Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Devil in New Kent . . .Captured?

The Times of Richmond, April 2, 1902 . . .

. . .and that's all I got.
I believe the date is probably the secret behind this odd sequence of articles.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Devil in New Kent, Part II

People Who Saw The Devil

Eye witnesses to His Excursions in New Kent County
(Special Dispatch to The Times)
Roxbury, VA., March 28- The report of the devil being loose near Norfolk and coming to New Kent, has got the colored people greatly excited. They are holding meetings nightly to devise some plan to exterminate him. Two colored men here from the neighborhood of Barhamsville declare they had seen him and after a desperate struggle, they managed to escape and were on their way to Richmond, Having left their homes never to return. 
George Otey, who lives near this place and is a vary reliable colored man, says the devil chased him from near Providence Forge last night, the description he gave of him being very black with horns and with red eyes, as large as a full moon. He said that when near him the devil would spit fire, from which he was badly burned. So he is really playing havoc with the colored people in this section, and they think he is working his way in the direction of Tunstalls and Free Town, near the latter place. 
A negro man giving his name as Steve Mayo appeared to be nearly frightened to death. he was soaking wet and claimed he was run into the river near this place at 6 o'clock this morning by the devil or some terrible looking thing. 
When told that it was reported the devil was loose near Norfolk, and had been seen in New Kent, he declared "Dat's him, fo' Gord, boss; dat's him. I seed him!"
-The Times of Richmond, March 29, 1902

Hey, I just record this stuff I don't make it up . . .

Monday, October 28, 2013

More on Providence Forge 1914

I've added a few more references to my Providence Forge 1914 plat of a few days ago . . .

 . . . the first black arrow . . .

 . . . is Providence Hall which I have mentioned once before . . .

. . . while this black arrow . . .

 . . . is the Mill at Providence Forge, that stood next to the site of the old Forge . . .

 . . . the photos are from the Historic American Building Survey at the Library of Congress; the photo of the mill was taken in 1937 . . .  the year before the mill was dismantled.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent IV - A visit to Eltham

The continuing story of trooper Francis Colburn Adams' experiences in New Kent during the Peninsula Campaign . . .

The standard image of the house at Eltham; according to the Virginia Historical Society it is based on a drawing by a member of the family

The old Eltham mansion was a large, high, double-storied brick house, with tall chimneys at each end, aspacious hall in the centre, quaint gable windows on the steep roof, and large airy rooms, filled with substantial, but old-fashioned furniture. But little pains had beentaken to keep the building in repair, and there was adingy, antiquated air about it, inside as well as out.Several buildings used for servants' quarters, and which  bore evidence of having been spacious and comfortable,were now tumbling down in decay. A large brickbuilding, a few yards from the house, was used promiscuously for a kitchen, a chicken loft, a carriage house,and the quarters of several old and infirm negroes.But the whole more nearly resembled the shop of a blacksmith, who had taken a rag-seller and sootty cookinto partnership.

The present owner of this plantation, a rank secessionist,* whose name I have now forgotten, left for a placeof safety as we approached, leaving everything to the  care of an overseer, a swarm of sooty women and children (slaves) of all colors, and a few very old men.The able-bodied field hands, except the few he had induced to go with him, had all gone in pursuit of freedom.Those left had had it all their own way for a day or two, and the house was in nice state of confusion when we entered it. The overseer, too, was in a state of great grief at the way things were going, and wished, as he said, every hour in the day, that Mr. -— had stayed at home to look after the property. What  grieved him most was that the negroes treated his orders with contempt, and "grinned at him, and said they won't." He wanted to apply the lash, and whip them into obedience, as he had been accustomed to.

When told that if he attempted it he would find himself in the guard-house, and perhaps in irons, he thought it very hard of us to interfere in this way with his authority. This overseer was a little, lean, leathery man, with a sallow complexion, or perhaps I should say, no complexion at all, a sharp, angular visage, and a small dull eye. He wore a shabby grey coat, that reached almost to his heels, a soft hat slouched over his eyes, and seemed to be shirtless. He was a strange and quaint item of humanity, this little old man, this sovereign of the lash, who had so long controlled the affairs of the plantation. His mind seemed to be in a continual state of confusion and perplexity. He would  pace up and down in front of the old mansion, now pausing and looking with an air of wonder over the fields that were being desolated, then mutter to himself as if crazed with some new care. Then he would stand for an hour, fixed as a statue, but like a man full of sorrows, and without knowing what to do. If any one asked him a question he would answer civilly, moodily ; and he would generally end by saying, "Things have  changed so mightily since Mr. left, I don't know what's best to be done." Then he would shake his head and inquire if we intended to send them all away and sell the place. " If you do," he would add, "there'll be no more for overseers to do." The picture of this  little, moody old man, as he passed up and down before the antiquated mansion, contemplating at times the troops that had so suddenly and rudely destroyed his
fields, was one I shall not soon forget.

We took possession of the old mansion, and converted it into headquarters for Generals Franklin, Slocum, and Newton. The "young gentlemen" of the staff made themselves comfortable in the upper rooms, which were spacious and airy, and well stocked with feather beds and massive high-post bedsteads. General Franklin ordered that nothing be taken from the house, and the furniture, as far as possible, be preserved from harm. An inquisitive correspondent, however, found means of getting into the bureaus, and brought to light a number of ancient and curious documents, some of them valuable for their connection with the history of the place. There was also a considerable number of valuable old books found in one of the rooms, and which I fear were destroyed after we left.

When we arrived, the yards and gardens swarmed with pigs, turkeys, geese, and chickens, and against these an indiscriminate war was carried on until the provost marshal came up and put an end to it. The generals had gone out to examine the front and direct the disposition of troops ; and several " young gentlemen" of the staff, seeing such an excellent opportunity of replenishing their larders, set upon the astonished poultry and defenceless roasters with a fierceness and energy they had not displayed in battle. Clubs, stones, pistols, and swords were used freely, and it was, to say the least, somewhat amusing to see a race for life between the smallest kind of a porker and a brilliantly  uniformed staff officer. Another, with a taste for chicken or turkey, would draw his sword and begin the chase, not stopping until he had secured his game. The most amusing scene during this " chicken war," at Eltham, which was not waged without the loss of some blood, was enacted between a tall, gaunt, fair-haired German officer of cavalry, in spectacles, and prodigiously booted and spurred, on the one side, and a goose he wanted for dinner on the other. The goose resolved not to be captured, and made desperate use of both wings and legs, and the stalwart trooper was equally resolved not to be done out of his dinner ; so the chase was kept up for at least twenty minutes, the trooper gaining on the goose at every stride, cutting right and left with his sabre, and each time missing his aim, owing to short-sightedness. In truth, the goose was likely to get the better of the trooper, when the assistance of an Irish orderly was called in and the gobbler brought down with a stone. Other gentlemen were equally persevering in their pursuit of turkeys and chickens ; and what with the loud gabbling of geese, the squeals of pigs, the screams of chickens, the loud gobbling of turkeys, and the wild enthusiasm of little negroes, who joined in the chase, the medley of ungrateful sounds became deafening. Two splendid peacocks, alarmed at the slaughter that was going on, sought, safety on the top of the house, and remained perched on one of the tall chimneys, where we left them two days afterwards, cautiously viewing the scenes below, but exhibiting no inclination to come down for food or water.

