Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 28, 1861: The USS St. Lawrence sinks Confederate privateer Petrel

On July 28, 1861, the crew of the Confederate privateer Petrel spotted a large sailing vessel off the coast near Charleston, South Carolina. The privateers studied the big sailing ship and concluded she was an East Indiaman, a kind of large merchant vessel designed for trading with the Far East, and decided to give chase to what could be a very rich prize.

The Petrel was a small sailing schooner armed with two or three small cannon. She was an older vessel, and had seen better days. She had been the U.S. Revenue Cutter William Aiken before the war and had been seized by South Carolina on December 27, 1860. South Carolina had offered the small vessel to the Confederate Navy, who declined due to the ship's advanced age. When President Jefferson Davis announced that the Confederacy would allow privateering, a small group of wealthy investors bought the William Aiken and converted her into the privateer Petrel.

As the Petrel closed in on her prey, Petrel's captain finally got a good look at the men on the big sailing ship's quarterdeck: they were obviously U.S. Navy officers. The Petrel turned to make a run for it, but it was too late--the U.S.S. St. Lawrence, a 1,726 ton sailing frigate armed with 50 cannon, was too close and too quick for the Confederates. The Confederates managed to get two or three shots off at the big warship, which ran out twelve of her guns--32 pounders and 8 inch shell guns--and gave the little Petrel a broadside. At least two of the St. Lawrence's shots hit the Petrel, including an 8 inch shell which crushed the little ship's bow. The Petrel immediately began sinking and her crew jumped overboard.
Abstract of log of U.S.S. St. Lawrence, Captain H. Y. Purviance commanding.

July 28, 1861. Off Charleston. At 6 a.m. commenced chasing sail off lee bow. At 10 came up with her, when she hoisted the Confederate flag and fired a gun. Beat to quarters and commenced firing. The schooner tried three shots, one of which passed through the main-sail and took a splinter out of the main yard. The schooner hauled down her flag after receiving two shots, one of which struck her bows, and she sunk from the effects of it at 10:30. Got out the boats and picked up the crew. She proved to be the Petrel, of Charleston.
The St. Lawrence launched her own boats, which rowed over and rescued the survivors--36 out of a crew of 44--and then promptly clapped the men in irons as suspected pirates.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27, 1861: "Our army does not advance"

The First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run as it was known in the North, was a clear cut victory for the South. But winning the battle had shattered the Confederate Army nearly as badly as losing the battle had shattered the Union Army. When the Union Army fled in panic back to Washington, DC, the Confederate Army under Joe Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard was unable to follow up on its victory by pursuing them. Rebel war clerk John B. Jones sensed that something wasn't quite right.
July 27th.—A large number of new arrivals are announced from the North. Clerks resigned at Washington, and embryo heroes having military educations, are presenting themselves daily, and applying for positions here. They represent the panic in the North as awful, and ours is decidedly the winning side. These gentry somehow succeed in getting appointments.

Our army does not advance. It is said both Beauregard and Johnston are anxious to cross the Potomac; but what is said is not always true. The capabilities of our army to cross the Potomac are not known; and the policy of doing so if it were practicable, is to be determined by the responsible authority. Of one thing I am convinced: the North, so far from desisting from the execution of its settled purpose, even under this disagreeable reverse, will be stimulated to renewed preparations on a scale of greater magnitude than ever.
This diary entry demonstrates the shrewd insight of John B. Jones. Jones had lived in the North and knew something of the strengths of that section of the country. Jones recognized that the South's failure to follow up its victory--indeed, its inability to follow up that victory--meant that the North would be able to mount attack after attack until the South was unable to defend itself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26, 1861: Lincoln and Seward visit Sherman's brigade

