Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Fairly Whipped Them"

 Hd. Qrs. Shoemaker's Batt'y
 Stuart Horse Artillery
Fitz. Lee's Cav. Div.
Sept. 1st, 1864
1st day of June one section of my battery left Gaines Mill & reached Bottoms Bridge & on the morning of the 2nd took position in the fortifications commanding the ford. On the morning of the 3d the enemy attacked our force at that place & opened on us with 4 pieces of artillery which we whipped from the field in about 1 hour. I had one horse shot through the knee and abandoned. The section which remained at Gaines Mill under command of Lieut. Moorman was also engaged the same day at Cold Harbor and with the assistance of a section of Capt. Johnston' s battery, drove the Yankee cannoniers from their guns & made them hide behind the hill. On the 4th Lt. Moorman joined us at Bottom Bridge where we remained in camp till the 7th when I sent one gun on picket at Long Bridge. On the 8th I started with 3 guns after the raiders under Gen. Sheridan & came up with them near Louisa C. H. On the 11th one section of my battery was engaged in the morning in shelling the woods near Louisa C. H. We then moved towards Trevillians Depot, Va. Cen. R. R. & a section of my battery with a section of Capt. Johnson's again engaged the enemy and fairly whipped them from every position they took. We were exposed during the whole time to the fire of dismounted men but fortunately I  had only 1 man wounded, A. D. Ford, in the body. On the 12th we were again engaged near the same place. One section under command of Lt. Phelps was sent to operate with the command of Gen. Butler. They were put in position under a heavy fire of artillery and dismounted men. The dismounted men charged the guns but were repulsed and many of them were left dead in front of the guns. Privates [Jno. McGath, R. A. Harnlet, H. B. Worling] were wounded but declined to leave the field not being entirely disabled. Lt. Phelps had his horse shot under him. The other gun I took command of and operated with Gen. Fitz Lee's Div. It was also engaged & with a section of Capt. Johnston' s we turned and drove the enemy' s right until dark. On 13th we followed the retreating raiders but had no other engagement with them until we arrived at the White House on the 20th, where we shelled them in their fortifications. We were exposed to the fire from their batteries & gun boats but had no casualties . At night we retired back to camp leaving Phelps Napoleon on picket. Early next morning the enemy advanced but a few shots from Phelps Nap. stopped them. We marched from White House on the evening of the 21st and arrived at Bottoms Bridge the next morning & camped. During the march an axle of one of the guns broke & was sent to Richmond for repairs . On the 23rd one of my guns was sent to a camp near Rd. to ( ? ) the horses as they were much fagged from long marching, leaving me with only 1 gun, with which I moved to Nance's Shop & engaged the enemy near Forge Bridge on the same day. On the 24th we were engaged near Nance's Shop  and routed & drove the enemy some 7 or 8 miles. No casualties. On the 26th we encamped near Chaffin's Bluff & on the 28th crossed to the south side of the James & camped that night near Pbg, on the 29th we marched to Reame's Station, Petersburg & W. R. R. & remained in that neighborhood until the 28th of July when we again crossed to the North side of the James River & remained until the 31st, and then recrossed to the South side & resumed our old camp near Reame's Station.

- William J. Black Diary, Shoemaker's Artillery Battery
VMI Archives Manuscript #015

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Sixth New York at White House and St. Peters- 1864

June 20th- At 10 am resumed the march with Sixth New York as rear guard, crossed at Dunkirk Ferry and passed through Aylett's and King William C.H. to the north bank of the Pamunky River opposite White House and encamped. Part of the cavalry crossed the river to White House and were attacked by the enemy that had made an attempt to capture our wagon train but were repulsed by the gunboats, dismounted cavalry and some infantry. The Fourth New York had been left with the pontoon train to wait for the wagons.
June 21st- Reveille at 3 a.m. Moved out at four o'clock and crossed the Pamunky on the railroad bridge with Merritt in the advance. The Second Brigade was ordered up to find the enemy advanced toward St. Peter's Church and soon found them in force, the Seventeenth Pennsylvania was dismounted and sent forward, the Ninth New York then dismounted and advanced, the Sixth New York taking a position on the left, the enemy holding a position on a ridge in front with a gully or ravine between. The Sixth New York advanced, but the enemy after about three hours fighting had retired from our front. Then advanced our line to the Tunstall Station road and St. Peter's Church. Devin's brigade was alone on the line. The enemy's forces consisted of the cavalry of Hampton, Lee, Hoke and Butler numbering about 5000. We contented ourselves with holding the position already gained. The enemy opened upon us with shot shell and bullets, but soon the firing on both sides ceased, the enemy evacuated the church and we took possession, the Sixth New York holding it until sunset and was then relieved by the Ninth New York. This church was built in 1723 and was the one in which George Washington was married.