The little old overseer was very much disturbed in his mind at seeing the ranks of his poultry thus unceremoniously thinned out, and seemed greatly relieve when the provost marshal ordered him to lock up what whatever was left, and sell them for gold, which he did finding ready customers. Now, this war on the poultry of the Eltham plantation had its serious, as well as humorous aspects, and came very near resulting in a duel between two gallant gentlemen of the staff. A question of right to a chicken arose, and resulted in a very angry dispute between Captain Walden and Lieutenant Baker. Menacing attitudes were taken, and language used not common among gentlemen. It looked, indeed, as if we should be called on to measure ground for the gentlemen, and send for surgeons, pistols being the only means left of insuring satisfaction and settling the dispute. It may disappoint the reader, however, to know that no blood was shed, and that the dispute came to an end by each striving to outdo in the use of very bad language.

A short distance in the rear of the old mansion, near the bank of the river, and shaded by some fine old trees, was an ancient cemetery, surrounded by a high brick wall, and entered through an arched gateway, with stone lintels. In the centre of this cemetery  stood a moss-covered tomb, with the slab broken in the centre, and otherwise defaced. After clearing away the moss, I succeeded in reading the following inscription on the slab:

"Here lyes Intered ye body of y Hon. William B. Bassett, Esq., and Bridget, his wife,  of the County of Southampton, in ye Kingdom of England. He married Joanna, eldest daughter of Lewis Burwell, Esq., with whom he happily lived 29 years rnd ten months, and was blessed with 5 sons and 7 daughters. He departed this life ye 11th of October, 1723, in the 53d year of his age. He was a good christian, an affectionate, obliging husband, a kind and indulgent father, and a good master. His loss was greatly lamented by his county, his country, and family, and inexpressively to his mournful, disconsolate widow, who also departed this life ye 7th day of October, 1727, in ye 53d year of her age."

There is no doubt that good Squire Bassett was a fine Virginia gentleman of the olden time; that he kept choice hounds and fleet horses; that he entertained his friends at the chase; that he had many slaves; that the lords and ladies of the land were welcome guests
at his mansion; that, in a word, he lived as a fine old gentleman ought to live, and died a good christian. But that was before the hearts and souls of Virginia gentlemen were made corrupt by the degrading business of slave-breeding. Eltham had fallen from its high estate; genius, beauty, and wealth no longer held court in its halls; its gardens were overgrown with rank weeds, and the traces of its former grandeur fast wearing out in decay; and there was proof enough that the present owner made slave-breeding Eltham's chief source of profit.

" You used to raise a good many slaves on this place, I suppose?" inquired a Union soldier, stopping and accosting the little, old overseer.
" A right smart heap," replied the man, curtly.

'' About how many ?" queried the soldier.

" Say from fifteen to twenty a yeer; prime hands; brought a right smart bit of money; wus wurth from ten to twelve hunderd a head. Niggers all runed away whin you cum'd. Aint wuth much now. Slipperyest property now a man can have." "What did you used to do with them?" continued the soldier, fixing a stare on him; " sell them in the market with your pigs ?"

" Down South," replied the man, confusedly; then turning to the soldier, with a look of sympathy, he continued, in broken sentences, " Bin a prayin' all night that the Lord would deliver us from this cuss as is cum upon us."

" Old man," replied the soldier, with a look of scorn, " better if you had prayed to the devil. God don't heed the prayers of wicked men like you."

* the "rank secessionist" was Richmond T. Lacy. Eltham had passed out of the Bassett family in the early 1850's and Lacy was now one of the largest landowners in the county. Possessing over 3,700 hundred acres, Lacy owned or hired almost sixty slaves. He also had two sons in the Confederate army.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Post War Immigration: Special Octoborfest Edition

. . . post Civil War immigration that is . . .

While searching through the 1870 census for New Kent County, looking for Northern post-war immigrants who might have been active in the nascent Republican Party I came across a curious pattern. The non-Virginia born are few and far between in 1870, literally page after page is filled only with Virginia born with a sprinkling of Alabamans, Georgians and Marylanders. The Northern born number less than ten. As for foreign born, they are as few as you would think. They are: one Englishman, one Swede, one Scot, one Welshman, one Frenchman(the gardener for the Lee's) and six Irish. They are all single men or married to Virginia wives, except for the case of one Irish family of a husband and wife and two adult children. The data I found striking was the eleven German led households. The birth locations identify five as Wurttembergers, four as Prussians, one from Baden and a Pole with a German name. I assume the "Pole" was Prussian, there having been no "Poland" for fifty years. Here is the list . . . first the Prussians . . .

  • Schair, Henry          age 48
  • Miller, Henry                 35
  • Myers, Henry                37
  • Vendal, Anthony            36
 with the "pole"
  • Rosse, John W.              50

the Wurttembergers . . .

  •  Ackerman, David           41
  • Brown, Earnest               18
  • Wolpert, William             40
  • Happold, George D        46
  • Troelsch, Louis(?)           42
 . . . and the Badener(is that what they're called?)

  • Mortig, Charles               38
Mainly farmers, the exceptions are; Vendal and Mortig, who were watermen, Myers, an engineer, and Rosse, a gardener. Earnest Brown is listed as "farm laborer." These men were the poorest of the lot. Ackerman, Miller, Schair, Wolpert, Happold, and Troelsch all had land valued at least $900 dollars with Schair's coming in at an impressive $16,000. The five of these men fell between the ages of 35 and 48.
Three of the men had Virginia born wives: Myers, Rosse and Mortig.
The birth locations of their children tells its own story, with six of the men having children born in America, the earliest American birth of an eldest child being between 1852 and 1862. Probably most telling, four of the men; Miller, Ackerman, Happold and Troelsch have children listed as born in Pennsylvania before the war, putting these men in the category of Northern immigrants.

As for Post Bellum German immigration to Virginia, I did find this  . . .

