didn't want it cancelled, but just didn't want the Confederate flag. Too bad they had to make such a deal about it. If they didn't like it, they could have dome a better effect by turning their backs on it as it passed by.

2. BAD SHAPE-- The Union soldier statue at he Logan County Courthouse in Lincoln, Illinois, is in bad shape. Years of the elements have severely messed up the stone and a storm on Dec. 28, 2008 toppled it. The town is looking into restoring it.

3. GETTING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL-- The October 1st Gaston (NC) Gazette reports that James Hargitt's made his Military History elective class at East Gaston High more hands-on as he has had his students spending a week making detailed 3-D topographical maps of eight Civil War Battlefields: Antietam, 2nd Bull Run, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chattanooga, Nashville, Fredericksburg, and Vicksburg.

Sign Me Up for His Course. --Blockade-R

Monday, October 12, 2009

Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis-- Part 3

According to the auction house, Augustus had been a lawyer and a sea captain before the war. He was the first colonel of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry (Orange Blossoms). The regiment had 40% casualties at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The second day at the Battle of Gettysburg, the 124th was stationed at Houck's Ridge near Devil's Den on the left wing of the Union line. They got into a hot fight with the Texans under Confederate General John B. Hood.

Col. Ellis deliberately remained on horseback during the fight to inspire his outnumbered troops. He was killed, but the defense slowed the Confederate attack which broke on Little Round Top.

A monument in Col. Ellis' honor was erected on Houck's Ridge in 1885. There is also a Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War unit named in his honor.

Quite a Hero. --Old B-Runner

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis-- Part 2

The Rock Island Auction Company had a write up on the pistol.

It was sold in Lot 3187, but I didn't find out for how much.

The case in inscribed with "A. V. H. Ellis/Colonel 124th Regt./N.Y.V." on three lines on the left side of the frame.

The revolver was complete and in a four compartment English-style oak case with green lining. The case contains a wooden cleaning rod with steel tip, a full box of Winchester .32 Short cartridges and a steel screw-driver with ebony handle.

I would like too know the history of this pistol. It shows minimum handling and wear and wasn't fired, so it is unlikely this was the one he used in battle. Perhaps he received it when he became the colonel of the regiment and left it at home. Since he was killed at Gettysburg, perhaps his family was presented it by his men or the state.

What happened to it after the war? Did a family member hold on to it and a descendant needing money?

That Pistol's Git a Story to Tell. --B-R'er

Col. Ellis' Revolver-- Part 1

The September 6th Chicago Tribune had a full-page advertisement in it from the Rock Island (Il) Auction Company featuring lots of weapons dating back to the 1800s.

I found the picture and write up for one of particular interest since it was a Civil War item.

It was listed as a historic Smith & Wesson No. 2 Old Model Army revolver in a case that was inscribed to Civil War hero Augustus van Horn Ellis. A picture of him also accompanied the pistol. It was expected to get between $10,000 and $20,000.

I'd never heard of Colonel Ellis, so...

Who is Col. Ellis and Why is he Considered a Hero? --Old B-Runner

The Gap Cave

Yesterday, I wrote about the Iron and Irony event taking place this weekend at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.

I'd never heard of the Gap Cave, so looked it up in Wikipedia.

The lower part is known as King Solomon's Cave. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops explored it and the adjacent Soldiers Cave.

Soldiers Cave was used as a hospital and storage area by both sides during the war. Many left their names and dates on the walls. We call that graffiti today, something you're not supposed to do.

I also read about smoke pictures of artillery in action, battles and flags from both sides being in evidence. I imagine a smoke picture is somehow made from the smoke of fires.

Bats in My Cave. --Old B-R

Thomas O. Selfridge, USN

Selfridge garduated from the US Naval Academy at age 17 and at the head of his class.

The US News and World report of April 18th had mention of him. He also participated in teh Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson and Wilmington campaigns. In 1862, he was in command of the USS Cairo when it was sunk by a Confederate mine in the Yazoo River near Vicksburg, December 12th.

Earlier, he had helped destroy the Norfolk Navy Yard and was an officer on the USS Cumberland when that ship was sunk by the CSS Virginia.

He briefly commanded the USS Monitor after Lt. John L. Worden was wounded. The Monitor later sank.

He also was briefly in command of the submarine USS Alligator and didn't think much of it. That vessel also sank (but not under his command at the time).

Transferred to the Mississippi Squadron, he also commanded the timberclad USS Conestoga, which also sank after a collision with the USS General Price. From March to May 1864, he commanded the USS Osage, which later sank.

During the attacks on forts Fisher and Anderson, he commanded the USS Huron, which did not sink.

This man seems to have had bad luck with ships.

Woe is to the Union Sailor Under His Command. Can You Swim?--Old B-Runner

Friday, October 9, 2009

War of Iron and Irony-- Cumberland Gap

The October 8th Claiburne Progress reports that this weekend the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is having a deep look at its Civil War heritage with a program called War of Iron and Irony.

