Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Tragedy: Loss of the West Point - The Evening Telegram

Twenty Lives Lost On the
Steamer West Point

The Causes of the Accident Not
Definitely Known

Special Dispatch to the Evening Telegram
Richmond, Va.,Dec. 27.—News was received here this morning from West Point,on the York River of a terrible disaster to the steamer West Point, of the Clyde Line, plying between that point and Baltimore. The West Point arrived at West Point early yesterday morning and a stevedore and gang began to discharge her cargo. They had cleared out sit the freight between decks, and had cone below into the hold to taken out a quantity of kerosene oil in barrels, when, at ten minutes past twelve midday an explosion occurred which blew the off side of the vessel into the river and set fire to the ship.
Twenty persons, including some four of the crew and nearly all the stevedore's hands, were fatally burned.
The first and second officer escaped, one of them being badly injured. The captain, being on shore at the time, was saved. There are some four or five badly injured.
                                                      TWENTY LIVES LOST.
Twenty persons have perished by the accident. The crew are mostly from Baltimore, and the laborers from Richmond and West Point. The West Point was a new ship, having only made a few trips. She was valued a $60,000 and was insured. The cause of the accident is as yet unaccounted for. Some believe it was gas in the hold, while others attribute it to an explosion of the donkey engine which was at work in the forward part of the vessel.

The following is a list of the dead:—
L. S. BRADFORD (white), stevedore, of West Point.
Mess Boy (white), name and address unknown, of Baltimore.
RODERT KERSE (white), or Richmond.
— JARVIS (colored), fireman. West Point.
J. STAPLES (colored), of Richmond.
ALEX. WILSON (colored), of Richmond.
JOSEPH JOHNSON (colored), of Richmond.
LEE JENNINGS (colored), of Richmond.
BEN SMITH (colored), of Richmond.
L. LAMB (colored), of Yorktown.
SAM WATKINS (colored), of West Point-
SHEPPARD TAYLOR (colored), of West Point.
NELSON RAYLOR (colored), of West Point.
HORACE BIBS (colored), of West Point.
NELSON STARK (colored), of New Kent county.
CHARLES TYLER (colored),  City Point, Va.
SWEET HALL (colored), City Point. Va.
ALBERT JACKSON (colored), City Point, Va.
JACK PARKER (colored), City Point, Va.
J. ADOLPHUS (colored), City Point, Va.
In all twenty.
Soon after the fire commenced the ship was cut loose. She drifted Into the river. The wharves were saved.

The following is a list of the injured:—
PETER GEOGHEGHAN. first officer, of Baltimore.
WM. BOHANNON. quartermaster.
WM. BARNES, assistant stevedore, of West Point.
WM. GREEN, of Richmond.
all are badly burned

-The Evening Telegram (New York, NY) December 27, 1881

Monday, December 30, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- VIII: Postscript

About 90 rebel prisoners arrived this morning, via Yorktown. They were captured last Monday at Charles City Court House. Among them are seven non-commissioned officers and a female soldier.

-The Buffalo Daily Courier, December 18, 1863

Notice again, the "female soldier." The New York Times in its coverage had already noted, ""Among the captured was a young woman in soldier's clothes."

De Anne Blanton in her book They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War, references this engagement . . .
"An assistant surgeon in one of the regiments later wrote to his father, 'we captured every officer and man . . . among the the prisoners was a female soldier, a woman of about 20 years. She had male attire, and used her rifle against us, as well as the rest. She had been in several engagements.' "

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Revels- Richmond 1863

Accidentally shot.
--At an early hour last Friday morning, a party of boys assembled at the east end of the city, to fire Christmas guns and otherwise celebrate the day. They had been together but a short time when one of them fired a horseman's pistol loaded with powder, the load from which struck Peter Kenny, a lad, on the left shoulder, inflicting an ugly and painful wound. As the wounded boy pronounced his injuries to be the result of accident, the police made no effort to arrest any of the party.

--On Saturday last, a lad named Andrew Allen, was drowned in the Dock. With two other boys young Allen was at play on the ice, which was very rotten, when the party broke through and disappeared. Two of the lads soon arose at the opening through which they fell, and succeeded in getting out, but Allen went under the ice, and drowned before any assistance could be rendered him.

The Mayor
--on Saturday had a good sized army of white men before him, all with violating the rules of decency, he laws of the State by getting drunk on Christmas beverages, annoying sober people, fighting each' other, kicking doors, breaking windows, and crying fire.