"In 1866 the Legislature passed an act to encourage and increase immigration to Virginia, a Board of Immigration was organized and General G. Tochmann and Mr B. Barbour were appointed agents of immigration to Germany and England but without any obligation on the part of the State to pay the expenses. Only insignificant results could be expected of such illiberal policy. Colonel Frank Schaller was authorized by General Tochmann to travel to Germany and to visit first his native State of Saxony to draw immigrants to the Old Dominion. But the success was very trifling. However full credit must be given General Tochmann for his endeavors and good will.
. . .
During the summer of 1868 Rev I. A. Reichenbach came to Richmond, Va., with the intention to organize German colonies in the South On July 21st a public meeting was arranged in front of the City Hall to hear the propositions of the pastor and a committee was elected to examine his plan. The committee consisted of the following highly respected citizens Peple Hoffbauer, Tiedemann, Gimmi, Leybrock, Dr Strecker, and Dr Grebe But the project was soon abandoned for want of confidence in the propositions and the person of the reverend German settlements promising good results were started in the counties Chesterfield, Prince George, Louisa, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg. Wm Grossmann of Petersburg, Va., a native  of Silesia and in the old country professor at a German college but now real estate agent has done very much to develop the German settlement at Port Walthall in Dinwiddie county near the city of Petersburg In Chesterfield county at Granite Station, not far from the city of Manchester, is a prosperous settlement of German Catholics In Lunenburg. Ch. Rickers and O. Jansen from Schleswig Holstein and A. and G. Petzold from Saxony are successful farmers and the same may be said of E. Williams (Wilhelm?) of Prussia in Prince George county. In the southwestern part of Louisa county in 1868 two German villages Frederickshall and Buckner stations on the C & ORR were started by Heselenius, Frosh, Mauker, Lieb, Goering, Stolz, Schrader, Lorey, and others Some of these settlers have removed to other parts of the country, but the majority still remain and are doing well. In the northwestern corner of the same county the author purchased in 1886 a farm and planted a large vineyard known as "Idlewild Vineyards." The reports of the State Commissioner of Agriculture mention that in 1888 to 1892 several Pennsylvania Germans came to Botetourt. Into Albemarle and Orange Germans immigrated from Illinois, Wisconsin, Dakota, Nebraska, and Ohio, in Prince George a number of Germans from Russia and Bohemia purchased farms, and in Goochland many families from the northeastern States and among them some Germans settled since the war and are well pleased. Other official documents show that the counties Henry, Norfolk, Warwick, Roanoke, Alleghany, and Taxwell increased in population from 126 to 195 per cent and that a large number of the newcomers are Germans. The old German settlements on Opequan, Shenandoah, Rapidan, Rappahannock, Dan, New, and Roanoke rivers also received some additions from the Northeast and direct from Germany. The status of Virginia for the year 1870 says page 178, "Of the foreign population of Virginia, Ireland furnished nearly one half, Germany one third, England one sixth, and Scotland one twentieth . . ."

-History of the German Element in Virginia, Volume 2
Herrmann Schuricht
T. Kroh & sons, printers, 1900

. . .oh, and it's Badenser

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sour Grapes

Some times a title just writes itself . . . The Times of Richmond, April 13, 1902


An Old Fox-Hunter Makes a Rare Find in New Kent

(Special Dispatch to The Times)
Roxbury, VA., April 12- Col. S.L. Savage, the veteran fox-hunter while out a few days ago with his pack of fine fox hounds ran an old red fox into a hollow. After much trouble he got the dogs away: the he went back to get the fox. He found it was an old mother fox with six little ones, apparently not more than two days old. 
Mr. Savage is very tender-hearted gentleman. He would not disturb the happy family, but says if the Deep Run Hunt Club, or any one else, will get the whole family for them. They will be fine size by the fall for good sport. Red foxes are generally scarce. He will tell no one where they are for fear some one would exterminate the whole family of rare beauties.

. . . The Times of Richmond, May 18, 1902 . . .

 Mr. Surthy(sic) Savage the veteran fox-hunter who lives near Talleysville is greatly worried. He has been completely outwitted by two old foxes upon which he has sworn vengeance. Mr. Savage is now three score and ten and will tip the scales at 240 pounds. Though his hair is silvered by the storms of many winters he is as bright and active as many at twenty-five. 
Some time ago while he was enjoying a fox-hunt, his dogs ran old fox into a hollow log. When he got close enough he was surprised to find a whole family of young foxes. They were such rare beauties that he has made great calculations what he was going to do with the little pets. mention was made at the time through the press. The result was that over a hundred applications were made for them. 
A few days ago he went after the family. To his surprise no foxes could be found. The old foxes had moved to some other home. Now he is very sorely grieved. He is still hunting for them. He say he will kill the last one.

That S.L. "Surthy" Savage is in fact Southey L. Savage(1833-1915). As for the Colonelcy, he was a sergeant in Co. F "New Kent Cavalry,"the 3rd Virginia Cavalry, until 1862 when he held a Lieutenancy in the Confederate Signal Corp. More on Southey Savage later. . .

Friday, October 18, 2013

Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent III . . . A March to Eltham

The continuing story of trooper Francis Colburn Adams' experiences in New Kent during the Peninsula Campaign . . .

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection-Map of the vicinity of Richmond, Va., and part of the Peninsula. From surveys made under the direction of Capt. A.H. Campbell, P.E.C.S.A., in charge, Topographical Department, D.N.Va. 1864.


The morning after the battle (the 8th) came in bright and beautiful. The crash and clash of battle had ceased, and although its fierce engines were still here, and the dead were there to harrow up the feelings of the living, and the wounded to call for succoring hands
and sympathizing hearts, the quiet picture was in strange contrast with that of yesterday. We were surrounded by one of those soft, quiet landscapes than which none could be more beautiful. A gentle breeze, sweet with the breath of flowers, came playing as it were over the river. And the calm, winding waters of the Pamunky and Mattapony, the vast green fields that stretched away from their banks, the dark, luxuriant foliage that gave such a crispness and outline to the picture, with flowers everywhere in full bloom — all seemed to combine in one enchanting harmony. Here nature had just put on her most beautiful robes, as if to excite the soul's love. Strange thoughts forced themselves on the mind, one after another, while sitting on the bank of the river contemplating this gorgeous scene. How is it, I asked myself, that a God who is all goodness, and controls all things, has made man the most destructive of all His creatures, and permits him to lay waste these beautiful scenes, to scourge the earth with war ?

There were arrivals from Washington and New York this morning, and we again had the sutler and the news-boy in camp, both doing a brisk business. The battle of Williamsburg was just then absorbing our attention, and as we were anxious to get the lists of killed
and wounded, everybody bought a newspaper.

Portions of Sedgwick's, Richardson's, and Porter's divisions had come up by water from Yorktown during the night. About 9 o'clock there might have been seen about the headquarters' tents groups of generals, some of whose names will have a prominent place in the nation's history. In one stood the tall, thoughtful, and brave Franklin; the affable and courteous Fitz John Porter ; that sturdy, frank, and unpretentious soldier, Sedgwick; and the blunt, but good-humored Colonel Alexander, surrounded by a number of their staff officers. In another stood the sleeker, meditative, and restless Slocum, with his bronzed face and sharp features; the genial and brave John Newton; Dana, and the rolicking and energetic Torbert, of the Jersey brigade. There, too, was the honest-hearted Richardson; all surrounded by a number of staff officers, many of whom have since been killed or disabled for life; others have risen to high commands.

About 10 o'clock, an enterprising German arrived from Washington with a supply of refreshing lager, which found a hearty welcome at headquarters, for the morning was warm and sultry. Our friends, the newly arrived generals, were invited to join us, and numerous glasses were quaffed, with thanks to the man who first made lager.

