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

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Injured in the First Charge at Vicksburg

John Caskey Hall (1842-1907) served in the 16th Ohio Infantry from 1861 to 1864, during which time he worked his way from a private to sergeant in Company C. He fought in the June 3, 1861, Battle of Philippi, W.Va., considered by some as the first land battle of the Civil War.

Hall went on to participate in the Vicksburg Campaign. He suffered a concussion in the May 19, 1863, assault on the formidable defenses of Vicksburg—the first of two failed attacks by the Union army that prompted Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to ay siege to the fortress city.

Hall also served in the 102nd Ohio Infantry.

After the war he returned to his home in Wooster, Ohio, where he operated a coal business. He wed in 1874 and started a family that grew to include a daughter and two sons. His wife died in 1897, and he remarried.

This image by Reeve & Watts of Columbus, Ohio, is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Injured in the First Charge at Vicksburg

A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp

browne-detailThis carte de visite (below, and detail, right, with a period engraving) by Dennis & Fry’s Photographic Gallery of Cincinnati, Ohio pictures New York Tribune journalist Julius Henri Browne. According to a period ink inscription on the back of the mount, he posed for this portrait soon after his escape from prison in Salisbury, N.C., and arrival inside Union lines on January 14, 1865—after twenty months in captivity.

An account of his wartime activities, Four Years in Secessia: Adventures Within and Beyond the Union Lines, was published in 1865. The flowery narrative makes this a challenge for the contemporary reader, although it is filled with marvelous detail and observation from an eyewitness who traveled with federal soldiers and sailors. The density of the book is perhaps one reason why journalist and author Peter Carlson wrote a new book, Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy (2013).

“Albert” is Albert D. Richardson of the Tribune, who was captured with Browne as they attempted to run the batteries and Vicksburg in 1863. A third reporter, Richard T. Colburn of the World, also fell into enemy hands. The trio fancied themselves part of the “Bohemian Brigade,” a group of journalists who operated in the war zone.

One of my favorite passages in Browne’s Secessia is an anecdote that recounts Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s reaction when he learned that Browne, Richardson and Colburn were missing and at the time presumed dead:

“We were all reported lost, we learned afterward; though General Sherman’s humorous comment, when apprised that three of the Bohemians had been killed—‘That’s good! We’ll have dispatches now from hell before breakfast.’”

Browne’s description of the events leading up to his capture is worthy of note and typical of his writing style. In this excerpt, he and his Bohemians are riding on a tugboat with hay-stacked barges on the Mississippi River:

Every moment we thought a shot might wreck our expedition; but in the occasional pause of the artillery, as I have said before, we could detect the rapid puff, puff, puff of the little tug, which was a sure sign that we still floated.

Suddenly a huge crash by our side, of wood and iron. A deep a heavy and peculiar report. A rush of steam, and a descending shower of cinders and ashes that covered our persons.

We heard the puff of the tug no more; but in its place went up a wild yell which we had often heard in the front of battle—shrill, exultant, savage; so different from the deep, manly, generous shout of the Union soldiers, that we knew at once it was the triumphant acclamation of our cruel foe.

The boiler of the tug had been exploded by a plunging shot from one of the upper batteries. The shot was accidental, but extremely effective. It wrecked our expedition at once. After passing through the boiler, the shell exploded in the furnaces, throwing the fires upon the barges and igniting the loose hay immediately.

“The play is over,” said Richardson; “Hand in your checks, boys,” exclaimed Colburn; “A change of base for the Bohemians,” remarked the undersigned; and we glanced around, and heard the groans and sharp cries of the wounded and scalded.

We rushed forward to try and trample out the flames, but they rose behind us like fiery serpents, and paled the full-orbed moon, and lit up the dark waters of the Stygian river far and near.

The Rebels, who had ceased firing for a moment, now bent themselves to their guns once more, and the iron missiles swept over and around us, and several of the soldiers on board were wounded by fragments of bursting shells.

Every one was now bent on saving himself. A few of the privates and some of the tug’s crew plunged madly overboard, with fragments of the wreck in their hands, and in three minutes none but the wounded and the journalistic trio remained on the burning barges.

We threw the bales of hay into the river for the benefit of the wounded and those who could not swim—for we had early learned Leander’s art—and then arranged our own programme.

Richardson went off first on a bale of hay, from which a large round-shot, passing near, and dashing a column of spray into the air just beyond him, soon displaced his corporeality.

