“The Terror of the Rebels Along the Coast”

dutch-promoOne evening in the spring of 1863, a detachment of Union sailors moved stealthily across the grounds of a South Carolina plantation. 35-strong and heavily armed, they were attracted to the estate by a report of rebel activity. Before long they surprised a picket of nine Confederate cavalry and captured them after a brief fight.

The bluejackets served on the Kingfisher, a sleek bark that operated in and about the Sea Islands below Charleston. Her commander, 42-year-old John Clark Dutch, enjoyed a sterling reputation in these parts — and this exploit added to his luster.

Read more about his life and times.

Dutch’s story appears in the December 2015 issue of the Civil War News.

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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.

Captured on Patrol

beville-collageFrancis Bartow Beville of Savannah, Ga., suffered a severe wound that ended his combat service at the First Battle of Manassas. Still willing to serve, he joined the Confederate navy and wound up enduring great privations as a prisoner of war. His story was just published in the Civil War News. An excerpt:

On July 21, 1861, during the First Battle of Manassas, Bartow was shot and killed as he led a desperate charge against a Union battery. Casualties in the Eighth were heavy, and they included Beville. A minié bullet struck him on the right side of the chest below the collarbone. His comrades carried him from the battlefield and a surgeon operated to cut the Yankee lead out of his back. Beville recuperated from his wound in a private home in Richmond. Nerve and muscular damage limited motion to his right arm and hand, and he received a discharge from the army before the end of the year.[i]

No longer able to perform in combat but still eager to serve, Beville found a way back into the military and a return to his Savannah home: In early 1862 he received an appointment to the navy as a midshipman and was assigned to the formidable casemate ironclad Atlanta. Here he received basic training on active duty—the Confederacy would later establish a naval school ship in Richmond for this purpose.

Meanwhile, the Union blockade choked the life out of the Southern economy and slowed the flow of supplies to the Confederacy military. Savannah was no exception. Desertions by soldiers and sailors increased, including one trio that escaped into the marshes below Savannah on or about March 14.

Read his full story.

Unmasking a Rebel Battery at Freestone Point

mcglensey-montageJohn Franklin McGlensey graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1861, and three months later the 19-year-old was in command of a navy vessel in the Potomac River. His story is the subject of my latest “Faces of War” column, which runs in the Civil War News. An excerpt:

The rebels raised their flag and replied with a barrage from their big guns. They kept up a rapid fire into the afternoon. At some point during the action, the federals observed a small launch anchored in front of the battery. Midshipman McGlensey ordered the Murray in and captured the craft. The bold move drew fire from the Freestone battery, but the crew of the Murray managed to secure the launch and tow it away. “She accomplished it without any injury to herself or those on board,” noted Lt. McCrea.

Read the rest of McGlensey’s story.

Washington Post Reports on the Chandler Tintype Donation

chandlerReporter Mike Ruane wrote about the unusual photograph of Andrew Martin Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry and family slave Silas in today’s Post. The image was donated to the Library of Congress by Tom Liljenquist, who learned about the image from my book, African American Faces of the Civil War. The image originally appeared on a 2009 segment of PBS Antiques Roadshow.

The Antiques Roadshow segment was brought to my attention by Richert Salondaka, with whom I became acquainted when my wife, Anne, and I lived in Northern California back in the late 1980s and early 90s. I remember Richert noting that this has got to be in my book! he was right. I tracked down the owner of the photograph, and eventually obtained permission to publish it in African American Faces.

Since then, the photo has appeared on PBS History Detectives, and it continues to be the subject of conversation about slavery and the Confederacy.

Now it is in the Library of Congress—and it belongs to the American people.

An excerpt from Ruane’s story:

Liljenquist bought the photograph from descendants of Andrew Chandler on Aug. 15 and immediately gave it over to the library. “I owned it for about 10 minutes,” he said last week.

He declined to say how much it cost or identify the owner. But five years ago, on the “Antiques Roadshow” television program, the picture was said to be worth $30,000 to $40,000.

In an interview at the library, he said the photo captured “two remarkable young men … (who) look very sincere, maybe a little bit scared, maybe not.”

Read the full story.

On to Washington!

This circa 1861 carte de visite by Kornell W. Beniczky of New York City pictures an unidentified private in the 71st New York State Militia with knapsack and buff accoutrement belts.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
On to Washington!

Ranking Sergeants of Company G

austinThe Civil War was two months old on June 14, 1861, when these New Yorkers left their camp in Bethlehem, N.Y., and posed for their portrait brandishing weapons and an air of confidence. 3rd Sgt. Luther Lee Partridge, 4th Sgt. Andrew Christie Bayne, 1st Sgt. John Henry Austin, and 2nd Sgt. Edwin O. Betts all served in Company G of the Sixteenth New York Infantry, and they had mustered into the Union army a month earlier at Albany. All four men resided in De Peyster, a hamlet located in the far north of the Empire State. Although each man held the rank of sergeant, none had yet received the chevrons that denote their rank.

Four days after they had this picture taken, the ranking sergeants of Company G and the rest of their regiment left for Washington, D.C.

The Sixteenth spent the rest of its two-year term of enlistment in the South. It fought briefly at the First Battle of Bull Run, and suffered heavy losses during the Peninsular Campaign and at Crampton’s Gap during the Antietam Campaign. The regiment was held in reserve during the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg, and returned to action to fight in the Chancellorsville Campaign.

The regiment mustered out of the army on May 22, 1863, and the losses were tallied: 112 were killed or mortally wounded, and 84 died from disease and other causes.

All four of these men survived.

Luther Lee Partridge (1838-1881) was wounded on May 3, 1863, in the fighting at Salem Church, Va., during the Chancellorsville Campaign.

Scottish-born Andrew Christie Bayne (1841-1893) enlisted the Veteran Reserve Corps after he left the Sixteenth and advanced to the rank of captain by the end of the war. He then joined the regular army and remained in uniform until 1871.

John Henry Austin (1835-1913) became second lieutenant of Company G a few months after sitting for this portrait, and mustered out with most of his comrades on May 22, 1863.

Edwin O. Betts was reduced to the ranks on September 29, 1862, and remained in Company G until the end of its enlistment.

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

Mississippi River Blockader

Engineer Albert J. Kenyon sits in profile in this carte de visite portrait by Janson & Adams of Santiago, Cuba. Appointed to the navy from New York in 1861, Kenyon served on the vessels Chippewa, Neptune, and Richmond during the Civil War. As an engineer with the crew of the wooden steam sloop Richmond, he participated in the Mississippi River blockade, including successful operations against Vicksburg and Port Hudson. He continued in the navy after the war, and died in 1888.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Mississippi River Blockader

A Navy Officer in one of the First Amphibious Operations of the Civil War

Lt. John F. McGlensey, a Pennsylvania-born, 1860 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, started the Civil War on duty at the Washington Navy Yard. Later in 1861, he joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In this capacity he participated in the capture of Port Royal, S.C., on November 7, 1861. The engagement was one of the earliest Union amphibious operations. He survived the war and remained in the navy until his retirement in 1893. He died in Washington, D.C., three years later.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Navy Lieutenant at Port Royal