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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bitter Cold

A hundred and twenty four years ago . . .

The Horrors of the Cold.
The St. Louis and Chicago papers, of the first week in January, are filled with details of the intense cold weather in the West, and the suffering and death incident thereto.
At St. Louis on Friday, the first day of the new year, at 7 o'clock in the morning, the thermometer fell to 19.5 below zero, and a minimum thermometer indicated a temperature, some time before daylight, of 22 degrees below zero! Such a degree of cold had not-been known there before in thirty-one years. The various railroads entering St. Louis were all blocked up with snow, water tanks frozen, and the cars covered up. The Mississippi was frozen over, and was made a great thoroughfare for pedestrians and loaded teams. People were terribly frostbitten, and some of their limbs were obliged to be amputated. Others perished out-right.
At Chicago the effects of the storm were fearful in the extreme. On Friday the thermometer fell as low as 20 degrees, and on Saturday, at 1 o'clock, to 25 degrees below zero! Many people were frozen to death. The terrible snow storm, accompanied with high winds, which piled it in huge drifts, obstructed the regular passage of trains, and much intense suffering, and in some instances death, was the consequence. The Times says:
The fierce tornado sweeping over the prairies filled the air with moving clouds of snow, and piled up huge drifts between the fences along the railroads, until the tracks almost everywhere were impassable by the trains. 
The train on the Michigan Central railroad, which was due at Chicago at half-past 10 o'clock on Thursday evening, proceeded with great difficulty until within about four hundred yards of the Michigan Southern crossing, some seven miles out. There, at six o'clock on Friday morning, almost eight hours behind time, the train plunged into an immense drift, which lay directly across its way, and finally stopped. 
The scene when the passengers realized the perils of their situation, were so terribly real as to baffle all description. There were over a hundred passengers on board, many of them being women and children, with but a short supply of food. 
One by one, out into the blinding storm, went those who were able, and, digging down through the snowdrifts which were piled over them, they tore up the fences near the road and brought them as fuel to the cars. Soon a new peril broke out among the passengers. The roof of the car took fire from the heated pipe, and as the wind caught the flames, they roared and crackled and carried downward towards the passengers as if in mockery of their misery. The snow was banked almost to the bottom of the car, and to separate it from the others by hand was an utter impossibility. 
In this moment of peril the women vied with the men in their efforts for the common safety. At first it seemed as if all hope to extinguish the flames were vain, but energies were not slackened or hearts unnerved. The contest was brief but desperate, resulting in the flames being quelled. The wind and the snow came rushing in at the aperture in the roof, and the car was no longer tenable. All the passengers then withdrew to the next one.--Proper precautions were taken against a similar disaster there. But the ashes had, unfortunately, been entirely removed from the stove in this car, and, when anticipating no danger, the floor of the car took fire from the bottom of the stove. It was much easier extinguished than the other, but not without considerable labor, or until a large portion of the floor had been cut away, and that car thus rendered untenable also. 
The passengers of the entire train were now huddled together in the only remaining car. It was now nearly two o'clock in the afternoon, and there were no signs of the storm abating or of any deliverance reaching them. 
Suddenly, however, they were startled into new hope by the arrival of a train on the Michigan Southern railroad. It stopped at the crossing of two roads, only some four hundred yards distant, and its conductor signified his readiness to take passengers of the Michigan Central train into the city. The work of transferring them was immediately commenced, the engine in the meantime moving the train slowly backwards and forward to prevent the snow from drifting around and under it. The distance between the two trains, nearly four hundred yards, was filled with a drift nearly ten feet in depth, and to make the passage from one to the other was a work of great labor and difficulty. The storm was at its height, and the cold so intense that the faces of the women and children were frozen almost as soon as they came in contact with the wind — turning white as instantly as if they had been plunged in boiling water. Scarcely any one made the passage from one train to the other without being badly frost bitten, many quite seriously. 