About one o'clock, Franklin's division was ready to march, and after the wounded were taken care of, and the solemn ceremony of burying the dead performed, moved forward on a narrow, swampy, road, five miles to Eltham, on the right bank of the Pamunky, which here made a beautiful curve, and to the west of which, and following the course of the winding stream, extensive meadows stretched away as far as the eye could reach. This Eltham was a broad, level farm, of some two thousand acres, the soil remarkably rich and productive, and even now under tolerably good cultivation. It had evidently been a place of considerable importance, and had a history full of romance. Time was when the wealth, the fashion, the beauty, and the wits of the country round about assembled at Eltham, and held high court on the lawns and in the halls of the old mansion. But Eltham, like Virginia's pride, (a pride strongly resembling that found in England,) was coming down, and going to decay. An old black man, who had passed his five-score years, still lived on the place, and could tell you with great distinctness of the time when Eltham was gay and festive, and when the great men of Virginia were the welcome guests of his master, and the feast set before them was "the best in all the land."

Extensive fields of flowering clover, of rye, and wheat, stretched away from the river, and into these our division debouched and bivouacked, the animals enjoying the feast thus spread before them. In forty-eight hours these fields, so luxuriant of the coming harvest when we entered them, presented only a surface of bald clay. A landing was also made on the bank of the river, and a temporary depot established, and the fleet of transports and steamers came sweeping up in grand style, their spars and funnels presenting a novel appearance among the trees and deep green foliage with which the river banks were lined.

Our information respecting the capacity of the Pamunky river was somewhat confused at first. Few vessels of any size had ascended above West Point. Virginians had not given themselves the trouble to sound it, nor to consider the advantages it might give them in properly developing so rich a country. Hence it came to be regarded by the people along its banks as navigable only for oyster boats and small craft of very light draught. Some of the negroes, who had acted as pilots and oystermen on the river, thought a channel could be found much further up for nine and even ten feet of water. In order to settle this question, a gunboat, commanded by Captain Nicholson, with Colonel Alexander, of the engineers. Captain Arnold, of the artillery, (then on Franklin's staff,) and two other officers, whose names I have forgotten, started on a voyage of discovery up the river, the object being to establish our depot of supplies as near Richmond as we could get by water.
-The Story of a Trooper: With Much of Interest Concerning the Campaign on the Peninsula

-to be continued-

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Providence Forge 1914

A fascinating (well, to me at least) plat I discovered in the Virginia Chancery Index. From the 1914 case of Providence Forge Fish and Hunt Club v. George Potts, Etc., it gives a great view of turn of the century Providence Forge. I say "great" in the sense of interesting, in actuality the paper condition does make it a little difficult to distinguish some details.

 . . . to make it a little clearer, I've picked out a few landmarks . . . first here we have the Old Hotel by the railroad tracks . . .

 . . .then Providence Presbyterian Church . . .

. . . and finally the Train Depot . . .

Now zoomed in . . .

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hood's "Texians" in Battle

As counterpoise to the Union account of the Battle of Eltham from Adams' Story of a Trooper, I present Nicholas "Chaplain" Davis' telling of events from The Campaign from Texas to Maryland.

"After a tiresome day's march, during which we were several times thrown into
line of battle, we reached Williamsburg, where the army had halted at about 5
P. M., and passing through, bivouacked about two miles above town. About an
hour after we had passed through, the advance guard of the enemy appeared,
and after exchanging a few artillery compliments, retired. On the following
morning afield onset was made and continued until morning. In this battle
the Yankees were repulsed with a heavy loss, amounting in killed, wounded
and prisoners to about 5,000. Our loss was also severe, and amounted to about
2,500 The courage and endurance of our troops were fearfully tried in this
engagement, but they stood the test like true Southrons and patriots, battling
for freedom. On the night previous to this battle, news reached our Generals
that the enemy with gunboats and transports was pushing up York river. It
was now evident that by a rapid movement on our rear, they expected to re-
tard our progress until they could disembark troops at Eltham's Landing, oppo-
site West Point, and by cutting our army in two, at least capture our artil-
lery and wagon train, Great energy and courage were now required to save the
retreating army. If they were allowed time to select and occupy their posi-
tion serious disaster must be the result. This enterprise was committed to
proper hands. At 11 o'clock that night, Gen. Whiting's Division, notwithstand-
ing their hard day's march, were called up and put in motion. Through the rain
and mud they marched until day, and on until night again, when a halt was
ordered, and tired, hungry and wet, the men dropped where they stood and
slept in spite of the storm. The next morning scouts were thrown out to feel
for the position of the enemy, and the command was allowed a few hours rest.
This being "ration day," and the commissary missing, the men were informed
that they could go across the road to a corn crib and help themselves to some
corn on the cob, to be eaten raw, or roasted in the ashes, as their different
tastes might prompt. All were hungry enough to appreciate this liberality,
and such corn-cracking as followed has seldom been heard outside a hog-pen,
and a hearty laugh went round when some wag, seated on a log, called impe-
riously for "a bundle of fodder and bucket of salt and water." After night,
two men of the 5th Texas* got separated from their company, which was put on
picket duty, and while searching for it came upon a squad of men in the
woods, just as the order "Fall in, company," was delivered. Not being cere-
monious they obeyed promptly and marched off. Judge of their surprise and
chagrin when they, too late, discovered that they had joined a Yankee com-
pany, and being unable to "surround it" as the Irishman did the Hessians,
they quietly surrendered their arms and acknowledged themselves ''taken in."


The command was put in motion at daylight of May 7th, and about 7 o'clock
A. M., came upon a picket of the enemy, who fired two shots at Gen. Hood,
who was riding at the head of the 4th Texas, now in front. One shot struck
Corporal Sapp, of Co. H, in the head, inflicting a severe but not dangerous
wound . Private John Deal, of Co. A, whose gun was loaded, immediately fired
upon the pickets as they ran, and struck the only one in sight, killing him
instantly . Some confusion was observed at first in consequence of empty guns,
but Gen Hood immediately called out to the men to "move up," which they
did at double quick, and line of battle was immediately formed on the brow
of a hill. Beyond this hill, which had a precipitous descent, was an open
field of six or eight hundred yards width. On the opposite side were some
four or five companies of the enemy, who immediately began falling back
into the timber, but not until several random shots had been fired by our men,
which we afterwards discovered had killed five and wounded as many more.
Company B (Captain Carter) was then ordered by Gen. Hood to deploy as
skirmishers and "feel the enemy." They advanced across the open field, and
entering the timber, began a "running fight." Co. G (Captain Hutcheson)
was then ordered forward to support Co. B, if necessary; if not, to deploy on
its right the latter course was adopted. Company K (Captain Martin) was
next sent to support Company B, and Company E (Captain Ryon) to the sup-
port of Company G. After retreating about half a mile, the Yankees made a
stand behind an old mill-dam, and a spirited engagement ensued between them
and the right platoon of Company B, under Captain Carter, and Company G,
Captain Hutcheson ; Company H (Captain Porter) now arrived upon the
ground, with orders to support the left platoon of Company B, under Lieuten-
ant Walsh. The firing now became general, and the enemy, many of their
guns missing fire, threw them down and fled. While pursuing then, the se-
cond platoon of Company B came upon a large force (some two hundred)
protected by a heavy palisade. This was more than was bargained for, and
the boys, some twenty-five in number, immediately "treed" and answered
their volleys by picking off every one who showed his head. At this juncture
General Hood appeared, and ordered the Lieutenant in command to charge
the works, and he would send support. Just as the command "charge" was
given, and the boys with a yell, had started for the works, the first platoon
of Company B. appeared upon the left flank of the palisade, and the Yankees
fled in confusion, leaving seventeen killed and several wounded in the track of
their flight. While Company B was thus engaged, Company G had also its
share of "fun." Discovering a company of about eighty Yankees, Captain
Hutcheson with his company and part of Company E, attacked them so vigo-
rously that they dared not run, and were so unnerved that they fired volley
after volley into the tree-tops. Captain Hutcheson, who was a Chesterfield in
manner, did not for a moment forget himself during the fight. "Charge them,
gentlemen, charge them."- "Aim low, gentlemen, aim at their waistbands,"
were his constant exhortations, until a portion of the enemy cried for quar-
ters "Throw down your arms, gentlemen, you scoundrels, throw them down.
Sixteen obeyed the order, and the remainder taking advantage of the momen-
tary cessation of hostilities, turned and fled. Bewildered, however, they took
the wrong direction, and coming upon the 5th Texas where it was lying down
in line-of-battle, they were greeted by a volley, which left not one standing.
The fruits of Captain H's victory, were eleven killed, several wounded, and
sixteen prisoners, together with several stand of arms. While these events
were transpiring, the 1st, 5th, and remainder of the 4th Texas had entered the
timber, leaving the 8th Georgia to support the artillery in the rear. A Yan-
kee regiment now appeared upon the left and rear of the skirmishers, with the
intention, doubtless, of cutting them off. There we witnessed, for the first time,