-History of the Sixth New York Cavalry: (Second Ira Harris Guard) Second Brigade -- First Division -- Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865
 Compiled by Hillman Allyn Hall, William B. Besley, Gilbert Guion Wood
 Blanchard Press, 1908       

A Depression era photo of St Peter's Church

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Sixth New York Cavalry- Along the Chickahominy 1864

June 1st- Returned to Cold Harbor before daylight and reoccupied the works before the enemy knew we had evacuated them, immediately throwing up a line of breastworks. Daybreak found us still holding our barricaded position of the previous night, and brought us the information that we were confronting parts of Lee's and Butler's cavalry, and Hoke's and Kershaw's divisions of infantry. Devin's brigade formed, with Custer's brigade on the right. At 6 a.m. the enemy made a sudden attack on the right, which the Michigan boys met right gallantly, their seven shooters doing effective work, while the batteries in the rear did great execution; the fight lasted about an hour, when the enemy fell back, leaving more than a hundred of their dead and wounded on the field. After that, sharpshooting was kept up until about ten o'clock, when the Sixth Corps arrived and relieved us, and continued the fighting The cavalry then moved toward the Chickahominy and covered the left of the infantry line till Hancock arrived at 2 p.m., when it moved to Prospect Church and went into bivouac. The infantry soon became heavily engaged and the roar of artillery and musketry was continuous until long after dark, and was kept up, at intervals, the greater part of the night.
 June 2d- At 7 a.m. took the road to Dispatch Station. Halted for several hours in support of Gregg who was fighting on the infantry's left. Then resumed the march to Bottom's Bridge which we found in possession of the enemy. The Sixth New York in the advance came up with a force of the enemy and after considerable skirmishing drove them across the bridge. As the regiment approached the bridge to reconnoitre it was greeted with a few shells from the enemy's fortifications beyond the Chickahominy, one of which killed three horses and took off a man's foot (Aaron Byington Company I). At 4 p.m. the regiment went on picket, holding the bridge all night, the division encamping a mile to the rear. It rained very hard all night.
June 3d- Still raining. All quiet except that the rebel sharpshooters were busy. Regiment was relieved at 10 am by the Seventeenth Pennsylvania and fell back but remained within gunshot of the bridge.
June 4th- At 5 a.m. left Bottom's Bridge and marched to the right wing of the army and encamped at Hall's Shop a short distance to the rear near Old Church. Rain in afternoon.
June 5th- Marched to Studley, the birthplace and residence of Patrick Henry near Totopotomoy Creek. Rain.
June 6th- Beveille at 2.30 a.m. At sunrise marched to Little Page's Ford on the Pamunky River near Hanovertown and bivouacked on Ruffin's farm. Major Ruffin was the rebel who fired the first shot on the old flag at Sumter.

-History of the Sixth New York Cavalry: (Second Ira Harris Guard) Second Brigade -- First Division -- Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865
 Compiled by Hillman Allyn Hall, William B. Besley, Gilbert Guion Wood
 Blanchard Press, 1908      

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Sixth New York on the Ride- May 24- May 31 1864

We return to the Sixth New York Cavalry and their crisscrossing of Central Virginia during May and June of 1864 . . .

We last left them as they headed north over the Pamunkey . . .

