St. Peters in the 1930's

St. Peters in the 1930's
St. Peters in the 1930's

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The 16th New York at the Battle of Eltham, Part II

Excerpted from,
-From Bull Run To Chancellorsville,The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry together with Personal Reminiscences By Newton Martin Curtis, LL.D. Brevet Major-General U. S. Vols.
G.P. Putnams Sons, New York & London

 I quote from letters, and from official reports of the action  at West Point, Virginia: —
"Headquarters Sixteenth New York, Brick House Point,
"York River, Virginia, May 8, 1862.

"General: —
"I have the honor to report the part taken by the regiment  under my command, in the engagement of yesterday.
"About 9 o'clock A.M. yesterday, I received orders from Brigadier-General Slocum to report with five companies, (C, D, E, H, and I), to General Franklin on the right of the line. Companies A, B, F, G, and K were on picket, A, B, and K having been posted the night before, and F and G having reported to the general officer of the day. Colonel Bartlett, Twenty-seventh New York, at 3 o'clock a.m., and been sent to relieve a portion of the advance guard from the Twenty-seventh New York, at our centre and left. While the battalion under my command was marching to the front, I was ordered by General Slocum to support Captain Platt's battery* which was advancing near me, and to report to General Newton. Captain Platt took a position just beyond a small stream which empties into the York River on our left, and on the right of the road which leads inland from the point at which the division landed. I placed my battalion in column, on the left flank of the battery and a little in rear, but received orders from yourself to move to the left of the road within supporting distance, where I would be hidden from the enemy by the woods, in case he made his appearance. I subsequently received orders through an officer of your staff, to recross the stream and take position farther to the rear. As the execution of this order left Captain Platt without support, he fell back some distance. A short time afterwards, orders were received through Captain Scofield of your staff for the infantry to recross the stream, when I took position in column, on the right of the road and on the left flank of Hexamer's battery, which had come and taken the position previously occupied by Captain Platt. I remained in this position until about 5 o'clock p.m., two hours after the artillery fire ceased, when I was ordered by yourself to return to camp. The battalion was at no time under fire; but companies F and G were engaged early in the day as skirmishers, while on duty at the outposts, and met with some losses. As these companies were at the time detached from the regiment I inclose the reports of the company commanders. I have every reason to believe that the companies behaved well, and only fell back, when obliged to do so by greatly superior forces, from want of support and on account of the imminent danger of being outflanked and surrounded.
"Companies A, B, and K, upon being relieved as pickets, returned to camp for food, and then started to rejoin their regiment, but on the way were ordered by Colonel Bartlett, commanding General Slocum's brigade, to support Captain Wilson's battery, F, First New York Artillery. They were not engaged and received orders to return to camp about 5 o'clock p.m. "I have the honor of inclosing a list of killed, wounded and missing. The wounded were invariably robbed and in nearly every case were stripped of their jackets.
"I am. General, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,

"Joseph Howland
 "Colonel Sixteenth New York.
 "Brigadier-General John Newton."

Colonel Joseph Howland

*Battery D, Second United States Artillery.

-To Be Continued-

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 16th New York at the Battle of Eltham, Part I

 Excerpted from,
-From Bull Run To Chancellorsville,The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry together with Personal Reminiscences By Newton Martin Curtis, LL.D. Brevet Major-General U. S. Vols.
G.P. Putnams Sons, New York & London


