Saturday, December 26, 2009

Egg Nog Parties in Hancock, Maryland

There is little mention of the Christmas Holidays in the winter camp of the 13th Mass in 1861.  Boxes of delicacies from home were likely sent to the soldiers at the front but it wasn't a "big thing" in camp like Thanksgiving, which had been celebrated November 22nd with day-long festivities.  Instead the soldiers' letters home talk of the skirmishing along the Potomac River and their efforts to keep warm in the cold, snowy weather.  Stonewall Jackson was making things lively with two expeditions sent from Winchester, Va. to destroy Dam No. 5 of the C & O Canal.  (December 7-8; and Dec. 18-22).  The only real hints of Christmas and New Years celebrations come from the resourceful John B. Noyes, who made his way into the high society of the town of Hancock, Maryland.  

photo: The town of Hancock, Maryland looks much today as it did in the 1860's.  This photo was given me by Mr. Wayne Keefer, secretary and Board of Trustees member of the Hancock Historical Society.

November 23rd, companies A, B, E & H, were detached from the rest of the regiment (thereby missing Stonewall's excitement at Dam No. 5).  They left camp at Williamsport and marched (in two days) 25 miles west to the town of Hancock, Maryland on the banks of the Potomac.  Here they stayed through January 2nd.  The little town occupies the thinnest part of the state and the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia are just a couple of miles apart.  Noyes estimated the population at 800 inhabitants.  "This is one of the busiest places in this part of Maryland and is the centre of business for Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia for many miles around. On the opposite side of the Potomac runs the Baltimore and Ohio RR of which so much is said in the papers."  So wrote John Noyes.

The neat appearance of the 13th Mass soldiers brought them unique opportunities.  They were fastidious about their hygiene and dress.  "Houses are open to us which are closed to other soldiers," Noyes wrote.

The Henderson family in particular, welcomed Noyes and others into their home.  Through them he met the Brosius family, (the sister of Mrs. H.) and Miss Kirke of Pennsylvania.  The Henderson's owned several prosperous  stores in the region; a large one in Hancock, one in Virginia, and one in Pennsylvania.  Light duty and relaxed regulations allowed 24 year old Noyes and other members of Company B, Private Harry Sanborn, age 22, and private Joseph Chandler, age 32, specifically, to share in the local holiday festivities which seemed to be in full swing.   Egg nog parties were the entertainment of choice.  Noyes described the Henderson family to his brother:

"I have no better friends anywhere than those there made. [Hancock]   Indeed I was almost a part of Mr. Henderson's family.  His wife and children treated me as a relation, and I exerted myself to make them as happy as they made me.  At their house I made many friends, at whose houses I was always welcome to eat, meet & sleep.  There I made taffy, egg nog, and myself at home.  Even their children, 2, 6, & 8 years old respectively, were excellent company, much better than that of some young ladies I have met in the course of my life.  At egg nog parties what games of blind man's buff* I have engaged in with what pretty girls and promising young men.  Brother Chandler of Lexington used to be with me a great deal and Sanborn whom I introduced to you at Fort Independence.  These kind people, who loved to be hospitable, told me they didn't know how they should get along when we were gone.  I know the young ones will miss me very much. At Kirke's in Pennsylvania, where I used to take tea occasionally I used to hear the piano, strange music to my ears.  Addie Kirke was an excellent performer & got up excellent suppers.  Nor did she send me home on my 3 1/2 mile walk without a glass of excellent wine."

Maryland Fare
It might be fun to take a look at the types of foods served on these occasions.  In another letter John describes for his Aunt Rebecca, the fare seen at the boards of private families in Maryland.

"Apple butter is very common sauce here.  It may be quaker apple sauce, but of this I am doubtful.  It is boiled a good many hours & will keep for years.  Quince and Peach butter probably derive their name from a like mode of cooking. Apple sauce is different from apple butter, so I understand; and peach butter is different from peach preserve, which last is here invariably eaten with the most delicious cream.  Citron+ is also eaten in the same manner & it is truly delicious.

Sausage is sausage the country over, probably so called from the fact that sour sage is used in its make. Now sausage is not hog pudding, here called "pudding," although it looks just like it. looks just like sausage, but tastes a great deal better, being made of the liver of the hog.  High livers justly prefer this pudding to the common sausage.

Our meats are not so common here as with us at home.  This may be from the fact that people here live more on what they raise on their farms.  Still you may get a round of beef, if you busy yourself about it.  Chicken is the staple here.  You may have roast or fried.  You will have it for breakfast, dinner or supper.  Happen in as you may you are welcomed to chicken.  Ham is also found here now adays fresh pork fried.  Thus at Mr. Kirke's in Pennsylvania I always have for high tea, fresh pork and fried chicken.  Buckwheats are an institution here.  They are eaten at any and every meal.  [with butter or syrup].

I do not know whether squashes are rare here, or whether it is or is not turnip time.  At any rate I haven't seen any squash or turnip here or even cranberry.  Instead you would very likely see hominy.  "Hominy," you will say "I declare!"  No, not what we call hominy but hulled corn.  For it does not pay for hulled corn venders to travel in these sparsely settled regions.  Hominy is eaten without sugar or milk and may answer to our samp.**  You would also see "slaugh," that is something made up of cabbage, cut up fine, and served hot or cold, an excellent condiment extremely common here.  Pickles honey, and blackberry jam might be on the table also.  You might perhaps also see Dutch Pudding which I have heard spoken of often.

In the Eve'g. while calling on a lady or gentleman you are likely to be treated to apples and ginger bread and chestnuts & a glass of currant wine or blackbury cordial."

A Description of Some Holiday Festivities
A few excerpts from letters home describe the incredibly charmed life Noyes led while at Hancock.

He wrote December 27th, to his Father:
"A Merry Christmas to you all, or, as they say here "a Christmas gift."  I was invited to Mr. Henderson's Christmas Eve & assisted in their raising a Christmas tree. Being requested urgently to remain one night, so as to hear high mass at the Catholic Church, which last I wanted to do very much, I accepted the invitation and slept on a feather bed for the first time since leaving home.  I found no difficulty in going to sleep I assure you. Breakfast at the house of course.  In the afternoon with Chandler and the orderly I called on the Kirke's, which calling included tea.  A pleasant time was had there but no egg nog, the sine qua non of Christmas.  Tonight I may have some."

He wrote his sister Martha on January 4th:
"My last days in Hancock were passed quite as pleasantly as the first.  In fact I may be considered as having had a six weeks vacation, with just enough to do to keep my hand in.  Toward the last we had no drill or dress parade.  In the morning we answered to our names and looked out for the guard detail.  During the day we stayed in quarters, or discussed the news at the various stores about town.  Little did we seek the eve'g roll call if we wanted to be elsewhere than in quarters. Little did we care for "taps" either.  Thursday Evening the 31st, New Year's Eve, was the occasion for a taffy party at Mr. Hendersons.  I had a hand in making the egg nog myself, as also the taffy, and it was none the worse for that.  We played different games, among them blind man's buff and crooked pear tree.  At Eleven o'clock I was obliged to leave to stand guard from eleven to one at Post 5, a bridge which leads out of the town.  My friends watched the old year out and the new year in.  Seated before a comfortable wood fire I deemed it no hardship to be on guard from eleven o'clock at night Dec. 31st '61 to 1 AM Jan'y. 1, '62.

Here abouts a great many people see the new year in especially the Methodists who have what is called a watch meeting.  A great many people were about the town, & I was scarcely left alone at my post for a moment.  The New Year rose warm to greet us; mud in the streets ere long to be dried up by a driving wind.  A happy new year you were probably wishing all your friends, I wished "New Year's gift" to those I wished to catch.  I didn't know but Mothers was "a Merry new year" to me far away from home in order to balance the "happy Christmas" she sent me in her last letter.  I had a happy Christmas and a merry new year.  The new year merry in spite of the fact that I was to leave warm friends on the next day.  I came off guard at 9 AM and laid my plans for the spending of the day.  I proposed to dine in Pennsylvania, at Kirke's, sup in Maryland & Pennsylvania at Brosius's & close the day at Henderson's; but as fate would have it I received a note from Mrs. Henderson requesting Sanborn, Chandler and my humble self to take "high tea" with her.  This invitation was not to be disregarded.  I accordingly was obliged to decline the pressing invitations I received to dine in Penn. and reached town at 3 o'clock just in time to go to "high tea."