This is where the states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky meet. No big battles were fought there, but the gap was of strategic importance nonetheless.

For the Confederacy, it was a place to block Union advances into the heart of the Confederacy and an opening for attacks on Kentucky.

For the Union it was the gateway to eastern Tennessee and a way to divide the South in the middle.

Both sides knew t it was the key to control railroads connecting Virginia and Tennessee.

There will be a variety of programs as well as 1300 students who will attend. Of course, a reenactment as well as tours of the remaining fortifications. The newly refurbished cannons at Fort Lyons will be rededicated and there will be tours of Gap Cave, where hospitalized soldiers and their doctors signed their names.

Sounds Like a Great Time. I Have Never been to Cumberland Gap, But, It Is On the List. --Old B-Runner

USS Osage

The USS Osage was a single-turret Neosho-class river monitor launched in 1863 that was propelled by stern wheels. It was sunk by a torpedo in the Blakely River, Alabama during the attack on Spanish Fort guarding Mobile.

It was later raised and sold at auction November 1867.

It mounted 2 X 11 inch Dahlgren smoothbore cannons. it had a crew of 100, was 180 feet long and had a 45 foot beam.

Torpedoes Get Another One. --B-Runner

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wilson Brown and John Lawson

The last entry mentioned Wilson Brown who received a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Mobile Bay August 5, 1864. Another sailor, John Lawson also received one in the same action.

I looked him up and found an article in Wikipedia.

Brown was born in 1841 and died in 1900. He was a landsman on the USS Hartford, Admiral Farragut's flagship of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

On August 5, 1864, 18 Union ships engaged the guns of Fort Morgan and a small group of Confederate ships, led by the CSS Tennessee.

Brown and five other sailors were operating a shell whip, a device for lifting gunpowder up to the gun deck. A Confederate shell exploded among the men and Brown was blown through a hatch unconscious to the deck below. The body of one of the others landed on him. The only other survivor was John Lawson.

Lawson regained consciousness first and, although wounded, refused medical attention and returned to duty. Brown did the same when he came to. Both men were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. A total of 12 received the medals for that fight.

JOHN LAWSON was born in 1837 in Philadelphia, Pa.. Like Brown, he was a black man (I wonder whether the entire shell whip crew were black).

He was buried at Mount Palace cemetery in Lawnside, NJ. Over the years, his tombstone was lost and a fire destroyed the cemetery's records, so the exact location of his grave is not known. On April 24, 2004, he was given a new tombstone along with 72 other Union veterans.

Brave Men, All. --B-Runner

Second Annual Black and Blue Civil War Living History Camp

An absolutely great name for an event featuring blacks who fought in the Union military during the war.

This event will be held this Saturday at Jefferson College in Natchez.

It will feature the story of Wilson Brown, a slave who escaped from the Carthage Plantation and joined the Union Navy where he was sent for training in New Jersey and won a Medal of Honor at the Battle of Mobile Bay. He is buried in the Natchez National Cemetery.

This is put on by the Friends of the Forks of Roads Society whose purpose is educating the public about the enslaved and free blacks in Mississippi who joined the Union Army and Navy.

There will be lots of other activities going on as well.

Great Name. --B-R'er

So, That's How the Bridge Got That Name

The October 7th Chattanoogan had an article about Edmund Pettus. Most people have heard of the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site of a Civil Rights confrontation in 1965, but how did it get its name?

Edmund Pettus of Alabama joined the Confederate Army and was at the Battles of Stones River and Vicksburg, rising to the rank of brigadier general. His command was at Lookout Mountain outside of Chattanooga and later fought in the battles around Atlanta.

In 1897, he was elected US senator from Alabama and held that seat until his death in 1907.

The bridge that bears his name was built in 1940.

So, That's Why It's the Pettus Bridge. --Old B-R

Those Sneaky Confeds

On this date in 1864, a new vessel called the Sea King sailed from the London docks in England. The same time, another steamer, the Laurel left. Both were headed for the Mid-Atlantic island of Madeira.

Passengers on the Laurel included James I. Waddell of the Confederate States Navy and seamen from that organization as well. Also aboard were unmounted cannons, shells, and gunpowder along with provisions sufficient for an extended cruise.

I wonder if the Union spies picked up on this one. What a coincidence!

Oh, yes. The Sea King became the Confederate raider Shenandoah.

Thanks to Civil War Interactive for this one.

Talk About Your Sneaky Folks!! --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Running the Blockade

Oops. I goofed and put this in my Roadlog Blog.

Go to this date.

There are stories about a flag return, a steamboat captain, and the first US Navy officer killed in action.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Aftermath of the USS Chickasaw

The USS Chickasaw was at the Battle of Mobile Bay and was sold at auction in New Orleans in 1874. It then became a railroad ferry and later was converted to sidewheel propulsion and renamed the Goldsborough.