AFTER landing at the head of York River, the regiment marched a short distance, and stacked arms. After supper was over, the members of Company F were engaged in general conversation when Edwin R. Bishop, a lighthearted and fun-provoking man, rose from the ground and interrupted the conversation by saying,"Boys, if I should fall in the next battle, as I now believe I shall, I wish you would bury me under this tree, where I indicate by these lines." He then proceeded to mark with a pioneer's spade the outlines of a grave. Immediately Corporal George J. Love, a very sedate man, rose and picking up the spade which Bishop had used, said, "I would like you to dig my grave beside Bishop's, but please dig it with more regularity than his crooked lines indicate; I am the son of a sexton and have helped to dig many." He then proceeded to draw a parallelogram, dropped the spade, and sat down. Then Peter G. Ploof, a lad of twenty, much beloved for his boyish, winsome ways, picked up the spade, and said "If I fall, dig my grave here beside Love's, and do it as we dig graves at home. Please follow the lines I make for you." He drew the lines of the coffin used in those days, wider at the shoulders and tapering toward the head and foot. Conversation was resumed, and no further attention was paid to the incident.At three o'clock the next morning. May 7th, Companies F and G were ordered out to the picket line, where, at 9 a.m., they met the advancing lines of General J. B. Hood's brigade, of Whiting's division. These companies could not stay the progress of the overwhelming force brought against them, but they made a manful resistance until the artillery was brought up and made ready for action; they were then ordered back, with 17 per cent, of their number among the killed and wounded. Three members of Company F were killed, — Bishop, Love and Ploof, and their comrades, in paying them the martial honors due the gallant dead, gave to each the resting place he had selected on the night before the battle. Beside them were buried Mummery, Seabury and Waymouth, of Company G.
Corporal James Cook of Company F, whose leg was broken by a musket ball, was left on the field during its temporary occupation by the enemy; a Confederate soldier took his watch, purse and a Masonic ring. His call for help brought to his side a Confederate Mason, who caused Cook's property to be restored to him, filled his canteen with water, made him as comfortable as possible, and on leaving, said, "we are enemies in honorable warfare, but on the plane where your disabilities have placed you the laws of humanity and charity prevail." Of the members of Company G, Seabury was found alive, but lived only long enough to tell his comrades that the Confederates had been kind to him, and had done all they could to make him comfortable; Waymouth had evidently been killed in the act of reloading his musket; Mummery's body was found in a pool of water with the throat cut. Great indignation was felt by all, and General Newton, in his report of the battle, referred to this case and others of less savagery, in terms of severe condemnation. That Mummery's throat should have been cut, when his wounds were mortal, was a mystery which remained unsolved until, in February, 1869, I visited Texas. On the steamer, crossing the Gulf of Mexico to Brazos de Santiago, I fell in with two Texans who were in Hood's brigade, and in this battle of West Point. I questioned them about the battle, and asked them to recall any unusual circumstance connected with it. "There was nothing unusual," the spokesman said, "we found out there that the Yanks would fight, and were not to be driven with pop guns, as we were told when we joined Magruder's army at Yorktown." The other man added, "That was the place where we cut the Yank's throat." He went on to tell of the action, of their occupying the ground which we held at the beginning of the engagement, and said, "one, who was severely wounded and unable to stand, opened on the Confederates with a seven-shooter, every shot of which killed or wounded a man. It was thought that a wounded man, whose unit of battle had been driven from the field, and who thereafter continued the fight on his own account, deserved to be summarily dealt with, so we cut his throat."
It had been learned, after Mummery's death, that he had disobeyed orders in not turning in his pistol, at Alexandria, and that he had confided to a comrade his purpose never to be captured alive, but to inflict all the injury possible on the enemy. There are many cases reported, where disabled men have continued to fight after the opposing forces occupied the ground, and, in nearly all instances, they became the subjects of summary treatment; a case of this kind occurred in the late war with Spain, when a wounded Spanish officer shot Lieutenant Ord, and was promptly dispatched by a volley from Ord's company.

-To Be Continued-

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"More Terribly They Suffer, The More Fiercely They Fight": An Account of the Battle of Eltham

Colonel J. Howard Kitching

Camp at " White House," Virginia, May 16, 1862.

