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, 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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bluebirds Take Flight

 Now some background on desertion in the New Hampshire regiments from the Confederate press . . .

YANKEE DESERTERS- The blue birds are flocking in from Grant's wide spread wings, and are daily reaching Richmond by scores in advance of the "Great digger." Among the arrivals on Saturday was about a full company of the Fifth New Hampshire regiment, recently on guard duty at Point Lookout. They state that a regiment of negroes took their places there, and they were hurried to Grant to help fill up the gaps made in Grant's ranks by Lee's artillery. One solitary, red bird, or zoo-zoo, came in and reported himself as the last of the New York Duryea(sic) Zouaves left out of one hundred, who went into the battles below with Grant. He was disconsolate looking enough, but bore himself as became the "last of the Mohicans."

-Daily Richmond Examiner, June 6, 1864

I assume the "Zoo-zoo" was a member of the 5th New York who had transferred into the 146th New York after the original regiment mustered out. The records show that regiment losing some 46 enlisted men missing during the first few weeks of June, 1864

And of course it is "Zou Zou."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Slips of Paper

This is the earliest post-war account I could find of the "pinning the names to the coat" practice from the Battle of Cold Harbor. . . though the action in this case is from the Mine Run Campaign.


Early on Monday morning the Army was under arms impatiently awaiting tho signal-gun. At last the sound of Sedgwick's cannon came rolling along the line, when  the entire artillery of the right and centre opened upon the works of the enemy. But not an echo from WARREN on the left! The explanations of this silence soon came in intelligence brought by an aide-de-camp. A close observation of the enemy's position by dawn revealed a different state of facts than was presented the previous evening. The precence of WARREN'S troops had attracted Lee's attention to his right, and during the night he powerfully strengthened that flank by artillery in position and by infantry behind breastworks and abatis. Looking at the position with the critical eye of an engineer, but not without those lofty inspirations of courage that o'erleap the cold dictates of mathematical calculation, WARREN saw that tho task was hopeless; and so seeing, he resolved to sacrifice himself rather than his command. He assumed the responsibility of suspending the attack.
His verdict was that of his soldiers- a verdict pronounced not in spoken words, but in a circumstance more potent than words and full of a touching pathos.
The time has not been soon when the Army of the Potomac shrank from any call of duty; but an unparalled experience in war, joined to a great intelligence in and file, had taught these men what, by heroic courage, might be done, and what was beyond the bounds human possibility. Recognizing that the task now before them was of the character of a forlorn hope, knowing well that no man could here count on escaping death, the soldiers, without sign of shrinking from the sacrifice, were seen quietly pinning on the breast of their blouses of blue, slips of paper on which each had written his name.

-The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular Army; April 28, 1866

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Beloved Friends": The Execution of Henry A. Burnham

 We return to the desertion issues faced by the New Hampshire regiments and their new recruits in 1864. Namely the execution of one Henry A. Burnham at Point Lookout, Maryland. The below account consists in large measure of his "gallows' speech" . . .

May 9, at 8 a. m., Henry A. Burnham, of Company E, was shot to death as a deserter He had deserted twice, received two bounties and been a bad soldier generally.
But the end of our experience at Point Lookout was at hand. The last week of May, 1864, we left there by steamer to rejoin the Array of the Potomac, from which we had been separated since the latter part of July, 1863. On the 28th of May we were at Port Royal, Va., and on the 1st of June, just two years after our first pitched battle, we rejoined the First Brigade, First Division, Second Corps."
During the winter an occasional escape from the prisoners-of-war camp, and many desertions from the recruits in our regiments, served to render our officers alert and vigilant. Among these the desertion, capture, trial, and attempted second escape, sentence and execution of private Henry A.Burnham, Company E, Fifth Regiment, were noticeable. This soldier attempted to desert to the enemy, and had upon his person, when captured, evidence sufficient to convict him beyond doubt. He had a fair trial, was convicted and sentenced to be executed by shooting. At night he escaped from the guard-house with some fellow-prisoners and launched a boat, from near the colonel's quarters, into the bay This escape was discovered and they were arrested by the sentinels and returned to confinement. The affair produced much excitement throughout the encampment. The following account is taken from the "Hammond Gazette," issued at Point Lookout, May 18, 1864: —