From Cold Harbor to Tunstall's Station

May 24th- Left Dunkirk Ferry (or ford) at 9 a.m. and taking the direction of Hanover Junction, passed Hebron Church and Concord and to the Bowling Green road, bivouacking near Polecat River after a hard, dry, dusty march.
May 25th- Moved out early and marched to Chesterfield Station, at which point we crossed the railroad and encamped three miles to the northwest. Supply train arrived via Port Royal, twenty miles distant. Mail that had been accumulating for nearly a month reached us at this point, bringing gladness and joy to the heart of many a weary trooper. A very heavy rain-storm coming up every one and everything was thoroughly soaked. General Torbert, having returned to duty, now took command of the division (First).
May 26th- Moved at noon and marched via Chesterfield and Concord Church and Lee's woods on toward Mangohick, and at 8.30 p.m. halted about twelve miles south from Chesterfield and about two miles from Mangohick. After a short halt to rest the horses, moved on again, marching all night, and halted at daybreak at Hanovertown Ferry on the north bank of the Pamunky for a short rest and sleep.
May 27th- At 7 a.m. three boatloads of Custer's men were thrown across the river, who after a little skirmishing, cleared the opposite bank of the enemy. The pontoon bridge was then thrown across and the First Division crossed over Found Gordon's Confederate brigade about a mile from the river, which we drove over the road, the Second Brigade capturing about thirty of the Third North Carolina Cavalry. The prisoners were fine looking fellows, well dressed and clean -such an unusual thing that it was noticeable. We rested on the field at night, weary from the tiresome march of upward of thirty five miles.
May 28th- All quiet through the night. No bugle calls allowed. All moves made in silence. The Sixth Corps moved up and relieved our skirmish line, and we moved to the support of Gregg, who was fighting on our left at Salem Church. The artillery fire was very sharp. We drove the enemy although our losses were heavy in carrying a strong position. Were relieved by the Second Division, Second Corps, about dark, and went into camp near the bridge
May 29th- At 9 a.m. a foraging party of the Sixth New York discovered a large force of the enemy's cavalry moving to our left at a double quick. The party returned at once to camp, and making a report, the brigade was ordered farther to the left, where it found Gregg's division and Custer's brigade already engaging the enemy. It formed and remained in line of battle until the enemy fell back, forced by our cavalry. At 4 p.m. we moved farther to the left of our line parallel with the Pamunky River, where we halted about six miles from the river, and bivouacked, the Sixth New York going on picket for the night.
May 30th- In readiness to move at 4 a.m. At nine o'clock marched to Old Church and threw out a line of pickets. Those of the Seventeenth Pennsylvania on the Cold Harbor road were attacked in force about noon. The balance of the brigade was brought up dismounted and advanced, and soon our whole front was a line of fire and smoke. The Third Brigade coming up, the two brigades were soon engaged and the enemy was being forced back when, suddenly, our left for some reason gave way, causing the whole line to fall back a short distance to a good position, where it formed. At that moment Custer's brigade came to our aid, and with a rush and a yell that made the hills and woodland resound, the "Wolverines" charged the "greybacks," pouring deadly volleys from their "seven shooters, which caused the enemy to break and fall back in precipitate flight, while the whole line rapidly idly pursued in the direction of Bottom's Bridge. The enemy consisted of Butler's South Carolina Brigade and Hampton's Legions. Halted for the night about seven miles from Bottom's Bridge. Speaking about the "seven shooter" carbines reminds me that a Confederate officer captured asked me if we sat up all night to load our guns to shoot at them in the daytime. Lieut. Jno. W. Blunt wounded in thigh James Wright and Harry G. Cooper, Company I, wounded; George Andrews Company K, killed.
May 31st- "Boots and saddles" at 2.30 a.m. and prepared for an attack. The weather was very warm and the roads were many inches deep with dust. At 4 p.m. the brigade moved out in connection with Merritt's and Custer's and gave the enemy battle in the vicinity of Cold Harbor. The Sixth New York was held in reserve to charge, if a favorable opportunity presented itself. The fighting was very severe until dark, when the enemy retreated, leaving us in possession of their earthworks on the Meadow Bridge road, about five miles from the bridge and eight miles from Bottom's Bridge. At dark we built barricades along the road and at ten o'clock fell back about three miles and stood to horse all night.

-History of the Sixth New York Cavalry: (Second Ira Harris Guard) Second Brigade -- First Division -- Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865
 Compiled by Hillman Allyn Hall, William B. Besley, Gilbert Guion Wood
 Blanchard Press, 1908      

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Talking Wire- 1864

WASHINGTON, D. C., May 27, 1864.

