Crisis in Pensacola

m2My latest profile in the Civil War News Faces of War series is Confederate navy officer William Thomas Morrill. An excerpt from his story:

By early January 1861, mechanic W. Thomas Morrill, pictured here, and other employees of the Pensacola Navy Yard in Florida were caught in a humanitarian crisis. They had not been paid for two months—the result of civil unrest that disrupted the flow of money and materials to military outposts in the Southern states as the country drifted towards civil war. Hunger became a real and present danger.

Morrill had a wife and two infants to feed. Many of his fellow workers also had families to support and no relief was in sight. On January 8, the workers rallied at a mass meeting at a Masonic hall in Warrington, a village outside the walls of the Yard.

They appointed a committee who promptly met with the commander of the Yard and requested that provisions be issued in lieu of pay. The sympathetic officer in charge, Cmdr. James Armstrong, acted promptly to relieve their sufferings. Flour, sugar, rice, coffee and butter were distributed on January 10—the same day Florida legislators voted by a wide margin to secede from the Union.

Read the rest on Medium.

 

The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

Union officer Charles H. Shepley had loaded revolvers on countless occasions. But on March 21, 1862, something went horribly wrong. Shepley was loading it when it suddenly discharged. In one awful moment, a lead slug tore through him.

Shepley was no stranger to firearms. Back in 1856, soon after he and his family had relocated from Vermont to Chicago, 15-year-old Shepley joined the National Guard Cadets, a militia group formed by Col. Joseph R. Scott. The organization was taken over by the young and charismatic Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth soon after and turned into a crack drill team that toured the East. They were met by throngs of cheering citizens impressed with the discipline and precision of Ellsworth, Shepley and the rest of the boys.

When the war started, Shepley became an officer in the 19th Illinois Infantry, a regiment originally commanded by his old senior officer, Col. Scott. This was in the spring of 1861. Shepley started out as a second lieutenant in Company K and soon advanced to captain.

Sent to the South, the 19th was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tenn., when the accident happened. “While quietly engaged in loading his pistol, the weapon suddenly discharged itself, the ball passing into and nearly through his body, producing a fatal wound. He lingered till early on the morning of the 23d, when, despite all the surgical skill and kindly attention out forth on his behalf, Capt. Shepley was compelled to yield up his young life while bright hopes and well-merited honors were clustering around him.”

There’s more. “He had often expressed to his fellow soldiers a desire that if he must lose his life in the war, it might be his privilege to die on the battlefield, rather than in camp or on picket duty. But that wish was not to be gratified; and yet those best acquainted with him know that he died none the less a hero than if his life had been taken by the hand of the enemy amid the carnage of battle.”

His story can be found in Martyrs and Heroes of Illinois.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

One of the Most Important Civil War Names You’ve Never Heard

The gent standing is David B. Parker and his military service began like so many other young Northerners. In 1861 he enlisted as a private in his hometown company. It became part of the 72nd New York Infantry, shipped out to the South and joined the Army of the Potomac.

This is where the similarity to other soldiers ends. In June 1862, Pvt. Parker was detailed as a mail agent in his regiment’s division, which was commanded by Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker. He was appointed to handle the mail not because he was a poor soldier, but because he was a energetic and possessed a gift for cutting through red tape and making things happen. Before long Parker ran the entire mail service for all of the Army of the Potomac.

Thanks to Parker, mail delivery went virtually interrupted no matter where the army was—Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, the front lines of Petersburg and Appomattox Court House. The work he did kept up the morale of the men as the letters and packages from home flowed into camp literally without interruption.

His career after the war was stellar, including many years of association with most of the Presidents of the U.S. and Bell Telephone.

He died in 1910. Two years letter, his memoir, A Chautauqua Boy in ’61 and Afterward, was published. In it, Parker tells his story and includes anecdotes of the top Union leaders with whom he was associated, including generals George G. Meade and U.S. Grant, and President Abraham Lincoln. For example, here’s one I have not heard about Gen. Meade: “General Meade went to the Adjutant General’s office, which was a Sibley tent, and opened the flap to stoop and enter, as a soldier, who was building a fire in the stove and taking up ashes, was coming out. The pan of ashes struck General Meade’s breast and covered him. he showed a very irascible temper and cursed the soldier roundly. All that I saw of General Meade afterwards, however, was a reserved courtly gentleman. He was not personally popular with his staff officers, but no one could criticize his conduct or his patriotism.”

Parker, standing, is pictured here with Capt. Charles E. Scoville of the 94th New York Infantry. Another photo, from Parker’s memoirs, shows him in uniform as a lieutenant, the highest rank he obtained in the army. Officially he was acting assistant quartermaster for the Army of the Potomac responsible for mail delivery.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
One of the Most Important Civil War Names You've Never Heard

He Saved the Union

If you believe that the fighting at Little Round Top on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg prevented the Union army from being destroyed by the Confederates, and that this act set up Pickett’s Charge on the third and final day of the engagement, then you might reasonably argue that you live under the Stars and Stripes today in part because of this man.

