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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

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Jaunt Up the James III- "Proceeding up the river until within a short distance of Fort Powhattan . . ."

General Charles Kinnaird Graham

On Sunday morning the 25th of January 1864 an expedition consisting of the gunboats Flora Temple*, Smith Briggs, General Jessup and the large government steamer George Washington, under the command of Brigadier General Graham, accompanied by a force of about thirty of the harbor police of Norfolk under command of Captain Lee together with one hundred and fifty of the Twenty-first Connecticut commanded by Captain Brown left Old Point Comfort to make a reconnoissance up the James River. Proceeding up the river until within a short distance of Fort Powhattan the troops were landed at what was called the Brandon Farm. Two small howitzers were placed in position on the banks of the river. As soon as the forces were landed they made a reconnoissance back into the country some two miles and succeeded in surprising a rebel signal station which was captured with all its apparatus and appurtenances among which were messages deploring the change of sentiment in North Carolina and the possibility of the return of that State into the old Union, also information of the movement of a large rebel force through Richmond to North Carolina and letters relating to the removal to the city of Richmond of a large quantity of grain and provisions then stored at the Brandon Farm. Having secured their prisoners and all the valuables that could be removed the force returned to pay their respects to the stores on the farm which the rebels intended to transport to Richmond for the use of the Confederate army. They found the farm in charge of Surgeon Ritchie formerly of the United States navy whom they made a prisoner.
They succeeded in destroying bacon flour corn oats hay and other property to the amount of from two hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand dollars. This being the estimate made by the rebels it is not likely it was exaggerated.
The gunboats had not been idle during this time but had captured a schooner laden with tobacco also a sloop not loaded On board the schooner were Jews with a large amount of money in gold and silver United States notes and Southern bank funds together with a large assortment of jewelry. The vessels were taken to Old Point Comfort with cargo and prisoners where the flotilla arrived Monday evening The following is a list of the booty brought back by the expedition Twenty two prisoners one schooner laden with tobacco one sloop light ten horses one hundred and fifty three contrabands and many other articles of importance By some mistake three of the members of the Twenty first Regiment were left behind on the return of the expedition. Finding themselves alone in the enemy's country and anticipating a rather unhealthy reception from the rebels they took to the woods where a council of war was held to determine what course to take to get back again to the Union lines Concealing themselves in the woods until night they resolved to make an attempt to reach Old Point Comfort They proceeded down the river about eight miles where they found an old boat in which they undertook to cross the river but the boat sank with them and they were forced to abandon it. They constructed a raft but that also sank and had to be abandoned Proceeding further down the river they luckily found another boat concealed in the bushes with which by constant bailing they finally succeeded in crossing. They then struck across the Peninsula in the direction of Williamsburg Traveling only at night and keeping concealed during the daytime they eluded all pickets and patrols and after three nights of rapid marching much of the way through deep swamps and tangled woods with almost nothing to eat they arrived at Yorktown bringing in with them three refugees from the rebel army. From Yorktown they were furnished transportation to Old Point Comfort and from thence to the regiment at Newport News where they entertained their comrades with the story of their sufferings and adventures.
Thus ended the expedition which had proven a great success and if we may believe their own reports was a severe blow to the rebels and the results accomplished reflected much honor upon both officers and men composing the expedition.

-The Story of the Twenty-first Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, During the Civil War. 1861-1865
William Stone Hubbell, Delos D. Brown, Alvin Millen Crane
Press of the Stewart Printing Company, 1900

*A week later an expedition consisting of these same vessels turned sour, as the Flora Temple ran aground on Chuckatuck Creek. The Flora Temple incidentally derived her name from the well known trotter of the time, the "bob tailed nag" of Camptown Races.

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