R. O'BRIEN, Butlers Headquarters;
I wait you to prepare for work in direction of White House from Williamsburg without delay. I do not know to what extent it will be necessary to continue working line to Butlers present headquarters, but hope we may be permitted to abandon it all to enable you to bring away operators, builders, and material. The line from Williamsburg to White House and beyond is of greatest importance; it will be the only means of communication with Grant, and must be built without a moments delay. I need a building party from here to commence work at White House, continuing thence to Grants headquarters. Confer with Sheldon* as to plans and route to build upon. Answer quick. You must use all the arbitraries in your cipher. Important words should not come in English. Leave snow out. Butlers headquarters to work cipher with his card key, and direct him to use great care.


May 28, 1864.
Mr. SHELDON, Telegraph Operator, Fort Monroe: I should have no doubt that the telegraph route most easily protected would be across the York at Gloucester Point, thence up to West Point, thence across the Mattapony between the two rivers. The route by the old road and New Kent Court-House would be broken all the time until General Grant crosses the Chickahominy.

BENJ. F. BUTLER, Major-General, Comanding.

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1- Volume 36 (Part II)

*probably George D. Sheldon

Richard O'Brien

In the late summer Mr O Brien on the recommendation of Mr. Carnegie, was assigned as chief operator to Headquarters Department of Southeast, then under command of General Butler at Fort Monroe. Two days later the Confederates cut his line to Newport News and he set it up again.
Mr O'Brien saw the fight of the "Monitor" and the "Merrimac," the first ironclads, in Hampton Roads; the landing of McClellan's army for the peninsular campaign, for which he helped to run lines, and lay the Chesapeake cable; the taking of Norfolk, where he was transferred to lay cable and run wires to Suffolk and other points.
When Grant was made general-in-chief and started all the armies in a grand concerted offensive, Mr. O'Brien was made chief operator, Army of the James, whose route was the James River and whose objective was Petersburg. At this time 1864 Mr. O'Brien was but twenty-four years of age. He organized the land and cable lines in that field and had communication ready for Grant when he brought the Army of the Potomac from the bloody Wilderness Campaign to City Point.
In this campaign the field telegraph had been developed to the point of reeling insulated wire on the battlefield from muleback and raising it from the ground on lances.
During most of the long siege of Petersburg and Richmond. Mr O'Brien maintained the James River and Appomattox River cables and the land wires in front of Richmond, while Chief Operator Caldwell relieved him by taking over those in front of Petersburg. Mr. O'Brien spoke of the heroism and sacrifice of his brave boys of the military telegraph in this field of death by buried bomb wounds or close calls by shell and bullet of capture and long imprisonment in starving prison camps of heroic escape and scouting ventures. It was on his wire, carried closest to Richmond, that at last the fateful message sped to the War Department: "We have taken Richmond."    

-Telegraph and Telephone Age
No. 18, September 16, 1917
J.B. Taltavall, 1917

Photograph from
-Lincoln in the telegraph office; recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps during the Civil War
David Homer Bates
The Century Co. 1907

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Engine US Grant

From the Army before Richmond

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
June 10, 1864
. . .
Our base at White House is completely established, and capable of supplying us indefinitely with an unlimited quantity of rations and forage. The railroad has been completed to the front, near Dispatch Station, and the fine locomotive, named Lieut-Gen. U.S. Grant, ranges back and forth nearly to the Chickahominy.

-New York Tribune

Monday, June 16, 2014

Action at Long Bridge- June 12, 1864

Map of the vicinity of Richmond, Va., and part of the Peninsula- Gilmer

 The map above gives an overview of the area comprising Bottom's Bridge, Riddell's Shop, Nance's Shop, and Long Bridge.

Moodys House, June 12, 1864- 2.45 p.m.

Major-General HUMPHREYS, Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: Major Roebling has just returned from a reconnaissance below. The Long Bridge is a bad place to force a passage. It is at present picketed by a small force of the Second North Carolina; the men on picket think it is cavalry, judging from their uniform. They talk to each other. Deserters from points above are from Ransoms brigade, they say. The Second North Carolina Infantry is in Ramseur's brigade, Ewell's corps. The approach to Long Bridge is on this side, over a narrow neck, with a swamp on each side. About 3 miles below is a good ford, it is said, at Pollards. The enemy has no pickets below Long Bridge, so that Colonel Chapman, with the cavalry brigade, had better cross at least a part of his command there, and come up and open the Long Bridge crossing. I will suggest it to him. I have started the pontoon train out now, as they can go all the way under cover. Unless the enemy bothers us at the crossing we shall be well out of the way of everybody. The distance from Long Bridge to Jones' Bridge is reported by the cavalry to be greater than indicated on the map. It is said to be about 9 miles.