A party of young men, after imbibing freely, made Broad street hideous with their yells — alarmed the residents by kicking at doors — and crying fire at the top of their voices. After a few potations of the distilled damnation now served to the worshippers of Bacchus, it is not to be wondered at that they forgot all sense of propriety and became turbulent and disorderly. The Mayor held them to bail to keep the peace.

A soldier, after seeing the elephant, ran his head through a window, breaking the glass and cutting his face in several places. When he came into Court he was well marked with blood and bruises, the fruits of his charge on the old king's fortifications, which have never yet been carried by storm. He was sent to the Provost.

A white woman, for wearing men's apparel in the streets, and a white man for accompanying her, were held to ball; and two women, for hair-pulling and cat-scratching, were put in limbo.

Two men, for interfering with the police, were locked up to answer hereafter, and scores of negroes, for minor offences, were punished with stripes.

-The Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) December 28, 1863

Expedition to Charles City- IX: The 42nd Virginia Cavalry Battalion

The best way I've found to explain the rather tortured history of the 42nd Battalion Virginia Cavalry is this little diagram . . .

I relied principally on A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations 1861-1865, Lee A. Wallace, Jr., 1986

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Nuptials


At the residence of the bride's mother, by the Rev C. S. Mountcastle, on the 24th December, Mr. Richard Tyler and Miss Lizzie S. Dandridge, both of New Kent county.

-The Daily Dispatch: (Richmond, Va.) January 6, 1864.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sounds of the Season

That Christmas shooting? 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 Capital, John Beauchamp Jones, 1866

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

Having a moment of time to spare, I take that opportunity of acknowleging(SIC) 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(sic) 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(SIC), 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 1619, William Waller Hening,ed. 1823

Friday, December 20, 2013

Improving Notoriously Bad Roads

New Kent Supervisors may Authorise
Issue of $10,000.

[Special to The Times-Dispatch.]

Roxbury. Va.. April 12.- A bond issue of $10,000 is being considered by the Board of Supervisors of New Kent County, for the purpose of building good roads. Charles City County, which adjoins New Kent, will soon issue bonds in the amount of $50,000 for road building. Never before in this region has there been so much enthusiasm for good roads and other public improvements. Post-Office Inspector Wall, of Washington, has been here for the past week going over two proposed new rural free delivery routes, one in New Kent twenty-four miles in length, with seventy-seven families and 215 patrons, and the other in Charles City, twenty-seven miles long, with 126 families and 318 patrons.
-The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, Va.) April 13, 1913

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Expediton to Charles City- VII: Snark

 Wherein John Moncure Daniel of the Daily Richmond Examiner gives us an example of his attitude toward the Davis administration and its handling of military affairs . . .


From the Richmond Examiner, Dec. 16.
We have some facts concerning the inconsiderable cavalry affair at Charles City Court-house. Several citizens of the county have made the trip to Richmond to post us as to the facts. Two companies of our cavalry were captured entire. We lament the loss of the horses. The force of the enemy, as estimated by our informants, who counted them on their way up to the Court-house, was two hundred. The number of our men captured was at least two hundred. Each Yankee took a man. One of our companies was on parade when the enemy came in sight, and, without resistance, threw down their arms and surrendered, the other company made a show of resistance, but only a show.
The citizens of Charles City mourn this event—they weep and cannot be comforted, because all the cavalry, who, up to this time, have been roaming over that country, shooting deer, partridges and poor people's turkeys, had not been captured. A few more of the sort are unfortunately left. We regret to learn that Lieut. S. BALLARD. of this city, was very badly wounded. We are said to have killed six Yankees and wounded many, but we think this very doubtful. The enemy burnt the Court-house and returned toward Williamsburgh. It is unnecessary to make any comments on this brilliant affair.

-The New York Times, December 18, 1863

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- VI: The New York Times

Particulars of the Attack on Charles City Court-house- A Wild Night for a March Surprise and Capture of Pickets Charge on the Rebel Camp- The Spoils of Victory- Contrabands Coming In.

 Correspondence of the New-York Times.

WILLIAMBURGH, Va., Monday, Dec. 14, 1863.

