“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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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.

Border State Girl

A young lady stands before the camera with one arm resting on a table upon which rests her bonnet. The remains of a revenue stamp on the back of the mount dates this carte de visite to 1864-1866, which was taken by Elrod Bros. of Lexington, Ky. Her name is lost to history, and it is not known if she had brothers who may have fought for the North and South.

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

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

Among the First Union Men to Occupy Confederate Richmond

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry is the best known of all the African American regiments in the Civil War. Some are aware that another African American infantry regiment, the 55th, was also organized in Massachusetts.

There was also an African American cavalry regiment formed in Massachusetts—the 5th. It was one of the first Union regiments to occupy Richmond on April 3, 1865, after the city was evacuated. Among the white officers of the regiment who entered the Confederate capital that day was the young man pictured here, 1st Lt. Patrick Tracy Jackson Jr.

His carte de visite is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Among the First Union Officers to Occupy Richmond

This sketch of his life was published on pages 39-40 of the Harvard College Class of 1865:

PATRICK TRACY JACKSON, the oldest son of Patrick Tracy Jackson second of the name and Susan Mary (Loring) Jackson, was born in Boston, December 19, 1844, and died at Pride’s Crossing, Beverly, October 12, 1918. He was educated at the schools of Miss Ware, Mr. Sullivan, and Mr. Dixwell, where he distinguished himself in the athletics proper to his age.

The Civil War breaking out just before he entered college at once became the principal interest in his life, and after an abortive attempt to go to the front with the New England Guards to defend Washington during the retreat of General Banks in the Shenandoah Valley, he showed that he was in earnest by volunteering on the hospital ship Daniel Webster in his freshman vacation.

Toward the end of his sophomore year, he received a commission as Second Lieutenant in the First Mass. Cavalry, and joined the army during the battle of Chancellorsville. In the march from Chancellorsville to Gettysburg his regiment had only five hours sleep a day for a week, and once he was in the saddle for twenty-five hours without rest. In his entirely unacclimated state he was unable to bear such fatigue and was sent home with typhoid fever before the Battle of Gettysburg. When he returned to the front, he went through an active campaign with the Army of the Potomac for more than a year. Then he accepted a commission as First Lieutenant in the Fifth Mass. Cavalry (colored). After spending some time in guarding rebel prisoners at Point Lookout, Maryland, the regiment was sent to the front, and was one of the first to enter Richmond. After the fall of the Confederacy he was sent to Texas to guard the Mexican frontier for fear of trouble with Maximilian. When at last he got away from the army, he went into business with his father in the Hampden Mills, manufacturing ginghams and other cotton goods, and after learning the business in the mill at Holyoke, entered the office in Boston. The mill failed in 1875, and he and his father started business as cotton buyers. After his father’s death the firm, which now included his son, Arthur, took a commanding position in the buying of Egyptian cotton in the Boston market.

In 1871 he married Eleanor Baker Gray; and they had four children: Patrick Tracy Jackson, Arthur Loring Jackson, Susan Loring Jackson (who married John Noble) and Frederick Gray Jackson. He lived in Cambridge until 1917 when he moved to the Hotel Vendome, Boston, for the rest of his life. He took part in the social and dramatic activities of the Executive Committee of the Unitarian Church there. He was also treasurer of the Boston Provident Association (a charitable society) and an enthusiastic member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.

His summers were passed at Pride’s Crossing where his classmates Goddard and Tweed gave him many opportunities to gratify his strong love of yachting. For many years he was treasurer of the Eastern Yacht Club.

Toward the end of his life he did a great deal of travelling, his first journeys being to South America, to Para in Brazil and later to La Paz in Bolivia, to see his son, Arthur, who was buying rubber in those places. Later he and his wife went abroad every spring, after the cotton-buying season came to an end, returning in the summer before it began again. In this way they visited the principal countries of Europe. War was declared just as they had started for home on a German steamer, which was the last to reach America.

After they were cut off from Europe, they took journeys to the South and to California. In 1918 trouble with his heart developed with at last fatal results, but it interfered little with his occupations or amusements in the half-year before his death, which came instantly on the 12th of October, 1918,—an easy end of a happy and useful life.

The Unpublished Diary of John Freeman Shorter, 55th Massachusetts Infantry

photo 1Today I will be visiting the offices of the National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington to deliver the diary pictured here. It was kept by 2nd Lt. John Freeman Shorter in 1865—his last year with the 55th Massachusetts Infantry and the last of his life. Shorter, who is descended from Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings, through her daughter (and Sally Hemings’s sister or half-sister) Betty Brown, died of disease a few weeks after he returned to his home and fiancé in Ohio.

