how about this

A blog of Nineteenth Century history, focusing, but not exclusively, on the American Civil War seen through the prism of personal accounts, newspaper stories, administrative records and global history.
A thousand tales. A miscellany. A maze of historical tangents.

A Capitol View

A Capitol View
Images of 1861 juxtaposed- Union Square, New York vs. Capitol Square, Richmond

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"A Terrible Explosion" Mobile May 1865

 Another account of the May, 1865 ordnance explosion in Mobile, Alabama, one of the "military accidents" that plagued the collapsing Confederacy . . .
           A Terrible Explosion.
          Special to the Macon Telegraph.

MOBILE, May 25 -A terrible and exceedingly disastrous
A gun powder explosion occurred in Mobile yesterday. A magazine which contained about thirty tons of powder, was blown up with fearful result. A number of persons who were fully half a mile distant from the spot when the disaster occurred were knocked down and injured by the concussion. The total loss in killed is estimated to have been one thousand, but the aggregate has not been definitely ascertained.The loss of property was very great, and embraced the principal business portion of the city. Seven steamboats were also burned. The cause of the terrible accident, and further particulars have not yet been developed.
- Edgefield Advertiser. (Edgefield, S.C.) June 06, 1865

Friday, July 18, 2014

From the Richmond Mayor's Court

Mayor's Court, yesterday

James Lemmon, charged with being drunk and lying on a sidewalk, was called for by his father, a respectable country gentleman, who represented that his son had been in the fight at Manassas, bore an honorable name at home, and, though guilty of imprudence in speech and conduct, was a man of character. If, as a witness had testified, his son talked while intoxicated of conspiring to rob some one, the old gentleman knew it was nothing but talk. The court ordered the prisoner to pay a fine of $1, and to be delivered to his father at 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

-The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)September 20, 1861.

James A. Lemon was an 18 year old student when he enlisted on April 26, 1861 in Alexandria, Virginia. Serving in the Washington Volunteers, later Co. H of the 7th Virginia Infantry, the unit was part of Jubal Early's brigade at the battle of Manassas. The Volunteers were actually residents of the District of Columbia, many of them members of the National Volunteers

Records show young Lemmon as wounded in the "knees" and in hospital apparently from October thru November of 1861.

Monday, July 14, 2014

When No Self Respecting City Had One Paper . . .

 The difference in reading the Richmond Daily Dispatch and the Richmond Daily Examiner . . .

Mayor's Court.
Mrs. Flutina Myers was bound over to keep the peace in the sum of $100 for assaulting and beating with a broomstick Henrietta Nockman, a girl of fourteen.

-The Daily Dispatch, April 14, 1864.

Wednesday, April 13, 1864.
. . .
Mrs. Myers, the Jewess, previously mentioned in this column, who looks as if she had been blown up in the laboratory explosion, was charged with beating a girl of fourteen, named Henrietta Nockman. The girl stated that, Mrs. Myers being in the act of beating a negro in the streeet, she was looking on, when Mrs. Myers, getting through with the negro, made a dash at her, the witness, and chased her through Mrs. Simons's house with a stick, and beat her over the head and otherwise.
Officer Granger stated that Mrs. Myers was very vicious.
Mrs. Myers was bound over to keep the peace.

-The Daily Examiner, April 14, 1864

Monday, July 7, 2014

Unexploded Ordnance

-On yesterday-afternoon. a large torpedo having lodged on the John's Island beach, it was regarded as a valuable prize by the poverty-stricken inhabitants, and a great crowd gathered round,while six, all freedmen, engaged in the fool-hardy attempt to unload the destructive contrivance. They had been engaged in the hazardous enterprise about fifteen minutes, when suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, and the crowd of bystanders were covered with sand, and enveloped with a stifling smoke. As soon as the first shock of the explosion was over, and the smoke had cleared off, it was found that Pompey Legare, the principal workman, had been blown literally to atoms, his head, arms and legs being all severed from his body. Jack Hamilton and Robert Cunningham were killed and frightfully mangled, and William and Joe Rivers were severely wounded. The sixth man, as if by a miracle, escaped unhurt. That none of the surrounding crowd were killed or even injured is passing strange, and can only be accounted for on the supposition, that the force of the explosion was upward
Charleston Mercury, 21st.
 -Edgefield Advertiser(Edgefield, S.C.) May 29, 1867

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


A MUCH NEEDED JAIL DELIVERY has been effected at the city jail by the Mayor, within a few days past. The number at present held there is less than one hundred, something like fifty committed for minor offenses, having been discharged, put into the hands of the enrolling officer, and sent to the army. Two months ago the number of inmates of the jail was not less than two hundred, involving a large expenditure for their keeping, and none of them affording an example of merited punishment for crime committed against law and good order.