High tea here is equivalent to a tall dinner, and at the table of course all the luxuries of all seasons were bountifully dispensed.  Lieut. Johnson of the 39th Ill. & Mr. Miller the telegraph operator over the river were at dinner, who afterwards enlightened us somewhats on military movements.  I intended to spend the Eve'g. at the Brosius's, but as Miss Mary and Johnny Brosius were at Henderson's I concluded to accept Mrs. Henderson's invitation to spend the Eve'g. there.  Accordingly I went to the barracks and packed my valuables in readiness to march at 4 o'clock the next morning.  I found at Mrs. Henderson's on my return, Army [Armistead] and Bob Zwingle, Alph Byers, J. Brosius, Misses Brosius, Kirke, Thomas, and the two Miss Byers, "right pretty girls I reckon."  With Chandler and Sanborn we formed a very cozy party.  Great was the fun we had playing blind man's buff.  Right excellent was the egg nog we drank.  One of the ladies gave me a Philippine almond. Neither she nor I could get caught at the entertainment til as we were leaving I innocently offered her my arm which she took.  "Philippine" I of course remarked.++

The party broke up about midnight.  I afterward went to Henderson's store where Zwingle sleeps and had my cigar case filled up to last for the morrow.  There is no end to Hancock hospitality so far as I am concerned."

On Jan. 8th, John wrote his brother Charles:
"Vacation ends and mine came to a sudden close on January 2d, & I had scarcely time to allow my friend Armistead Zwingle, who had been with me at Henderson's last egg nog party, to fill my cigar case with the best cigars in Hancock, celebrated for its good cigars, at 12 1/2 PM of January 1st, and to get a few hours sleep, before I went on board a Canal boat about 10 AM January 2d, bound for Williamsport."

This concludes a rare look inside the private homes and private celebrations of Christmas & New Years as experienced by a few lucky soldiers with some of the leading citizens of Hancock, Maryland in the winter of 1861-62.  Here's wishing all who read this a "New Year's Gift!"

*Blind man's bluff or Blind man's buff is a children's game played in a spacious enclosed area, such as a large room, in which one player, designated as It, is either blindfolded or closes his or her eyes. The It player gropes around blindly and attempts to touch the other players without being able to see them, while the other players scatter and try to avoid and hide from the It player, sometimes teasing him/her to make  him/her change direction.  The game is a variant of tag.

+Citron is a yellow thick skinned fruit resembling a lime or lemon but larger and less acid.  The candied rind is used as a confection in fruit-cake.

**Samp is dried corn kernals stamped and chopped until broken but not as fine as meal.

++Philopena or (French) Philippine
Noyes is referencing a game here.  "Philippine" is the popular name for a nut with two kernals or the joined kernals of nuts.  It was also a game originating in Germany.  When a young lady cracking almonds chances to find two kernals in one shell, she shares them with a beau; and whichever calls out 'philopena' or 'philippine,' on their next meeting is entitled to receive a present from the other.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

General McDowell


It's not very 'Christmassy' but this is what I've been working on for the latest page of my website,  It's titled "A Change In Plans."  I've followed the new web page 'introduction' with some comments about General Irvin McDowell.  I promise a 'holiday' post before the season passes.

"A Change In Plans" (May 12-25, 1862).

President Lincoln’s relationship with General George B. McClellan deteriorated in early 1862 over McClellan’s apparent inaction.  Lincoln favored an assault on Confederate fortifications close by at Manassas. General McClellan believed Manassas was too strong to attack.

In January the newly formed Committee on the Conduct of the War, a political body hostile to McClellan, put pressure on Lincoln to learn the General's plans or force him into action.  McClellan remained silent.  On January 13th McClellan reluctantly attended a cabinet meeting and sullenly stated that he knew what he was doing, the President couldn’t be trusted to keep a secret, and that the army of the west would move soon.

     In February the general finally revealed his strategy to Lincoln.  He planned a massive advance upon Richmond, by way of Urbanna, before it could be re-inforced by the Confederate army.  Lincoln was skeptical and still preferred an immediate assault on Manassas.

     On March 8th, a week after General Bank’s advanced into the Shenandoah Valley from Williamsport, Md., the Confederate force near Washington abandoned Manassas and moved their defenses south to the line of the Rappahannock River closer to Richmond. Washington troops occupied Manassas and embarrassingly revealed the position had been held with fake guns, and a much smaller force than estimated; 36,000 men. Lincoln was furious.  McClellan’s force was 120,000 strong.  McClellan was demoted from General in Chief to Commander of the Army of the Potomac. 

     McClellan’s new plan, endorsed by his Corps commanders, was to sail around the Rebel defenses to the Peninsula and besiege Richmond, the Confederate Captital, with his huge army of 150,000 men.  Lincoln agreed but insisted McClellan provide 40,000 troops for the defense of Washington. Lincoln painfully remembered the two weeks in April, 1861, when Washington was cut off from the army, undefended, and vulnerable to a Confederate assault.

     McClellan complied but the troops reserved for the defense of Washington were spread out; 19,000 in Washington, 10,000 at Manassas, 8,000 at Warrenton (including the 13th Mass)  and 35,000 in the Shenandoah Valley. Lincoln’s advisers didn’t understand the strategy and McClellan had angrily left Washington in early April without explaining it. Lincoln’s loss of faith in his leadership bothered the General who correctly viewed the political forces in Washington as his enemies.  McClellan’s political support failed when he needed it most.  Seeing only 19,000 ill-equipped troops around Washington, the President withheld General Irvin McDowell’s corps of 35,000 men from McClellan to guard the capital.  Total troops withheld by the President reduced McClellan’s invading force down from the intended 150,000 men to 100,000 men. General McClellan thought his plan ruined and his chances for success greatly reduced even though he still outnumbered the Rebels by huge margins.**

     By mid May General McDowell was moving his newly reinforced Corps of 41,000 troops, including the 13th Mass, to link up with McClellan’s army outside Richmond.

     “It was understood that McDowell was to move his corps along the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad on the 24th of May, connecting, if possible, with the right wing of McClellan’s army at or near Hanover Court-House, and by turning the left flank of the enemy, prevent his receiving reinforcements from the direction of Gordonsville. This plan had been carefully considered and matured by McDowell, who had great faith in its success.”  (Three Years in the Army, by C. E. Davis, Jr.)

     General Shields 10,000 men were also en route to Fredericksburg to join McDowell, (detached from General Bank’s force in the Shenandoah Valley).

     Confederate General Lee anticipated and feared this massive build up of Union troops around Richmond, and wrote Stonewall Jackson to create a diversion in the Shenandoah Valley to draw off some of McDowell’s army.  Lee sent General Ewell to the Valley to re-enforce Jackson.  The diversion worked.

     Banks small force of 9000 men was divided at 3 outposts.  Jackson attacked and defeated one of these at Front Royal on May 23rd.  The next day President Lincoln ordered General McDowell to send 20,000 troops to the valley in hopes of catching Jackson. This change in plans greatly distressed General McDowell.   He protested that much would be lost and little gained.  General Banks was beyond his help and the best thing McDowell could do was continue towards Richmond to threaten Confederate forces there.  Nonetheless, McDowell complied with Lincoln’s order.  The 13th Mass, in Hartsuff’s Brigade was included in the force diverted to Front Royal.

     These political machinations and movements were beyond the scope of the men in the 13th Mass.  All they saw was the increased hardship imposed on them by General McDowell’s orders; the loss of baggage wagons and camp equipments that made life more comfortable, and constant drilling with full gear in temperatures near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  They compared the progress made on other war fronts with the supposed inaction of McDowell whom they labeled Mc-Do-Nothing. He was credited with each new hardship and they developed an intense dislike for him."

Some Comments on McDowell (for the blog)

     In a post made earlier this year, another blogger queried his readers which Union General deserves a new biography.  One respondent reminded readers that General Irvin McDowell never had a biography written.

In my limited knowledge of him, the first impression is that he was a poor field commander.  And when I take a closer look, my second impression is that he was a poor field commander.  But I've read interesting things about him and certainly think he deserves a biography.  After all, he was a regular army officer who remained loyal to the Government and commanded the first Union army in battle, when called upon to do so.  He withstood the dislike of his superior officers and his subordinates. His plan for the assault at First Bull Run was sound, but he was forced into action knowing his army was not trained well enough for battle, which had serious consequences for the outcome.

In May, 1862, his plans to link with McClellan were fouled by orders from the War Department to proceed to Front Royal in hopes of getting Jackson. A strategy he felt was wrong-headed and which turned out to be so.  General John Pope seemed to be the only commander who had faith in McDowell, which is like saying Moe had faith in Larry.

      I can't understand when at the battle of 2nd Bull Run, on August 29th 1862, he failed to inform Gen'l. Pope that Longstreet's army had reached Thoroughfare Gap on the 28th, allowing for a junction of Longstreet's army with Jackson's army.  McDowell even shared Pope's impression that the Confederates were retreating on the evening of the 29th.

