May 13, 1862: Robert Smalls Seizes CSS Planter


Born in 1839 as a slave in Beaufort, South Carolina, Robert Smalls freed himself and his family in a dramatic fashion on May 13, 1862.  Sent to Charleston when he was 12 by his master Henry McKee, who may also have been his father, Robert made his way holding a series of jobs.  He early developed a love for the sea, and began working on the docks as a stevedore.  He was eager to learn and worked himself up to being a pilot aboard ships.  In 1856 he married his wife Hannah, a hotel maid.  In 1858 their daughter was born, and in 1861 their family welcomed a son.

With the coming of the War, Robert served as a pilot aboard the CSS Planter, an armed transport.  On the evening of May 12, 1862, the white officers decided to sleep onshore.  Robert and his fellow slave members of the crews decided this was their opportunity to steam to freedom.  At 3:00 AM, they cast off, stopping at a nearby wharf to pick up their families.

Under the command of Smalls the CSS Planter sailed past the five Confederate forts guarding the harbor and passed out of the harbor to the Union blockading fleet.  Smalls and his colleagues found themselves national heroes throughout the North.  Smalls’ share of the CSS Planter as a prize of war was $1,500.00, a huge sum when one considers that Union privates were paid $15.00 a month.  Smalls met with Lincoln who was impressed by his intelligence and resourcefulness.  Smalls went on to have an interesting career during the War both on land and sea, and a spectacular political career after the War.  One post can’t do justice to the man, and I will have two future posts dealing with his additional service during the War and his post war political career in South Carolina.  Here is the report of Flag Officer S.F.  Du Pont on the capture of the CSS Planter: (more…)

Published in: on May 13, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

May 9, 1865: Forrest’s Farewell to His Troops

I imagine that there were a few sighs of relief in Washington when this farewell address of General Nathan Bedford Forrest made its way north.  If any man were going to lead a guerilla resistance in the South it was Forrest.  That he was ready to accept defeat was a good sign that such resistance was not going to occur.  Here is the text of his address: (more…)

Published in: on May 9, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

May 4, 1865: Lincoln Buried




Ohio claims they are due a president as they haven’t had one since Taft. Look at the United States, they have not had one since Lincoln.

Will Rogers

On May 4, 1865 the body of Abraham Lincoln was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Springfield.  Here is the account of the New York Times:



SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Thursday, May 4.

Large numbers have continued to visit the former residence of the late President, on the corner of Eighth and Jefferson streets. It is hung with mourning without, and tastefully decorated within.

Large delegations from the adjoining States and neighboring settlements arrived through the night, and this morning the hotels are overflowing. Some of the visitors are being entertained by the citizens, while thousands of others are unable to find accommodations.

The weather is warm and the sun unclouded. Everybody in Springfield are on the streets. The State House continued to be visited. At 11 o’clock last night, the ladies of the Soldiers’ Aid Society laid upon the coffin a beautiful cross of evergreens, studied with rare flowers. Other similar tokens have been contributed to-day.

At noon, twenty-one guns were fired, and afterward, single guns at intervals of ten minutes. About noon, the remains were brought from the State House and placed in the hearse, which was from St. Louis, and was used at the funerals of Hon. THOMAS H. BENTON, Gen. LYON and Gov. GAMBLE. The hearse was surmounted by a magnificent crown of flowers. Meanwhile, a chorus of hundreds of voices, accompanied by a brass band, sang the hymn,

“Children of the heavenly King,

Let us journey as we sing,”

The funeral procession was under the immediate direction of Major-Gen. HOOKER, Marshal-in-Chief; Brig.-Gen. COOK and staff, and Brevet Brig.-Gen. OAKES and staff. The military and the firemen made a fine appearance. The guard of honor consisted of Gen. Barnard, Rear-Admiral Davis, and Gens. McCallum, Ramsay, Caldwell, Thomas, Howe, Townsend and Eakin, and Capt. Field, of the Marine Corps. The relations and family friends of the deceased were in carriages. Among them were Judge DAVIS, of the Supreme Court; the officiating clergyman, Bishop SIMPSON; Dr. GURLEY and others. In the procession were the Governors of six or seven States, members of Congress with their officers, the State and municipal authorities, and delegations from adjoining States. The long line of civilians was closed by the Free Masons, Odd Fellows and citizens at large, including colored persons. The hearse was immediately followed by the horse formerly belonging to Mr. LINCOLN. Its body was covered with black cloth trimmed with silver fringe.

Never before was there so large a military and civic display in Springfield. There were immense crowds of people in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol to see the processio nas it passed, and the people for several miles occupied the sidewalks.