On Monday morning, May 9th inst., at 8 o'clock, in accordance with General Orders No. 15, the troops of this command were marched to the open field opposite the grove, and formed three sides of a hollow square, to witness the execution of Henry A. Burnham, Company E, Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers. At twenty minutes of 8 o'clock the prisoner, escorted by a detachment of twelve men of the provost guard, arrived upon the ground. After taking a position he was asked by Lieutenant Hilliard if he had anything to say, when he expressed himself as follows: —
"My friends: — The time has come when I must die. I am willing to die and leave this world of sorrow. There is but one step between me and eternity, and I feel as if it were my duty to acknowledge that it is for a beloved country's good that I should die at the time appointed. I have forgiven all my friends in the Fifth New Hampshire Regiment. I have forgiven all who have ever done me wrong or injured me, and I hope to be forgiven bj' all to whom I have ever done an injury.
"Beloved friends, — I can address you as friends, for you have acted as such to me — it is necessary that we should all be prepared for death, since we must all die. I admit that I am a sinner. I have not acted manly to the government that I have defrauded, not only once, or twice, but many times, and I now feel that I have done a serious wrong. My advice to you is to do your duty to your country, faith-fully and well. Be true to the oath which you have taken, and you will feel better in your own heart. I do not see that in any other case you can do better. The only source of happiness in this world springs from doing your duty to your country and your God, and unless you serve them faithfully you cannot experience true enjoyment of mind. I would also say to you, that you have taken the oath to obey your superiors ; so have I, and I now know the advantage which would arise from that obedience. It is only since I received my sentence that I have realized the full enormity of my errors; you should do so whilst you have yet time. Furthermore, my advice to you in future is to attend to your duty as you owe it to yourselves and the country o defend her.
"I hope if there is any one here who may have any hard feelings towards me, that he will forgive me as I have forgiven every one who has ever done me an injury You can all better your country far more by obeying the laws which govern you, and it is the last hope and prayer of a dying man that you will endeavor to do so. There is but one step between me and eternity, and in my case it is a solemn thing. It is solemn and sad, indeed, to dear friends to stand by the bedside and watch the spirit of the dear friend they love taking its flight from the world; but if that be solemn, how much more solemn must it be to a dear friend of mine, to see me depart in such a way as this, with an offended law taking justice upon me. I die to-day, and it may be better that I should do so; as, although I may have wished that a little longer time had been extended to me to prepare for so awful a fate, still I may not be any better for it. I may be putting off repentance to the last moment, and then what would I have gained by the delay? I feel now as if I were prepared to die — as if I am prepared to meet my God. I have placed my whole trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners. This has been the only subject of my reflections since the moment I received my sentence. I feel as if I could do a great deal of good for myself in this world, if I could only live, after the feelings which have taken possession of me within the last few days. But notwithstanding, I feel that it is for the beloved country's good, and I am satisfied. I cannot view it in any other light; it is necessary, and that is enough for me to know.
"Every man of you who has common sense must know that the state of things which has existed here, must be stopped. This rebellion must be put down, the country must be defended and the law upheld; and how is this to be done if desertion is not checked and discipline preserved in our army? I think the army is fighting in a good cause — the suppression of the rebellion; and if desertion is tolerated, it cannot succeed; it might as well be given up and all those who are true to their oaths, return home, having gained nothing by their exertions and zeal.
"I have, as I said before, forgiven every one who may have injured me; I have forgiven all the officers of the Fifth New Hampshire Regiment, as well as of all the regiments in the field, and I trust in God that they will endeavor to be as good as they can to the private soldiers. I suppose I am the first man who has been sentenced to pay the penalty of death on Point Lookout, Md., and I am satisfied to bear with it as an example. I have felt many times, since I received my sentence,that it would do the country a great deal of good by dying so — that I could do her more good in this way than by all the fighting I could do in the field, and I hope there is no one here who will doubt me. You do not better your condition by deserting; you may for a time succeed in escaping detection, but you have taken the oath before God and man that you will fight for the country, and it is a solemn and a very serious thing to break it.
"Dear friends, I hope that you will all come to Christ immediately; it is very wrong for you to delay; death is before you, and you do not know how soon it may come. I have enjoyed in my life all the earthly comforts which money could give on this earth ; but, after all, I was not happy, I was not contented, and no matter how badly he may have spent his life while on earth, when the time comes that he must die, he turns his heart to Christ for true happiness, and although I have lived a sinner, I want to die a Christian. Christ is willing to receive me even at the eleventh hour. I feel as if I were the greatest of sinners, but it is never too late to repent. Come to Christ immediately; the Christian's hope is great.
"Alas! my dear father and mother! How many hours have they wasted away in instructing me in the love which I owed to the Saviour! I forgot all their teachings; their hearts would be sad, indeed, to know the result of my waywardness. I never knew the worth of their teachings until within the last forty-eight hours. I feel it all now, the folly of my life, the reward of my neglect. Yes, it is true that order must be preserved amongst you. I say you, not myself, because I am about to die in a few, a very few minutes, and to appear before my God to answer my final account. That is a tribunal which is reserved for all, and from which none of us can escape, and I trust to Him for mercy. I have borne myself through this terrible ordeal as well as I could, perhaps as well as most men could, and I have been reconciled to my doom because it was one which I knew to be just, and because I threw myself upon Christ altogether in my hour of need, and I felt He would not forsake me. My last words then are, that you will do all in your power to procure for yourselves salvation. This world is nothing when compared with the world upon which I am about to enter. The trials, the sufferings of the just and righteous before God are easily borne with here. Be good Christians; obey the laws, and, when your hour comes, you can call upon Christ with confident hearts.
"My dear friends, I feel as if I could spend a much longer time speaking to you on this subject ; I could spend a whole day, but my time is come. I must say farewell to all. May you never meet so sad a fate. May you awake to the realization of the great truths of Christianity and reap the benefit of your devotion hereafter."