     On the 30th McDowell made one of the biggest tactical errors in the war, when he ordered General John F. Reynold's Division north of the Warrenton Turnpike to re-inforce the center of General John Pope's Union line, thereby leaving the entire left flank practically undefended.  Confederate General's Lee and Longstreet had  planned an assault on the Union left and McDowell provided the perfect conditions for it.  It was one of the grand charges of the war.  When Longstreet began his massive advance, McDowell acted quickly to correct his error while his superior General Pope still wondered if he had enough troops on the right and center.  It was General McDowell's quick action that saved Pope's army from being surrounded and annihilated.  General McDowell lead re-inforcements, artillery and the nearest brigades he could find, to Chinn Ridge to stall Longstreet's attack.  Pope was able to fall back to high ground and save his army.  Still McDowell was twice routed at Bull Run and shared the blame with Pope for the Union disaster.

He was even accused of treason by his own men. When he took a tumble from his horse it was a 13th Mass soldier (of course) who wise-cracked "three cheers for the horse."   Some claimed his unusually tall hat was a signal to the Rebels and that wherever the 'hat' appeared defeat and disaster followed."*  He was so slandered by his own subordinate officers, that after the battle he called for a court of inquiry which exhonerated him. (McDowell and his staff in 1862.  The 'hat' is standing, center).

I read of a gathering of soldiers years after the war in which General McDowell was present, an officer proposed a toast to him as an apology for wrongs done during the war.  McDowell modestly stood and said he never worried that the record of his service would not be set right, in time.

Had he won the battle of first Bull Run he would have been a national hero.  The lack of a biography is a lasting testament to his unpopularity.  Its been nearly 150 years (!), maybe its time to consider one.  General Longstreet's biography was titled "From Manassas to Appomattox."  McDowell's biography could be called "From Manassas to 2nd Manassas."  (possible book cover design).

*Quotes referenced from the book "Return to Bull Run" by John J. Hennessy.
**Referenced from Larry Tagg's "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Two hundred, two hundred-one, two hundred-two...

...And counting.

The Army Heritage Education Center, (AHEC) at Carlisle, Pennsylvania recently uploaded over 2,000 digital images of Civil War Soldiers from its MOLLUS Massachusetts Collection of photographs.  MOLLUS is the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a fraternal organization founded after the war for former officers.  The images in this collection included several officers of the 13th Massachusetts, which I added to my growing collection of images of men in the regiment.  I already had low resolution images of most of these photos from another web-site, but the AHEC images are much higher quality and resolution.  I get a particular thrill when I find a soldier’s image.  It seems to bring the deeds of the men one step closer to reality.  Suddenly there is a face to go with a story. 

As stated before on this blog, the “13th Mass” is a well photographed regiment.  I’ve been storing the collected images in folders on my computer, but sometimes I make 5 X 7 prints to put into a 3 ring binder, organized by company.  There is something pleasing to me about having a large tangible photographic image of a particular soldier.  When I share the latest edition to my long-suffering wife, Susan, she usually replies half-joking “The Soldiers of the 13th Mass…Collect all 1,000 !”  I became curious as to how many images I had acquired and decided to take inventory.

Using the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s report, (a roster of all men who served in the unit) I marked off all the names I had put a face to.

This can be a bit tricky because the report contains duplicate records.  Every man promoted is listed once with his original rank and once with the new rank and date of promotion.  Some men were promoted two or three times and have multiple listings, so I had to be careful not to double count anyone.  The total came to 200 men !  This doesn’t count group shots where I have several unidentified men, nor duplicate photos of the same soldier.  It was common for an officer to have his portrait made in his new uniform, after each promotion.

Therefore, I have, 2nd Lt. Charles B. Fox, 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Fox, Captain Charles B. Fox, and Lt. Col. Charles B. Fox, (you get the idea) although I would be hard-pressed to identify the particular rank at the time any one of these likenesses was made, unless it is identified on the image.  I have several different images of Colonel Leonard.

I’ve fantasized about marketing ‘baseball cards’ of the images with the service records and stats on the back of each card.  “I’ll trade you two Col. Leonards for a Lt. Col. Batchelder.”

Or, they could be made into decks of playing cards with each company representing a suit, A, B, C, D etc.  You could play 'go fish' with the deck; "Got any J. A. Howe's ?"
"No. GO FISH."

Probably not much demand for that though.  And since most of the soldiers I have so far are in Company ‘B’ it would be a one-suit deck.

I’m grateful for the images shared with me by descendants.  Those are especially rare and whenever I come across the image of a soldier whose descendant I know, I try to forward it along to them.  This has proved to be a rewarding practice.

When I discovered I had 200 images I immediately wrote a collector friend of mine.  He provided nearly nearly half of the images in my collection.  I had to share my enthusiasm with someone who cared, (or at least marginally cared - it’s lonely to be obsessed).  Again, it can be very difficult to obtain images of soldiers from any given regiment.  A couple of days after I wrote him, my friend responded, and sent me image 201; private Samuel S. Gould! 

Samuel S. Gould, was a merchant marine, who later enrolled in Harvard College.  He passed on enlisting when the first great wave of troops was called out by President Lincoln in the Spring of 1861, but he promised to answer his country’s call as soon as more troops were needed.  He did just that in August, 1862 when he left his studies and joined the regiment at the front, near Culpeper, Va.  He joined just in time to suffer through Major General John Pope’s disastrous retreat toward Manassas culminating in the second battle of Bull Run.  The new recruits were as yet unarmed and were allowed to move to the rear during that engagement of August 30th.  But 2 ½ weeks later Samuel S.Gould was killed at the Battle of Antietam, just six weeks after he came out; -  another picture, another story.

Getting Gould’s picture inspired me.  I’ve found a few images in old books listed at ‘Google books’ so I did a search and found picture 202, Melvin H. Walker, captured at Gettysburg.  I’m on my way to 300!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving in Camp, 1861.

During the winter of 1861-62, the 13th Mass were encamped at Williamsport, Maryland, picketing the Potomac River, acting Provost Guard at Hagerstown and Williamsport, and protecting shipping along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  Things were relatively quiet for the regiment that first winter and there was time for the boys to prepare a Thanksgiving celebration in camp.

Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts had declared Thursday, November 21st Thanksgiving Day. The transplanted New Englanders planned accordingly to celebrate New England style in Maryland.

The festivities proved novel to the locals as reported in the Hagerstown Herald & Torchlight:

“13th Massachusetts Regiment – Its Thanksgiving Day. Thursday last having been the day designated by the Governor of Massachusetts for Thanksgiving, the soldiers of the 13th Regiment from that State, now encamped near Williamsport, paid their respects to the day in an old-fashioned frolic.  Thanksgiving day originated with our Pilgrim forefathers, and was held in commemoration of their landing upon Plymouth rock, in 1620.  It was an appropriate and special recognition of the Providence of God, in bringing them safely through the perils of a long and adventurous voyage; and in New England it is still associated with such reminiscence, although they are gradually receding from public attention, and the day partakes more of the modern sentiment as it prevails with us.  This innovation upon time-honored custom the brave sons of old Massachusetts now in our midst fully illustrated by devoting the day to a grand festival, which terminated at night in a joyous dance upon a large platform erected for the purpose in their camp.  We understand that the Regiment was paid off on the previous day, which, in addition to the presents of pumpkin pie, turkeys, &c. received from home, enabled its members to do the occasion ample justice. It was a curious sight, however, to behold these descendants of the old pilgrim fathers celebrating a Thanksgiving day within full view of Virginia, the land of Secesh, and the “mother of statesmen,” but they came from their far-off homes as the defenders of the stars and stripes, and we honor them as friends and loyal citizens, while we despise the traitors who have dishonored that flag and rendered necessary the presence of an armed soldiery upon the soil of Washington County.”

     It was indeed a ‘big thing’ as the boys termed it.  The weather was splendid, with clear skies and moderate temperatures.  “The air was filled with shouts and emulations of mirth.”  Mule races, baseball games, and a greased pig chase made the day memorable.  Photographer George Crosby of Marlboro,Mass., had his photography studio in full swing, providing many soldiers the opportunity to have a likeness made and sent to loved ones waiting back home.  The evening was topped off with a dance in which ladies from the town of Williamsport were encouraged to attend.  Of course there were plenty of turkeys; many provided by the vigilant folks back home in Massachusetts.  Edwin Rice of the band, (pictured left) wrote to his sister:

“Thanksgiving passed off very well with us.  The stuff which was sent to the Band from Marlboro we took downtown to a hotel and put some more with it and had a first rate dinner.  We had the Adjt., (Bradlee) Capt. Pratt of Co E, Lieut. Frost, Co E, Lieut. Richardson of Co G.  The Lieut. Col. and Chaplain were invited but could not be present.  We bought all the extras besides what was sent to us, and we had to pay a dollar a plate for what there was there, 24 of us.  As there was nothing said about the price, we paid the bill and took away what was not eaten.”