The women and children had to be carried over to the other train, and not a few men who essayed it had to demand assistance. This was cheerfully rendered by volunteers from among the Michigan Southern passengers. 
The rescued passengers, immediately upon their arrival at the Michigan Southern train, were made as comfortable as possible. Those who were frozen were promptly attended to, ladies tearing up their handkerchiefs and scarfs to rub the frozen feet, face and hands of their unfortunate fellow-travellers. 
The Michigan Southern train was likewise blockaded by the snow. The conductor was obliged to leave the car in a snowdrift, and go on to Chicago to acquaint the people with the condition of affairs. It was soon known that "two hundred men, women and children were freezing to death within four miles of Chicago." Sleighs, blankets, buffalo robes, provisions, &c., were immediately procured, and a party started for the train. The details of their adventures, although very interesting, would occupy too much of our space. Suffice it to state, that they were all gotten to the city, though much frostbitten.
The following terrible incident is given in the Chicago Tribune, of January 4th:
About thirty miles from the boundary line between Michigan and Indiana, in the latter State, about midway between Centreville and Crown Point, lived a German, with his wife and five children, named Krutzer. The oldest was a boy of seven years of age, the next a boy of five, and three girls, all of less age than the boys, the youngest but an infant. 
The country where the family resided is very rolling, and the snow had drifted into the hollows, making the roads almost, if not wholly impassable for pedestrians. 
The driver of the stage-coach coming from Crown Point to Lake, via Centerville found that Krutzer's dwelling had been burned to the ground, it is supposed the night previously but none of the family were to be seen. About a mile further on, however, he was horrified to find the father and the boys frozen to death. The boys were in the father's arms, and it is supposed that he had fallen with them after having been so far affected with the frost as not to be able to proceed. The three corpses were placed in the stage; but before they had proceeded more than a quarter of a mile on its destination, the body of the oldest girl was found in a snow-drift, with a shawl clearly wrapped closely around it, where it had doubtless been deposited by its weary mother while yet alive, in the hope that some chance traveller might rescue it from an impending fate. This corpse, too, was placed in the coach, and again started on fits way, only to find, after travelling a short distance, the lifeless remains of the mother, with the two youngest children. The body of the mother was standing erect in a snow drift, with the children in her arms, the youngest one being at the breast. 
The seven lifeless bodies were conveyed to Centerville by the driver of the stage, at which place they were decently interred by the inhabitants.
The Times, in speaking of the weather and affairs at Camp Douglas, says:
The effect of the cold was terribly severe. Especially did the guards suffer from it. Those who were off duty could barely manage to keep partially warm when inside the barracks by keeping up good fires, and, although the guards were frequently relieved, not less than eighty of them had their feet, ankles, and hands so badly frozen that they are all incapable of duty for some time — many for all their live. Two of the guard on Thursday night were terribly frozen and when found were stark and stiff, incapable of moving a foot or raising a hand. It required the exertions of a number of their comrades to remove them to their quarters, where they remained at 5 o'clock yesterday evening in a very critical and suffering condition. Their recovery is considered extremely doubtful.--Many others were more or less frozen, the extent of whose injuries are unknown. 
During the violence of the storm on Thursday night four of the Confederate prisoners scaled the fence, and, dropping to the ground, escaped. The guards were blinded by the fury of the storm, and were unable to halt the fugitives. After reaching the ground on the outside of the fence, while the storm was beating in all its fury, the escaped prisoners started in a southerly direction, and made very slow progress, as may readily be imagined.--Two of them were retaken early in the morning, nearly frozen, and were retarded to camp. The remains of the other two were found about three miles from the camp, on the road to Calumet, having travelled as long as possible, and seemed to have fallen and died in their tracks.
In Pennsylvania, also, the weather was extremely cold. The Pittsburg Chronicle narrates the annexed incident:
Two brakemen on the Oil Creek Railroad were frozen to death the other night, one of whom rolled off the car, and the other was found at his post, his hands frozen to the brake wheel.