            G.K. WARREN,
        Major-General, Commanding.

The Major Roebling spoken of here is Washington A. Roebling of Brooklyn Bridge fame.  

LONG BRIDGE, June 12, 1864- 10 p.m.
Major-General HUMPHREYs:
General Wilson has crossed over some men, and they are commencing to lay the bridge. Ayres' division is bivouacked, waiting for the cavalry to get out of the way. Crawford is massing. I shall close the corps all up at this point, so as to keep the road clear behind me. The enemy fired a little.

                G.K. WARREN,

    Near Long Bridge, June 12, 1864- 11.15 p.m.

          Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: After a sharp resistance, in which we lost several men, the advance of Chapman's brigade, two regiments, succeeded in passing both branches of the Chickahominy on logs and drifts, and driving the enemy from his rifle-pits, and are now well out on the other side, covering the construction of the bridges. As there is an island across which the road runs, with bad approaches, the bridges will probably not be done before midnight. Our advance crossed about 9 p.m. We will clear the way for the infantry as soon as possible.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                     J.H. WILSON,
  Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

From the report of Colonel George H. Chapman, Third Indiana Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade.
.  .  .
June 4 and 5 passed without movement or event of importance. On the 5th the Twenty-second New York joined the brigade. On the 6th moved to Bottom's Bridge and relieved the Second Cavalry Division doing picket duty from left of infantry to Jones' Bridge on the Chickahominy, the left of infantry resting at railroad bridge. The brigade continued in the performance of this duty until the 12th of June, without anything occurring on the line except a little firing between the pickets. I caused the crossing to be made defensible by constructing breast-works under cover of the night, and having succeeded in doing this the enemy ceased to fire upon my pickets. On the 9th the First New Hampshire Cavalry joined the brigade.
At dark on the 12th of June, in pursuance of orders directing a general movement of the army, I moved my command to Long Bridge, on the Chickahominy. Finding the bridge destroyed and the stream not fordable, I dismounted the Twenty-second New York and Third Indiana. The first named command was mainly crossed on a log a short distance above the bridge, and, making their way with much difficultly and considerable delay through the swamp, succeeded in crossing the second branch of the stream as they had crossed the first, on logs, and joined the brigade on the south bank of the river or swamp. In the mean time a pontoon-boat having been launched into the first branch of the stream, the Third Indiana were hastily crossed over under fire from a small force of the enemy, who occupied a rifle-pit on the south bank of the second branch of the stream. These were soon driven back, and the Third Indiana crossed line of battle, with skirmishers thrown well to the front. Owing to the difficulties to be overcome considerable time was consumed in laying the pontoon bridges, and it was after midnight when my command was entirely over. The command then moved forward to White Oak Swamp, the advance, skirmishing with a small body of the enemy's cavalry, who fell back across the swamp. At this point we found the enemy prepared to make resistance to our farther advance, with a battery in position, from which they opened fire. Lieutenant Fitzhugh's battery, then serving with this brigade, was ordered into position and a lively artillery duel ensued, in which one of the sections of our battery suffered considerably in men and horses.* “
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant.

             Colonel Third Indiana Cavalry, Commanding Brigade.

    Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Cavalry Division

According to the records the Twenty-second New York Cavalry suffered three wounded at the bridge, and three killed, two wounded and one missing the next day.

Brevet Major General George H. Chapman

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Another Night on the Chickahominy, June 1864

 Jefferson Davis communicates with R.E Lee.