On July 26, 1861, the Union Army was back in the defenses around Washington, DC licking its wounds from the Battle of Bull Run. Morale had suffered badly, and Lincoln and Seward rode out to visit the troops. One of the units they visited was William Tecumseh Sherman's brigade, quartered around Fort Corcoran.
That same day, which must have been about July 26th, I was near the river-bank, looking at a block-house which had been built for the defense of the aqueduct, when I saw a carriage coming by the road that crossed the Potomac River at Georgetown by a ferry. I thought I recognized in the carriage the person of President Lincoln. I hurried across a bend, so as to stand by the road-side as the carriage passed. I was in uniform, with a sword on, and was recognized by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, who rode side by side in an open hack. I inquired if they were going to my camps, and Mr. Lincoln said: "Yes; we heard that you had got over the big scare, and we thought we would come over and see the 'boys.'" The roads had been much changed and were rough. I asked if I might give directions to his coachman, he promptly invited me to jump in and to tell the coachman which way to drive. Intending to begin on the right and follow round to the left, I turned the driver into a side-road which led up a very steep hill, and, seeing a soldier, called to him and sent him up hurriedly to announce to the colonel (Bennett, I think) that the President was coming: As we slowly ascended the hill, I discovered that Mr. Lincoln was full of feeling, and wanted to encourage our men. I asked if he intended to speak to them, and he said he would like to. I asked him then to please discourage all cheering, noise, or any sort of confusion; that we had had enough of it before Bull Run to ruin any set of men, and that what we needed were cool, thoughtful, hard-fighting soldiers—no more hurrahing, no more humbug. He took my remarks in the most perfect good-nature. Before we had reached the first camp, I heard the drum beating the "assembly," saw the men running for their tents, and in a few minutes the regiment was in line, arms presented, and then brought to an order and "parade rest!"

Mr. Lincoln stood up in the carriage, and made one of the neatest, best, and most feeling addresses I ever listened to, referring to our late disaster at Bull Run, the high duties that still devolved on us, and the brighter days yet to come. At one or two points the soldiers began to cheer, but he promptly checked them, saying: "Don't cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself, but Colonel Sherman here says it is not military; and I guess we had better defer to his opinion." In winding up, he explained that, as President, he was commander-in-chief; that he was resolved that the soldiers should have every thing that the law allowed; and he called on one and all to appeal to him personally in case they were wronged. The effect of this speech was excellent.

We passed along in the same manner to all the camps of my brigade; and Mr. Lincoln complimented me highly for the order, cleanliness, and discipline, that he observed. Indeed, he and Mr. Seward both assured me that it was the first bright moment they had experienced since the battle.

At last we reached Fort Corcoran. The carriage could not enter, so I ordered the regiment, without arms, to come outside, and gather about Mr. Lincoln, who would speak to them. He made to them the same feeling address, with more personal allusions, because of their special gallantry in the battle under Corcoran, who was still a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; and he concluded with the same general offer of redress in case of grievances. In the crowd I saw the officer with whom I had had the passage at reveille that morning. His face was pale, and lips compressed. I foresaw a scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a lamb. This officer forced his way through the crowd to the carriage, and said: "Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said, "Threatened to shoot you?" "Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper, easily heard for some yards around: "Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it." The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men laughed at him. Soon the carriage drove on, and, as we descended the hill, I explained the facts to the President, who answered, "Of course I didn't know any thing about it, but I thought you knew your own business best." I thanked him for his confidence, and assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to maintain good discipline, and it did.

By this time the day was well spent. I asked to take my leave, and the President and Mr. Seward drove back to Washington. This spirit of mutiny was common to the whole army, and was not subdued till several regiments or parts of regiments had been ordered to Fort Jefferson, Florida, as punishment.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25, 1861: The Confederate order of battle in Northern Virginia

On this day in 1861, P.G.T. Beauregard announced the following order of battle for the Confederate forces under his command, styled the "Army Potomac." Many of the names and formations will be familiar to Civil War history buffs. These troops were the hard core of what would later become known as the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, but that transformation still lay about eleven months in the future.

A couple of interesting things to note: the army isn't organized into any larger subdivisions than brigades. It would be some time before divisions and corps appeared, along with the leaders necessary for such formations. The other thing that jumps out is the absence of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and his brigade, presumably on their way back to the Valley just days after First Manassas.


Numbers 169. Manassas Junction, Va., July 25, 1861.

I. The subdivisions of this army corps will be organized at once as follows:

First Brigade, General M. L. Bonham, commanding: Second South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. B. Kershaw; Third South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. H. Williams; Seventh South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel Thomas G. Bacon, and Eighth South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel E. B. C. Cash.

Second Brigade, General R. S. Ewell, commanding: Fifth Alabama Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel R. E. Rodes; Sixth Alabama Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. J. Seibels, Thirteenth [12th?] Alabama Regiment of Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore O'Hara, and Twelfth Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel Richard Griffith.

Third Brigade, General D. R. Jones, commanding: Fourth South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. B. E. Sloan; Fifth South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel M. Jenkins; Sixth South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel C. S. Winder, and Ninth South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. D. Blanding.

Fourth Brigade, General James Longstreet, commanding: First Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel P. T. Moore; Seventh Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. L. Kemper; Eleventh Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel S. Garland, jr., and Seventeenth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel M. D. Corse.