-The Daily Examiner, April 30, 1864

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

150 Years Ago- Samaria Church

 Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Samaria Church in Charles City, Virginia. The battle is more commonly know on the Federal side as St. Mary's Church from a misunderstanding of the church name that dates back to when armies first passed through the area in 1862

 On the morning of the 13th, our brigade moved in pursuit of Sheridan's retreating forces, taking along the route many prisoners, whose horses had become too feeble and jaded to keep pace with Sheridan's rapid march. The enemy finally found shelter under the gunboats at the White House, and Hampton moved near Charles City Courthouse, and took up position to await Sheridan's further movements.
On the 24th, our pickets were driven in at St. Mary's Church, and the enemy advanced to Nance's Shop. Here the fight began and soon became general, our forces attacking in front and fiank. The Twelfth Regiment was with our column in front. After driving the enemy slowly a considerable distance, the Phillips and Jeff. Davis legions (mounted), with the Twelfth, were ordered to charge, which was according done with much vigor, driving the enemy in confusion several miles, capturing many prisoners and horses. In this charge Colonel Massie, of our regiment, was wounded, and a spent ball struck me in the breast, imbedding itself in my flesh. I was wearing at the time in my shirt bosom a badge of the Union Philosophical Society of Dickinson College of which I was a member for three years prior to the war, and which was formed of a Maltese cross, surmounted with a shield. The force of the bullet tore off the shield, leaving the cross in a distorted shape. Imagination often plays havoc with the truth. I thought my time had come, and felt day-light passing through me, the blood trickling down internally, and I gasping for breath. John Terrill, who was near me, seeing my pallor and eccentric actions, presumed I was wounded mortally, led my horse back over a little declivity, out of danger of flying missiles, and, pulling open my jacket and shirt, exultantly exclaimed, " Lieutenant, you are not much hurt, the ball hasn't gone in," and, taking hold of it with his fingers, he pulled it out and held it up to view. My spirits revived immediately, blood ceased to trickle, internal daylight disappeared, I breathed freely, vigor and strength returned, and, gathering up my reins, I was soon back in the fight. The enemy was routed and pressed back to within a short distance of Charles City Courthouse, when night put an end to our pursuit. We captured 157 prisoners, including one colonel and 12 other commissioned officers. The enemy's dead and wounded in considerable number fell into our hands.
General Hampton, in his official report, says:
"The next morning, June 24th, he drove in my picket at St. Mary's Church, and advanced beyond Nance's Shop. I determined to attack him, and, to this end I ordered Brigadier-General Gary, who joined me that morning, to move from Salem Church around to Smith's Store, and to attack on the flank as soon as the attack in front commenced. General Lee left Lomax to hold the River road and brought Wickham to join in the attack. The necessary arrangements having been made. General Gary advanced from Smith's Store, and took position near Nance's Shop. The enemy had in the mean time thrown up strong works along his whole line, and his position was a strong one. As soon as Gary had engaged the enemy, Chambliss was thrown forward, and by a movement handsomely executed connected with him, and the two brigades were thrown on the flank of the enemy. At the same moment, the whole line, under the immediate command of Major-General Fitzhugh Lee, charged the works of the enemy, who. after fighting stubbornly for a short time, gave way, leaving his dead and wounded on the field. This advance of our troops was made in the face of a very heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and it was most handsomely accomplished. As soon as the enemy gave way I brought up the Phillips and Jeff. Davis legions (mounted), ordering them to charge. This they did most gallantly, driving the enemy for three miles in confusion. Robins's Battalion and the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry were mounted and participated in a part of this charge, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Massie, commanding the latter, was wounded while gallantly leading his men over the works of the enemy. The enemy was completely routed, and was pursued to within two and one-half miles of Charles City Courthouse, the pursuit lasting till 10 o'clock at night. My loss was six killed and 59 wounded in my own division."