....I had no chance to tell you anything about the battle at West Point on the 7th, and I knew that if you were sure I was safe, you would be quite willing to wait for particulars, until I could get time to write fully.
We left Yorktown on Tuesday morning, Franklin's division, about twelve thousand strong, in a large flotilla of boats of every description. The infantry were carried on large steamboats, while the cavalry and artillery were towed behind on large rafts made purposely for them, the guns being placed around the edge, forming a bulwark, inside of which the horses were placed, with harness on, just ready to be hitched to the guns at a moment's notice
We arrived at West Point just before dark, and after throwing a few shell into some rebel cavalry which made its appearance on the shore, we commenced landing our troops. You will at once see that this is rather a risky thing— landing ten thousand men, and horses, upon a hostile shore, when every moment expecting an attack, for it being necessarily slow work, landing the men by small boatloads at a time, the enemy could attack them as they arrived, and slaughter them in detail.
These rebels, however, appear to be rather afraid of our gunboats, for we can in no other way account for their not molesting us, than the fact of our having two gunboats. At any rate, they allowed their chance to slip by, and we worked hard all night, and just before daybreak we got all our artillery landed, losing only one horse out of five hundred.
My boating experience, as well as my knowledge of horses, was, I hope, of some service that night. If you could have seen me standing at the tiller, steering a huge raft, with one hundred and eighty horses on board, jumping and kicking, and trying their best to get overboard, whilst all the soldiers, worn out with hard work, were sleeping on all sides, you would have wondered what kind of craft I had got into.
 However, as I said, we got ashore at last, and about nine o'clock in the morning we were attacked by the enemy in large force, under Generals Lee and Smith.
Several New York regiments were immediately ordered out to meet them, and very soon the musketry firing became very heavy. We had four batteries of artillery ashore, and we were held in reserve, ready for action, waiting till the rebels should come out of the woods into the plain, and give us a chance at them. Our men, the 31st and 32d New York, and one Pennsylvania regiment, had hardly entered the woods, when the firing became very heavy, and almost incessant, the rebels yelling and cheering like fiends, as they drove our men back by mere force of numbers. Every few moments some poor fellow was carried past us, either dead or horribly wounded.
We never fired a shot until our men began to appear, retreating from the edge of the woods, when we loaded with shell, and just as soon as the enemy made their appearance, we let them have it, one gun at a time, slowly and deliberately. They stood their ground for a long time, and their shooting was terribly effective, almost all of our wounded being hit mortally and many killed instantly, by being shot through the head. Only one of our artillerymen was hit, however, getting a rifle-ball in his elbow.
Our solid shot and shells were too hot for them, and at last they began to retire, when our brave infantry again pushed into the woods, and drove them about two miles before night came on. It was a glorious victory, for our force was small; they outnumbering us, two to one. We have since seen their reports of the fight, and they acknowledge that "they intended driving us into the river as at Ball's Bluff, but that our artillery was too hot for them."
Indeed, General Newton has stated since that our guns saved the day .... Considering the numbers engaged, our loss was very severe; the 31st New York losing almost two entire companies,including four officers. The 32d New York also suffered terribly, as also the 16th New York, and the Pennsylvania regiment. General Franklin was with our battery during part of the time, and appeared pleased with our firing.
I believe that this army cannot be beaten now. They stand fire like veterans, and apparently the more terribly they suffer, the more fiercely they fight.

-"More Than Conqueror,": Or Memorials of Col. J. Howard Kitching, Sixth New York Artillery, Army of the Potomac-    Theodore Irving
Publisher    Hurd and Houghton, 1873

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What's In A Name?- II

 The follow up to yesterdays . . "What's In A Name?- I"

We do not know whether our good friend is trying to get some advertising for his home town, or means to give us a little kindly advice. It is no fault of this paper that Boulevard(or Windsor Shades) is not better known. A little judicious advertising on the part of those who have 200 lots to sell, etc., would enable us to get a correspondent there, and at the same time secure some buyers for said lots. It takes money to conduct a newspaper, just as it does to conduct a farm, or to promote a town site. But if our good friend will send us a news letter every week, he will find that the name of the place, at least, will be known.- Ed. Gazette.