An expedition, composed of six companies of the First New-York. Mounted Rifles and three companies of the One Hundred and Thirty-ninth New York regiment, has just returned from a highly successful raid to Charles City Court-house, situated near the north bank of the James River, and seven miles beyond the Chickahominy. The expedition was under the direction of Col. R. M. WEST, the present commander of this post; the cavalry was commanded by Col. B. F. ONDERDONK, and the infantry, which acted as a reserve this side the Chickahominy, by Col. ROBERTS.

The infantry preceded the cavalry twelve hours. The Mounted Rifles quitted Williamsburgh at 6 o'clock on the evening of the 11th inst., under lowering clouds, and an atmosphere that presaged storm. We made a brief halt at Twelve-mile Ordinary. After leaving this point, our route lay through dense forests of pine and dreary patches of cleared but uncultivated land. As night and the column advanced, the darkness became terrible, the wind fairly roared through the tall trees, and the rain, so long threatening, fell in torrents. We had two trusty white guides, but you may imagine how serviceable they were when we could not distinguish a horseman at the distance of three yards, unless, perhaps, he was mounted on a white steed. Still, the regiment moved forward for many miles, keeping closed files, and carefully following the sound of clanking sabres; until, finally, the road, which before had seemed to be in a highly-tangled condition, formed a knot like the Gordian puzzle. Here, apparently, fate had a choice bivouac in store for us -- but not so. Col. WEST. The guides lit matches which blazed for a moment, (just long enough to exhibit our forlorn prospects,) and were then quenched by the rain. Still, we were making a few yards, or rather "taking ground to the right." The guide covered his hands with the phosphorus of the matches, and held them up. This did not remind one forcibly of a revolving coast light, but we persevered. Many of the men lost their way through the woods, two or three officers were missing, but fortunately all regained the column. We pushed on in this manner until about three o'clock, when it being perfectly impossible to proceed another foot, on account of the blackness of all surrounding objects, and the awful condition of the road, (when we found it,) we were compelled to sit patiently in our saddles until daylight, drenched to the skin, and ruminating upon the beautiful moral relation which the soldier sustains toward a grateful country.

At daylight we moved on rapidly, and made up for lost time. We came up with the infantry, and halted a mile this side of the Chicahominy River. They had surprised and captured a small rebel picket. We soon came in sight of the river at Ford's Crossing, and away we went on the gallop. The first rebel picket was discovered on the west bank of the river. They were in a tranquil state of existence, having divested themselves of their superfluous clothing, and "lain down to quiet dreams." They were sound asleep. The very doorkeepers of the great and invincible City of Richmond were shoring in their slumbers. After fording the river, which is quite narrow at this place, and the water about up to our saddle-bags, we swept onwards with drawn sabres, at a light gallop, capturing without resistance, four pickets, and keeping a bright lookout in all directions. As we mounted a hill in view of Charles City Court House, we caught a sight of the rebel camp, and with a loud cheer we commenced the charge. The charge was led by the field officers of the regiment, with Col. ONDERDONK and Col. WEST. It was irresistible. In less than fifteen minutes we captured ninety prisoners, including eight commissioned officers, nearly one hundred and fifty stand of arms, over fifty horses, and a large quantity of forage, commissary stores, camp and garrison equipage.

The rebels were holding the usual Sunday morning inspection in their best clothes, in camp, and made slight resistance, being either entirely surprised or not wishing to injure the few good clothes in their possession.

At the Court-house the rebels made a brief but spirited resistance. They were driven into two wooden buildings, and fired several volleys from the windows, at very short range. We surrounded the houses, and compelled a surrender, which was formally made by the enemy, after exhibiting a white flag. Sergt. WOOD, a brave and faithful non-commissioned officer, was killed in the first assault upon the building. Capt. GREGORY was severely, but not dangerously wounded in the thigh. Our entire loss during the expedition was two killed and five wounded.

 The rebel officers were, without exception, gentlemen, both in appearance and manner. Had their surprise been less complete, I have no doubt they would have made an obstinate defence. Many of the rebel soldiers were well uniformed, and were mostly armed with the Maynard rifles.

The force captured was a part of the Forty-second Virginia, commanded by Major ROBINSON, who was away at the time on his wedding tour. It was considered by the rebels a crack corps, they being admiringly styled "Plugs."

 After destroying their camp, all the arms, accoutrements and munitions of war, which we could not bring away, we retired leisurely across the Chickahominy. Here the regiment rested awhile. Col. WEST sent a small party to secure Diascon Creek bridge. The party arrived just in time to prevent the destruction of the bridge by a small squad of guerrillas, who retired after exchanging a few shots, wounding the guide severely. We arrived in Willlamsburgh yesterday afternoon. The fair portion of the inhabitants behaved anything but amiably when they beheld the result of the expedition, in so many prisoners.