The Westboro Transcript reported from a correspondent’s letter home: 

“Turkeys and chickens graced every mess pan and to give you something of an idea of the extent of our feasting I will state that Co. F. had 22 turkeys and 14 chickens, these were all stuffed and cooked by our neighbors of Williamsport.  This I think is about a fair sample of the whole, though Co. E of Roxbury was more fortunate than the rest of us in having had an excellent dinner all ready for the table brought to them by some of their friends in Roxbury; the weight of the whole I believe was about 1500 pounds.”

Chaplain Gaylord, (pictured right) an eloquent orator, preached a sermon on temperance to those who would attend, then a baseball game kicked off the festivities.  Teams were made up of three men selected from each company.  The right wing played the left wing, a member of Company K boasting in a letter home before the game,  that the left wing was sure to win.  I’m not sure which team won this particular match but the game must have been a hoot to watch.

In  a previous baseball game the officers of the regiment divided into two teams and played against each other.  Private John B. Noyes reported: “Col. Batchelder (left) tumbled over several times in dodging the ball which was well aimed at him.”  Batchelder commanded the regiment when Col. Leonard was away at Headquarters.  Noyes also mentions Adjt. Bradlee’s propensity for ‘lying’ which was evident even on the playing field.  Bradlee tried to convince Batchelder he’d struck out at bat, when he clearly had not.   After the ball game the boys had a mule race which was reported to be a success.

Private Noyes relates how he spent the day:  

  “And now for Thanksgiving.  Of course it was a holiday.  Some spent it one way, some another.  Co. E. had a dinner at the Globe, for their friends at home sent them Turkeys, plum puddings &c.  Other companies fared differently.  In my company one mess dined together down town.  No others of that mess could get out of the lines on passes.  Never the less by hook, or by crook four of our mess dined together at the Eagle.  Six others in 3 different parties got out of the lines & rendezvoused at Parker’s.  I was one.  We had the parlor of the establishment which was the front 2nd story room, the gayest looking room I have yet seen in Md. We invited in one of our men who was stationed at the Eagle on guard.  We had no cranberry sauce.  That was because we had plenty of others such as peach, apple & pear; for one of the Co. had cranberry sauce in his box which came from home a couple of hours before dinner time.  I did’nt have the folks at home at the table; that was impossible, we however made ourselves at home, if we could not bring you to us.  A roast turkey & chicken, a la Massachusetts graced the board, into which we soon made inroads with fixed knives and forks.  Floating island succeeded the main staple of the dinner.  To that home made pudding & mince pies.  We could not proceed to the sardines and nuts we had at hand, but turned our attention to, - dulce est despere in loco – champagne, and cigars.  After dinner we sauntered round the streets, and finally five of us rode up to camp in a hack !!  and were landed at our tents.  Perhaps others may have had as good a dinner as I did, but they did not drive up to camp in that luxurious style.” 

     Noyes said his party arrived in camp in time to watch the greased pig chase.  Several members of the regiment chipped in and bought a small Maryland greyhound pig which was shaved and greased with animal fat.  A crowd of laughing spectators gathered on the parade ground “with an anticipation of an hour’s fun” as private Clarence Bell recalled.  At the word ‘go’ the pig was turned loose and the eager contestants followed. The race had hardly begun when a crafty Englishman of Company D charged in front of the crowd and seized the little piglet by the hind legs and lifted the squealing animal off the ground for all to see.  It was over all too soon; the winner had filled his hands with flour before stepping up to the starting line.  It was a sure thing for the Briton.   Many protested, but the Englishman loved an argument, his only handicap as private Bell remembers is that with the piglet tucked under one arm, he only had one arm with which to gesticulate.  There being no set rules in a pig race the winner was allowed to keep the prize more for his superior wit than his skill.  And so the race was a disappointment.

     Dress parade followed the greased pig chase, then dinner time, but of course everyone had already feasted on turkey.  In the evening came the ball for which the dance platform had been constructed.  A small sprinkling of ladies from Williamsport attended; a very small sprinkling indeed, in fact only six ladies attended.  “There were very few girls in Williamsport,” wrote Noyes.  But as he concluded, “The ball did not amount to a great deal, though it well rounded off a very pleasant day.”

   Wishing all who read this a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


     I remember one of the key moments that re-ignited my childhood interest in the Civil War.  It was 1998 or ’99 and surfing the web was relatively new.  I was showing my friend Marty the on-line Civil War sites I had found using a borrowed Apple computer with a dial-up connection, and commented that my family still had my Great-Great Grandfather’s diary from 1863.

     Marty asked what was in it. That’s when I realized, no one had ever read it.  He was as surprised as me at the answer.  “You really ought to read it,” he laughed.  And so the quest began.

     November 8th is Marty’s birthday he would be 47 had he lived.  His many friends lost him to the fatal disease A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig ’s disease in August, 2005.  He was a great friend whose passionate interest in the Civil War inspired me to research the 13th Mass Vols.   In his honor I’d like to share some memories.

     Marty had many interests and many friends to share each passion. For a while he and a friend brewed and bottled their own beer.  Baseball was his favorite sport, and he attended games whenever or whereever he could.  The Yankees were his favorite team.   Mark Twain was his favorite author and he enjoyed American Folk Tales. Steam engines were another passion.   He collected watercolors in the plein air style and was an accomplished artist himself.  He enjoyed reading history and was a Civil War Buff. I was his ‘history’ friend.

     I met Marty at art school in the late 80’s.  Later we shared an office at our first professional job.  I didn’t know him well then, but his gag drawing of ‘Klan Dog’ cracked me up. “He’s a racist and a bigot” it says beneath the tiny thumbnail sketch. It was the extreme cuteness mixed with incredible bad taste that made me laugh. I got such a kick out of it he gave it to me.  Its not what he'd want to be remembered for, but these silly gag drawings where a part of his persona.  So, I learned that summer Marty was a Civil War buff.  The Confederate flag was a hint.

     We became friends during the next few years and discovered our mutual interest in history.  I took Marty’s advice and transcribed William Henry Forbush’s 1863 diary the first chance I had.  For a week I was transported back to 1863, and followed the movements of the 3rd US Artillery, Battery C, through the countryside of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  The movements didn’t register with me for I was just beginning to learn about the war.  When I returned to California I shared the diary transcription with Marty.  I told him I wanted to learn more about the 3rd US Artillery and the 13th Mass., the regiment William Henry had belonged to before transferring to the artillery in December, 1862.  Six photos of the 13th Regiment at Williamsport, Maryland were tucked into the flaps of the diary.  I had very little information about the unit.

     It was Marty who discovered the memoirs of a 13th Mass Soldier listed in the bibliography of one of his many Civil War books; Austin Stearns’ “Three Years with Company K.”  I learned to use the same technique to check bibliographies at bookstores for more references on the regiment.  That’s how I found the 1894 regimental history written by Charles E. Davis, Jr.   I purchased the Stearns book and the Davis book and started reading.  Marty prepared a glossary of terms to aid my research.  They explained military organization and orders of battle.  He also gave me a book on the Dahlgren Raid of 1864, because Battery C, 3rd US Artillery participated in that controversial action.  “It would be great if your Great-Great Grandfather wrote something about it,” he used to say.

Our mutual interest in the Civil War, and sketching, led us to attend re-enactments at Historic Fort Tejon in the mountains of Southern California.  This was one of the few venues for re-enacting in our region at the time, and group participation was high. Marty would pick me up in his red Ford Ranger Truck with the bumper sticker that read “Steam Engines have a Tender Behind.”  We’d chug up the mountain 35 miles to Tejon Pass. At the fort Marty donned a broad brimmed straw hat, and carried a carpet bag stuffed with his watercolor kit.  He would tramp across the field searching for an appealing subject to draw.  Then he would open his black leather-bound sketchbook and set to work penciling in soldiers, women in period dress, fifers, drummers, and cannon, anything that caught his eye.  When he’d completed enough sketches he’d find a shady spot and pull out the watercolor kit from his carpet-bag.  This usually drew a small crowd.  His subjects often wanted to purchase his drawings.  Always modest, he was reluctant to part with them, but he frequently obliged much to their delight.   He had an amiable disposition which got us invited to a Confederate camp one afternoon where we shared some shots of whiskey. The Rebels were always more hospitable it seemed.  Sometimes we’d stay into the evening to watch the dances, with period costumes and music.  At days end we’d hop into his truck and head back down the mountain discussing the different people we had met and our good or bad sketches for the day.