-Virginia Gazette(Williamsburg) April 11, 1913

Monday, December 8, 2014

What's In A Name?- I

Boulevard, alias Windsor Shades.
Boulevard Postoffice,
Windsor Shades Station, Va.

Editor Gazette:
I wonder if the Editor of The Gazette knows that there is a place on the C.& O. by the above address? I learn from passengers who come here, that when they asked for tickets to Boulevard, the answer is " no such station on our line." They should be informed through the press or officials of the road that the station at Boulevard Postoffice(sic) is Windsor Shades, or there should be but one name.
I am a reader of the Virginia Gazette, and do not see any mention of this place. Would it not be well for the editor to have a correspondent here for his own good? It might be the means of circulating his paper and making it of more attraction for others to know that there is such a place. We have here, at the head of navigation on the Chickahominy river, a manufacturing establishment for making truck veneer barrels and others in the knock-down; sawed staves and headings, sawed lumber and lathes. We have also built a stable for cows and barn room, with a view to starting a dairy, and ask the farmers to contribute by keeping more cows on their farms, and help to fill their pockets by supplying a fertilizer to keep up the land to produce whatever is planted or sown.
We have a hotel, and a schoolhouse that is used for holding meetings of all denominations, and store, and several new buildings started, and more to follow. We have 200 lots laid out for a town, and several sold, and material to build up as fast as possible. Those who have not visited us are invited to call on us and we will show them around the village of Windsor Shades, and the many advantages to settle in a healthy part of the old Virginia on productive land and among good neighbors. We have lived here nearly one year and came from the northern part of New York, where the winters are long and severe, and we preferred this climate to any we have visited. We have several coming from the north who are going to settle here, and we hope to raise enough to supply the demands without sending abroad for necessary supplies.

A Northerner.

-Virginia Gazette(Williamsburg) April 11, 1913

-To Be Continued-

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent VI- At the Toler estate. (Language Warning)

Cumberland Landing, Virginia. Federal encampment on the Pamunkey, LOC

We return to Francis Colburn Adams on expedition in New Kent during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign . . .

"We struck tents on the morning of the 13th, and marched from the cross-roads to Toller's¹ farm, on which Cumberland Landing was located. It was a damp, foggy morning, the roads were slippery, and the marching slow and fatiguing. The weather cleared at about twelve o'clock, and a more imposing and grand sight cannot be imagined than that of the divisions as they debouched down the high hill on which Toller's house stood, and spread over the broad plain stretching nearly as far as the eye could reach to the West and South, and covered with clover a foot deep, and wheat and rye that waved and cavorted with the wind. But all this prospect of an abundant harvest was trampled down by the multitude of soldiers, which poured into the plain for three hours, then formed in three long, glittering lines, with banners flying and bands playing, with batteries of artillery and troops of cavalry galloping into position on the flanks and centre, the whole forming one of those grand and imposing scenes rarely seen, and never forgotten. A dark belt of wood stretched along the horizon just beyond our outer line, giving a more clear and bold outline to the field. Looking to the left, in the direction of New Kent Court-house, the plain was dotted with clumps of trees, under which the white tents began to nestle, in beautiful contrast to the deep green foliage. And, too, the soldiers hung their tents with wild flowers, for the woods were filled with them, and the very air was sweet with their perfumes. On the right we had the beautiful river, which was narrow here, and curved gently for a distance of four miles, its banks, near Toller's house, being covered with fine old trees. As the three gunboats, followed by the fleet of transports, swept round this bend, their tall masts and dark funnels peering above the trees, the effect was magnificent. Cumberland had never seen such a sight before, and the negroes ran out and shouted for joy. 
 I reached Toller's house about 9 o'clock, having passed two divisions on the road, and brought up a company of the provost guard. There was great excitement at the old plantation house which I got there, and the house servants, of which there was a great number, of nearly every variety of color, were in a state of mutiny. Toller, a round-shouldered, lean, and hard-featured specimen of the Southerner, was as craven-hearted a creature as it is possible to find anywhere. He was an arrant rebel; had taken an active part with the men who attempted to carry Virginia, out of the Union, and had voluntarily sent his slaves so work on the fortifications at Yorktown and Williams- burg, where they had been treated with great cruelty. He was now as servile as a whipped cur, and went about offering to do almost anything we wanted, if we would only protect him and his property. Very many of his field hands had left him that morning, and I ascertained that only a few hours before he had been whipping several of them. When rebuked for this, and told that he would be put in irons if he did it again, he thought it very hard that his authority over his property should be interfered with. He said, in a submissive tone, that if he were not master of his slaves, his slaves would soon be master of him. I at once took such measures as made him comprehend that a different order of authority now ruled on his plantation, and that he must respect it if he wanted to save his property from total destruction.
Mrs. Toller was a very different person, and exhibited much more courage and independence of spirit. After selecting a spot for General Franklin's* headquarters, I went to the kitchen to order some break- fast cooked. Here a number of the house servants were holding a sort of indignation meeting, and the sooty cook told me, '' Missus wouldn't let her do nothin for us." I was anxious to know what all this indignation among the colored population meant, and was informed that Mrs. T. had, with her own hands, applied the lash to two or three of her servants for cooking for Union officers that morning. One of the victims was an aged, but very sprightly house servant, the mother of a large number of bright and intelligent children, one of whom, (Miss Jane,) seemed to have the direction of every thing about the house, and had a neat and comfortably furnished cabin of her own. The whole family were indignant at this act of cruelty towards their mother, and I confess it was with some difficulty I could restrain my own feelings, when this old woman showed me her neck and shoulders, yet red with the marks of the lash. While assuring them that the like should not occur again, and endeavoring to quiet their feelings, this Mrs. Toller appeared among them, the lash still in her hand. 
 I rebuked her act of cruelty in severe terms, and warned her not to repeat it, or I would not be answer- able for the consequences. She very coolly informed me that this plantation, and these slaves on it, were her private property, and she would not have her authority interfered with. And this she repeated several times, giving a peculiar emphasis to the declaration that this was her private property; that our army had no right here, and that we must not interfere with her slaves. She also, in a broad nasal twang, peculiar to Virginia, wanted to know if I was in command of the "guard;" if I was, she insisted that "a double guard" be placed on her house and gardens; also that a "guard" be put over the cabins, to keep "what niggers there wus left from runnin' away." She also wanted me to go to General McClellan, and tell him that he must get away with his army as quick as he could, or there would be a heavy bill of damages for destroying her private property. I soon relieved the old lady's mind of the idea that her property was sacred, and finding no other way of getting rid of her, sent her to her house in charge of a guard, who kept her out of harm's way for the rest of the day. 
 The negroes were very thankful for this interposition in their behalf, and evinced their gratitude in various ways. The house servants here formed so strange and grotesque a group, that Brady, the celebrated photographer, had a picture of them taken and placed in his gallery. There was the old African grandmother, of four-score and ten, very black and very taciturn. And there were her two daughters; one very dark, the other the bright, fat, and kindly woman I have described as having undergone the castigation; and her numerous progeny, of every variety of color, from the darkest crispy head to the almost white with flaxen ringlets. Miss Jane was her oldest daughter, and directed the household affairs with rare smartness and energy. Her husband, Henry Armistead ², was a very black, but very intelligent and worthy man, whose master resided in Richmond, and of whom he purchased his time, which he employed fishing and oystering on the York and Pamunky rivers. About midnight, Henry entered my quarters, laboring under great anxiety of mind. He wanted my advice, he said, for he recognized in me a friend of his people. He had upwards of eleven hundred dollars in silver, the fruit of his labor for several years, buried in the cellar. He had been saving up this money, he said, to purchase the freedom of him- self and wife, and now that our army had come, he wanted to place it in my hands for safe keeping, while he took his wife and people and fled North. He said a man had advised him to pack up and leave that night, to take his money and on to New York, where he would be provided for by Mr. Horace Greeley, and live like a prince. Knowing that the country in the rear of our army was full of stragglers, and the very worst species of camp followers, many of whom were robbing the poor colored people, who were making their way to a place of safety, I advised him to do nothing of the kind, but to remain quietly on the plantation, keep the possession of his money a secret, and when we had taken Richmond, he would be at liberty to go with his family and relatives where he pleased. I was of opinion that neither his condition nor his prospects would be improved at the North; that the time would soon come when men of his class could make themselves more useful in the South, where they were born and reared; and so I advised him. I have often thought of this worthy man and his family, and wondered what became of them. 
 There was an air of comfort and plenty about the cabins of these people, which showed that they had been indulged more than is common on Virginia plantations. Indeed, it was astonishing to see the number of turkeys, pigs, chickens, hams, eggs, bacon, and various kinds of vegetables they had to sell us, and how ready they were to exchange them for our gold. (We paid gold for everything during the campaign on the Peninsula.) I noticed also that they were continually bringing out their last, and yet the reserve stock seemed to be without end. In fine, we fared sumptuously every day while at Toller's plantation, and left his enterprising servants quite an amount of our gold. 
 The pride of caste was kept up among these servants in a manner that was quite amusing. They spoke of Toller as a very low bred man, and spoke of him with an air of contempt, because he was once an overseer on the plantation. And the grave offence(sic) of Missus in marrying her overseer they had neither forgotten nor forgiven³. They spoke of their old master with feelings of love and affection; told us what a fine gentleman he was, and where he was buried, and scouted the idea that Toller was to be compared with him. "He is'nt nuffin but a low bred man;" they would say, "Mas'r was a gentleman."