The regiment now advancing 1st California† evidently intended to fight
well, and advanced steadily to within 80 paces of the 1st Texas, when they
halted, poured in a volley, and with three huzzahs attempted to charge. This
was expected, and "aim low, fire" was ordered by Colonel Rainey, and a dis-
charge followed that seemed to mow down the whole front rank, and sent the
remainder in confusion back .again. A whole-souled hearty yell now went up
from the Texans, such as only Southerners can give, and they in turn, charg-
ed. But the Californians were not yet ready to yield, and rallying, they made
a stubborn resistance, and for about twenty minutes the fire raged with terri-
ble fury. The Texans charged again, and the enemy broke and fled, leaving
about two hundred killed; and wounded on the field, and several prisoners in
our hands. The loss of the 1st Texas in this engagement was six killed and
twenty-two wounded. Among- the former we regret to chronicle Lieutenant
Colonel Black and Captain. Decatur, who were loved and mourned by all as
brave men.

After the rout of this regiment, the enemy did not again attack us, but con-
tented themselves with shelling us from their gunboats, and sweeping the
woods with grape from a battery they had planted upon the river bank, with-
out, however, doing us the slightest injury. While this was going on, the
boys had a hearty laugh at the conduct of an


who was attached to the 1st Texas Regiment. During the entire battle, with
musketry, he had conducted himself in the most gallant manner, and had even
succeeded in capturing a Yankee, whom he turned over to the proper officer,
with the brief announcement, "Major, Yank yours, gun mine," and again par-
ticipated in the smuggle. When the first shell came tearing through the
tree-tops, with its screaming inquiry, "Where you, where you?" he uttered a
significant "ugh!" and listened until it burst. At that' instant another came
and exploded just over our heads, when he sprang to his feet, exclaiming, "no
good for Indian," and made for the rear with the agility of an antelope. The
boys did not, however, reproach him, because it has long been understood
that Indians won't stand to be shot at by wagons, more particularly when the
projectile itself shoots so terribly. The entire loss of the brigade in this
engagement was thirty-seven. Of that number Captain Denny, Commissary of the
5th, was killed by a picket, and two men captured, as previously related.
Corporal Sapp, of Company H, and private Spencer, of Company G, 4th Texas, were
wounded; all the other casualties were of the 1st Texas, of which regiment who
cannot speak too highly. These are the men who came from their distant homes,
at their own expense, before the President had called upon Texas for troops to
assist in this great struggle. And, though their names have not occupied a
place in the journals of the day, they have ever been at their posts, ready and
to do and die for our common cause. They are a lively, merry set. and though
often hungry and "ragged," they have shown in numberless instances that they
can march as far and fight as hard as any troops in the service."

 * these presumably are the two captured Texans from Adams' account.

† the 1st California mentioned is in fact the Pennsylvania regiment of that name.

Nicolas A. Davis(1824-194) a self-trained Presbyeterian minister was chaplain of the 4th Texas Infantry. Besides his normal ministerial duties he founded a medical ward in Richmond for members of Hood's Texas Brigade known as the "Texas Hospital."

"Among the first attractions in which Texas has an interest, stands most prominently the Texas Hospital, a large building capable of accommodating 300 patients very comfortably, and 350 if put to the push. Dr. Lindly has the entire supervision, assisted by Dr. Dandridge, both from Texas. Dr. Hughes is likewise a sharer in the duties, though not as yet commissioned. Dr. Allen, of Washington county, has been with the institution since its establishment since its establishment, but leaves for Texas in a few days. All the offices of clerk, steward, matron, nurses, &c., are filled by Texians; Mr. & Mrs. Ferrell, of Houston, holding the positions of steward and matron respectively, with great satisfaction to all concerned. The sick are delighted with this successful hospital, and I am rejoiced to see how completely all work for the general good - fulfilling to the letter the description that I gave your readers, when in Richmond last, of what we ought to have."

From the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, March 23, 1863

-To be continued-

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Cruelty Unsurpassed": The Drake Divorce Petition I

"Before 1848, If Virginians . . . .wanted complete divorces on the ground of adultery, they had to petition the General Assembly to pass a private act in their behalf. Upon their receipt in Richmond, such petitions were referred to the Committee of Courts of Justice in the House of Delegates. Committee members sorted through the documents, discussed whether they believed the petitions" reasonable", and sent their recommendations for action to the entire House. The delegates then considered the opinion of the committed and voted whether to draw up a private bill to grant the divorce. The bill then had to pass both the House and the Senate before being enrolled into law."*

From the Virginia General Assembly Petitions files . . . with perhaps a little hyperbole thrown in . . .