Shortly before its demise there was an effort to turn it into a museum, but it failed and it was turned into a work barge for the Bisso family near New Orleans.

It sank in the 1950s and was recently rediscovered. There was an article bout it in the 2004 Montgomery Advertiser.

I'm sure the ship has very little left of the original monitor, but still a good story.

Great to Find a Old Monitor. --B-Runner

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pictures of the Fort Fisher Gnarly Trees

October 2nd, Scott185(the original) uploaded pictures from Fort Fisher, saying that "No trip to Fort Fisher is complete without at least one photo of the gnarly trees and one photo of the mounds."

He took four photos.

Good shot of the trees along US-421 by the museum as well.

These tress are called live oaks.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Unknown " Union SoldierWas Illinoisan-- Part 4


Brad Quinlin determined Carr's identity through a lot of research. Using a collection of Civil War letters from the 34th Illinois from the Chicago History Museum archives, he found that Carr hd reported for duty June 27th and that five men from the regiment had been killed, but Carr's name was not among them.

After five years of research, Mark Carr was the only soldier killed on June 27, 1864, whose burial spot could not be found.

In 1914, the state of Illinois erected a 30 foot marble monument of land at Kennesaw Mountain. Carr's grave is right by it.

Great Detective Work and Mystery Solved. --Old B-Runner

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Unknown" Civil War Soldier Was an Illinoisan-- Part 3

After the battle, other soldiers' bodies were buried right away, but Carr's was overlooked, perhaps an artillery shell through earth over it.

"The day after the battle, they declared a truce because it was June and about 100 degrees outside and the bodies were stinking," said Willie Johnson, the historian of the park. "They buried them right there, and after the war, the U.S. government hired people to recover the bodies and move them to what is now the new national cemetery."

More than 9,000 Union soldiers who died at Kennesaw and the other battles around Atlanta are buried at the nearby Marietta National Cemetery, established in 1866.

Carr was never reburied, probably because he was declared missing in action. He does not have a pension record which indicates that neither his mother or wife applied for one.

Still More to Come. --Old B-Runner

"Unknown Civil War Soldier Was an Illinoisan-- Part 2

Mark Carr was born in Indianapolis and moved with his family to Dixon, Illinois. He worked as a farmer and day laborer before responding to Lincoln's call for volunteers and enlisted in the 34th Illinois Regiment, Company I at Mt. Carroll< September 7, 1861. The regiment was known as the Red River Rifles and was organized at Camp Butler in Springfield.

He re-enlisted December 3, 1863. According to his military records, he was a loyal and committed soldier, never taking sick days.

The little that remains of him, along with buttons and brass from his uniform were found in 1938 at the base of the Confederate assault trenches by the Civilian Conservation Corps who were doing battlefield repairs.

A year later, officials placed a veterans headstone over his remains and put a small split rail fence around it. Over the years, visitors to the park have often placed flags on the grave.

A Brave Illinoisan. --Old B-R'er

Thursday, October 1, 2009

'Unknown' Union Soldier Was an Illinoisan-- Part 1

July 26th Chicago Tribune. By Dahleen Glanton.

Private Mark Carr was 19 when he enlisted in the Arny in 1861, and it is likely that his family in Illinois never knew what happened to him.

It turns out that he was killed June 27, 1864, at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, (outside of Atlanta) in an attack n Cheatham Hill. He was officially declared as missing in action. For more than 70 years, he was buried under a marker proclaiming him as "Unknown Union Soldier."

In June, that was changed when Brad Quinlan, a volunteer historian at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, spent five years poring over documents to learn as to the soldier's identity. His body is the only remaining grave.

Now, the search has led to relatives still living in northwest Illinois.

His body was discovered by conservation workers (CCC?) in 1938 at Cheatham Hill.

More to Come. --Old B-Runner

Civil War Snapshots

The September 24-30th Lake County Journal ran a two-page spread on the Lake Villa Civil War Days on September 19-20, featuring six photographs by Candace H. Johnson of what transpired.

The photographs:

The 154th Tennessee firing a volley.

Union cannoneers Paul Penner and Craig Lanning cleaning the muzzle of a six-pdr cannon.

Craig Lanning, 14, forwarding the US flag marching to the battlefield with the 1st Chicago Light Artillery.

Hannah Garcia, 5, trying on a ball headdress worn in the 1860s.

Sam Cavallari, 4, wearing a Union cap and firing a toy gun.

(Get them hooked on the Civil War at a young age.)

Andy Kapitan playing the role of the 1st Louisiana Tiger Rifles.

Great publicity for a fun weekend. You never know how many people will get "hooked" at one of these re-enactments.

Finally Getting My Hearing Back After Those Cannons Fired. --B-R