Cumberland Landing, Virginia. Seated: Generals, Andrew A. Humphreys, Henry Slocum, Wm B. Franklin*, Wm F. Barry and John Newton. Officers standing not identified, LOC

1.- The actual spelling is Toler.

2.- More later on Henry Armistead.

3.- Susan Toler held the Cumberland Landing property in her own right.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Highway Matters

Assembly Committees Decides in Favor of Commission,After Stormy Hearing.

Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Association Favor Northern location, and T.P.A. Comes Out for a More Direct Road.
Completion of some highway from the Capitol to the ocean is of more importance than continual bickering over a route, Guy P. Murray, of Newport News, last night told a joint legislative roads committee which for four hours heard proponents of three proposed routes cite the advantages they had to offer and scorn the arguments of those who disagreed with them.
The meeting was called for the purpose of hearing arguments for and against the proposed change in route of the original highway system, which had as its nucleus the Charles City Road. The Highway Commission proposes to change the route to pass through New Kent, while an amendment by Senator Douglas Mitchell to the bill would have the old Williamsburg Highway become the established route. The Highway Commission's recommendation was adopted by both committees at the end of the meeting.
Richmonders were split on the proposition, as evidenced by the Chamber of Commerce and Retail Merchants Association supporting the Northern route, or the one suggested by Senator Mitchell, while the Travelers Protective Association came out for the more direct route, the one selected by the Highway Commission.
Those who spoke Were: W.P. Tunstall, Rocksbury(sic); C. D. Coleman Richmond; P.C. Bock, Rocksburg(sic), and Manley H. Barnes, New Kent, for the central route; Coleman Wortham. A.B. Trimble and W.A. Clarke, of Richmond. and C.L. Harrison, New Kent, for the northern route, and Dr. Lyon G. Tyler and Tom Clark, of Richmond, and J.M. Gill, of Charles City, for the southern, or original route.
Wade H. Massie and James H. Beck, members of the Highway Commission, defended their choice vigorously and were questioned from all sides, the interruptions bringing loud applause as one of the three sides scored.
Delegate Norvell L. Henley, who represents all routes interested, announced his neutral attitude at the outset of the hearing and introduced all speakers.

- Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 9, 1922