The rank and file of the captured party appeared rather happy than otherwise, with their sudden escape from rebeldon. One, (a nephew of United States Senator BOWDEN,) took the oath of allegiance, and several seemed disposed to do so. The officers, of course, are as bitter, as their systematic schooling to pervert the use of the five senses will make any one. Capt. RODGERS, in command, owned nearly all the horses and equipments, and he reckons his loss heavily. Among the captured was a young woman in soldier's clothes.

We brought into our lines quite a large number of contrabands. The rebel officers told them they were not compelled to come. We told them they were not compelled to stay. They seemed to value our word most, and came. One of them, an athletic pure blooded African, was relating his adventures. He said his master, in Richmond, had sold him for sixteen hundred dollars, to be sent South. He ran away and came to his wife, at Charles City Court-house. His master offered two hundred dollar for his capture, and he was obliged to hide. The morning of our arrival at the Court-house, he was lying asleep in the woods, and a little boy came and woke him up, and said that the Yankees had come. He said: "Go way, chile, what you want to fool dis nigga for?" But just then he heard the firing, and, raising up, saw the blue coats of our troops on the hill. "I was so glad dat I come right away and left all my things."

 The following is a list of the killed and wounded in the Mounted Rifles:

Sergt. Wood, Co. H -- killed.

Corp. Smith, Co. H -- killed.

Capt. L.B. Gregory -- wounded severely in thigh.

Sergt. Hendrickson, Co. H -- wounded in three places.

Private Stoppelbeen, Co. H -- wounded.

Private Johnson, Co. H -- wounded slightly.

Guide -- wounded in arm.

The rebels had three men wounded.

This raid has developed some interesting facts, which I would like to impart, but forbear on account of their military importance. C.

-The New York Times, December 21, 1863

The "Capt. Rodgers", would be Andrew J. Rodgers of Company A.

Note, "Among the captured was a young woman in soldier's clothes."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- V: Recriminations

Chaffins Farm, December 13, 1863 9.15 p. m.

Assistant Adjutant-General:

MAJOR: Your dispatch is received and its directions shall be complied with. The last information I have received of the strength and movements of the enemy is in a dispatch from signal corps. It states that the enemy crossed Forge Bridge about daylight, and attacked the cavalry at Charles City Court-House, about an hour by sun, capturing nearly the whole command. Major Robertson escaped. The enemy's force is estimated at 400. I presume Forge Bridge was picketed; my orders were positive to that effect. The dispatch from signal corps informs me that the enemy retired about 10 a. m. today toward Forge Bridge. 

 As soon as I heard of the capture of Major Robertsons command, I sent out Lieutenant-Colonel Berkeley, with about 150 men, to picket in my front. He is at New Market, with a picket on the river road and one on the Long Bridge road where it is crossed by the Central or Darbytown road. This guards all the approaches, I think, to Richmond and this point, excepting the Charles City and Williamsburg roads, which Colonel Shingler is directed to watch and hold. I also ordered Colonel Shingler to watch, as far as the capacities of his command would allow, the defiles of the Chickahominy until a cavalry force could be procured to take the place of that captured. I hope General Elzey will be able to furnish me with this cavalry. 

 I feel exceedingly indignant at what I suppose to be a complete surprise, and somebody should suffer for it. I have directed Major  Robertson to report all the facts of the case to me, and they shall be forwarded to you. I have just learned from the signal corps that two brigades of Yankees landed on Friday at Newport News.
I am, major, yours, respectfully,
Brigadier- General.

P. S.-Colonel Shingler sent out a scout to ascertain the where-abouts and strength of the enemy to-day, and I am expecting to hear from him.

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1 - Volume 29 (Part II)

A few notes: The Lieutenant-Colonel Berkeley referred to is Lieutenant-Colonel Norbonne Berkeley, commanding the 8th Virginia in Hunton's brigade. Elzey is Major General Arnold Elzey, commanding the Department of Richmond. The department included many of the "odds and ends" units that guarded the eastern approaches to Richmond. He also commanded the units at Drewry's Bluff and Chaffin's Farm, which includes the Pamunkey Artillery.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- IV: Recriminations

Ruins of Tavern and Houses at Charles City Courthouse

Capture of two companies of our
cavalry on the Peninsula.