At the conclusion of his address he requested permission of the provost marshal to shake hands with the men who were detailed as the firing party, which was at once granted. He went through the ranks, accompanied by Lieutenant Hilliard, and clasped each man warmly by the hand. His step was firm to the last, and his voice clear and distinct. His memory seemed to catch inspiration from his position, as he did not forget even the most trivial matter which he wanted to settle. It compassed in that brief space the work which might, under ordinary circumstance, have taken years to accomplish.
Having bade farewell to his friends, the spot was pointed out to him where he was to stand, and he walked to it with great coolness, though exhibiting symptoms of confusion. He stood for a few seconds with his hands clasped in prayer, and when he had concluded he was requested to bend on one knee, which having done, the word was given to fire. One groan, alone, told that his troubles in this world were at an end — but two or three throes of the body, and all was still.
The deceased was a native of Vermont, was about twenty-eight years of age, had no family except brothers and sisters, to whom he sent his photograph with letters of condolence. His last words were,
"May God have mercy on me and receive my spirit."

-A history of the Fifth Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers, in the American Civil War, 1861-1865
William Child, M.D., Major and Surgeon
Historian of the Veterans' Association of the Regiment.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Richmond area events: June 2014

Campaign Before Richmond Sesquicentennial Weekend
Fri-Sat, June 20-21, Deep Bottom Park
Fri, June 20, 6-9pm, Campaign Before Richmond Symposium.
 For ages 12+. Join notable historians discuss significant battles that occurred north of the James River for control of Richmond and Petersburg in the last year of the Civil War. Discussion is followed by a Q & A session. Program is outdoors on the picturesque banks of the James River. Presented by Henrico Recreation and Parks and the Richmond Civil War Roundtable. Free. Rain or Shine.
Scheduled Speakers: Moderator – Dr. John W. Mountcastle, Brigadier General US Army (retired); James S. Price, author of “The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword” and upcoming publication “Battle of First Deep Bottom”; Douglas Crenshaw, author of “Fort Harrison and the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm: To Surprise and Capture Richmond”; Robert E.L. Krick, author of “Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia” and numerous other Civil War publications; and Hampton Newsome, author of “Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864”
Sat, June 21, 9-11am or 6-8pm, Civil War Boat Tours- Tour the Civil War era James River. For ages 12+. Either enjoy