The procession arrived at Oakwood Cemetery at 1 o’clock. On the left of the vault in which the remains of the President and his son were deposited immediately on their arrival, was a platform, on which singers and an instrumental band were in place, and these united in the chanting and singing of appropriate music, including a burial hymn by the deceased President’s Pastor, Rev. Dr. GURLEY. On the right was the speaker’s stand, appropriately draped with mourning.

A short time ago, a piece of property containing sight acres, and located in the heart of the city, was purchased by the citizens for $53,400. The ground is improved with several substantial houses, and trees and shrubbery. It was designed to render the site additionally beautiful and attractive, and to erect thereon a monument to the illustrious dead. A vault has been completed for the reception of the remains, but owing to the wishes of ROBERT LINCOLN, the remains were deposited in Oak Ridge Cemetery nearly two miles from the city. The vault at this place is erected at the foot of a knoll in a beautiful part of the grounds, which contains forest trees of all varieties. It has a doric gable resting on pilasters, the main wall being rustic. The vault is fifteen feet high and about the same in width, with semi-circular wings of bricks projecting from the hillsides. The material is limestone, procured at Joliet, Illinois. Directly inside of the ponderous doors is an iron grating. The interior walls are covered with black velvet, dotted with evergreens. In the centre of the velvet is a foundation of brick, capped with a marble slab, on which the coffin rests. The front of the vault is trimmed with evergreens. The “Dead March” in Saul was sung, accompanied by the band, as the remains were deposited.

Thousands of persons were assembled at the cemetery before the arrival of the procession, occupying the succession of green hills. The scene was one of solemnly intense interest. The landscape was beautiful in the light of an unclouded sun.

The religious exercises were commenced by the singing of a dirge. Then followed the reading of appropriate portions of the Scriptures and a prayer. After a hymn by the choir, Rev. Mr. HUBBARD read the last inaugural of President LINCOLN. Next a dirge was sung by the choir, when Bishop SIMPSON delivered the funeral oration. It was in the highest degree eloquent, and the patriotic portions of it was applauded. Then followed another hymn, when benediction was pronounced by Rev. Dr. GURLEY. The procession then returned to the city.

Published in: on May 4, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Settlement of Claim of Estate of Hamilton K. Redway


A good object lesson to those under the mistaken belief that government red tape was an invention of the last century.  Hamilton K. Redway was born in 1829 and died in 1888.  During the Civil War he served in the 24th New York Volunteers and as a Captain in the 1rst New York Veteran Cavalry.  After the war he served as a Second Lieutenant with the 1rst Colored Cavalry until April 15, 1866.  It is interesting that his widow was fighting with the Federal government over his pay during the Civil War with this claim not being settled until May 7, 1891, three decades after the start of the Civil War.  Wars come and go, but the red tape of governments is eternal.

Published in: on April 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

April 27, 1865: Sultana: Death on the Mississippi


After the massive bloodletting of the Civil War, one would have hoped that Death would have taken at least a brief holiday in the US.  Such was not the case.  On April 27th 1865, the SS Sultana, a Mississippi paddle-wheeler steamer, constructed in 1863 for the cotton trade, was serving as a transport.  Its cargo was approximately 2500 Union soldiers, many of them former POWS, some of them survivors of Andersonville.  The Union soldiers boarded at Vicksburg.  The Sultana while in port at Vicksburg had a patch put on its steam boiler.  The repair was clearly inadequate, a new  boiler being needed.  (more…)

Published in: on April 27, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

April 24, 1863: Promulgation of the Lieber Code


Art. 43. Therefore, in a war between the United States and a belligerent which admits of slavery, if a person held in bondage by that belligerent be captured by or come as a fugitive under the protection of the military forces of the United States, such person is immediately entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman To return such person into slavery would amount to enslaving a free person, and neither the United States nor any officer under their authority can enslave any human being. Moreover, a person so made free by the law of war is under the shield of the law of nations, and the former owner or State can have, by the law of postliminy, no belligerent lien or claim of service.

Francis Lieber led a colorful life.  Born in Berlin in 1798, he enlisted in the Prussian Army in 1815 and was wounded at Waterloo.  Unable to attend a University in Berlin due to his membership in a Liberal group that opposed the Prussian monarchy, he attended Jena University and, a brilliant student, completed his dissertation on mathematics in four months in 1820.  He took time out from his academic career to fight in the Greek War of Independence in which he was severely wounded.  He served as a tutor for the son of the Prussian ambassador in Rome for a year and wrote a book about his experiences in Greece.  Receiving a royal pardon, he returned to Prussia only to run afoul of the authorities again for his Republican beliefs.  Imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to do what any good Romantic of his generation would do, he wrote a book of poetry, Songs of Wine and Bliss.