The opportunity to attend a large re-enactment came at the 135th Anniversary of Gettysburg.  Marty traveled across country by train with a girlfriend to see it. In the same  straw hat and carpetbag, he was allowed on the field and met and painted re-enactors from all over the country.  He told me the most memorable moment he experienced, was the sound of taps played by a distant bugler coming from the direction of Devil’s Den.  The mournful sound floated across the still fields, and then all was silent again.  It was eerily affecting.

     Marty was an accomplished water-color artist and his paintings won awards around the country.  They include the New England Watercolor Society’s “Original Creative Thought” award; Texas Watercolor Society “Award of Excellence; Purple Sage Distinction,” and inclusion of his work in the Adirondacks six-month National Traveling Exhibition of American Watercolors.

     After he returned from one such show in Pittsburg, my wife asked him what he thought of her hometown.  He was a westerner and he told us it was the number of trees back east that most impressed him.  “I’m from Nevada,” he would say, “If we see two trees standing together its woods, three trees is a forest.”

His married friends frequently invited him over to dinner because he was such good company. At our house he always brought his sketchbooks along, which were detailed travelogues of the places he’d been and people he’d met. Over a beer or two he would narrate stories with the turn of each page.  There were sketches of waitresses he befriended at his favorite hangouts.  There were preliminary studies for paintings with color notations with close up details.  His favorite subjects were the fruit stands and orchards along highway 126 in Ventura County, California; the ranches and mountains in the Owens Valley and Eastern Sierras along highway 395; and the ranches up near Sierra City in Northern California.  He did some paintings of Chinatown, and one sketchbook was filled with drawings created during a family trip to Western Europe.  He gave my wife and I a painting done near Bishop, California, because it was one of our favorite places.  His work and his sketchbooks were inspiring.  His sudden departure from the world shocked all his friends.

     The cryptic e-mail I received in March 2004 nearly knocked me out of my chair.  Marty simply wrote to tell Susan and I he had A.L.S., it was terminal, and he was moving back home to Reno. 

     He came back to Los Angeles a couple of times to gather up his things and sell off what he didn’t need.  On one of these return trips his roommates threw him a going away/moving out party.  Since they were animation people, always joking, the cake was thoughtfully adorned with the touching sentiment “Get Out You Bastard.” Marty loved the joke, and his friends loved him.

     Before the disease robbed all his mobility he decided to travel.  Some of his friends accompanied him to Hawaii.  His friend Brian shared Marty's passion for baseball and took Marty on a whirlwind tour to New York, Boston and Chicago.  Marty was a huge Yankees Fan.  They visited the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, and saw games at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Chicago’s Wriggly Field.  The Red Sox won the series that year.  Brian said it was because Marty, a life long Yankees fan went to Fenway, and cheered the Red Sox; but only that one time.

Marty kept painting as long as he could but the disease spread rapidly, affecting his right side first, and he soon lost the ability to wield a pen or brush.  It effects different people at different speeds. It went quickly through Marty.  His family provided him with a comfortable home and as attentive care as anyone could give.

     “My father is a doctor,” he used to say, “my two brothers are doctors; my sister married a doctor; I’m the black sheep of the family, I became an artist.”  His devoted friends remained loyal to the end. His parents carefully recorded the names of the many visitors that came from all over the country to see him. Beginning in the Spring of 2005 his best friends Ernie and Dan traveled from Los Angeles to Reno every other weekend.  His friend Brian went up on the weeks in between. When things got worse they made weekly visits together.  The visits were a chance to cheer Marty but also help the family care for him.  They brought him to movies, museums, for drives in the country and played board games out in the front and back yards.  He laughed at them for keeping him out so long one afternoon he got sun-burned.  My wife and I went up twice in the summer. The first time we visited the train museum in Carson City.  The second time we hung out at his house telling him about our recent trip to Antietam Battlefield, Harper’s Ferry and the Shenandoah Valley.  On the first visit, Marty asked me to take all his Civil War Books.  He had a large library and told me, “All the art books are spoken for, but no one wants the literature or history books.”  I was a bit reluctant to take them, because there were so many, but he insisted. “I want someone who cares about them to have them,” he said. There were four or five boxes of books, several of them classics in the field.  It was then that I realized he knew a great deal more about the Civil War than he ever let on.

We last saw Marty in late July 2005, he died a month later at age 42.  In September his family organized a remembrance service at the Nevada Museum of Art giving his friends a last chance to gather together with family and say good bye.

His friends still miss him.  The lucky ones have a painting or two hanging on the walls of their homes.  I think of him every day.  I often fact-check Civil War articles I’ve written for the website and find myself consulting one of the many books in my library inscribed “received from Marty Scully, February 10, 2005.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

John Brown's Raid, Part V

Of the resources I’ve discovered, I’d recommend the book “John Brown, 1800-1859” by Oswald Garrison Villard, Houghton Mifflin, 1910; as the best objective detailed and accurate source for the Harper’s Ferry Raid.

When John W. Garrett, President of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, got news of the raid the morning of the 17th he wired President Buchanan to send troops.  President Buchanan dispatched the militia of Frederick, Md., at once, then summoned Lieutenant-Colonel Robert E. Lee of the 2nd US Cavalry to Washington, from his home at Arlington. The only troops in Washington were 90 US Marines at the Navy Yard, commanded by Lieutenant Israel Green.  Buchanan ordered them to the Ferry. Buchanan informed Garrett of the deployments, but Garrett doubted the President had sent enough men to suppress the raiders reported to number 700 insurgents.  At 1:30 the President and the Secretary of War, met  with brevet Colonel Lee and ordered him to proceed to the Ferry to command all troops.  James Ewell Brown Stuart, or ‘Jeb’ Stuart, of the 1st US Cavalry was assigned as Col. Lee’s aide.  The two men left Washington by special train in the afternoon and rolled toward Harper’s Ferry.

Captain Thomas Sinn
At dusk the marines were still en route, but three companies of Frederick Militia had arrived, commanded by Colonel Robert Baylor.  More militia arrived in the night; a company from Winchester, Va. and 5 companies from Baltimore that bivouacked at Sandy Hook a mile from the Ferry.  In the early evening Captain Thomas Sinn of the Frederick Militia went to the engine house to talk with Brown, who was still using the alias ‘Captain Smith.’  Brown retreated to the building the afternoon of the 17th during his battle with local militia.  His small band of followers and captives were exhausted.  Brown repeated his demands for safe passage across the river.

He complained to Captain Sinn his men had been shot down like dogs in the street while carrying flags of truce.  Sinn indignantly replied that men who take up arms in such a way must expect to be shot down like dogs.  Brown replied that “he knew what he had to undergo before he came there, he had weighed the responsibility and should not shrink from it.”  Brown said his terms deserved consideration for he had treated his captives well, refrained from massacring citizens when he had the power to do so, and that his men did not shoot any unarmed citizens.  Captain Sinn informed Brown that Mayor Beckham was unarmed when killed.  For this, Brown expressed deep regret.  Brown mentioned the mortal wounds of his two sons.  His talk impressed Capt. Sinn who went to the Wager House and sent surgeon Dr. Taylor to the engine house to tend to young Watson Brown’s wounds.  The Dr. told John Brown he would return in the morning to follow up with the patient.

Captain. Sinn noted his disgust with the citizens about town, many hopelessly drunk, shouting threats and firing guns into the air.  He found several men taunting the severely wounded prisoner Aaron Stevens, leveling guns in his face and threatening to shoot him dead. But there was a mysterious power of will about Stevens who bravely lay motionless and stared down his tormentors.  Capt. Sinn drove the mob from the room shouting “if this man could stand on his feet with a pistol in his hand, you would all jump out of the window.”

Escape of Anderson & Hazlett
Two of the raiders made a miraculous escape from Harper’s Ferry. Osborne Anderson and Albert Hazlett had been posted by Brown at the Federal Arsenal building on the Ferry Lot.  During the afternoon they must have quietly hid out somewhere in the building.  Anderson claimed they escaped on Tuesday but that would have been impossible. It is generally believed they snuck out of the building at nightfall when all eyes were on the engine house.  From there Anderson wrote, they made their way along the Shenandoah River until they could climb the hill above the town. They laid low for another 3 hours.  Then they returned to town and found a boat along the Potomac River and crossed into Maryland.  The escape was an incredible accomplishment considering the number of troops and excitement in town.  They did make their way back to the Kennedy Farm from where they might track down their friends.

