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

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

Fraternity Boy in the 72nd Illinois Infantry

Elisha J. Morgan Jr., a founder of the Chi chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity (closed 1988), enlisted as a private in the 72nd Illinois Infantry in the summer of 1862. The regiment spent the majority of its three-year enlistment in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. It was heavily engaged in numerous operations, including the May 22, 1863, assault against the defenses of Vicksburg and the 1864 Battle of Franklin. Morgan survived the war and mustered out as captain of Company K in August 1865.

His portrait, a gift from Photo Sleuth columnist Kurt Luther, is much appreciated. I’ve written about another officer in the regiment, Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wright. His story, “The Last 15 Feet at Vicksburg,” appeared in Disunion.

This image is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Fraternity Boy in the 72nd Illinois Infantry

Two Officers Strike a Pose of Authority

This carte de visite by prolific Tennessee photographer Theodore M. Schleier pictures two Union officers with muddy boots. They stand with swords drawn, a signal of authority over enlisted men. They are identified only as “Capt. Martin” and “Lt. Kile.”

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Two Officers Strike a Pose of Authority

Lookout Mountain Sentry

A federal private is seated on Lookout Mountain, his hat laying beside him. This spot was a favorite for soldiers, families and others touring the Chattanooga battlefield during the Civil War, and continues today.

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

Wood Meets Iron at Mobile Bay

langer-montage2nd Asst. Eng. Philip Joseph Langer of the Union gunboat Monongahela is the subject of my latest profile in “Faces of War” from the Civil War News. An excerpt:

Philip Langer braced for impact. The wooden sloop-of-war on which he served, the Monongahela, was only yards away from ramming the rebel ironclad ram Tennessee in the waters of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864.

The Tennessee fired its guns into the approaching Monongahela at this critical moment. Two shells fired from her ports crashed into the Monongahela’s bow. One shell tore into the wood siding near the prow and lodged in the berth deck. The other ripped through the berth deck where Langer and others stood firm. It exploded and sent iron fragments, splinters of wood and other debris through the air. The crew was thrown violently to the floor.

Then the Monongahela struck her prey full force amidships. The blow, according to a news report, caused “the huge rebel monster to reel like a drunken man.”

Read the full profile.

Five Federals in Nashville

morse-stampThis carte de visite of five well-manicured and impeccably dressed soldiers was taken in the studio of A.S. Morse, a prolific photographer affiliated with the Union Army of the Cumberland.

The absence of shoulder straps on their coats indicates that these men were privates, and a hand-cancelled revenue stamp with Morse’s initials on the back of the photograph’s mount dates the image from 1864-1866.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Five Federals in Nashville

New to My Collection: On the USS Ossipee at Mobile Bay

New to my collection is this carte de visite of William Wingood Jr. by B.P. Paige of Washington, D.C. Wingood left his home in Rockport, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1862 and joined the Union navy as an ensign. Authorities assigned him to the wooden screw sloop Ossipee. The warship and its crew steamed to the Gulf of Mexico, where it captured a number of vessels attempting to run the blockade. In March 1864, the Ossipee joined the fleet of Adm. David Farragut for the invasion of Mobile Bay. On August 5, 1864, the Ossipee passed safely by the enemy forts that guarded the mouth of the bay. The ship and crew steamed into the bay and participated in the ensuing naval battle, and is best known for its role in bringing about the surrender of the Confederate ironclad ram Tennessee to surrender.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
On the USS Ossipee at Mobile Bay

New on Disunion: ‘A Gallant Officer’

A Gallant OfficerThe story of Amos Rhoads, a lieutenant in the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, was killed in action during the June 27, 1863, raid on Shelbyville, Tennessee, was posted on Disunion this afternoon. Rhoads’ wife, Anna, left their home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to bring her husband’s remains home.

An excerpt:

One day during the summer of 1863, in Union-occupied Nashville, Tenn., Anna Rhoads visited the headquarters of Gen. Walter C. Whitaker and requested a meeting with him. Perhaps to her surprise, he granted one.

A Kentuckian known for his volatile temper and a fondness for alcohol, Whitaker was moved as the earnest young woman recounted the grim errand that prompted her visit. “Mrs. Rhoads is here with the body of her husband, Lt. Rhoads of the 7th Penn. Cav.,” wrote Whitaker to Gen. Robert S. Granger, an old West Pointer in command of the military district that included Nashville. “He was a gallant officer. She has come from Pennsylvania to take his body home and is short of money.” Whitaker added, “I send this note to you hoping in its perusal you may find it proper to give her transportation for herself and the body of her husband.”

Read the full story.

New on My Flickr Photostream: A Pennsylvania Cavalry Officer Killed in Tennessee

Amos B. Rhoads (1836-1863) started his war service as a sergeant in the Eleventh Pennsylvania Infantry, a regiment organized for a three-month term of enlistment in the spring of 1861. He returned to the army later that year as a first lieutenant in the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry. Captured during a skirmish near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on July 13, 1862, he spent the rest of the year as a prisoner of war before he was paroled and exchanged. Rhoads returned to his regiment in Tennessee only to be killed in action on June 27, 1863, in fighting to take a rebel battery in Shelbyville.

He posed for his carte de visite portrait in the studio of Mathew B. Brady of New York City and Washington, D.C.
A Pennsylvania Cavalry Officer Killed in Tennessee