Fifth Brigade, General Philip St. George Cocke, commanding: Eighteenth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel R. E. Withers; Nineteenth Virginia of Regiment of Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Strange; Twenty-eighth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel R. T. Preston, and Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel William Smith.

Sixth Brigade, Colonel J. A. Early, commanding: Fifth North Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel D. K. McRae; Eleventh North Carolina Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. F. Hoke, and Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. A. Early.

Seventh Brigade, Colonel N. G. Evans, commanding: Thirteenth Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel William Barksdale; Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel W. S. Featherston, and Eighteenth Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel E. R. Burt.

Eighth Brigade: Sixth Louisiana Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel J. G. Seymour; Seventh Louisiana Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel Harry T. Hays; Eighth Louisiana Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel H. B. Kelly, and Ninth Louisiana Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel Richard Taylor.

Special battalion, Colonel C. R. Wheat.

Separate command, Eighth Virginia Regiment of Volunteers, Colonel Eppa Hunton, Leesburg, Va., Hampton's Legion.

II. The horse artillery, for the present, will be place: Kemper's battery with the First Brigade, Shields' battery with the Fourth Brigade, and Latham's battery with the Fifth Brigade. Walton's battery will concentrate at or about the left of Mithcell's Ford, for the purposes of instruction.

III. The cavalry, for the present, will be distributed in the following manner: Colonel Radford, with six companies, will be on duty with the First Brigade while in advance. The remaining four companies of Radford's regiment, with Lieutenant Colonel Munford, will report for service with the Fourth Brigade.

IV. Such changes as are involved in these orders will be mad without delay.

By command of General Beauregard:


Assistant Adjutant-General.

July 25, 1861: William Tecumseh Sherman's report on the Battle of Bull Run

On July 25, 1861, William Tecumseh Sherman filed his report regarding his brigade's role in the Battle of Bull Run.

FORT CORCORAN, July 25, 1861

To Captain A. BAIRD, Assistant Adjutant-General, First Division (General Tyler's).

Sir: I have the honor to submit this my report of the operations of my brigade during the action of the 21st instant. The brigade is composed of the Thirteenth New York Volunteers, Colonel Quinby's Sixty-ninth New York, Colonel Corcoran; Seventy-ninth New York, Colonel Cameron; Second Wisconsin, Lieutenant-Colonel Peck; and Company E, Third Artillery, under command of Captain R. B. Ayres, Fifth Artillery.

We left our camp near Centreville, pursuant to orders, at half-past 2 A. M., taking place in your column, next to the brigade of General Schenck, and proceeded as far as the halt, before the enemy's position, near the stone bridge across Bull Run. Here the brigade was deployed in line along the skirt of timber to the right of the Warrenton road, and remained quietly in position till after 10 a.m. The enemy remained very quiet, but about that time we saw a rebel regiment leave its cover in our front, and proceed in double-quick time on the road toward Sudley Springs, by which we knew the columns of Colonels Hunter and Heintzelman were approaching. About the same time we observed in motion a large mass of the enemy, below and on the other side of the stone bridge. I directed Captain Ayres to take position with his battery near our right, and to open fire on this mass; but you had previously detached the two rifle-guns belonging to this battery, and, finding that the smooth-bore guns did not reach the enemy's position, we ceased firing, and I sent a request that you would send to me the thirty-pounder rifle-gun attached to Captain Carlisle's battery. At the same time I shifted the New York Sixty-ninth to the extreme right of the brigade. Thus we remained till we heard the musketry-fire across Bull Run, showing that the head of Colonel Hunter's column was engaged. This firing was brisk, and showed that Hunter was driving before him the enemy, till about noon, when it became certain the enemy had come to a stand, and that our forces on the other side of Bull Run were all engaged, artillery and infantry.

Here you sent me the order to cross over with the whole brigade, to the assistance of Colonel Hunter. Early in the day, when reconnoitring the ground, I had seen a horseman descend from a bluff in our front, cross the stream, and show himself in the open field on this aide; and, inferring that we could cross over at the same point, I sent forward a company as skirmishers, and followed with the whole brigade, the New York Sixty-ninth leading.