Richmond Va June 9, 1864
Yours of this date received. The indications are that Grant despairing of a direct attack is now seeking to embarrass you by flank movements. If our cavalry concentrated could beat that of the enemy, it would have moral as well as physical effects which are desirable. I went down to Bottom's Bridge last night, found Genl G.W.C. Lee well & he reported his preperations for defence as progressing favorably. He does not think the enemy is in force before the position. Genl Ransom has learned nothing important and did not think he could seriously disturb the enemy with the artillery now in his command.
. . .
Jefferson Davis

-The Papers of Jefferson Davis Vol. 10, October 1863- August 1864
Lynda Laswell Crist, Kenneth H. Williams, Peggy L. Dillard
LSU Press 1999

President Davis showed up in person, on the night of June 11, to confer with General Robert Ransom, Jr.

There was no individual who was more familiar with the topography of Richmond and its vicinity than Mr. Davis. He had made himself acquainted with every road and bypath, and with the streams and farms for twenty miles around. Fond of horseback exercise, he rode often and frequently late into the 'night. Sometimes till sunrise or later the next morning in going over the lines and getting personal knowledge of localities and facts which might prove useful.
I recall very vividly the last visit he made me upon such an occasion. It was on the night of June 11, 1864. I lay in bivouac a few hundred yards from Bottom's Bridge, over the Chickahominy, east of Richmond. Grant was then moving down the east bank of that stream for the purpose of making connection with Butler across the James. About two or three o'clock in the morning, I felt a light hand on my shoulder as I lay asleep with my head on my saddle, and started to rise. I recognized the voice of the President, in a low tone. 'Do not rise,' said he.'I know you have but just fallen asleep, I give you an early call. Grant will not attempt to cross here, he is planning to do so below; to-day you will be relieved here. I have to send you with Early to meet Hunter, who is devastating the valley. Your task will be hard to organize the wild cavalry which has just been defeated at Rock Fish Gap, and that good soldier, but unhappy man, "Grumble Jones," killed. Make your arrangements. You will get the order to-day.'

-General Ransom's Reminiscences of Mr. Davis in
Jefferson Davis: Ex-president of the Confederate States of America
Vol. II

Varina Davis

  Davis was very much a "hands on" military Chief-Executive . . .

 Burton Harrison told me that in these rides of inspection, his chief, mounted on the white Arab stallion, always led the staff as close to the ragged edge of danger as was humanly possible, having an apparent longing to escape from official thraldom and return to the risks of his days of soldiering.

-Recollections Grave and Gay.
Mrs. Burton Harrison
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Night on the Chickahominy, June 1864

Friday, 10th, potatoes, dried apple, pork and fresh beef rations were issued. Expected to move, but did not; not much fighting. Warm. On the 11th, re-enforcements arrived, new breastworks were thrown up, and troops were moving all night.
On Sunday the 12th, there was some picket firing, but no severe fighting. The Fifh Regiment, with the Second Corps, left the breastworks in the evening at 9:30 and marched until 3 a.m. of the 13th to Bottom's bridge on the Chickahominy river, about 10 miles. Here the regiment went on picket, there to remain until the last man of the corps crossed. Then the regiment was to rejoin the column as rapidly as possible. The writer volunteered to remain until all had passed and then was to hasten forward and notify the colonel.
He sat upon a fallen tree by the roadside for many hours. The regiment was called in and marched at 7 a.m.; came up with the brigade at 7 p.m. and went into camp. The writer well remembers the strange, weird scenes of that night. He did sleep for a moment, a dreamy sleep. Tramp! tramp! tramp! the boys were marching the whole night. No sound could be heard beside the measured footsteps, and the rattle of accouterments, the roll of wheels and the clank of sabres. On! On! On they marched until the watcher on the log was dazed and dizzy. Hour after hour the procession of men and horses swept on, their shadows flitting strangely. Realities and dreams were so mingled that they could not be separated. Sunburned soldiers hastening on to battle, and the loved wife and tender babes, in their quiet homes in New Hampshire, passed across the stages of reality and imagination, until the heart was sick and the soul was sinking. The whole army was on a wild, night tramp to the James river.

-A History of the Fifth Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteers, in the American Civil War, 1861-1865
William Child, M. D., Major and Surgeon
Historian of the Veterans' Association of the Regiment.


I have some more research on the Fifth New Hampshire at my other site, chiefly on its discipline issues.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

150 Years Ago Today. June 1864

Today 150 years ago today Grant began his great turning motion that would carry him away from the fields of Cold Harbor, through New Kent, across the Chickahominy and the the James, to place the Army of the Potomac before the city of Petersburg.
A complicated and daring movement, the details of which are such that I will not be able to it full justice by discussing exactly on its 150th anniversary.
Here a map from the USMA Civil War atlas to give you a rough idea of the movements.