Pvt. Peter L. Quant of the “People’s Ellsworth Regiment,” also known as the 44th New York Infantry, hustled into position along the crest of Little Round Top on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. He and his comrades in Company K and the rest of the regiment, along with other hastily organized Union troops, stopped the Confederate juggernaut in its tracks.
A 29-year-old farmer from Montgomery, N.Y., when he enlisted during the summer of 1861, Quant survived numerous engagements with the 44th, including the Seven Days’ Battles, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He also made it through Gettysburg without injury.

His luck ran out the following year. On July 7, 1864, along the front lines of Petersburg, a Confederate bullet found its mark. Critically injured, Quant languished in a hospital at City Point, Va., until he succumbed to his wounds on July 24.

Quant did not live to see the States reunited.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
He Saved the Union

Pioneer Signal Corpsman

The Signal Corps was in its infancy during the Civil War, and among the pioneers who played a critical role relaying orders and messages that kept the Union military moving forward was Loring Robbins (1841-1925). His service ranged from the warships Ellen and Sebago from 1862-1863 to working with army in the Department of the Gulf from 1864-1865. In the latter situation he posed for this photograph in New Orleans. A native of Massachusetts, he’s buried in North Auburn, Maine.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Pioneer Signal Corpsman

 

“A. Manley. Peacock”

This inscription can be found on the back of the mount of this photo of an unidentified Union officer by Mathew Brady. Also inscribed is “For Dr. Stanton.”

The image was once part of an album that included other photos inscribed to Dr. Stanton. The photos were portraits of officers who served in the Army of the Potomac—14th Connecticut Infantry, 14th Brooklyn Infantry, 8th Illinois Cavalry, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry and 24th Michigan Infantry. Other images include surgeons and various hospital personnel.

One theory is that the men in the album were all patients of Dr. Stanton, who may have been Surg. Joshua Otis Stanton. According to one source, “He entered the military service in June, 1862, as acting assistant surgeon and served in and about Washington till February, 1865. In 1864 he was appointed surgeon of the First New Hampshire Cavalry, but declined on account of ill health. In February, 1865, he was appointed surgeon of the United States Veteran Volunteers and attached to the provost-marshal general’s bureau and served till October of that year.”

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
"A. Manley. Peacock"

Vigilant Defender of Washington

The letter, number and crossed cannons attached to this soldier’s cap and the photographer’s back mark offer the biggest clue to his identity: He served in Company F of the 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery. Organized in the late summer and early fall of 1864, Company F reported to defenses of Washington and stood guard in expectation of Confederates that never materialized. Two of the regiment’s companies, A and B, were formed a year earlier. Both were present in the Capital’s defenses when Jubal Early’s rebel army attacked on July 11-12, 1864, and with other federals successfully repulsed the invaders.

This image by Reeve & Watts of Columbus, Ohio, is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Vigilant Defender of Washington

Early Defender of His Homeland

montageLt. John Grimball was in the Civil War from the Star of the West incident in January 1861 through the surrender of the Shenandoah in November 1865. His story is featured in the current issue of Civil War News. An excerpt:

Later that year he reported for duty to the Shenandoah. Grimball and his shipmates hunted Yankee merchant ships on the high seas during a yearlong cruise. Their exploits inspired Southerners during the waning months of the Confederate nation and prompted Northerners to brand them pirates. The Shenandoah continued to operate for months after surrender of the gray armies and dissolution of the government. The crew had heard rumors of the downfall of the Confederacy but had no confirmation of it.

“We were now the only Confederate cruiser afloat, and as we continued our course around the world, passing from ocean to ocean, meeting in turn ships of various nationalities, I always felt that whenever our nationality was known to neutral ships the greetings we received rarely warmed up beyond that of a more or less interested curiosity, and while we had many friends ashore who were most lavish and generous in welcoming us to port, underlying it all there appeared to exist a wish of the authorities to have us ‘move on.’”

Read his full story.

Hunting and Fishing Party

A young lady rests her hand on the antler of a young buck presumably shot by the derby-clad gent who stands with his rifle. The rest of the party gathers around a hammock. Their number includes a man seated at the far right with a fishing pole and wicker basket. The fish he caught may be those being tied by a servant to a tree in the background.

Taken by photographer L.P. Case of Champlain, N.Y., the presence of a tax stamp on the back of the mount dates this view from 1864-1866.

I am drawn to Civil War period cartes de visite of outdoor scenes displayed horizontally, and this new addition to my collection is nicely composed.

This image by Reeve & Watts of Columbus, Ohio, is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Hunting and Fishing Party