Colburn followed; and I, seeing my field of operations hemmed in by rapidly advancing fire, answered his summons, dived, after divesting myself of all superfluous clothing, into the aqueous embrace of the father of Waters.

Several bales of hay were floating below, but I swam to the one nearest Colburn, and there we concluded to get beyond the town and pickets, and then, striking out for the Louisiana shore, make our was as best we could back to the army.

The Rebels had then ceased firing—certainly not for humanity’s sake, we thought—and the reason was patent when we heard the sound of row-locks across the water.

The chivalrous whippers of women were evidently coming to capture us.

My companion and myself believed if we kept very quiet, and floated with our faces only out of the water, we would not be discovered.

A yawl full of armed men passed near us, and we fancied we would escape. Like the so-called “Confederacy,” we waned to be let alone.

Just as we were internally congratulating ourselves, a small boat darted round the corner of the burning barge, and we were hauled in by a couple of stalwart fellows, after the manner of colossal catfish, without even the asking of our leave.

In fifteen minutes were were under guard on shore, where we found our collaborateur Richardson safe and sound.

About half our small crew had been killed and wounded,and the rest were prisoners.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
A New York Tribune Journalist After His Escape from a Confederate POW Camp

The Day the War Stopped

The commander of the Union gunboat Albatross, John Elliot Hart was a native New Yorker who began his navy career in 1841 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1847. During the Civil War, he was attached to the West Gulf Squadron, where he served on several ships in and about the Mississippi River. He took charge of the Albatross in October 1862 and served in this capacity in June 1863 when he was stricken with yellow fever. On June 11, 1863, he committed suicide with a revolver in his cabin.

His brother officers knew that Hart was a Mason and determined he should have a burial that honored his membership in this organization. They took the body ashore the next day under a flag of truce and arranged a funeral service with Confederate Masons in St. Francisville, La.

Beginning in 1999, St. Francisville marked the event with a festival and called it “The Day the War Stopped.” The festival is still held today.

His likeness is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Day the War Stopped

Dakota County in the Civil War

crooksThe Dakota County Historical Society’s latest newsletter includes an article about the Minnesota county in 1863. The article touches on regional conflicts with Native Americans, and among the illustrations is a photograph of William Crooks from my collection. Crooks served as the colonel of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry. In this excerpt, Col. Crooks toasts Gen. Henry Hastings Sibley. The toast was recounted by a correspondent for the St. Paul Pioneer with the nom de plume INVALIDE:

To the far west of Dakota County, Sibley’s Indian Expedition was encamped at Camp Hayes at the “Great Bend” of the Sheyenne River during the Fourth of July. That evening, as reported by INVALIDE, Sibley and his staff as well as the field and staff officers of the different regiments of the Expedition, were invited to dine together at the headquarters’ mess tent. Colonel Crooks offered a toast to the health of the Brigadier General Commanding. Sibley replied saying: “I trust there is no gentleman present, or in this camp who would shrink from any sacrifice needed to accomplish the proposed objects of this expedition. For myself, I am not only willing to make any personal sacrifice, but am determined so far as I am concerned. I will endeavor to execute to the utmost of my ability, the important trusts developed to me. I shall take no backward step that I can avoid, until I secure Little Crow and his band of murderers.”

No one knew at the celebratory dinner, or could have known, that Little Crow had been shot and had bled to death the day before in Minnesota. Sibley would not have his prize.”

Lieutenant Rogers Recovers Captured Guns at Gettysburg

rogers-groupThe exploits of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his Twentieth Maine Infantry at Gettysburg are well known among those with an active interest in the Civil War. Far less known however is the story of another Maine unit, the Sixth Battery, First Light Artillery, and its role in stopping the Confederate juggernaut in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard about the same time Chamberlain and his troops were fighting nearby on Little Round Top.

The story of Lt. William H. Rogers and the rest of his battery at Gettysburg is the subject of my latest “Faces of War” column in the Civil War News.

An excerpt:

The fighting in the vicinity of the Peach Orchard during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a Union artilleryman’s nightmare. Advancing Confederates had torn into the poorly positioned Union Third Corps and ripped it to shreds. The destruction of the federal line at this critical point uncovered a wide a dangerous gap in their front. Onrushing rebels plunged into the void and drove shattered ranks of federal infantry back, leaving artillery batteries unsupported and exposed.

Read the full story.

