Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

There came a moment during the Aug. 5, 1864, Battle of Mobile Bay when Rear Adm. David Farragut’s most powerful warships went up against the Confederate ironclad ram Tennessee.

The Hartford, Brooklyn and Richmond lined up abreast and bore down on the Tennessee, hell bent on taking her out of action.

The Richmond’s crew included one of the navy’s youngest officers, Philip Henry Cooper, pictured here, center. A recent Naval Academy graduate, he had served aboard the Richmond for about a year.

Cooper and his shipmates, and the crews of the other two Union vessels, traded shot and shell with the Tennessee for more than an hour before the rebel ram called it quits and raised the white flag.

The crew of the Richmond was lucky—no casualties and minimum damage. For Cooper, it was the beginning of a long career in the service of the navy that included cruises around the globe and stints on the staff of his alma mater. He posed for this carte de visite with two of his comrades, Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Tracy and a secretary named Procter, during a South American cruise about 1866-1868.

Cooper retired as a captain in 1904 and died in 1912 at age 68.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Taking on the Rebel Ram Tennessee

Blasting Fort Wagner into Sand Heaps

kenyon-collageMy latest Faces of War column in the Civil War News profiles navy officer Albert J. Kenyon. An excerpt:

Hours before the 54th Massachusetts Infantry and other federal infantry assaulted Fort Wagner, S.C., on July 18, 1863, the Union navy launched a furious bombardment. Six ironclads steamed to within 1,200 yards of the fort and unleashed hell on the garrison. Shell after shell belched from the fiery mouths of the big guns in the turrets of the metal monsters to soften the position, which was critical to the rebel defenses of Charleston.

Read on!

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 Plot to Kill Jeff Davis

kingstonSamuel Tilden Kingston, an assistant surgeon in the Second New York Cavalry who accompanied his comrades on the ill-fated Kilpatrick Raid against Richmond, is the subject of my latest contribution to the New York Times series Disunion. Kingston rode with a 500-man column commanded by Col. Ulric Dahlgren, who was killed in action. Papers reportedly found on his body ordered the assassination of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet. Kingston fell into enemy hands when he remained behind with wounded troopers. He was sent to Libby Prison and condemned to death as a felon. An excerpt:

Dahlgren’s body, which had been unceremoniously dumped in a muddy grave near the place he fell, was disinterred and put on display in Richmond. “Large numbers of persons went to see it. It was in a pine box, clothed in Confederate shirt and pants, and shrouded in a Confederate blanket,” reported The Richmond Whig on March 8, 1864.

While this circus played out on the streets of the capital, Kingston and his white cellmates were informed that they had been condemned to death as felons for their role in the alleged assassination attempt. “This news appeared to have a very depressing effect on Dr. Kingston,” noted Lieutenant Bartley, a fellow prisoner.

Kingston’s cough and cold worsened, and he lost his appetite. On March 21, as he lay near death, the Confederates removed him from his cell and sent him North. He survived the trip home, and with good food and care came back to life. He eventually returned to the regiment, was promoted to full surgeon, and served in this capacity until the end of the war.

Read the rest of the story.

Book Talk at Reynolds Community College

ghazala-ronI’m overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of the fine team at Reynolds who made last night’s book talk a reality. Heartfelt thanks to Lisa, Ashley, and especially my good friend Ghazala Hashmi (pictured here). The friendship Ghazala and I share extends all the way back to high school, and I’m so happy to reconnect with her after so many years. She and I caught up over dinner at a local Thai restaurant before the talk.

The event took place in the Massey Library auditorium on campus and was well attended. I was delighted to see a number of young faces in the audience, and applaud the teacher who gave one group of high school students extra credit for attending the presentation. I was also impressed with the raffle—four copies of “African American Faces of the Civil War” were given away, and another four copies of the book written by the author who will appear at the next event. In all the talks I’ve participated in, the book raffle is a first.

All of this happened on my birthday, and at the end of the presentation, event coordinator Lisa Bishop stepped up to the podium and asked everyone to wish me a happy birthday on the count of three. That was icing on the cake!

After the event, we all walked out into the lobby of the library for refreshments and a book signing. I met and signed books for a number of attendees, including Wendell, a teacher who planned to use the book in his class.

Great day!

Never the Same After His Capture

Samuel Tilden Kingston, it was said, was not the same man after Confederates captured and imprisoned him in Richmond’s Libby Prison. The assistant surgeon of the Second New York Cavalry, he fell into enemy hands on March 1, 1864, during Union Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s failed raid on Richmond. Kingston was locked up in a basement dungeon of Libby and treated harshly by his captors. Conditions turned from bad to worse when papers ordering the assassination of Confederate President Jefferson Davis were reportedly discovered on the body of Dahlgren after he was killed.

Kingston was released after a short time in confinement, and he later returned to his regiment. He survived the war and became a physician and druggist in Oswego, N.Y. According to a document in his pension file, Kingston was “a very odd & peculiar person.” His wife also noted that he was peculiar with respect to arranging his financial affairs. Kingston died in 1889 at age 53.

This image is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Never the Same After His Capture

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