Night-time at the Engine House
There was no light over at the engine house, all was intensely dark.  The cold air chilled the inhabitants; some sprawled on the floor with painful wounds, others leaned against cold walls anxiously waiting the grey dawn.  Writer Oswald Garrison Villard described the scene, “Near his brother Watson lay quietly breathing his life away. Stuart Taylor shot like Oliver in the doorway of the engine house lay dead near by. There were left alive and unwounded but 5 men, J.G. Anderson, Dauphin Thompson and Shields Green,   Edwin Coppoc, and John Brown.”

Over in a corner, Oliver Brown was moaning in intense pain, begging his father to shoot him and end the suffering.   After repeated requests Brown coldly replied “Oh you will get over it, and if you must die, die like a man”

So Oliver suffered in silence. His father called to him after a time. No answer. “I guess he is dead,” said Brown.

Prisoner John E. P. Dangerfield spoke with Brown in the night, telling him he had committed treason against the country in the name of his cause.  Two of Brown’s men overheard this and asked their Captain if this was true.  “Certainly,” Brown replied.   Somehow this surprised the two raiders and they both exclaimed “If that is so, we don’t want to fight any more. We thought we came to liberate the slaves and did not know that that was committing treason.”  But it didn’t matter now, they were both killed in the morning.  The tired raiders had not slept for over 60 hours.  From time to time John Brown broke the silence of the night and called out, “Men are you awake!”

The Marines Arrive
Col. Lee’s train met up with Lt. Green’s Marines at Sandy Hook, Md. at 11 p.m.  They immediately marched to the town a mile away.  Lee closed all the saloons. The marines supervised the militia guarding the engine house.  At 2 A.M. Lee conveyed his plan of attack to Stuart.  Terms of surrender would be tendered to the raiders at dawn.  Expecting them to be refused, a signal would launch a team of handpicked men to storm the engine house and break open the doors.  Bayonets were to be used in the attack to protect the prisoners.  The storming party was cautioned to carefully distinguish the raiders from the hostages.

During the early morning hours Lee offered the honor of leading the attack to Colonel Shriver, of the Frederick Militia.  Shriver refused noting his men had families at home. He told Lee “I will not expose them to such risks.  You men are paid for doing this kind of work.”  Colonel Baylor also declined the honor for the same reasons. Lt. Green of the marines however, gladly accepted the honor of “taking those men out” as Lee put it.  Tipping his hat Lt. Green gave Col. Lee his sincerest thanks.

Taking the Engine House
At dawn, in front of 2,000 spectators, Col. Lee, dressed in civilian clothes, stood on a slight elevation 40 feet away and commanded the proceedings.  Lt. Jeb Stuart approached the engine house and summoned Brown.  The door opened four inches.  Brown leaned into the crack clutching a cocked carbine in his hands.  Stuart immediately recognized ‘Capt. Smith’ as Osawatomie Brown of Kansas.  Stuart presented Col. Lee’s terms:

“Headquarters, Harper’s Ferry,
October 18, 1859

Colonel Lee, United States army, commanding the troops sent by the President of the United States to suppress the insurrection at this place, demands the surrender of the persons in the armory buildings.

If they will peaceably surrender themselves and restore the pillaged property, they shall be kept safely to await the orders of the President.  Colonel Lee represents to them, in all frankness, that it is impossible for them to escape, that the armory is surrounded on all sides by troops; and that if he is compelled to take them by force he cannot answer for their safety.

Colonel Commanding United States Troops.”

 The parlay was a long one.  Brown repeatedly argued his case in different ways, but in the end all the same; safe passage for his armed men and their hostages across the river.  Stuart refused.  The hostages pleaded with Stuart to bring forth Col. Lee.  Stuart refused, anxiously anticipating the moment to signal Green to attack.  He assured the citizens and Brown that Col. Lee would never accede to any terms but those offered.

Then Stuart stepped to one side and waved his hat.   Twelve marines led by Lt. Green and Major W. W. Russell charged the engine house. Three men smashed at the heavy doors with sledge hammers.

Inside Brown remained cool and calm. “He felt the pulse of his dying son with one hand and held his rifle with the other,” said Col. Washington.  “Sell your lives dearly,” he instructed his men.

Spotting a heavy ladder nearby, Lt. Green ordered his men to use it as a battering-ram.  The second blow splintered a small ragged hole in the lower part of the right hand door.  Brown emptied his carbine, and his men fired too.  The blasts did no harm.  Green immediately crawled through the small opening.  “Getting to my feet, I ran to the right of the engine, which stood behind the door, passed quickly to the rear of the house, and came up between the two engines. The first person I saw was Colonel Washington who was standing near the hose cart, at the front of the engine house.  On one knee, a few feet to the left, knelt a man with a carbine in his hand, just pulling the lever to reload.”  (photo by Craig Swain; 150th anniversary re-enactment).

“This is Osawatomie,” said Col. Washington, calmly pointing to Brown.

To paraphrase author Oswald Garrison Villard:
“Green sprang at Brown lunging at him with his light sword and brought him to his knees.  The sword bent double in stinging Brown’s belt or a bone; taking the bent weapon in both hands, Green showered blows upon Brown’s head, which laid him flat and brought the blood.”  Witnesses thought Brown’s skull was split.

Private Luke Quin followed Lt. Green through the hole in the door.  A shot fired and brought him down.  The man behind Luke was shot in the face.  The rest jumped over their fallen comrades in no mood for mercy. Lt. Green said, “They came rushing in like tigers… They bayoneted one man skulking under the engine and pinned another against the rear wall.  … I ordered the men to spill no more blood.  The other insurgents were at once taken under arrest and the contest ended. The whole fight lasted not over three minutes.”


The eleven prisoners “were the sorriest lot of people I ever saw.  They had been without food for over 60 hours, in constant dread of being shot, and were huddled up in the corner where lay the body of Brown’s son and one or two others of the insurgents who had been killed,” said Green.

An accident of chance saved Brown’s life. When Lt. Green rushed from his quarters to leave for the Ferry the previous day, he had strapped on his light dress sword by mistake. His regulation sword would have killed Brown.  “The flimsiness of his blade permitted his enemy to live to thrill half a nation by his spoken and written word,” so wrote Villard.

Brown was carried to the armory paymaster’s office where his wounds were tended and found not to be as serious as they appeared.  The bodies of those killed in the fort were lined up outside the armory. Jerry Anderson who had been pinned against the wall didn’t die immediately. He vomited blood and writhed in pain on the brick outside the engine house. His face and body were kicked by angry spectators.  A farmer walked past him, disappeared a while then returned.  The farmer said “It takes you a hell of a long time to die.”  Then he spit a wad of tobacco into Anderson’s face.   Another raider’s body was stuffed into a too small barrel and taken away by some men to a medical school in Winchester.

Watson Brown was made comfortable but was beyond medical help. He lingered 20 hours before dying.  Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppoc, and Shields Green were prisoners and would stand trial with their leader.

The Ones That Got Away
Of the seven raiders who escaped Harper’s Ferry, Albert Hazlett was captured. He and Osborne Anderson traveled together directly north from the Kennedy Farm on main roads until Hazlett claimed the blisters on his feet were slowing them down. He urged Anderson to go ahead.  Anderson made his way to safety. Hazlett was captured at Newville, PA, Oct. 22nd and sent to Charlestown, Va. to stand trial with the others.  John E. Cook, Charles, Tidd, and the 3 men who remained at the Kennedy Farm during the raid, had proceeded on a north westerly course through the mountains hoping to reach Western, PA.  Cooke had been successful in obtaining food for the party at a farmhouse, but when he boldly tried a second time in Chambersburg, PA, he was recognized and captured for the $1,000 reward money on his head.  His captors came to like Cook, and regretted their actions, but it was too late.  He also was sent to Charlestown to stand trial.  Five escaped.

Henry A. Wise, Governor of Virginia arrived at the Ferry after the Engine House was captured.  He met with Brown and upon his return to Richmond said of him:

“And they are themselves mistaken who take him to be a madman. He is a bundle of the best nerves I ever saw cut and thrust and bleeding and in bonds. He is a man of clear head, of courage, fortitude and simple ingeniousness. He is cool, collected indomitable, and it is but just to him to say that he was humane to his prisoners as attested to me by Colonel Washington and Mr. Mills, and he inspired me with great trust in his integrity as a man of truth. He is a fanatic, vain and garrulous, but firm, truthful and intelligent. His men, too, who survive, except the free negroes with him, are like him.”