After his release he fled to England, where he supported himself by acting as a tutor.  Meeting his future wife and marrying her, the Liebers left the Old World to start a new life in the New World in 1827.  There Lieber embarked on an academic career.  In Boston he achieved notoriety for opening a school which gave instruction in swimming, a first in America.  He edited a 13 volume Encyclopedia Americana.  From 1833-1835 he resided in Philadelphia while preparing a plan of education for Girard College.  In 1835 he began a sojourn of 21 years duration at the University of South Carolina teaching history and political economics.  He retained an interest in Germany, and returned for a few months after the revolution of 1848 although his hopes that Germany would take the Liberal path he favored were quickly dashed.

From 1856-1865 he was professor of history and political science at Columbia.  In 1860 he was also appointed a professor of political science at the law school at Columbia, a post he would hold until his death in 1872.

The coming of the Civil War tragically divided Lieber’s family, just as it divided the nation.  One of his sons fought and died for the Confederacy, while his other two sons fought for the Union.  Lieber himself was a staunch advocate of the Union and an opponent of slavery.  He founded and headed the Loyal Publication Society that wrote scholarly pro-Union propaganda during the War.  He first met Lincoln at the White House in 1861 to confer upon him an honorary degree from Columbia.  Thereafter he was called to Washington frequently to consult with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward on questions of international law.

During his academic career Lieber had written many books and articles on law, politics and history that had given him an international reputation.  It is therefore not surprising that Lincoln turned to Lieber to draft a code of Law to govern the Union forces during war-time.  The Code was promulgated in General Order 100 on April 24, 1863. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Concordia Choir: Medley of Civil War Songs



Something for the weekend.  A medley of Civil War songs, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier and The Dying Soldier, sung by the choir of my bride’s alma mater, Concordia College of Morehead, Minnesota.  Go Cobbers!

Published in: on April 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Streight’s Mule Raid


In reviewing the history of this ill-fated expedition, I am convinced that had we been furnished at Nashville with 800 good horses, instead of poor, young mules, we would have been successful, in spite of all other drawbacks; or if General Dodge had succeeded in detaining Forrest one day longer, we would have been successful, even with our poor outfit.

Colonel Abel Streight


One of the more unsuccessful raids of the Civil War, Colonel Abel Streight’s Mule Raid was filled with high drama and low comedy.

A bookseller in Indianapolis at the beginning of the war, Streight was Colonel of the 51rst Indiana Infantry in 1863.  He hit upon the idea of a raid through Northern Alabama.  With Union loyalist Alabamians as guides, Streight planned to drive through Northern Alabama and on into Northern Georgia to destroy the rail hub of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which would have cripple the ability of the Confederates to supply their forces in Tennessee.  The raid was not intended as a cavalry raid, most of Streight’s force to consist of mounted infantry, their mounts being used for transportation and not to be fought from.  Streight was given command for his raid of a brigade of 1700 men, consisting of  two companies of the First West Tennessee and First Alabama Cavalry regiments, and the Third Ohio, Fifty-First Indiana and Eightieth Illinois Infantry regiments.

Signs that the expedition was ill-fated began when most of the men were mounted on temperamental, is there any other type?, mules.  Riding a mule can be a trial even for a skilled rider, and most of Streight’s men were novices.  Confederates during the expedition had great fun laughing at the “Jackass Cavalry” as Streight’s men were deemed, and Union morale suffered as a result.  The constant braying of the mules made finding the raiders an easy task for the Confederates during the raid, as well as getting on the nerves of their unfortunate riders.  The slow pace of the mules made certain that any Confederate force mounted on horses was going to be much faster.  Streight recognized the problem with the mules from the outset, and objected to them prior to the raid, to no avail.  To make the fiasco complete, about 200 of Streight’s men had no mounts at all at the beginning of the raid. (more…)

Jackson’s Report on Second Manassas


On April 27, 1863 Joe Hooker led the Army of the Potomac south of the Rappahannock River, opening the Chancellorsville campaign.  Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson would die on May 10, 1863 from wounds received on Chancellorsville.  We are therefore fortunate indeed that on April 27, 1863 he submitted his report on the Second Manassas campaign which culminated in the routing of the recently formed Union army of Virginia under General John Pope.  Here is the text of the report:

HDQRS. SECOND CORPS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VA., April 27, 1863.   Brig. Gen. R. H. CHILTON, A. A. and I. G., Hdqrs. Dept. Northern Virginia.  