Two companies of our cavalry were captured by the enemy on Sunday morning near Charles City Court-House. The facts, as we have obtained them, with reference to the affair, would seem to indicate a lack of vigilance on the part of our troops at that point. On Sunday morning, an hour after sunrise, the whole of Major Robertson's command, consisting of two companies of the 42d Virginia battalion of cavalry, were completely surprised, and, with one or two exceptions, all the men captured. It is said that the surprise was so complete as not to admit of resistance. The capturing force was composed of cavalry, and came up on the main road from Williamsburg.

It was reported here yesterday morning that the enemy had destroyed the village of Charles City Court-House, but later in the day the report was contradicted. They did, however, burn two or three buildings in the place.

-The Daily Dispatch, December 15, 1863.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- III

Union Cavalry at Charles City Courthouse in June of 1864

  DECEMBER 12-14, 1863. Expedition from Williamsburg to Charles City Court-House, Va., and Skirmish.

Reports of Brig. Gen. Isaac J. Wistar, U. S. Army, and congratulatory letter from Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, U. S. Army.

December; 14, 1863.
 I have the satisfaction to announce the complete success of the expedition sent out under command of Colonel West. All worked in successful combination. Our cavalry carried the enemy's camp at Charles City Court-House after sharp fighting, the enemy firing from their houses. We captured 8 officers and 82 enlisted men, being the whole command of three companies, and 55 horses and 3 mules, besides many shot, & c., and left on the ground. The enemy's camp, with equipments, arms, ammunition, and provisions, all thoroughly destroyed. Our loss is Captain Gregory, severely wounded, 1 sergeant and 1 corporal killed, and 4 men wounded. The New York Mounted Rifles in forty-four hours marched 76 miles. The One hundred and thirty-ninth New York Infantry in fifty-four hours marched 61 miles, mostly in a severe storm, moving day and night, and walking their shoes off, which should be made good by Government. All are entitled to high commendation for gallantry and unflinching endurance. Colonel West especially, for his precise execution of a difficult combination, by which alone could have accomplished my object.


Major-General BUTLER. [Copy furnished Secretary of War by General Butler, who adds: General Wistar, with my approbation, sent out an expedition to Charles City Court-House, on the James River, to capture the enemy's force stationed there, and I have the pleasure to forward his report of its complete success. What adds to the brilliancy of the achievement is that it has been accomplished during a terrible storm.]

 Yorktown, Va., December 17, 1863.
 MAJOR: Supplemental to my telegram of 14th instant, I have the honor to report in detail the operations of the force sent out under command of Col. R. M. West, on the on the 12th instant, to capture the enemy's cavalry at Charles City Court-House.

  The distance from my lines at Williamsburg to the Forge, sometimes called Jones Bridge, over the Chickahominy, is 32 miles. Seven miles beyond is Charles City Court-House, which was held by Robertson's Forty-second battalion Virginia Cavalry, one company of which is kept on picket at Forge Bridge, and between that point and Williamsburg. Forge Bridge has been long destroyed, but there are two fords practicable at present in its vicinity.  On Saturday, the 12th instant, Colonel Roberts, with a detachment 975 of 200 men of his regiment, the One hundred and thirty-ninth New York Infantry, marched from Williamsburg by a circuitous and longer route in rear of the rebel pickets and scouts, to the Forge Bridge, with instructions to reach that point at all hazards by 6 a. m. the following morning, and hold it.

  At 7 p. m. on the 12th, Colonel West, First Pennsylvania Light Artillery, commanding United States forces at Williamsburg, with 275 men of the New York Mounted Rifles, under Col. B. F. Onderdonk, moved from Williamsburg by the direct road to Forge Bridge, where they were instructed to find and communicate with Colonel Roberts, and leaving him to hold that point, to make a dash upon and surprise the enemy at the court-house, who would have been .deprive d of communication with his pickets by the interposition of our infantry.

   At 4 a. m. on the 13th, the Sixth U. S. Colored Infantry, Col. J. W. Ames, marched from Yorktown, with ambulances and a wagon loaded with rations with instructions to arrive at Twelve-Mile Ordinary, 24 miles distant, a sufficient time before dark, to select a good defensive position, and throw out pickets on both roads, which fork at that point.