-(Richmond)The Daily Dispatch: January 28, 1864.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Forge Hall and Colonial Williamsburg

Click the below image to read the Architectural Report of Colonial Williamsburg on Providence Hall, aka the Forge House, Providence Forge's historic colonial building. 

Which, if it was still there, would be in the middle of the east bounds lane of Route 60.

The "US Route no 60" referenced in the above survey is now Boulevard Rd.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

That Holiday Popping Sound . . .

(Originally posted Christmas 2013)

Holiday shooting? Christmas guns and "shooting in the New Year". . . it's older than you think.

We have quite a merry Christmas in the family; and a compact that no unpleasant word shall be uttered and no scramble for anything. The family were baking cakes and pies until late last night, and to day we shall have full rations. I have found enough celery in the little garden for dinner. 
Last night and this morning the boys have been firing Christmas guns incessantly- no doubt pilfering from their fathers cartridge boxes. There is much jollity and some drunkenness in the streets, notwithstanding the enemy's pickets are within an hour's march of the city

From A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States CapitalJohn Beauchamp Jones, 1866

 Robert Mitchell, Mayor, to the Governor
 Dec. 25, Richmond

Having a moment of time to spare, I take that opportunity of acknowledging the receipt of your letter enclosing the advice of our Council of State, bearing date the 3rd of last November, and yours of the 19th of same month. It did not come to hand at that date or for many days after. I have done all in my power to prevent that evil of unlawful Gaming within this city pointed out by you; besides it encourages the unguarded youth in Idleness vice and Immorality. You may depend on my doing all in my power to prevent such violation of our laws, and punish them when detected. 
Your favor of the 24th Inst. came very late to hand on the evening of that day. Had I rece'd it early in the day I might have had it more in my power to have its contents put in execution more compleat in order to comply with your wish and my own desire. On the 23rd Inst. I wrote Maj'r Wolfe to furnish a Serg't Guard out of the militia, in order to aid our city Patrol to patrol the city and its Jurisdiction during the Christmas Holydays, which has been complyed with, but it does appear to me to be impossible to prevent firing what is called Christmas Guns, being an old established custom, although there is an ordinance of the city police fixing a fine of 5s. for every offence of firing Guns within this city. The addition of the militia to the city patrol may prevent in part the evil pointed out to me in your letter.
 I am &c                    

- From Calendar of Virginia State Papers and Other Manuscripts: ... Preserved in the Capitol at Richmond, Virginia- Volume 9, Henry W. Flournoy, 1890

March 1655-6    6th of Commonwealth  
                                                           ACT XII 
WHEREAS it is much to be doubted, That the comon enemie the Indians, if opportunity serve, would suddenly invade this collony to a totall subversion of the same and whereas the only means for the discovery of their plotts is by allarms, of which no certainty can be had in respect of the frequent shooting of gunns in drinking, whereby they proclaim, and as it were, justifie that beastly vice spending much powder in vaine, that might be reserved against the comon enemie, Be it therefore enacted that what person or persons soever shall, after publication hereof, shoot any gunns at drinkeing (marriages and ffuneralls onely excepted) that such person or persons so offending shall forfeit 100 lb. of tobacco to be levied by distresse in case of refusall and to be disposed of by the militia in amunition towards a magazine for the county where the offence shall be comitted.

From The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619William Waller Hening,ed. 1823

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Hub of the Universe

BELIEVED NEW KENT WAS THE HUB,- There is an amusing story told on a man living in New Kent, who thought New Kent was the greatest place on earth. A gentleman was in Richmond talking to a friend in a hotel office, telling of his trip abroad and where he bad been, The New Kent fellow listened as long as he could when suddenly he sprang to his feet and approached the talkers, and said "I say, sir; have you ever been, been to New Kent, sir? Well, well, sir: then you have never been nowhere, sir." Li Hung Chang places great stress on visiting Grant's tomb, but Virginians will tell him unless he has been to Lee's and Jackson's tombs he has "been nowhere, sir."

-Alexandria Gazette, 5 September 1896

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

With the "Monitors" in the Summer of 1863- IV

The conclusion of the story of the 127th New York and their time in New Kent in 1863 . . .