I spent three months working on the diary, with the help of my wife Anne and several friends who were truly generous with their time: Julie Baker, Susan Sukys Evanko and Phyllis M. Sukys. The transcription would not have been completed without their efforts.

photo 2The diary was purchased by Tom Liljenquist earlier this year at a Civil War show. He and I will make the visit to the Museum to formally donate the precious volume today.

Shorter was in a South Carolina hospital recovering from a crippling foot wound he suffered at the Battle of Honey Hill, S.C., on November 30, 1864. His daily entries record visits by comrades, friends and dignitaries including Martin Robison Delany. Shorter describes his recovery, notes wounded and sick soldiers from Sherman’s army arriving at the hospital during the march through the Palmetto State, the surrender by Gen. Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the assassination of President Lincoln.

Each entry averages 30-35 words, and starts with a description of the weather before noting details of the day. Shorter does not share his feelings, and I can’t help but wonder if he intended someday to write a memoir of his wartime experience with this diary as a reference to remind him of day-to-day activities.

His last full entry was recorded on Friday, September 22, 1865. It is a typical entry, lacking punctuation and capital letters:

the morning clear and
pleasant quite a
number of the Officers
went to Boston on
business, nothing going
on on the Island
worthy speaking
is written a letter
to my Father
reported that the
paymaster is by
command Paying off the
Regiment in the
morning

This sketch of his life and service appears in the regimental history, Record of the service of the Fifty-fifth regiment of Massachusetts volunteer infantry:

RMC2006_0011John Freeman Shorter was born in Washington, D.C., in the year 1842. His father was for a long time messenger in the United-States Senate. At the time of his enlistment, Lieut. Shorter was working as a mechanic in Delaware, Ohio. With few early advantages, he had acquired by hard study a good English education. In the spring of 1863, hearing of the organization of the Massachusetts regiments, he left home, and joined the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, then recruiting at Readville. June 24, 1864, he was appointed First Sergeant of Company D. In this position, he proved himself to be an excellent Orderly. Quiet, reserved, modest, he yet held his company in the firmest control. With every soldierly quality, from scrupulous neatness to unflinching bravery, he well merited the reputation of the best non-commissioned officer in the regiment. As such, he was selected for the first promotion from the ranks, and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant by Gov. Andrew, March 24, 1864. The department commander (Brig. -Gen. John P. Hatch) refused him a discharge as Private and muster as Lieutenant, because ” men of African descent could not be commissioned in the United-States Volunteers ! ” While occupying the anomalous position of an officer commissioned and not yet mustered, he was wounded in the foot, at Honey Hill, S.C., Nov. 30, 1864. By this wound he was so severely crippled, that, when the Secretary of War finally decided to recognize colored line-officers, a special order was necessary to authorize his remuster. Notwithstanding this wound, he continued on duty with the regiment after returning from the hospital, and was finally mustered as Second Lieutenant, July 1, 1865. When the Fifty-fifth returned to Massachusetts, he accompanied them, and was discharged with his company, Aug. 29, 1865. He set out directly for Delaware, Ohio, where the young lady resided to whom he was engaged to be married. On the way, he was exposed to the contagion of the small-pox, which his constitution, weakened by wounds, could not resist ; and, soon after arriving at his destination, he died of varioloid.

The officers and men of the regiment will retain him in very pleasant and honorable remembrance. In person he was tall, of muscular build, with head carried a trifle forward, hair light, complexion almost white, and blue eyes, whose lively expression brightened a face otherwise somewhat grave. He was very reticent ; but his few words were crisp, earnest, and to the point. A thorough soldier and a thorough man, he earned and worthily filled the grade to which he was promoted, and amply justified the friendship of the officers of the regiment and the State authorities of Massachusetts, who had urged upon the United-States Government the justice and the policy of the final recognition of the rights of his race, implied in opening to them promotion from the ranks.

Participated in the “Powder Boat” Affair

Iowa-born and Oregon raised Roswell Hawks Lamson (1838-1903) graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1862. He was promoted to lieutenant, and commanded the gunboats Mount Washington, Gettysburg and Wilderness. In the latter vessel, he participated in the December 1864 attempt to destroy Fort Fisher using a boat loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder. The “powder boat” exploded, but did not damage the fort.

Lamson sat for this carte de visite in the Napoli, Italy, studio of Fratelli Alinar of Napoli. He resigned from the navy in 1866, and returned to Oregon.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/8026096@N04/14054414882/

New to My Collection: A Girl and Her Best Friend, 1864 or 1865

A young girl who wears a cross around her neck cradles a doll in her arms. On the back of the mount is pasted an internal revenue service stamp that has been hand cancelled with the date “Oct 9.” As these stamps were used by the government to pay for the war from September 1864 to September 1866, this photograph can be dated to October 9, 1864 or 1865.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
A Girl and Her Best Friend, 1864 or 1865