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

McClellan's Crimean Report IX

Siège de Sébastopol, chasseurs à pied de la Garde impériale. . . - D.A. Marie
We may now turn to the point of attack.
 The facts of the case are well known. For many months the operations of the French were directed entirely against the Flag-staff and Central Bastions, the English being engaged in what may be termed two false attacks against the Redan.
It was not until the spring of 1855 that the efforts of the French were at last turned towards securing possession of the Malakoff.
To appreciate the merits of this question, it is necessary again to refer to the map to bear in mind that the heights overlooking the Karabelnaia were considerably more elevated than those bordering upon the main city, and that the docks and other naval, as well as military establishments, were all located in the Karabelnaia suburb.
Were the Flag-staff Bastion carried, but a single step was gained; beyond it existed at least two lines of defence, both difficult to carry, before even the main city was reached. While these new approaches were being constructed, it would have been a simple matter for the Russians to border the commanding heights of the Karabelnaia with new batteries directed against the town; the fire from these, together with that from the works on the north side, would have rendered the victors very uncomfortable and insecure in their barren conquest; and the fleet could have retired to the vicinity of the Careening bay, where it, as well as the docks, would have been secure against direct injury.
By taking the Malakoff, the fleet and the establishments of the Russians lay exposed at the feet of the allies; its commanding position and proximity to the main harbor rendered further resistance useless when once occupied by them. Considerations relating to the facility of bringing up supplies and covering their depot very probably determined the direction of the early
French attacks, but by no means diminish the credit due to General Neil, who first turned the efforts of his countrymen in the right direction.
If a deficiency in men and means is assigned as a reason for the early operations of the allies, it is but another proof that, in undertaking the affair, they neglected one of the clearest rules of war, that is, to undertake no important operation without full and reliable information as to the obstacles to be overcome, and the means of resistance in the hands of the enemy.
Enough has already been said to justify the belief that a dilemma, difficult of solution, might be presented for the consideration of the allies: on the one hand, the comparatively small scale upon which the original expedition was organized; the intimation contained in some of the French instructions that "half a siege train" would suffice to capture Sebastopol, and the absence of all preparations for passing the winter in the Crimea, would indicate that the allied governments were well aware of the real weakness of Sebastopol at that time, and intended that it should be carried by a "coup de vigeur;" on the other hand, from the moment the armies landed, every movement was conducted in a manner indicating that the generals were under the impression that formidable defences were in front of them, and that nothing serious could be attempted until further supplies and reinforcements were received.
In regard to the detailed execution of the French attacks, little or nothing novel is to be observed. Even when coolly examining the direction of their trenches, after the close of the siege, it was very rare that a faulty direction could be detected; they always afforded excellent cover, and were well defiladed; in some cases the excavation of the double direct sap was carried to the depth of 6' in the solid rock.
The execution of many of the saps and batteries was worthy of a school of practice. In the parallels, bomb proofs were provided as temporary hospitals, offices for the generals on duty, &c. They did not use the sapper armor. The use of the sap roller was often attempted, but it could be employed only during the latter part of the attack upon the Malakoff, when the fire of the Russian artillery was nearly extinguished by the mortars; before that, as soon as a sap roller was placed in position some 30 guns would be brought to bear upon it, the result being its immediate destruction.
It may justly be said of the French approaches, that they admirably carried into practice their system of sapping. The technical skill and patient courage evinced by their officers and men in pushing forward such excellent approaches, under a most deadly fire, is worthy of all commendation, and is such as might have been expected from the antecedents of their corps of engineers. With regard to the English the case was different; it seemed as if they systematically abandoned the excellent system taught and perfected with so much care at Chatham.
Whenever the ground was difficult their trenches generally ceased to afford shelter; a shallow excavation in the rock, and a few stones thrown up in front, appeared to be all that was considered necessary in such cases. They were often faulty in direction as well as in profile, being not unfrequently badly defiladed, or not gaining ground enough, and entirely too cramped; nor were they pushed as close to the Redan as they ought to have been before giving the assault.
In too many cases the expression "tatonnement" of the French would seem to convey the best idea of their operations. Their batteries, however, were very well constructed. Their magazines, platforms, &c., were usually similar to those adopted at Chatham, although unnecessary deviations were sometimes complained of.
They employed neither armor nor the full sap; sometimes the half-full, hut generally the flying sap were employed. The excellent English magazines were generally covered with 7" or 8" timber, 2 layers of fascines, 2 layers of sand bags, and 5' or 6' of earth. During the siege three were exploded by 13" shells, hut it was supposed that in two of these cases the shells burst in the passage, as similar magazines resisted 13" shells falling on the roof; in the third case, the magazine was first struck fairly on the roof by a 13" shell, which laid it hare to the sand hags; the corporal of sappers in charge, being intoxicated, neglected to repair the damage, when another 13" shell struck in the same place and exploded the magazine.
A very good gabion was made, by the English, of the iron hoops of bales of hay, casks, &c. They were 3' high and 2' in diameter, having 11 stakes of sawed wood. The iron hoops were wattled as the ordinary withes, and were hound by iron straps running the whole length of the gabion. These were much employed in revetting the cheeks of embrasures, thus avoiding the use of raw hides. The first pair of gabions, at the throat, should not be of iron, since it was found that shot would often tear off pieces of the straps, which caused bad wounds.
Gabions were also made of split hoops.
The fascines were bound with iron straps, twisted by pincers, in addition to the ordinary withes. The dimensions of their materials varied much in size, being made by different parties.
Sand bags were very much employed in revetting batteries, traverses, &c.
Latrines were provided at the extremities of parallels and boyaux*, and cleansed with lime every day.
Water tanks and reservoirs were provided in the parallels, and filled every morning and evening by means of pack animals.
During the siege the English working parties and guards of the trenches generally paraded at 6 p. m., and moved off after dark, often suffering severely before reaching the trenches. The guards of the trenches went on duty in their red coats and forage caps, without knapsacks; working parties in working dress, and armed; muskets on the reverse of the trench. Generally double sentinels were posted, on their bellies, about 50 yards in advance of the trench.
Materials, guns, ammunition, &c., were carried up at night, "over the open."