On Sunday, July 5th, part of the regiment was on picket on the Railroad, about two miles from camp, thirty-two men and an officer on each post, while others were taking up the rails and loading them on boats. General Dix ordered General Keyes to vigorously attack the enemy toward Bottoms Bridge, and notified him that if he failed to do so he would be superseded by General Gordon. The men on picket feasted on blackberries, which were very abundant, and which afforded an agreeable change from the salt horse and pork furnished by Uncle Sam; they also opened the ice house of a Confederate, who "left in too much of a hurry to be able to take his ice away with him." That portion of the regiment left in camp had nothing to do but amuse themselves, and the little negro, "Dick," with his brother, furnished an entertainment in the shape of plantation dances which brought them a harvest of small coins. 
On July 6th Confederate General Hill informed the Richmond War Office that a considerable battle had been fought on the North Anna, with musketry and artillery, and that a mere skirmish occurred at the Bridge over the South Anna, and that the Federals had retired across the Pamunkey River. The Richmond War Office also notified General Hill that for the purpose of removing the menace to Richmond, it was desirable that the Federals at White House should be dispersed, chastised or captured. But General Hill in reply stated that the streams were all flooded, the roads impassable for artillery, and that no movement against the Federals could be made. He also expressed the opinion that the Federals would probably change their base to Petersburg or Washington. 
On Tuesday, July 7th, General Getty returned to White House, having been unable to destroy the bridges over the Annas, but he reported having torn up the track of the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad for several miles. The picket line was evacuated at midnight, and the 127th returned to camp in a heavy rain. After being furnished with rations, at daylight we started on our way back to Yorktown; the rain was still falling, and the roads were in fearful condition, the mud being deep and slimy, while the corduroy road was broken in places, making the marching most trying. Mud was thick enough to take the shoes off your feet, some of the men actually losing them from that cause. The regiment halted one hour at New Kent Court House for breakfast and rest, and then resumed the march through Slatersville, resting near Barhamsville for supper, after which we again took up the march till we arrived at Burnt Ordinary at 9 p.m. While on the march we had one alarm, and were ordered to halt and get our traps, i.e., knapsacks and haversacks, ready to throw off in case we were attacked; but the alarm proved false and the march was continued. General Gordon, who commanded our Division, says that we marched twenty-four miles through deep mud and over broken roads, while Colonel Boughton of the 143d gives the distance as twenty-eight miles through mud six inches deep. But this rapid marching, however difficult, had been necessary to prevent our rear guard being attacked by General Hill. Wood says: 'On this march one of the boys, being in the rear, came across a number of men from another regiment who tauntingly asked 'where is the 127th;' and the reply came 'ten miles ahead and marching like H---- .' "He also states that although the 127th were called "clam diggers" by the 144th, the main portion of the 127th came into bivouac with their colors, while the majority of the men in the other regiments had straggled badly, causing one of the officers to remark "that the 127th could march the 144th to death and then dig clams enough for supper!" It is the writer's impression that the 127th called the 144th "Bark peelers," because many of them had before enlistment worked at gathering bark for tanning leather.