We found no difficulty in crossing over, and met with no opposition in ascending the steep bluff opposite with our infantry, but it was impassable to the artillery, and I sent word back to Captain Ayres to follow if possible, otherwise to use his discretion. Captain Ayres did not cross Bull Run, but remained on that side, with the rest of your division. His report herewith describes his operations during the remainder of the day. Advancing slowly and cautiously with the head of the column, to give time for the regiments in succession to close up their ranks, we first encountered a party of the enemy retreating along a cluster of pines; Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, of the Sixty-ninth, without orders, rode out alone, and endeavored to intercept their retreat. One of the enemy, in full view, at short range, shot Haggerty, and he fell dead from his horse. The Sixty-ninth opened fire on this party, which was returned; but, determined to effect our junction with Hunter's division, I ordered this fire to cease, and we proceeded with caution toward the field where we then plainly saw our forces engaged. Displaying our colors conspicuously at the head of our column, we succeeded in attracting the attention of our friends, and soon formed the brigade in rear of Colonel Porter's. Here I learned that Colonel Hunter was disabled by a severe wound, and that General McDowell was on the field. I sought him out, and received his orders to join in pursuit of the enemy, who was falling back to the left of the road by which the army had approached from Sudley Springs. Placing Colonel Quinby's regiment of rifles in front, in column, by division, I directed the other regiments to follow in line of battle, in the order of the Wisconsin Second, New York Seventy-ninth, and New York Sixty-ninth. Quinby's regiment advanced steadily down the hill and up the ridge, from which he opened fire upon the enemy, who had made another stand on ground very favorable to him, and the regiment continued advancing as the enemy gave way, till the head of the column reached the point near which Rickett's battery was so severely cut up. The other regiments descended the hill in line of battle, under a severe cannonade; and, the ground affording comparative shelter from the enemy's artillery, they changed direction, by the right flank, and followed the road before mentioned. At the point where this road crosses the ridge to our left front, the ground was swept by a most severe fire of artillery, rifles, and musketry, and we saw, in succession, several regiments driven from it; among them the Zouaves and battalion of marines. Before reaching the crest of this hill, the roadway was worn deep enough to afford shelter, and I kept the several regiments in it as long as possible; but when the Wisconsin Second was abreast of the enemy, by order of Major Wadsworth, of General McDowell's staff, I ordered it to leave the roadway, by the left flank, and to attack the enemy.

This regiment ascended to the brow of the hill steadily, received the severe fire of the enemy, returned it with spirit, and advanced, delivering its fire. This regiment is uniformed in gray cloth, almost identical with that of the great bulk of the secession army; and, when the regiment fell into confusion and retreated toward the road, there was a universal cry that they were being fired on by our own men. The regiment rallied again, passed the brow of the hill a second time, but was again repulsed in disorder. By this time the New York Seventy-ninth had closed up, and in like manner it was ordered to cross the brow of, the hill, and drive the enemy from cover. It was impossible to get a good view of this ground. In it there was one battery of artillery, which poured an incessant fire upon our advancing column, and the ground was very irregular with small clusters of pines, affording shelter, of which the enemy took good advantage. The fire of rifles and musketry was very severe. The Seventy-ninth, headed by its colonel, Cameron, charged across the hill, and for a short time the contest was severe; they rallied several times under fire, but finally broke, and gained the cover of the hill.

This left the field open to the New York Sixty-ninth, Colonel Corcoran, who, in his turn, led his regiment over the crest; and had in full, open view the ground so severely contested; the fire was very severe, and the roar of cannon, musketry, and rifles, incessant; it was manifest the enemy was here in great force, far superior to us at that point. The Sixty-ninth held the ground for some time, but finally fell back in disorder.

All this time Quinby's regiment occupied another ridge, to our left, overlooking the same field of action, and similarly engaged. Here, about half-past 3 p.m., began the scene of confusion and disorder that characterized the remainder of the day. Up to that time, all had kept their places, and seemed perfectly cool, and used to the shell and shot that fell, comparatively harmless, all around us; but the short exposure to an intense fire of small-arms, at close range, had killed many, wounded more, and had produced disorder in all of the battalions that had attempted to encounter it. Men fell away from their ranks, talking, and in great confusion. Colonel Cameron had been mortally wounded, was carried to an ambulance, and reported dying. Many other officers were reported dead or missing, and many of the wounded were making their way, with more or less assistance, to the buildings used as hospitals, on the ridge to the west. We succeeded in partially reforming the regiments, but it was manifest that they would not stand, and I directed Colonel Corcoran to move along the ridge to the rear, near the position where we had first formed the brigade. General McDowell was there in person, and need all possible efforts to reassure the men. By the active exertions of Colonel Corcoran, we formed an irregular square against the cavalry which were then seen to issue from the position from which we had been driven, and we began our retreat toward the same ford of Bull Run by which we had approached the field of battle. There was no positive order to retreat, although for an hour it had been going on by the operation of the men themselves. The ranks were thin and irregular, and we found a stream of people strung from the hospital across Bull Run, and far toward Centreville. After putting in motion the irregular square in person, I pushed forward to find Captain Ayres's battery at the crossing of Bull Run. I sought it at its last position, before the brigade had crossed over, but it was not there; then passing through the woods, where, in the morning, we had first formed line, we approached the blacksmith's shop, but there found a detachment of the secession cavalry and thence made a circuit, avoiding Cub Run Bridge, into Centreville, where I found General McDowell, and from him understood that it was his purpose to rally the forces, and make a stand at Centreville.