 General Sheridan, in his report, says:
"At St. Mary's church, Gregg was attacked by the entire cavalry corps of the enemy, and after a stubborn fight, which lasted until after dark, was forced to retire in some confusion, but without any loss in material. This very creditable engagement saved the train, which should never have been left for the cavalry to escort."
"On the 23d the division, acting as escort to a large wagon-train belonging to the corps and other troops, crossed the Chickahominy at Jones Bridge. On the 24th, in compliance with orders of the Major-General commanding- the corps, the Second Division moved from its camp to St. Mary's Church, and there took position. When within a mile of the church the advance of the Second Brigade found a small mounted force of the enemy. This was driven away and the lines of the division established. The batteries of the division were placed in commanding positions. During the morning and until after 3 P. M. there was irregular skirmishing at different points of our line. A large force of the enemy was known to have passed St. Mary's Church, moving in the direction of Haxall's, on the evening before. Having received information from the Major-General commanding that circumstances compelled an alteration of the dispositions previously ordered of the troops under his command, this alteration placing the Second Division beyond any immediate support, every disposition was made to resist an attack of the enemy should it be made. Between 3 and 4 P. M. the enemy made an attack in great force on the Second Brigade, occupying the right of our line. The attack there begun extended along the front of the First Brigade on the left. It was very soon evident that the force of the enemy was largely superior to ours, and that they were supported by infantry, but, nothing daunted by the display of strong lines of an over-confident enemy, our men fell upon them and held them in check. The strife was earnest now; there were no disengaged men on our side.
Randal's and Dennison's Batteries pitched load after load of canister into the staggering lines of the enemy. After about two hours, in which this contest was so heroically maintained by our men, it became evident that the contest was too unequal to maintain longer. The led horses, the wounded, for whom there was transportation, and caissons, were started on the road leading to Charles City Courthouse, eight miles distant. These fairly under way, the division began to retire by the right. Our men continued fighting on foot, but were mounted from time to time. The movement toward Charles City Courthouse was made in the best possible order, and without confusion or disorder. The enemy pressed hard on the rear of the command, but without advantage. A final stand made my mounted regiments at Hopewell church on open ground determined the enemy to make no further advance. For want of sufficient ambulances, some of our wounded fell into the hands of the enemy. The division reached Charles City Courthouse about 8 P. M., and there encamped near the First Division. The aggregate loss of the
division in this engagement was 357 commissioned officers and enlisted men, killed, wounded, and missing."
 General Meade, in his report of this affair, says:
"Hampton fell on Gregg, handling him severely, but he was finally driven off, and the command reached the James."
This engagement reflects much credit on General Gregg and but little on our commanders. Our forces largely outnumbered the enemy, and with proper management ought to have taken the enemy's artillery, routed his force and attacked his wagon-train, before any reinforcement could have reached him. I have always regarded this the best fight made by Gregg's Division, of which I had any personal experience and observation, during the war.
 -Bull Run To Bull Run; or, FOUR YEARS IN Army Of Northern Virginia.
Containing A Detailed Account Of The Career and Adventures Of The Baylor Light Horse,
Company B, Twelfth Virginia Cavalry, C. S. A., With Leaves From My Scrap-Book
By George Baylor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