Your Petitioner Louise W. Drake respectfully represents that she was married in the year 1822 to Robert Drake of New Kent County, by whom she has, without any reasonable cause on her part, been treated with a degree of cruelty unsurpassed in any civilized community- That she has, at length, been driven to the neccesity of quitting his house forever, and throwing herself and her two infant children on the charity of her poor relatives & her own feeble physical resources, to avoid a lingering death, from which there was escape if she remained in the inhospitable mansion of her husband. That after making every effort which could be desired by herself, and her friends to regain his lost affections, after she had drained the drop in the cup of humiliation, by stooping at his mandate to his base mistress, and had remained for months in his house altho' deprived even of the bed on which she lay and cut off by his orders from the charity of her neighbors, whom he would not permit to furnish her, or even his own babes, with a bed, she has felt herself impelled by every feeling of honour and by a regard to her own safety, and that of her children, to ask to be forever divorced from the monster in human shape, who would sacrifice not only the life of his wife, but the present and eternal welfare of his children to the indulgence of a low and grovelling(?) passion, which seems to have expelled every feeling of humanity from his [      ] breast. 
She has accordingly filed her statement under the act of Assembly in such case provided, preparatory to application to your Honourable body for a divorce- 
This statement has been found true by an intelligent jury of the county, and the copy of the record thereof, duly authenticated, is hereto attached, as a part of this Petition. 
Your Petitioner begs leave to remark that no language, however strong, can in general terms convey an adequate idea of the cruelty practised on your Petitioner by the said Robert, and she deeply regrets that your Honorable body cannot hear the testimony which at the trial of said Statement aroused the indignation of every person present. No one acquainted with the facts would consider any language too harsh, from your Petitioner. 
She humbly solicits a divorce from the said Robert Drake- and that there two surviving children, a son and a daughter, now under her care may be saved from the grasp of an unfeeling father, and his base and miserable mistress by confiding them to her own protection- To this last prayer, your Petitoner hopes there may be no objection on his part, as he has never since they were taken from his house altho' residing near them, envinced the least regard for them- neither seeing nor supporting them- enquiring after, nor sending, the smallest token of affection. As your Petitioner is suffering from no imprudence or fault of her own, and no earthly tribunal can grant relief save yr. Honorable body, she hopes altho' an humble member of society, that her grievances will be redressed by the General Assembly of Virginia- & she will, as in duty bound, ever pray.

Louise W. Drake

Drake V Drake
Petition for a Divorce
Dec 3  1834
refd. to Atty G

* "To Be Freed from Thate Curs and Let at Liberty". Interracial Adultery and Divorce in Antebellum Virginia
Joshua D. Rothman
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Vol. 106, No. 4 (Autumn, 1998),

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent II . . . The Battle of Eltham

Continued from Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent . . .

Drums beat, bugles sounded, and bands played on Brick House Point that night; and as the shadows of the setting sun played over the broad plateau, over the gleaming bayonets and flying banners, and over the ships on the broad river, giving to each a strange and shadowy outline, the scene became grand and imposing. The troops formed in line of battle as soon as landed, the right stretching away towards the Pamunky river, the left residing near the south bank of the York, and facing the ridge of wood where the enemy had his batteries. In a word, our thin line stretched nearly across the plateau, on each side of which there was a road leading to the wooded position in which the enemy was supposed to be concealed. 
We were entirely in the dark as to the enemy's strength, position, and intentions. Pickets were posted, and scouts were sent out, who soon returned and reported the enemy's pickets just in the edge of the wood, a few hundred yards south of us. The few people we found at Brick House Point had no information to give up. About ten o'clock at night our pickets captured and sent in two of the enemy's men, who, for some time, would give no particular account of themselves, except that they belonged to a Texas regiment, were out for a "look round,'' and didn't know our lines were so near their own. They were both intelligent men, and fine looking soldiers. One was both silent and sullen; from the other we ascertained that the rebel General Whiting, with two brigades of infantry, a small portion of Wade Hampton's cavalry, and two batteries of artillery, (one a Louisiana battery,) some of the best troops of their army, was in position in the woods in front of us, and would attack at daylight in the morning. This force consisted of that portion of the enemy's troops retreating along the bank of the York river.
A consultation was held at headquarters, and dispositions made to meet this attack with Newton's brigade, Newton being assigned to command the field. At nine o'clock, A. M., of the 7th, the enemy opened the fight with his skirmishers on our right and centre. This was the first time the troops of our division had been under fire, but they met the enemy with steadiness and fought with great spirit. The batteries on both sides opened about ten o'clock, and a fierce cannonading was kept up until one o'clock, the enemy fighting most of the time under cover of the woods.He now began to demonstrate on our right, and made several bold and desperate attempts to get possession of the road and turn our right. As soon as our batteries were got into position these attempts on our right were handsomely repulsed, with heavy loss to the enemy, regaining the ground we had temporarily lost. Newton was everywhere in the thickest of the fight, displaying remarkable coolness, great skill in handling his troops, and considerable power in encouraging his men. A little after one o'clock the 95th Pennsylvania, or Goslin Zouaves, were ordered to advance across a piece of open ground, and dislodge the enemy from a piece of wood, from which he had annoyed our center and left considerably. This regiment always had a bad reputation in the division, its material being of the very worst description.
It was noticed at this time that the regiment moved to its work in bad order, and with evident reluctance. It reached the edge of the woods, but broke in confusion at the enemy's first fire, and ran back like a flock of frightened sheep. The officers were quite as bad as the men. It was indeed amusing to hear the stories these distressed heroes told of meeting the enemy's infantry four deep, of getting waist deep into a swamp, of being led into a trap and cut down without any chance of defending themselves. Not a few of them sought a cover for their cowardice by attacking the general-
ship of the officer in command.*

This disgraceful affair of the Pennsylvanians encouraged the enemy to make one or two more bold movements on our right and center. The 3lst and 32d New York were now ordered up to do the work. It was a beautiful sight to see these regiments move promptly forward in a steady straight line, receive and return the enemy's fire as they approached the wood, and then charge into it, sweeping everything before them as they advanced up the hill. The enemy met them here with a deadly fire, the effect of which was seen in their thinned line. But there was no wavering in the ranks. The ground was here contested with