  These several movements were all effected with complete success, notwithstanding a severe storm of wind and rain which commenced suddenly during the process of their execution. Colonel Roberts, after a severe march, successfully evaded or captured all the enemy's pickets, and reached the Forge at the designated time. Colonel Onderdonk's cavalry, accompanied by Colonel West himself, after a toilsome night march, during which they were repeatedly lost in the woods, but extricated themselves by the use of candles, reached the same point less than two hours behind time, and found Colonel Roberts in position. 
Colonel West immediately divided his into two small columns, under Colonel Onderdonk and Major Wheelan respectively, and moved rapidly through the river and against the enemy, hastening the pace to a charge when within a mile or two. The enemy were encamped in two camps not far removed. Major Wheelan's column surprised the enemy, who immediately surrendered, after firing two volleys from their houses, the only result of which was the death of Major Wheelan's horse, and a severe fall for that gallant officer. Colonel Onderdonk's column led by Colonel West himself, gallantly charged the second camp. One moment of alarm enabled the enemy to fly to arms and retreat into their houses, whence they maintained for a brief period a galling fire, but soon surrendered to the irresistible onset of Onderdonk's men. All our loss occurred at this point. It consisted of Captain Gregory, severely wounded, Sergt. Arnold Wood and Corpl. Thomas Smith, killed, and Sergt. William E. Hendrickson, Sergt. Robert Z. Johnson, Private John H. Shipplebearer, and F. R. Wilson, a guide, wounded.

  Eight commissioned officers and 82 enlisted men of the enemy were captured, brought in, and turned over, with a descriptive roll. Fifty-five horses and 3 mules were taken and brought in, 20 or 30 more unserviceable were shot, and about 100 carbines, 100 sabers, 100 sets of horse equipments, and 20 new tents, besides ammunition and provisions, were burned. Colonel West then returned with his prisoners and captured horses to Forge Bridge, where he again joined Colonel Roberts infantry, and all returned together to Twelve-Mile Ordinary, which point was  reached about 1 a. m. on the 14th. Here Colonel Ames, with his regiment, was found in position, with ambulances and rations, both much required. The prisoners were turned over to his fatigued but comparatively fresh men, and on the following day all reached Williamsburg in safety, except 1 man of Sixth U. S. Colored Troops, who was captured by the enemy. Colonel West is deserving of great credit for this brilliant stroke inflicted 40 miles in rear of the enemy's pickets. Also Colonel Onderdonk, Colonel Roberts, and Colonel Ames, who originally moved in detached columns, and the precise success of each of whom was of great moment to the others.

  The cavalry marched 76 miles in forty-four hours. Roberts infantry marched 67 miles in fifty-four hours, both moving by night and day, over deep and muddy roads, and much of the time under a pelting, pitiless storm. Colonel Ames colored infantry did what was required of them, which would be considered very severe duty (weather and roads considered), except in connection with the more arduous services of the other troops. Their position at Twelve-Mile Ordinary, in readiness to receive and guard prisoners and horses, issue rations, attend to wounded, and do picket duty, on the return of the other exhausted troops, was found of extreme advantage.

  Colonel West in his report mentions with especial commendation the several officers before named, and also Captain Gregory (wounded), Major Wheelan, Lieutenant-Colonel Patton, Captain Allis, and Lieutenant Blanchard, all of the Rifles, and Lieutenant P. H. O'Bierne, quartermaster of the One hundred and thirty-ninth New York Infantry. Also F. R. Wilson and Donnell, formerly of the rebel service, who acted as guides, faithfully and efficiently. The former was severely wounded and may lose his arm. Receiving no pay or remuneration, and exposing themselves to special dangers, these men should be rewarded.

  In conclusion, I beg to call the attention of the major-general commanding to the gallantry in action, and patient, unflinching endurance on a stormy and difficult night march, of each and all the officers and men engaged. Although the detachment of the One hundred and thirty-ninth New York Infantry was not in action, yet their services were fully as arduous as any and equally required the very highest qualities of the soldier. 
 I have the honor to be, major, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.
Maj. R.S. Davis,
 Assistant Adjutant-General.

 December 14, 1863.

Brigadier-General WISTAR,
Yorktown, Va.:
 Your telegram announcing the complete success of the expedition to Charles City Court-House received. Give your troops the best thanks of the commanding general for their endurance under fatigue, their promptness of action, and their bravery in the charge. Thank Colonel West personally for me. His action brings him up to the standard of his reputation.