-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
by McGrath, Franklin, ed

Friday, December 15, 2017

With the "Monitors" in the Summer of 1863- III

Lt. Col. Stewart Lyndon Woodford, of the 127th
The next morning (Saturday) at 8 a.m. the regiment marched for White House. The roads were still heavy with mud and marching was very tedious. The ground at White House has a beautiful flat two miles long, lying about thirty feet above the level of the river, where boats were passing up and down within fifty feet of the bank. This plantation was the property of the Widow Custis when Washington married her, and it was here that the first three months of their married life was spent. The house had been destroyed, but the ruins, including the large chimney, were plainly visible. 
At sunset the steamer John Brooks passed up the river loaded with troops; also a schooner which brought up a locomotive and freight cars. On the next day we had a regimental inspection, followed by a storm in the afternoon; seven transports with troops arrived, among whom were the 13th Indiana that was camped alongside our regiment at Suffolk; our men cooked supper for them, and their officers were entertained by ours. Troops continued arriving all day. Rain had fallen every day from the 24th, when the regiment left the Six Mile Ordinary. The confederate Adjutant General Cooper advised General Lee that the concentration of 20,000 to 30,000 Federal troops on the Peninsula, either for the purpose of assaulting Richmond or interrupting Lee's communication, rendered it impracticable to carry out General Lee's wish to have an auxiliary force concentrated at Culpeper, Virginia. 
On the 29th a conference of Generals Dix, Keyes, Terry, Getty, Gordon, Harlan and Foster was held, at which Colonel Spear of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry reported that in his raid he had destroyed the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad Bridge over the South Anna and had captured General Fitz-Hugh Lee and one hundred prisoners; he also reported that the available force protecting Richmond was from twelve to fourteen thousand men. It was then decided that the Richmond fortifications could not be successfully attacked with our force of 20,510 men, and it was decided to request General Halleck to transfer the troops to General Meade's army. 
On June 30th it was still raining, and troops were still arriving; the regiment was mustered for pay and the lost shoulder scales were charged to the men. On July 1st General Getty with 10,000 troops started to seize and destroy the railroad bridges over the North and South Anna Rivers, while General Keyes with about 6,000 men was to cause a diversion in his favor by vigorously attacking the enemy at Bottoms Bridge, with orders to maintain his position two or three days; while General Gordon, reinforced by Spinola's Brigade, was ordered to Tunstall’s Station as a reserve for both columns. The 127th were kept on guard at White House with pickets well thrown out, all the troops but our brigade having marched with these two expeditions. July 2d was very hot; at 4 p. m. firing was heard from the direction of Bottoms Bridge and continued for half an hour and at intervals during the evening and through the night there was both heavy musketry and cannon firing. 
General Keyes, who had been ordered to vigorously attack the enemy at Bottoms Bridge and to hold his position for two or three days, made the attack, but afterwards fell back, and the Confederate General Hill reported to the Richmond War Office that the Yankees had been driven back toward White House, and offered to send up Cooke's Brigade, 2,751 strong, to reinforce the troops defending the bridges over the Annas. It was therefore evident that General Keyes' attack was of little value as a diversion in favor of General Getty. 
On July 3d the men of our regiment on picket were relieved at 3 a.m. and were ordered to pack up and be ready to move; wagons were loaded and horses kept harnessed, and it was rumored that we were going to Baltimore or Washington; but after waiting all day marching orders were countermanded. 
July 4th, which was another very hot day, was observed by firing a national salute at noon, while the sound of distant guns indicated that General Getty was attacking the bridges over the Annas. Troops in camp kept pretty quiet during the day, but at night we were allowed to build a large fire and addresses were made by General Gordon, Colonel Gurney and Lieutenant Colonel Woodford. General Gordon read a dispatch from General Halleck announcing General Meade's victory over Lee at Gettysburg, and our drum corps played patriotic airs.

-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
by McGrath, Franklin, ed

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

With the "Monitors" in the Summer of 1863- II

Part two of an account of the 127th New York Volunteers on the Peninsula in 1862 . . .