*Some of these absurd stories got into into the newspapers

great bravery on both sides, but the enemy began to give way before the steady advance of our troops, his fire slackened all along the line, and finally ceased about three o'clock, when he gathered up his dead and wounded and left the field. Just as the fight ended, the gunboats, which had found some difficulty in getting into position, owing to the tide, opened on the enemy's right, hastening his movements from the field. 
Various strange and somewhat romantic accounts have been written of this battle, if such it may be called, and given to the public for true. In nearly all of them the victory is credited to the gunboats, whereas they did not open their guns until the fight was essentially over. In one, General Morrill was credited with fighting the battle, and acting with great gallantry. Morrill was at least twenty miles away, and was much amused when he saw the part he had taken in a battle he was not in so carefully described by the veracious writer. Another intelligent correspondent wrote so remarkable a description of this battle as to astonish all the generals who were in it, and a good many who were not. He also described himself as continually in the thickest of the fight, and so "begrimed by the smoke of battle" as scarcely to be able to see the paper he was writing on, when, to tell the honest truth, he was spending the day on the West Point side of the river, gathering wild flowers. 
This was called a little fight, but there was some good fighting done, and General Newton deserves great credit for his coolness and gallantry during the day. Himself a Virginian, roared and educated amongst, and long the intimate associate of those who were now lighting to destroy the Republic, he stood firmly by his country, and no influence they could bring could make him a traitor. There were also three officers of lower rank whose coolness and bravery on the field that day deserve to be recorded. These were Colonel Pratt, of the 31st N. Y. V., and Colonel Matheson and Major Lemon, of the 32d N. Y. V., (formerly 2d California.) Nothing could have exceeded the steadiness and bravery with which these officers led their regiments into the woods, in the face of the enemy's hottest fire. They have since distinguished themselves on several battle fields. Pratt still lives, but was severely wounded at Gaines' Hill. The other two have given their lives to their country. Poor Lemon, in whose breast a more generous heart never beat, died of wounds received at the battle of Crampton's Gap.
The casualties of this battle, which was fought at Brick House Point, not West Point, as has been erroneously stated, were forty-four killed, and one hundred and fifty-two wounded, many seriously. We lost seventeen fine young officers killed. And out of a company of seventy-four men (31st N. Y. V.) which charged into the woods, only eight returned. The remainder, including its officers, were either killed or wounded. 
During the severest fighting on our right, Lieut. Baker of General Franklin's, and Captain Montgomery of General Newton's staffs, rode beyond our line, got confused, and fell into (he enemy's hands. A minute or two after, one of our batteries happened to drop a shell close to the spot where they were captured, causing the rebels to make a sudden movement for safety. Baker, who still had his horse, took advantage of this, started at full speed, and made his escape. Montgomery was not so fortunate. He had lost his horse, and lay on the ground affecting to be dead, when some rebel officers came up and began an inquisitive inquiry into the extent of his valuables. In the exercise of their chivalry his pockets had to be delicately examined, and as articles of jewelry and spare cash could be of no earthly use to a dead man, what harm could there be in appropriating them? "During this little operation," said the captain, "they tickled me. I could not stand that, and had to come to life, laughing." He claimed good treatment as their prisoner of war; but his captors were both sullen and earnest, and not disposed to enjoy such a joke, which they characterized as a mean Yankee way of "playing possum." But the captain was a pleasant gentleman, and by his manners soon succeeded in reconciling them to him. 
We had set the captain down as a prisoner. About 10 o'clock at night, however, he relieved our anxiety by walking into headquarters, and, of course, giving us a very interesting account of the way in which he made his escape, and what the rebels said and did while he enjoyed their hospitality. The captain's uniform was somewhat damaged; but the loss of his horse, sword, and watch was the most serious. 
There were acts of savagery committed on our dead and wounded by the enemy during this battle that were a disgrace to civilization, and should stand as an indelible proof of the cruel spirit which ruled in the southern army during the early stages of the war. One of our officers was found with his throat cut from ear to ear. And this act of savagery had been performed after his body had been pierced by balls. The bodies of two soldiers had been brutally cut with knives. The men reviewed these disfigured bodies with feelings deeply excited. Many of them swore to take revenge at the first opportunity; but the spirit of retribution did not accord with their notions of manliness, and I never heard of their treating the enemy's wounded and prisoners except with respect and kindness.
It was reported in camp that these acts of savagery were committed by Cherokee Indians, attached to Wade Hampton's command. It was also reported that negroes were seen dragging these bodies into the woods after they fell, and having stripped them of everything valuable, inflicted these wounds with knives. Being unable to trace these reports to a reliable source, I am inclined to discredit them, and to believe that these savage acts were committed by men with whiter hands, if not hearts. 
During the afternoon Lieut. Hoff, of General Franklin's staff, was sent with a steamer to West Point, to bring away about forty persons, mostly women and old men, who belonged in the vicinity of Fort Monroe, and had been taken and held by Magruder as hostages for a similar number of civilians " with rebel tendencies" arrested and held by Butler. The rebel force retreating from Gloucester Point had left them here. Lieut. Hoff found them in a most destitute condition, and took immediate steps to supply their wants and restore them to their homes. I shall not attempt to draw a picture of these poor people. Several of them were young, delicate girls, who told a sad and sickening story of the treatment they had received at the hands of men claiming to be southern gentlemen.

-To be continued-

Monday, October 7, 2013

Story of a Trooper: Francis Colburn Adams in New Kent

Francis Colburn Adams had been a published author for some eight years before he decided to join the 1st New York Cavalry, the "Lincoln Cavalry," in 1861. His 1865 account of his early war experiences, The Story of a Trooper: With Much of Interest Concerning the Campaign on the Peninsula, contains several chapters of his experiences in New Kent County in 1862.


The fleet in Poquosin river presented a busy, bustling scene during the 4th and 5th. Franklin was ordered to move with his division up the York river on West Point, at once. It was hoped by this movement to cut off or intercept some portion of the enemy's force
retreating up the Peninsula. But a flank movement by water, even for so short a distance, was likely to be attended with considerable delay. Such of the division as had been landed had to be re-shipped, and the work of getting animals and artillery on board was  heavy. And there was not room in the river, nor wharf facilities, to work to advantage. Officers and men worked night and day, and did their best, dispatching the vessels round to Yorktown as soon as they were loaded, but it was not until nearly noon of the 6th that the division was on board, and the fleet in line before Yorktown, ready to move.

The day was remarkably clear and springlike, and the river smooth. The signal was given at one o'clock, and the fleet moved in two lines, preceded by gunboats, and presented a grand appearance. These gunboats were at that time a terror to the people along river banks; a few shells thrown ashore causing many of them to leave their homes and seek safety at a distance.

The landscape here was new and strange to us. It  did, indeed, seem as if we were sailing on a grand excursion, with a gay and joyous company, through some fair and beautiful garden. The beautifully sloping banks of the river, the deep green fields, the fine farmhouses, with their pretty gardens, their orchards in full blossom, their broad avenues, and lawns dotted with shade trees, and the cattle grazing in the distance, formed a pastoral picture of great beauty. The people came out at times from their houses, and stood along  the banks, watching the movements of the fleet. The masts of a sunken vessel or the booming of a gun on one of the gunboats were the only things that gave a tinge of war to this beautiful picture.

Twenty miles above Yorktown the water began to shoal, and the river seemed to expand into a lake. There was a thickly wooded ridge on the south shore, and extending nearly at right angles from this, and  well across the head of the stream, was a broad level plateau, at the northern extremity of which a little  brick house stood. This was Brick House Point The river here made a sweep to the right, or north, and opened into what seemed a  sequestered cove. About a mile and a half beyond this, and to the west, was a narrow point of land, on which stood a number of large wooden buildings or sheds. This was West Point, the buildings marking the terminus of the Richmond and West Point railroad. The Mattapony on the one side, and the Pamunky on the other, swept past this point, mingled their waters in the cove below, and formed the York river.

Our light draught steamers and sailing vessels deployed along this broad plateau, some of them within one hundred yards of the shore, and prepared to land the troops, while the gunboats took position to cover the landing. The 15th New York, (engineers,) under command of Colonel McLeod Murphy, were soon at work, preparing landing stages of old canal boats and barges. In less than an hour from the time we had taken position, the water swarmed with all sorts of odd craft, from pontoons to canal boats. Newton's brigade was to land first, and began filling the pontoons. Slocum's, and then Taylor's, (late Kearney's.) were to  follow. But the enemy was not inclined to let us do
this work in peace. As soon as the first fleet of pontoons started to make a landing, the enemy opened from a battery concealed on the lower end of the ridge I have before described. His shells and round shot flew thick and fast; some of them exploding among the pontoons; others paying their compliments to the fleet. The pontoons kept steadily on towards the shore, which the men readied with cheers. But there was intense excitement among the fleet, and it was amusing to see the alarm created among some of the captains ; some ran up into the rigging, thinking it a better place of safely than the deck. Others sought shelter on the outside of their vessels. A shot whizzed past one who had sought
shelter in the rigging, and he came to the deck so quick that many thought him killed. But he was up in an instant, over the side of his vessel, and sculling away for dear life in his boat. That captain was remembered long after this event, and furnished the subject for many a pleasant joke. He had been brave among the bravest while we lay in Poquosin river. But he was not the only New England captain ready to forsake his ship at the first sound of the enemy's guns.