 I will announce my approbation in a general order. Your telegram has been forwarded to Washington. You shall have the boat you desire by 11 to-morrow. Will not you and Mrs. Wistar come down?

Major-General, Commanding.

-The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 29 (Part I) Reports

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- II

The capture of Robinson's cavalry on the Peninsula — Excursion into North Carolina.

The following dispatches from Fortress Monroe are published in the New York papers under the heading "Victory on the Peninsula — Charles City and the Entire Garrison Captured. " They contain the particulars of the capture of the 82 highly valuable Confederate cavalry men at Charles City C. H. last week:

Fortress Monroe, Va., Dec.14, 1863.

The Secretary of War.:

Gen. Wistar, with my approbation, sent out an expedition to Charles City Court-House, on the James river, to capture the enemy's force stationed there, and I have the pleasure to forward his report of its complete success.

What adds to the brilliancy of the achievement is that it has been accomplished during a terrible storm.

B. F. Butler, Major Gen.
Details of the Captures.

Yorktown, Va., Dec.14, 1863.

Major General Butler:

"I have the satisfaction to announce the complete success of the expedition sent out under Colonel West, all worked in successful combination. Our cavalry carried the enemy's camp at Charles City Court-House after sharp fighting, the enemy firing from their houses. We captured eight officers and eighty-two enlisted men, being the whole command of three companies, fifty-five horses and three mules, besides many shot, &c., left on the ground, the enemy's camp with equipments, arms, and ammunition and provisions all thoroughly destroyed.

"Our loss is Captain Gregory, severely wounded, one Sergeant and one Corporal killed, and four men wounded.

"The New York Mounted Rifles in fourteen hours marched seventy-six miles. The 13th New York Infantry in fifty-four hours marched sixty-four miles, mostly in a severe storm, moving day and night, and walking their shoes off, which should be made good by the Government.

"All are entitled to high commendation for gallantry and unflinching endurance; Colonel West, especially, for his precise execution of a difficult combination, which alone could have accomplished my object. J. J. Wistar Brigadier General."

General Butler has also sent out another "important" expedition undertaken by Brigadier-Gen. Wild, commanding the negro brigade in the Eighteenth army corps. Starting out from the vicinity of Portsmouth, Va., on Saturday, the 5th instant, and marching in two columns by different routes, the brigade united at Hintonsville, North Carolina, whence an advance was made on Elizabeth City, which was occupied on the 10th without opposition, the "rebels" being taken by surprise. Artillery and cavalry, as well as considerable naval force have left to cooperate with General Wild, and Elizabeth City is likely to be made the base of "important" operations.

-The Richmond Daily Dispatch: December 21, 1863.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Expedition to Charles City- I

 150 years ago this week . . .

  "In the early winter of 1864 a very successful reconnaissance was made up the Peninsula. The storm and blackness of the night kept our march from the enemy's notice. Reaching the Chickahominy River at daylight the pickets were surprised. A quick gallop of six miles brought us to Charles City Court House, where a part of the Hampton Legion was encamped. Nine miles from Richmond mistaking a tented field for the enemy's quarters the regiment charged it when a guide riding back informed me that the main body occupied the Court House at the right. With a rear guard of forty men we swung sabers, advanced carbines, mounted the hill receiving a volley which emptied four saddles. The dash drove the enemy within- when we dismounted broke in the rear door, cleared hallway and room after room and forced the surrender of one hundred men capturing all equipments. It was a clever fight with many narrow escapes. It gave the men the confidence of a dash and courage which animated them in after fields."

The Personal Reminiscences of Colonel Edgar A.Hamilton of the First Mounted Rifles
 Historical Sketches of The Romer, Van Tassel and
Allied Families and Tales of the Neutral Ground

Copyright 1917
by John Lockwood Romer.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Food of the Gods

A mushroom was plucked recently in New Kent county, Va, which weighed ten pounds. Its color was almost white, and the mushroom remained in a perfect state of preservation
several days after being severed from its parent stem.