McClellan's Crimean Report X: Conclusion

Attack on the Malakoff-William Simpson

The result of the operations of this long and eventful siege was that on the 8th of September,1855, the French had, at a great cost of life and labor, pushed their approaches to the distance of 32 paces from the counterscarp of the Malakoff, and not quite so near the other works. The English, meanwhile, had scarcely reached within 225 yards of the ditch of the Redan.
On that day the assault was made at noon upon at least six points.
A few minutes later than the assault upon the Malakoff the English attacked the Redan.
"The Russians being now upon the alert, they did not pass over the open space before them without loss; but the mass succeeded in crossing the ditch and gaining the salient of the work. Finding themselves entirely unsupported they at once took shelter behind the traverses, whence the example and efforts of their officers did not avail to draw them, in order to occupy the work closing the gorge. Having in vain used every effort, having dispatched every officer of his staff to the rear urging that supports should be at once sent up, and seeing that the Russians were now beginning to assemble in force, the commander of the English storming party reluctantly determined to proceed himself to obtain reinforcements. Scarcely had he reached the trenches, and at last obtained authority to move up the required succor, when upon turning to lead them forward, lie saw the party he had left in the work rapidly and hopelessly driven out at the point of the bayonet. No further effort was made to carry the work. It would, in all probability, have failed, and would only have caused a useless sacrifice of men.
The failure of the English assault may he attributed partly to the fact that their advanced trenches were too small to accommodate the requisite force without confusion, in part to their not being pushed sufficiently near the Redan, but chiefly to that total absence of conduct and skill in the arrangements for the assault which left the storming party entirely without support. Had it been followed at once by strong reinforcements, it is almost certain that the English would have retained possession of the work.
The two French attacks on the west of the central ravine were probably intended only as feints; at all events, the parties engaged were soon driven back to their trenches with considerable loss, and effected nothing. Their attempts upon the Little Redan, and the works connecting it with the Malakoff, met with even less success than the English assault. The Russians repulsed the French with great loss, meeting with the bayonet the more adventurous men who reached the parapet. Thus, in five points out of six the defenders were fully victorious, but, unfortunately for them, the sixth was the decisive point.
In their admirable arrangements for the attack of the Malakoff, the French counted on two things for success: first, they had ascertained that the Russians were in the habit of relieving the guard of the Malakoff at noon, and that a great part of the old guard marched out before the new one arrived, in order to avoid the loss which would arise from crowding the work with men ; in the second place, it was determined to keep up a most violent vertical fire until the very moment of the assault, thus driving the Russians into the bomb proofs, and enabling the storming party to enter the work with but little opposition. The hour of noon was therefore selected for the assault, and the strong columns intended for the work were at an early hour assembled in the advanced trenches, all in admirable order, and furnished with precise instructions.
The mortars maintained an unremitting fire until the moment appointed. The very instant the last volley was discharged the storming party of Zouaves rushed over the thirty paces before them, and were in the work before the astonished Russians knew what had happened. It was stated that this party lost but eleven men in entering the work. Other troops advanced rapidly to the support of the storming party, a bridge was formed by rolling up five ladders with planks lashed to them, a communication was at once commenced between the advanced trench and the bridge, brigade after brigade passed over, the redoubt was at once occupied by the storming party, and thus the Malakofif and with it Sebastopol, was won. The few Russians remaining in the work made a desperate resistance. Many gallant attempts were made by Russian columns to ascend the steep slope in rear and regain the lost work ; but the road was narrow, difficult, and obstructed; the position strong, and the French in force. All their furious efforts were in vain, and the Malakofl" remained in the possession of those who had so gallantly and skilfully won it. With regard to the final retreat to the north side, it can only be said that a personal examination of the locality merely confirms its necessity, and the impression so generally entertained that it was the finest operation of the war ; so admirably was it carried out that not a straggler remained behind; a few men so severely wounded as to be unfit for rough and hurried transportation were the sole ghastly human trophies that remained to the allies.
The retreat, being a more difficult operation than the assault, may be worthy of higher admiration; but the Russian retreat to the north side and the French assault upon the Malakoff must each be regarded as a masterpiece of its kind, deserving the closest study. It is difficult to imagine what point in either can be criticized, for both evinced consummate skill, discipline, coolness, and courage. With regard to the artillery, I would merely remark that the Russian guns were not of unusual calibre, consisting chiefly of 24, 32, and 42-pounders; and that the termination of the siege was mainly due to the extensive use of mortars finally resorted to by the allies. If they had been employed in the beginning as the main reliance, the siege would have been of shorter duration.
The causes of the unusual duration of this siege naturally resolve themselves into three classes : the skillful disposition of the Russians, the faults of the allies, and natural causes beyond the control of either party. Among the latter may be mentioned the natural strength of the position and the severity of the winter. In the first class, there may be alluded to: the skill with which the Russian engineers availed themselves of the nature of the ground; the moral courage which induced them to undertake the defence of an open town with a weak garrison; the constant use they made of sorties, among which may properly be classed the battles of Balaklava, Inkermann, and the Tchernaya; the ready ingenuity with which they availed themselves of the resources derived from the fleet; the fine practice of their artillery; their just appreciation of the true use of field works, and the admirable courage they always evinced in standing to their works to repel assaults at the point of the bayonet ; the employment of rifle pits on an extensive scale; finally, the constant reinforcements which they soon commenced receiving, and which enabled them to fill the gaps made in their ranks by disease and the projectiles of the allies.