He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut

The back of this carte de visite of Richard Starr Dana and William Starr Dana by an unidentified photographer is dated October 1863, which coincides with 20-year-old Ensign William S. Dana’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. Less than a year later, Dana numbered among a small group of officers who received a formal thanks from Admiral David Farragut for the destruction of the blockade runner Ivanhoe, which was chased aground by federal warships near Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay. On July 6, 1864, Dana commanded one of several small boats that attacked the Ivanhoe in a daring nighttime raid. Dana and his comrades managed to set the stranded boat afire while hundreds of Union sailors and soldiers observed the action. “The entire conduct of the expedition was marked by a promptness and energy which shows what may be expected of such officers and men on similar occasions,” announced Farragut with evident pride.

Dana went on to a distinguished career in the navy, and rose to the rank of commander.

In 1884, he married botanist and political activist Frances Theodora Parsons (1861-1952). Their marriage was relatively brief, as Dana died in Paris, France, on January 1, 1890.

Three years later, writing under the name “Mrs. William Starr Dana,” Parsons’s How to Know the Wild Flowers was published. Considered the first field guide to North American wildflowers, the book was an instant best seller.

His image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
He Received a Formal Thanks from Admiral Farragut

New Jersey’s ‘Mutinous’ 33rd

toffeyNow available on New York Times Disunion is the story of John James Toffey and how he came to receive the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry when he saved a skirmish line at Chattanooga.

An excerpt:

The order to begin what came to be known as the Battle of Orchard Knob (or Indian Hill) was given about 3:30 a.m. Toffey recalled, “We were ordered to charge a very strong position on the extreme right of the rebel line. It was well fortified and surrounded by dense woods, while in front there was an open field over which we had to charge.”

Confederate infantry and sharpshooters concealed themselves in the woods and in rifle pits dug into the banks of Citico Creek, and arranged themselves under cover of a railroad bridge and nearby buildings.

The Southerners opened up a murderous fire almost immediately after the 33rd started forward — no more then 20 paces according to one account. Rebel lead struck the Jersey boys with deadly accuracy. The Confederates, Toffey noted, “were directing their attention to the officers.”

Read the full story.

I first wrote about Toffey in my 2004 book, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories.

Jack Hines Faces Capture at Chickamauga

hinesThe story of how escaped slave John “Jack” Hines came to join the all-white Fifteenth Pennsylvania Infantry, and his later escape from Confederate attackers at Chickamauga. An excerpt:

He and Company K, along with two other companies from the Fifteenth, were assigned as an escort to the headquarters of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who commanded the Army of the Cumberland. A West Pointer who had performed admirably at the Battle of Stones River nine months earlier, he was familiarly known as “Old Rosy.” His flowery nickname belied his punctilious and downright testy nature.

During the two-day Battle of Chickamauga, Rosecrans’s headquarters was a beehive of activity. According to the historian of the Fifteenth, Hine’s comrades were “actively engaged during the whole of this memorable fight, remaining almost constantly saddled. Dispatches of the most vital importance were entrusted to the men by the Commanding General, his staff not being able to take all the messages; all of which were promptly delivered, under circumstances of appalling danger.”

During the second day of the battle, after Confederates under the command of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet broke through the Union lines and threatened headquarters, Hines and the rest of headquarters found themselves unexpectedly in the thick of the action.

Hine’s profile appeared in this month’s print issue of the Civil War News. It is now available on my blog.

Fighting Across the Rappahannock

charles-clarkThe story of Charlie Clark and his experience in the brilliant, brutal affair at Rappahannock Station, Va., is the subject of my latest New York Times Disunion post. This profile would not have happened without Andrea Solarz, who is Charlie’s great-great granddaughter. She generously shared from his unpublished diaries and letters.

An excerpt:

“Charlie Clark basked in the warmth of a budding romance on a cold autumn day in 1863. His friend and fellow lieutenant in the Union Army, Solomon Russell, had fallen for a Southern belle in war-torn Virginia. On the morning of Nov. 7, 1863, the officers left their camp in Warrenton to call upon her. They made their way to the home of the widow Rosina Dixon and found the focus of Russell’s desire: the 15-year-old Anna. Whatever words passed between the Yankee officer and rebel maiden went unrecorded, though Clark referenced the encounter years later in his reminiscences, noting that Russell “was deeply in love” with Anna.”

Read the rest of the story.