-New York Sabbath Recorder, October 5, 1871

. . . or a slow news day in New York

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sold at Auction 1835

                               Brought to Jail
  In LAGRANGE, Troup county, GA. on the 3d October inst. two negro men of the following description viz: EDMUND,  about 25 years of age about 5 feet 7 inches high, stout built, black complexion, has lost two of his upper front teeth, of African descent. Says that he belongs to Mr. Vinson
Carr, cotton planter, who resides 50 miles above Bayou Sayra on the Mississippi river in Louisiana, and that he was raised in Charleston, S.C. and carried to Louisiana two or three years since by a Mr. Harry Boynan, and sold to a Mr. Nettles, who sold him again to the aforesaid Vinson Carr, the he run away some time about the 1st of May last. The other boy, WILLIAM, is about thirty years of age, 5 feet, 4 inches high, stout built, rather light complexion and somewhat bow-legged. says that he belongs to Alexander Humphries, who is a sugar Planter, residing in Louisiana, but does not know
what county, his master lives on the River, that he was raised in New Kent county Virginia, and was sold at auction in Richmond, in March 1835, to his present master and shipped to New Orleans. The owners of said negroes are requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take them away.
Oct. 13.                      AARON WILKS, Jailor

-from the Columbus, Georgia Enquirer, October 20, 1836-March 2, 1837.

LaGrange lies in the middle of Troup county along the Alabama line

Monday, December 2, 2013

Liberty Baptist Claim



January 4 1909 Referred to the Committee on War Claims and ordered to be printed

                                                                                       Court of Claims, Clerk's Office,
                                                                                      Washington, December 31,1908.
 Sir: Pursuant to the order of the court, I transmit herewith a certified copy of the findings filed by the court in the aforesaid cause, which case was referred to this court by resolution of the House of Representatives under the act of March 3, 1887, known as the Tucker Act.
                                               I am very respectfully, yours,
                                                                                                John Randolph
                                                                             Assistant Clerk, Court of Claims.
Hon. Joseph G. Cannon,
Speaker of the House of Representatives

[Court of Claims. Congressional, No. 12208. Trustees of Liberty Baptist Church, New Kent County, Va., v. The United States.]

                                                    STATEMENT OF CASE

This is a claim for damage alleged to have been done the church building by the military forces of the United States during the late civil war On March 31, 1906, the House of Representatives by resolution, referred the following bill to the court.

                                                      "[H.R. 3476. Fifty-ninth Congress, first session.]

"A BILL For the relief of the trustees of Liberty Baptist Church New Kent County, Virginia.

" Be it enacted by the Senate and Home of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, authorized to pay to the trustees of Liberty Baptist Church, New Kent County, Virginia, the sum of two hundred dollars for damages sustained by the depredations of the United States Army during the war between the States."
 The claimants appeared and filed their petition in this court November 14 1906 in which they make the following allegations:

 That they are the duly appointed trustees of the Liberty Baptist Church, of New Kent County, Va., that in the year 1862 the Union Army defaced and injured the building of the said church located in said New Kent County, Va., by tearing up the floor and sleepers destroying the doors blinds windows and pews mutilating and defacing the walls and otherwise injuring the said building that they also destroyed the Sunday school library belonging to the said church that the most of the timber from said building was used by said army in building a bridge over Diascund Creek, which was destroyed after they had passed over said bridge; that it would require at least $700 to repair the injury done to the said church; that as such trustees they never gave aid counsel or encouragement to the southern cause during said war.

 The case was brought to a hearing on loyalty and merits on the 7th day of December, 1908.
 John Goode, esq., appeared for the claimant church, and the Attorney-General, by P.M. Cox, esq., his assistant and under his direction appeared for the defense and the protection of the interest of the United States.

 The court upon the evidence adduced and after considering the argument and briefs of counsel on both sides makes the following

                                                         FINDINGS OF FACT
I. The Liberty Baptist Church of New Kent County, Va., as a church, was loyal to the Government of the United States throughout the late civil war.

II. During said war the military forces of the United Stares by proper authority took possession of the church building described in the petition and damaged the same by tearing up the floor and sleepers with which to build a bridge across Diascund Creek and by destroying the doors, blinds, windows, and pews. Such damage was at the time and place reasonably worth the sum of two hundred dollars ($200) no part of which appears to have been paid.

III. The claim herein was never presented to any department of the Government prior to its presentation to Congress and reference to this court by resolution of the House of Representatives as hereinbefore set forth in the statement of the case and no reason is adduced showing why the same was not earlier presented.
                                                                                                       By the Court.

Filed December 14, 1908.
A true copy. Test this 29th day of December, A. D. 1908.

                                                                                                       John Randolph,
                                                                                           Assistant Clerk Court of Claims.

60th Congress
2d Session
December 7, 1908-March 4, 1909

House Documents
in 151 volumes
Vol. 149
Government Printing Office 1909