One shot cut clean through the smoke-stack of the steamer Vanderbilt. A second lodged in the cabin of a steamer. A third cut the rigging of a schooner. Officers began to inquire what our gunboats were doing that they did not open {fire}. The enemy's shot and shell fell too thick and fast to make the work of landing pleasant. The fact was, that owing to want of water the gunboats found it difficult to get within range of the enemy's batteries. They however succeeded at last, and a few well directed shells silenced the enemy and drove him from his position. The work of landing now went on unmolested, and it was surprising to see in what a short space of time the engineers had the landing stages ready. When the sun went down we had one brigade of infantry and two regiments of another
landed. We also had three batteries of artillery, Arnold's, Xamer's*, and Upton's; and two companies, A and C, of the Lincoln Cavalry. Quartermasters, too, were rapidly landing supplies. Professor Low was up taking an airing in his balloon, but came down  without bringing us any valuable information concerning the enemy. He thought he saw signs of the enemy north of West Point, but was not sure. I am afraid the balloon, as an instrument of war, was, like many of our cheap generals, a sad failure. The Secretary of War, I am happy to record to his credit, does not even give a passing word to the balloon corps in his report.

*almost certain he means Hexamer's Battery i.e. Battery A, First New Jersey Artillery

-To be continued- 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Improving the Chickahominy-1879


This improvement was commenced during the last fiscal year under the appropriation of $5,000 made June 18, 1878. The original estimate was based simply upon an examination of the river and it was therefore necessary first to make surveys of the several obstructions. Accordingly in July, 1878 surveys of Binn's Bar, Old Fort Bar, and Windsor Shades Bar were made. At Binn's Bar, 2 miles below Windsor Shades, and 23 miles from the mouth of the river, the least depth found was 4 feet. The least depth at Old Fort Bar was 5.4 feet, but the natural channel had not sufficient width.
The least depth at Windsor Shades Bar was found to be 4.0 feet. Proposals for dredging channels through these bars were invited by public advertisemen,t and the following were received October 30, 1878

Abstract of proposals for dredging in Chickahominy River Virginia opened at 12 m on Wednesday October 30 1878

G. H. Ferris            Baltimore, Md     $0.20    Mar 1 1878- July 1 1879         1 dipper     300*
H. E. Culpepper     Portsmouth, Va        .14    Dec 1 1878- May 20 1879       ---------   ----*
Daniel Constantine  Baltimore, Md         .14    Nov 20 1878- Feb 20 1879    1 Osgood   500*

Contract awarded to Mr H. E. Culpepper of Norfolk Va

During the winter of 1878-79 ice formed in the Chickahominy and delayed the commencement of the work until February 8 1879 The contractor commenced with one Osgood dipper dredge at Binn's Bar The material here was soft mud and was excavated readily. The channel was dredged to a width of 100 feet with a depth of 8 feet at low water Old Fort and Windsor Shades Bars were next dredged to the same depth and a width of 60 feet. The material found here was sand. A second dredge was put on the work by the contractor April 17 and the dredging was completed as far as the funds allowed May 5 1879. As to the future work on this improvement the channel already excavated should be widened and it is also important that several dikes be built for the purpose of closing subsidiary channels through which the tide now flows. The estimated cost of this work is $ 10,000.

Windsor Shades is now the head of navigation. Above this the river rapidly shoals to a very small stream winding its way through a heavy growth of cypress and other timber. The public interests hardly warrant the improvement of above Windsor Shades to the same depth as below at the present time. In order to estimate its cost even a detailed survey of the entire 7 miles of river to Forge Bridges would be necessary. Two appropriations have been made as follows June 1. 1878, $5,000 March 3. 1879, $1,000
The following are the estimated statistics of trade:
Seventy five thousand cords wood at $3 per cord
5,000,000 feet timber at $10 per thousand
75,000 railroad tics at $35 per thousand

 Merchandise valued at ..................... $150,000
Grain, vegetables, &c. valued at ..........$20,000
Lime, fertilizers &c. valued at ..............$10,000
Fish valued at ...................................   $15,000

Seven hundred Bail vessels per year One steamboat one trip per week.
For the completion of the work, $9,000 will be required.

The nearest port of entry is Richmond, Va where the collections for the fiscal were $15,030.62.

                                                           Money statement

July 1 1878 amount available ....................................................$5,000.00
Amount appropriated by act approved March 3 1879...............  1,000.00
July 1 1879 amount expended during fiscal year ..........................................   4,982.38
July 1 1879 amount available......................................................................... 1,017.62

Amount estimated required for completion of existing project .........................9,000.00
Amount that can be profitably expended in fiscal year ending June 30 1881.....9,000.00

Report of the Chief of Engineers Army
United States. Army. Corps of Engineers.
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1879

*[ a) price per cubic yard b) time of completion c) machines needed d) cu. yds of work a day]

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What I'm Reading . . .

What I'm reading right now in order to familiarize myself more with the operations just over the border in Henrico. Sometimes it's easy to zoom in too much and lose track of operations once they leave the county's borders and having spent my life driving around markers in the East End of Richmond I feel that I may have just tuned them out a bit too much.
I've meant to read this for years; now I'm halfway through and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Travails of an Assistant Subassistant Commissioner, Part II

A follow up to last week's post about the "difficulties" of Captain Brooks of the Freedmen's Bureau  . . .

Bureau R F & A L
Hd Qrs Supt 9th Dist. of Va
Fort Monroe, Va June 14 1866

Armstrong S. C.
Supt. 9th Dist Va

Endorses statement of Capt Brooks Asst Supr. with bills against Private "Wilson," and directs that such action shall be taken that as to secure justice both to Wilson and his creditors, etc. etc.

Bureau R F & A L
Office Asst Supt. York co. Va
Yorktown VA. June 30 1866

Respectfully returned with information that Private Wilson has received his pay prior to the receipt of the within communication. He acknowledging that he owed Thirteen 00/100 Dollars. Capt Parker 12th U.S. Infty Comdg his Company retained the same out of his pay and I believe now has the amount in his possession. I would respectfully request that Private Wilson be relieved from duty at this office and the vacancy be Supplied by a good trustworthy enlisted man from the "Fort." Wilson is diseased to such an extant that he is unable to ride on horseback making his services perfectly useless to this office.

F. A. Massey
for Dist 5 R F & A L
Asst Supt. York Co. Va.

"Virginia, Freedmen's Bureau Letters or Correspondence, 1865-1872." Index and Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing NARA microfilm publication M1913. College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.