But, about nine o'clock at night, I received from General Tyler, in person, the order to continue the retreat to the Potomac. This retreat was by night, and disorderly in the extreme. The men of different regiments mingled together, and some reached the river at Arlington, some at Long Bridge, and the greater part returned to their former camp, at or near Fort Corcoran. I reached this point at noon the next day, and found a miscellaneous crowd crossing over the aqueduct and ferries.. Conceiving this to be demoralizing, I at once commanded the guard to be increased, and all persons attempting to pass over to be stopped. This soon produced its effect; men sought their proper companies and regiments. Comparative order was restored, and all were posted to the best advantage.

I herewith inclose the official report of Captain Belly, commanding officer of the New York Sixty-ninth; also, fall lists of the killed, wounded, and missing.

Our loss was heavy, and occurred chiefly at the point near where Rickett's battery was destroyed. Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty was killed about noon, before we had effected a junction with Colonel Hunter's division. Colonel Cameron was mortally wounded leading his regiment in the charge, and Colonel Corcoran has been missing since the cavalry-charge near the building used as a hospital.

For names, rank, etc., of the above, I refer to the lists herewith.

Lieutenants Piper and McQuesten, of my personal staff, were under fire all day, and carried orders to and fro with as much coolness as on parade. Lieutenant Bagley, of the New York Sixty-ninth, a volunteer aide, asked leave to serve with his company, during the action, and is among those reported missing. I have intelligence that he is a prisoner, and slightly wounded.

Colonel Coon, of Wisconsin, a volunteer aide, also rendered good service during the day.

W. T. SHERMAN, Colonel commanding Brigade.

July 25, 1861: Bartow lies in state

In two diary entries dated July 24 and July 25, 1861, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones recorded the reaction in Richmond to the death of Georgian Francis S. Bartow, killed while leading a brigade of Georgia troops at the Battle of FIrst Bull Run (First Manassas).
July 24th.—Yesterday we received a letter from Col. Bartow, written just before the battle (in which he fell, his letter being received after the announcement of his death), urging the appointment of his gallant young friend Lamar to a lieutenancy. I noted these facts on the back of his letter, with the Secretary’s approbation, and also that the request had been granted, and placed the letter, perhaps the last he ever wrote, in the archives for preservation.

July 25th.—Bartow’s body has arrived, and lies in state at the Capitol. Among the chief mourners was his young friend Barton, who loved him as a son loves his father. From Lamar I learned some interesting particulars of the battle. He said when Bartow’s horse was killed, he, Lamar, was sent to another part of the field for another, and also to order up certain regiments, Bartow then being in command of a brigade. Lamar galloped through a hot cross-fire to the regiments and delivered the order, but got no[Pg 67] horse. He galloped back, however, through the terrible fire, with the intention of giving his own horse to Bartow, if none other could be had. On his return he encountered Col. Jones, of the 4th Alabama, wounded, his arms being around the necks of two friends, who were endeavoring to support him in a standing attitude. One of these called to Lamar, and asked for his horse, hoping that Col. Jones might be able to ride (his thigh-bone was terribly shattered), and thus get off the field. Lamar paused, and promised as soon as he could report to Bartow he would return with that or another horse. Col. Jones thanked him kindly, but cautioned him against any neglect of Bartow’s orders, saying he probably could not ride. Lamar promised to return immediately; and putting spurs to his noble steed, started off in a gallop. He had not gone fifty yards before his horse fell, throwing him over his head. He saw that the noble animal had been pierced by as many as eight balls, from a single volley. He paused a moment and turned away, when the poor horse endeavored to rise and follow, but could not. He returned and patted the groaning and tearful steed on his neck; and, while doing this, five more balls struck him, and he died instantly. Lamar then proceeded on foot through a storm of bullets, and, untouched, rejoined Bartow in time to witness his fall.

Our prisons are filled with Yankees, and Brig.-Gen. Winder has employment. There is a great pressure for passports to visit the battle-field. At my suggestion, all physicians taking amputating instruments, and relatives of the wounded and slain, have been permitted by the Secretary to go thither.