 *Boyau (Fr.) - a communication trench, a sap pushed forward toward the enemy.  Typically constructed in a zigzag pattern to prevent exposure to direct fire from the front.

Sebastopol from the Extreme Right of the Trench Attack-William Simpson

Monday, June 2, 2014

Unamiable Firmness and General Wistar: Addendum

 In reference to the April executions at Yorktown we have General Butler's side of the correspondence . . .

                   From General Butler

Brig. Genl' WISTAR, YORKTOWN                         April 11, 1864
DETAIL a Court Martial at once, try them on the spot. Send to me for approval of the conviction by telegraph.
Catch those that are running away at all hazards. Shoot them if necessary.

                    BENJ. F. BUTLER, Maj. Gen. Comdg.

                From General Butler

Brig. Gen l. WISTAR, Comdg. at YORKTOWN             April 13, 1864

I HAVE not respited the execution for any want of purpose, to make the most pungent examples of these substitute deserters, but we cannot take life without the forms of law except the imperious law of necessity. The record of the proceedings is defective in this, it contains no statement of a point at which the prosecution closed their case. 2nd- there is no record that the accused was allowed to examine witnesses in his own behalf, there is no record that he was allowed to make any statement to the court in his behalf. Now I have no doubt that all this was done, because all Court Martials do it;the difficulty is that the record, to have it amended, [must go] by special steamer. Shall ask you to call the Court together to have it amended to-night. When I receive it amended, a telegram will go to have the execution done. See that the other records are amended and sent back by the boat. Have the record state in each case whether the man is a recruit, substitute, or conscript.

                BENJ. F. BUTLER, Maj. Gen. Comdg.


                From General Butler

Brig. Gen. WISTAR, YORKTOWN                 April 14, 1864
I FORWARD you by the boat to Yorktown the approval of the proceedings in the case of privates Egan & Holt, whom you will cause to be executed at such time and place as you choose to direct after receiving the order, and had better in form them at once of the order and its time of execution, and of the fact that it is irrevocable.
Send forward any other records that you have, and see that they are correct. The record of the case of Holt is slightly irregular in not saying whether the prisoner had an opportunity to examine witnesses, but having counsel there, and having exercised it, that may properly enough be presumed. A good way to do is to say after each witness (if the fact be so) that the prisoner did not wish to question this witness.

                BENJ. F. BUTLER, Maj. Gen. Comdg.

-Private and official correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler: during the period of the Civil War
Vol. IV

Privately Issued