On June 14th Colonel Porter of the 40th Massachusetts reported that he had captured Diascund Bridge without serious opposition, and General Halleck the same day informed General Dix that General Lee's army was in motion up the Shenandoah Valley, and directed him to concentrate all of his available force and threaten Richmond, to seize and destroy the railroad bridges over the North and South Anna Rivers, and to do the enemy all the damage he could. General Dix was unable to promptly comply with this order, as the transports necessary to transfer the portion of his force from Norfolk were being used at Acquia Creek by the War Department; still the probability is that the delay made little difference, as General Lee had on the 12th ordered General Hill to move troops forward, and protect the bridges over the two Annas, and also to protect the approaches to Richmond. 
On the 15th the weather was again oppressively warm. The pickets brought in about a dozen prisoners, suspected of bush-whacking, and a wounded Union cavalry man, who had been fired upon from ambush, while picking berries, passed through camp on his way to the rear. The 16th was another very warm day, and as the regiment was camped in an open field with no other shelter than a rail fence the heat was very oppressive. Rations, which consisted of hard tack, pork and coffee, were getting scarce, and the visit of the paymaster afforded no relief, as nothing could be purchased in the neighborhood. 
On the 18th General Dix ordered General Gordon to make his troops as comfortable as possible, and on the 19th we were glad to get our knapsacks and shelter tents which had been left behind at the Williamsburg camp. The regiment had been since the nth in bivouac under such shelter as could be improvised by the use of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the officers had not only fared the same as the men in this respect, but some had been glad to share the men's rations. The Field and Staff occupied a four foot high shelter made of fence rails and rubber blankets, and the dignified Lieutenant Colonel and the gruff Major could, at times, be seen crawling in and out on their hands and knees. The whole situation tended to laxity in dignity, and the customary lectures to delinquent officers, which were usually followed by the "good morning'" style of dismissal, were for the time omitted. The writer recalls seeing General Schimmelfennig and Staff crawl out at reveille from among the bivouac of the rank and file when the troops first reached Newport News on their way to South Carolina, but he never again had the pleasure of seeing any of the Field officers of the 127th regiment roughing it as the enlisted men had to do, though they enjoyed that privilege when the regiment marched up the Charleston and Savannah Railroad from Pocotaligo to Charleston. The shelter tents were received and pitched not any too soon, as on the night following their arrival it rained very hard, and we were glad to have even this partial protection. 
The Confederate Field returns on the 20th showed 10,176 troops "for duty" in the defenses of Richmond, and on the 21st the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals were concentrating 20,000 troops at Yorktown for an advance on Richmond, but General Hill expressed the opinion that the Federals were going to attack the bridges over the Annas. On the 23d our regiment was ordered to pack our woolen blankets into the knapsacks that they might be sent back to Fort Magruder to be stored. General confusion now prevailed in camp; cooks were preparing rations, and those men who had received boxes from home were distributing their contents among their best friends, that the good things of this life, which they had just received, might be put where they would do the most good. 
At 11 p.m. the regiment fell in and marched about eleven miles, reaching Barnesville(Barhamsville?) about three o'clock the next morning (24th), where we bivouacked near the camp of the 144th N. Y. We did not break camp until the 25th, and the men made themselves as comfortable as possible by the use of small pine poles and shelter tents. Colonel Spear with eight hundred Pennsylvania and two hundred and fifty Illinois and Massachusetts Cavalry started out to attempt the destruction of the Virginia Central Railroad bridge over the South Anna River. 
It rained hard during the night of the 24th and the day of the 25th, and while other troops were still marching by the regiment remained in bivouac until 4.30 p. m., when we were ordered to fall in and follow them. After marching about 1 1/2 miles we came to a large piece of woods near Ropers Church, in which the other troops were camped and where we also bivouacked. It was raining hard and the outlook for a comfortable night was not promising, but the shelter tents were quickly pitched and floored with a rubber blanket, and large fires were soon started at which the savory coffee furnished by Uncle Sam was cooked, and the groups of three could soon be seen sitting in the edge of their tents laughing and joking as they ate their supper of coffee, crackers and pork. The ground outside of the tents was speedily ditched enough to keep out the running water, and it was not long after supper before the men were dreaming of the "good time coming." General Gordon in commenting upon the cheerful bearing of the troops under such gloomy circumstances said it indicated the ability of the American soldier to adapt himself to his surroundings. 
The same day the Confederate Secretary of War notified General Hill that the Federals had landed six thousand troops at White House, and he ordered Jenkins' Confederate Brigade (2,632 strong) up to Richmond. At an early hour on the morning of the 26th, the regiment with the rest of the column broke camp and in a drizzling rain resumed the march toward the White House; as the roads were heavy with mud and the clothing and equipment damp, the march was very trying. At 3 p.m. we passed New Kent Court House on our left and arrived at Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey River about 6 p.m. and bivouacked with many other troops already there.

-The History of the 127th New York Volunteers, "Monitors," in the War for the Preservation of the Union -- September 8th, 1862, June 30th, 1865
McGrath, Franklin, ed