The evidences of skill on the part of the allies, as well as the apparent faults on all sides, having been already alluded to, it is believed that the means have been furnished to enable any one to draw his own conclusions as to the history of this memorable passage of arms.
At different times during the siege a vast amount of labor was bestowed upon field works in front of Kamiesch and Balaklava, near the Inkermann, on the northern and eastern borders of the plateau, and along the Tchernaya; these works varied much in strength and character, sometimes consisting of continuous lines, again of detached redoubts.
The redoubts generally had ditches about 10' wide and 6' deep. In many cases these works were only undertaken when a narrow escape from some imminent danger had demonstrated their necessity.
The line in front of Kamiesch consisted of 8 pentagonal redoubts, connected by an infantry parapet; it ran from Streletzka bay nearly south to the sea, passing at a little more than a mile from the harbor of Kamiesch; it was never completely finished.
The position of the Russians, after the evacuation of the south side, was one of exceeding strength; their establishments were covered by Fort Sivernaia (a permanent work) and long lines of strong earthen batteries, which would have required a siege to reduce them.
The steep declivity of Mackenzie's heights, accessible at but a few points, all of which were strongly guarded, rendered the approach from the south a matter of extreme difficulty; it would appear that the allies were wise in refusing to attempt to force the passage, unless the effort had been made immediately after the fall of the Malakoff, before the Russians recovered from the shock.
Efforts were made to turn the extreme Russian left by the valley of Baidar, but they only served to ascertain the hopelessness of the undertaking.
The detached operations against Kinburn, Eupatoria, Kertch, the sea of Azoz, &c. , cannot be regarded as having produced any effect upon the general result of the war; they served chiefly to weaken the main body of the allies, to annoy and exasperate the Russians, to occupy the attention of some of their irregular troops, and to destroy more private than public property.
The most accurate topographical map of the ground around Sebastopol, that I have seen, is one published at the hydrographic office of the admiralty, February 2, 1856, and entitled "Sebastopol: showing the Russian defence works and the approaches of the allied armies; by Lieutenant George R. Wilkinson, R. N., under the direction of Captain T. Spratt, R. N. C. B., September 1, 1855."
The permanent defences of the harbor of Sebastopol against an attack by water, although inferior in material and the details of construction to our own most recent works, proved fully equal to the purpose for which they were intended. Indeed, the occurrences on the Pacific, the Baltic, and the Black sea, all seem to establish, beyond controversy, the soundness of the view so long entertained by all intelligent military men, that well constructed fortifications must always prove more than a match for the strongest fleets.
It is believed that a calm consideration of the events so hastily and imperfectly narrated in the preceding pages must lead all unprejudiced persons among our countrymen to a firm conviction on two vital points:
1st. That our system of permanent coast defences is a wise and proper one, which ought to be completed and armed with the least possible delay.
2d. That mere individual courage cannot suffice to overcome the forces that would be brought against us, were we involved in an European war, but that it must be rendered manageable by discipline, and directed by that consummate and mechanical military skill which can only be acquired by a course of education, instituted for the special purpose, and by long habit.
In the day of sailing vessels the successful siege of Sebastopol would have been impossible. It is evident that the Russians did not appreciate the advantages afforded by steamers, and were unprepared to sustain a siege.
This same power of steam would enable European nations to disembark upon our shores even a larger force than that which finally encamped around Sebastopol. To resist such an attack, should it ever be made, our cities and harbors must be fortified, and those fortifications must be provided with guns, ammunition, and instructed artillerists. To repel the advance of such an army into the interior, it is not enough to trust to the number of brave but undisciplined men that we can bring to bear against it.
An invading army of 15,000 or 20,000 men could easily be crushed by the unremitting attacks of superior numbers; but when it comes to the case of more than 100,000 disciplined veterans, the very multitude brought to bear against them works its own destruction; because, if without discipline and instruction, they cannot be handled, and are in their own way. We cannot afford a Moscow campaign.
Our regular army never can, and, perhaps, never ought to be large enough to provide for all the contingencies that may arise, but it should be as large as its ordinary avocations in the defence of the frontier will justify; the number of officers and non-commissioned officers should be unusually large, to provide for a sudden increase; and the greatest possible care should be bestowed upon the instruction of the special arms of the artillery and engineer troops.
The militia and volunteer system should be placed upon some tangible and effective basis; instructors furnished them from the regular army, and all possible means taken to spread sound military information among them.
In the vicinity of our seacoast fortifications it would be well to provide a sufficient number of volunteer companies with the means of instruction in heavy artillery; detailing officers of the regular artillery as instructors, who should at the same time he in charge of, and responsible for, the guns and material.
In time of war, or when war is imminent, local companies of regular artillery might easily he enlisted for short terms of service, or for the war, in the seacoast towns. The same thing might advantageously he carried into effect, on a small scale, in time of peace.

Captain First Cavalry,
January 14, 1857.
A cleaned up image of McClellan from an official commission photo