At his trial, Brown’s eloquent speech and calm demeanor captured a nation.  Before he was executed he prophesied: “All of you people of the south, prepare yourselves for a settlement of this question. You may dispose of me very easily, I am nearly disposed of now; but this question is still to be settled – this negro question I mean.  The end of that is not yet.”

The day of his execution he handed his jailor a prophetic note:
 “I John Brown am quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land:  will never be purged away; but with blood.  I had, as I now think; vainly flattered myself that without verry much bloodshed it might be done.”

End Note
The raid foreshadowed the Civil War.  Two years later, in September, 1861, 16 men of Company I, 13th Massachusetts Volunteers, would appropriate the bell of the Engine House to send home as a souvenir of their visit to Harper's Ferry and the famous landmark, 'John Brown's Fort.'

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

John Brown's Raid, Part IV

The purpose of detailing John Brown’s Raid on this blog is to define for readers what happened at Harper’s Ferry and why the bell from the Engine House was such a significant symbol to the men of Company I, 13th Massachusetts who secured it in 1861 and eventually brought it home to Marlborough.

By 10 A.M. the morning of October 17th, armed citizens were taking pot-shots at the raiders in town. At mid-day the first militia companies arrived and drove Brown’s men from the 2 bridges they were holding. Watson Brown and Stuart Taylor abandoned the Shenandoah Bridge near Hall’s Rifle Factory and ran to join Brown’s main force on the Ferry Lot in the lower town. This left Brown’s captain John Henri Kagi with his two men at Halls Rifle works cut off and surrounded. All morning Kagi, and Aaron Stevens, Brown’s two most experienced military captains had urged Brown to retreat across the Potomac. Brown hesitated and no one really knows why. Many credit his hesitation to disappointment over the reactions of the ‘freed’ slaves to his raid. All morning he confidently asserted to Conductor Phelps and his captives, that he expected as many as 1500 men to flock to his rebellion. At mid morning Will Thompson and Will Leeman returned from the rendezvous point in Maryland, and reported none had come so far. When pikes were distributed at the Armory to slaves ‘freed’ by the raiders, the response was tepid. Witnesses reported the slaves were confused and even fearful when Brown asked them if they had ever heard of ‘Ossawatomie Brown.”. Col. Washington’s coachman Jim, however, took whole-heartedly to the rebellion and fought like a tiger. Whatever the reason, Brown’s waffling was fatal. By noon it was too late to retreat from the town; the raiders were surrounded.

The Charlestown militia formed three companies on Boliver Heights above the town and strategically deployed to surround the raiders. The first company, Captain William H. Moore commanding, crossed the Potomac in skiffs a mile west of the town and hurried down the Maryland side of the river to capture the Potomac Bridge; Will Thompson, Oliver Brown, and Dangerfield Newby were driven out. The second company under Capt. Botts came down Boliver Heights and took possession of the Shenandoah Bridge. The raiders guards Watson Brown and Stuart Taylor fled to the Armory Grounds. Bott’s militia then proceeded north to the Galt Saloon, near the Potomac Bridge and the Wager House (train station). The third company of militia commanded by Captain John Avis took positions in the houses and hills along High street across from the Armory Grounds.

Dangerfield Newby is Killed

Raiders Oliver Brown and Will Thompson escaped from the Potomac Bridge amidst a hail of shot. Their comrade Dangerfield Newby was killed leaving the bridge. A sharpshooter’s shot from the direction of High Street struck him in the neck creating an unusually large and ghastly wound. He died instantly. Newby had joined Brown’s raid with the dream of liberating his wife and children; slaves living about 30 miles south of Harpers Ferry.

Rumors spread that the raiders were abolitionists. Angry citizens dragged Newby’s dead body into an alley and horribly mutilated it. A Maryland journalist wrote his ears were cut off and his genitals. The crowd poked sticks into the wounds, kicked the corpse and shoved the body into a gutter where wandering hogs devoured it with gusto.

Meanwhile Brown calmly readied his men to resist the coming charge of the militia crossing the bridge. With the sword of Frederick the Great strapped to his side Brown lined his men in the Street, and walked amongst them giving orders, “Men be cool. Don’t waste your powder and shot, take aim and make every shot count. The troops will look for us to retreat on their first appearance be careful to shoot first.”

Osborne Anderson, the one raider who survived, continued to describe the scene:
“The troops soon came out of the bridge and up the street facing us, we occupying an irregular position. When they got within 60 or 70 yards Brown said ‘Let go upon them!’ We did when several fell. From marching in solid columns they became scattered, left several dead on the field and beat a retreat to bridge.”

Will Thompson is Captured
Following the brief stand off Capt. Moore’s company retreated to the Bridge and the Wager House; Brown’s men rallied near the Armory gate. With his escape route blocked Brown determined to negotiate. He sent out a messenger to request a cease fire and safe passage to Maryland. About 12:30 Raider Will Thompson accompanied by hostage Rezin Cross approached Captain Moore on the Potomac Bridge under a white flag of truce. Cross was to negotiate on behalf of his captors. The militiamen ignored the flag of truce, freed Cross, captured Thompson and confined him to a 2nd story room at the Wager House. Meanwhile Brown’s messenger sent to Kagi at Hall’s Rifle Works was cut off en route. He was going to tell Kagi to hold on for just a little longer. But it was too late for Kagi and his men.

Watson Brown is Mortally Wounded
After a while Brown wondered what had happened to Thompson and Cross. Archibald Kitzmiller, acting Armory Superintendent, and one of Brown’s prisoners offered to investigate. Brown accepted and sent Kitzmiller out to parlay under another flag of truce. Raiders Aaron Stevens and Watson Brown accompanied Kitzmiller. But the citizens were in no mood to negotiate. They hollered for Kitzmiller to step aside and peppered the raiders with bullets. Watson Brown was shot in the bowels. He dragged himself back to the engine house where he eventually bled to death hours later. Stevens dropped seconds later shot twice by Saloon Keeper George W. Chambers; once in the side and once in the breast. The citizens would have served Stevens the same way as Newby where it not for the interventions of one of Brown’s captives. Mr. Brua ran out and pleaded that Stevens life be spared. His efforts saved the badly wounded raider who was carried to the Galt Saloon and given medical attention. Mr. Joseph Brua returned to Brown.

William Leeman is Killed
William Leeman, age 20, Brown’s youngest soldier, had had enough of the raid and wanted to get away. He convinced Brown he could swim the Potomac and get a message to Cooke to hurry along with reinforcements. At about one o’clock he attempted to cross the river just above the Potomac Bridge. He was spotted and a dozen shots were fired at him as he ran toward the river. A witness described his death. “He partially fell, but rose again, then threw away his gun, drew his pistols and tried to shoot, but both of them snapped. He then unsheathed his bowie-knife, cut off his accoutrements, and plunged into the river. George Schoppart, one of the Virginia militia waded in after him.” Frantically seeking safety Leeman reached a rock in the river then turned and threw up his hands to surrender. “Don’t shoot!” Schoppart ignored Leeman’s plea and deliberately shot Leeman in the face. He “blew it into bloody fragments.” Leeman’s body remained on the rock all afternoon and was repeatedly riddled with bullets, serving as target practice for individuals and whole companies of militia.

Shoot Out at the Rifle Factory
About the same time Leeman was killed Kagi’s party at Hall’s Rifle Works met their end. Between 200 and 300 men armed with Sharps Rifles and revolvers, took up strategic positions around the Factory. One party of militia under Captain Henry Medler crossed the Shenandoah Bridge and took up positions facing the Rifle Factory on the Loudon side of the river. Another group posted near the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. Dr. Starry organized and sent forward a party to storm the rifle works under command of a young man named Irwin. At the first fire, Henri Kagi, Lewis Leary and John Copeland scrambled out the back door of the building and ran toward the Winchester & Potomac Railroad. They climbed up onto the railroad bed but were turned back by the militia posted there. They headed for a large flat rock in the stream. Not less than 400 shots were fired upon them. Kagi went down in the river, killed instantly, his body floated away. Lewis Leary was mortally wounded, shot in the breast and the stomach. Copeland made it to the rock and tried to shoot James M. Holt who was following after him. But his gun was wet and wouldn’t fire. Holt tried to shoot Copeland but his gun was also wet. Trapped, Leary surrendered just as Holt clubbed him with a pistol. Copeland was dragged ashore where an angry mob prepared to lynch him. Dr. Starry rode up and positioned his horse between Copeland and the mob to prevent the hanging. The Dr. continued to keep the crowd back until police arrived and escorted Copeland to a safer place. Leary was brought ashore and taken away a prisoner. Leary lingered 12 hours from his painful wounds before dying.