L   General: I have the honor herewith to submit to you a report of the operations of my command from August 15 to September 5, 1862, embracing the several engagements of Manassas Junction, Bristoe Station, Ox Hill, and so much of the battle of Groveton(on August 28, 29, and 30) as was fought by the troops under my command: On August 15, in obedience to instructions from the commanding General, I left my encampment, near Gordonsville, and, passing Orange Court-House, encamped in the evening near Mount Pisgah Church, where I remained until the 20th, when, in accordance with my instructions, while General Longstreet was crossing the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, I crossed the same river at Somerville Ford. The command en. camped for the night near Stevensburg.   My command at this time comprised Ewell’s, A. P. Hill’s, and Jackson’s divisions. Ewell’s was composed of the brigades of Generals Lawton, Early, Hays (Colonel Forno commanding), and Trimble, with the batteries of William D. Brown, W. F. Dement, J. W. Latimer, W. L Baithis, and L E D’Aquin A P Hill’s division was composed of the brigades of Generals Branch, Gregg, Field, Pender, Archer, and Colonel Thomas, with the batteries of C. M. Braxton. H. G. Latham, W. G. Crenshaw, D. G. Mcintosh, Greenlee Davidson, and W. J. Pegram. Jackson’s division, commanded by Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro, was composed of Winder’s brigade, Colonel Baylor commanding; Colonel Campbell’s brigade, Maj. John Seddon commanding; Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro’s brigade, Col. A. G. Taliaferro commanding, and Starke’s brigade, with the batteries of Brockenbrough, [George W.] Wooding, W. T. Poague, Joseph Carpenter, W. H. Caskie, and Charles I. Raine.

Major-General Stuart, with his cavalry, co-operated during the expedition, and I shall more than once have to acknowledge my obligations for the valuable and efficient aid which he rendered.

Early on the morning of the 21st the command left its encampment and moved in the direction of Beverly Ford, on the Rappahannock, General Taliaferro’s command in the lead. On approaching the ford the enemy was seen on the opposite bank. Batteries of that division, under the direction of Major Shumaker, chief of artillery, were placed in position, which, after a short resistance (as reported by General Taliaferro), silenced the enemy’s guns and dispersed his infantry. Major-General Stuart had crossed with a portion of his cavalry, supported by some pieces of artillery, and after skirmishing with the enemy a few hours, taking some prisoners and arms, returned with the information that the Federal forces were moving in strength upon his position and were close at hand. The enemy soon appeared on the opposite bank, and an animated firing was opened and, to a considerable extent, kept up across the river for the rest of the day between the Federal artillery and the batteries of Taliaferro’s command. (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jackson’s Report on Second Manassas  
Tags: , , ,

April 12, 1864: Fort Pillow



Fort Pillow

 Northern casualties were more than 63 percent, and the number of black soldiers killed was disproportionately high. There is no doubt there was a massacre of some kind. But I think he (Forrest) did everything he could to stop it. Next day, when the Federals came in and shelled the place, he sent a captured Union captain and a Confederate soldier back with a white flag to tell ’em to stop shootin’ their own wounded men because that’s all that was left at the fort.

Civil War historian Shelby Foote on Fort Pillow

Easily the most controversial engagement of the Civil War, the storming of Fort Pillow by forces under Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and what happened in the aftermath have been hotly contested for the past one hundred and fifty years.  Fort Pillow was a Union fort on the Mississippi 40 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee.  It was garrisoned by around 600 Union troops, equally divided between blacks and whites.  The black units were the 6th United States Regiment Heavy Artillery and the 2nd United States Colored Light Artillery.  The whites were recent recruits of the 14th Tennessee Cavalry consisting of  Tennessee Unionists.  Both groups had every reason to fear falling into Confederate hands.

Forrest, commanding about 1500 men, summoned the garrison to surrender at 3:30 PM:

“The conduct of the officers and men garrisoning Fort Pillow has been such as to entitle them to being treated a prisoners of war. I demand the unconditional surrender of the entire garrison, promising that you shall be treated as prisoners of war. My men have just received a fresh supply of ammunition, and from their present position can easily assault and capture the fort. Should my demand be refused, I cannot be responsible for the fate of your command.”

This was a typical demand for surrender by Forrest, promising good treatment if the force surrendered and indicating that he could not guarantee good treatment if the fort was taken by storm.  This was common practice, with commanders understanding that if a fort was taken by storm it was not unusual for the storming force, maddened by sustaining what they usually perceived as unnecessary casualties, exacting vengeance upon the garrison.  The Union commander refused, and the fort was taken by storm about 5:00 PM. (more…)

Published in: on April 12, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,