Death of George Turner and Mayor Beckham
As if the wild, hollering, uncontrolled, half drunken militia men hanging out at the Wager House and Galt House saloons needed more encouragement, the death of two prominent citizens roused them into a vengeful fury. Two armed men were standing in the midst of High Street when two raiders suddenly appeared around the corner and fired. A bullet struck George W. Turner in the neck. Turner, a very respected land owner had come to town after getting news of the raid and the capture of his friend Col. Lewis Washington. He was in the act of aiming his rifle from a porch fence when hit. It was thought by many that he was struck by accident because of the irregular path of the bullet. Turner died 45 minutes later. One of the bystanders, Mr. John McClean fired at Brown’s retreating men. His bullet struck the cartridge box of one of them, igniting a fireworks display as the man crossed the armory gate. Another esteemed citizen was killed soon after this.

Harper’s Ferry kindly and popular Mayor, Fontaine Beckham, was a magistrate, B&O railroad agent and best friend to Shephard Hayward, the porter shot on the bridge the previous night. All morning, from his railroad ticket office Beckham warned citizens to stay out of harms way until the danger had passed. In the meantime he looked after Hayward who died at noon. The death grieved him very much. About 3 o’clock, against his friends wishes he decided to see for himself the town’s invaders at the Armory. He crept along the railroad trestle towards a water tower opposite the engine house. To Edwin Coppoc sitting in the doorway of the watch-house, a small room adjoining the fire-engine room, Beckham appeared to be maneuvering for a position to shoot. Brown’s 18 year old prisoner Thomas Allstadt reported, ““Now Mr. Beckham went behind the water tank and began peering around its corner, as it might be to take aim. If he keeps on peeking, I’m going to shoot,” said Coppoc from his seat in the doorway. I stood close by him. Mr. Beckham peeked again and Coppoc fired but missed. “Don’t fire, man, for Gods sake! They’ll shoot in here and kill us all,” shrieked the prisoners from behind . But Coppoc was already firing again. This shot killed Beckham. Undoubtedly he would not have been fired upon but for his equivocal appearance. Coppoc fired no more from the watch-house, in fact no one remained in sight.”

Oliver Brown is Mortally Wounded
No one was visible from the watch-house but in the engine room next door, Oliver Brown spied someone peering over the stone wall of the railroad trestle carefully aiming a rifle. Oliver raised his gun and fired from the half open doorway, but was instantly struck in the abdomen by the sniper’s bullet. He sprawled on the floor with a painful mortal wound that would keep him in agony for 12 hours.

The Mob’s Revenge; Thompson is Executed
Coppoc’s shot killed Mayor Beckham instantly. The enraged half-drunken crowd at the bridge took their revenge on captured raider Will Thompson. Saloon Keeper George Chambers and Beckham’s nephew, Henry Hunter, led an angry mob to the 2nd story room of the Wager House were Thompson was confined. They barged into the room and leveled their guns at Thompson. Miss Christina Fouke, the hotel owner’s sister, threw herself in front of Thompson and begged them not to shoot, “Leave him to the laws, ” she pleaded. Thompson was seized by the throat and dragged from the room. ‘Though you may take my life, 80,000 will rise up to avenge me,” he exclaimed, “and carry out my purpose of giving liberty to the slaves.”

Chambers and Hunter carried Thompson to the railroad trestle, put their pistols to his head and fired. Before his body hit the ground it was riddled with bullets. His corpse was shoved into the river and pelted with more bullets. Like Will Leeman’s body on the rock in the Potomac, Will Thompson’s body in water near the bridge was used as target practice the rest of the day. Historian James Barry reported Thompson’s ghastly corpse could be seen at the bottom of the river for a day or two after the raid.

The crowd stomped to the Galt Saloon to serve prisoner Aaron Stevens the same way. But something unexplainable kept them back. One account says it was Stevens’s powerful, defiant stare. Another version said Stevens’ severe wounds spared him the wrath of the mob.

Mayor Beckham’s untimely death freed 5 slaves. He had purchased slave Isaac Gilbert, his wife and 3 children for the purpose of liberating them. He was amidst the legal process of doing so when killed. His will set them free.

Martinsburg Militia Attack the Engine House

Directly following Beckham’s shooting a swift and bloody attack from the west drove the rest of Brown’s men into the engine house for keeps. Captain E. G. Alburtis advanced his Martinsburg Militia, mostly B&O Railroad employees, from the rear of the armory grounds towards the engine house cutting off Brown’s last escape route. A few men from Harper’s Ferry and Charlestown joined the assault.

Most of Brown’s hostages were confined, unguarded, in the small watch-room which took up 1/3 of the structure. Brown herded eleven select prisoners into the adjoining fire engine room. He told them “Gentlemen perhaps you wonder why I have selected you from the others. It is because I believe you to be more influential; and I have only to say now, that you will have to have precisely the same fate that your friends extend to my men.”

The militia, armed with shot-guns and pistols, charged the raiders at close range. The outnumbered insurgents defiantly fought back with Sharps Rifles. During the fight Capt. Alburtis’s men discovered the prisoners in the unguarded watch-room. Several men ran to the building, smashed open the windows and called forth thirty to forty hostages who fled to safety. Overwhelmed, Browns insurgents were all driven into the adjoining fire engine room. They barred the doors and cut holes in the masonry to fire their rifles. Bullets pelted the side of the building and the doors, glass shattered into the room but the raider’s constant fire proved too deadly for Capt. Alburtis, who fell back with heavy casualties. Eight of his party received dangerous and bloody wounds during the scrape.

Alburtis said, “Had the other companies come up we could have taken the engine house then. Immediately after we drew off, there was a flag of truce sent out to propose terms which were that they sought to be permitted to retire across the river with their arms, and I think proceed as far as some lock on the canal, there to release their prisoners. These terms were not acceded to, and having understood that the US Marines and a number of troops from Baltimore were on their way, nothing further was done except to establish guards all around to prevent the desperadoes from escaping. We had a small piece of cannon, which we proposed to bring to bear on the engine house but were directed not to do so on account of endangering the prisoners.”

The flag of truce may have been carried by Mr. Israel Russel, one of Brown’s captives, who according to Joseph Barry, volunteered to negotiate a late afternoon cease fire between the insurgents and the militia. Mr. Russell did not return to captivity.

Following Alburtis’s attack two companies from Shepherdstown arrived and took positions near the Shenandoah Bridge.

Cooke and Tidd
Back in Maryland at the schoolhouse, John Cooke heard the shooting at the Ferry and became anxious for his friends. At 4 o’clock Charles Tidd returned from the Kennedy Farm with the second wagon load of arms to be unloaded. With Tidd present to guard the schoolhouse Cooke and a black companion hurried towards the town, two miles distant, to investigate. He met some friends at the lock house a mile below the Ferry who told him the raiders were all hemmed in and several had been shot. They warned Cooke he would be shot if he returned there. Cooke left the lock house and hurried down the road where he met 2 boys who repeated the warning. Troops from Charlestown, Martinsburg, Hagerstown and Shepherdstown had surrounded the raiders. This information panicked Cooke’s black companion who returned to the schoolhouse to inform Tidd of the dire situation at the Ferry.

Cooke continued toward Harper’s Ferry, then climbed the hill opposite the town to get a good look at the situation. He peered across the river and saw men on High Street firing down upon Brown’s men at the Armory. To draw their attention, Cooke climbed a tree, carefully aimed his Sharps Rifle and fired. His shot had the desired effect. The men on High Street redirected their fire at Cooke ½ mile across the river. For a few minutes the guns blazed away at each other until a bullet suddenly severed the branch Cooke was leaning on. He fell 15 feet and crashed to the ground. Cut and bruised he limped back to the school house to re-join Tidd and the other 3 raiders that had remained in Maryland. With their friends beyond help these men returned to the Kennedy Farm and planned their escape. The slaves they had liberated soon deserted them.

As the sun set, Colonel Robert W. Baylor arrived at Harper’s Ferry from Frederick, Maryland with 3 regular militia companies, the first uniformed troops on the scene. Col. Baylor assumed command of all the militia.

As night fell the regular militia picketed the engine-house. A citizen, Samuel Strider tied a handkerchief to his umbrella and delivered a summons to John Brown to surrender. Brown’s reply requested safe passage for his men and hostages, with all their arms, their horse and harness, across the river, at which point he would release his prisoners. Col. Baylor denied Brown’s request refusing to allow any hostages to be moved out of town.

At dark the militia waited for the arrival of the Marines steaming towards Harper’s Ferry on a special train sent from Washington. The raiders settled down in the cold dark engine house to await their fate.

October 17th was a bloody day. October 18th would be a bloody morning.