Not quite as accurate as I would want, the path on the far right(east) which represents the Union supply train, is rather too far to the west based on accounts.


 . . .  actually Mastodons(Mammutidae) and Gomphotheriidae are two different families, but you get the point . . .

"A partial deciduous premolar from a gomphothere is reported from the Late Miocene Eastover Formation in New Kent County, Virginia. This represents the first definitive occurrence of a terrestrial mammal from the Eastover Formation."
"The Eastover Formation is an unconsolidated marine sand to clay located on the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain. The unit has been identified at least as far north as the Virginia side of the Potomac River (Ward 2005) and perhaps into southern Maryland (Ward and Blackwelder 1980), and to the south along the Trent and Neuse Rivers in North Carolina (Ward 2008a; Ward and Blackwelder 1980)."
Order PROBOSCIDEA Illiger 1811
" . . .a partial lower deciduous premolar. Collected by Rose Schooff and Christie Aldridge-Nunn from the Schooff Property, New Kent County, Virginia."

-The First Terrestrial Mammal from the Late Miocene Eastover Formation of Virginia
Jeffersoniana #29

Brian Lee Beatty and Alton C. Dooley, J

 More here.

Jeffersoniana is a publication of the Virginia Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The XVIII Corps Moves up the Pamunkey IV

Gen. William F. Smith

More from "Baldy Smith" . . .
My command consisted very nearly of 16,000 infantry, sixteen pieces of. artillery, and one squadron of cavalry of about 100 men. As I knew of no landing-place on the north side of the Pamunkey near the White House, II had asked permission from Washington, through General Butler, to land at West Point and march to the designated point, but this was refused. I, however, took the responsibility of sending General Ames and one brigade in fast steamers to land at West Point, and march to protect my landing if it should become necessary, and requested Admiral Lee to give orders to Captain Babcock, U.S. Navy, to cover the landing of this brigade by gun-boats. The necessary orders were promptly given by the admiral, with his usual zeal in all his co-operations: By Sunday morning, 11 a.m., 29th, the embarkation was so far advanced that I started to overtake the head of my command. On arriving at Fort Monroe, a telegram gave me information that General Grant had crossed the Pamunkey with the greater part of the Army of the Potomac, and then, deeming my proper course to be up the Pamunkey, landing at the White House, I immediately gave the necessary orders, and reached the landing at the White House, with my headquarters, on Monday, May 30, at 11 a.m. The transports were as rapidly unloaded as the inadequate means of landing would admit, and several fast steamers were sent back to assist in towing barges and schooners, and in aiding other steamers which had run aground on the shoals in the James River. During the night of the 30th and morning of the 31st, I received three copies of the following order:

                Hanovertown, Va., May 28, 1864-1 p.m.

Maj. Gen. W.F. SMITH,
    Commanding Eighteenth Army Corps:
GENERAL: The Army of the Potomac is now crossing to the south side of the Pamunkey River and massing at this place; the most of it has already crossed. You will leave a garrison at the White House until it is relieved by General Abercrombie's command from Port Royal, and with the remainder of your command move direct to New Castle, on the south side of the Pamunkey, and there await further orders. Order the garrison left by you at White House, on being relieved, to follow after and join you.
By command of Lieutenant-General Grant:
                            JNO. A. RAWLINS,
                        Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff.

As my troops had not all arrived, and none of my wagons or ammunition, I sent to ask if my command should move as I then stood, or wait until I could take supplies with me, but later in the day, upon the receipt of a letter from General Grant, I determined not to wait for a reply to my first letter, but to march at once. I left General Ames with about 2,500 men to garrison White House, and marched about 3.30 p.m. with about 10,000 men and my artillery, and without wagons to carry supplies or extra ammunition. About 10 p.m. I reached Bassett's house near Old Church and distributed my troops to cover the roads leading to New Castle Ferry. The men had had but little experience in heavy marching, and that, together with the heat of the day, caused much straggling, which I was unable to prevent, as my provost guard had not arrived when I left the White House. From Bassett's I sent to inform General Grant of my position, and asking further orders. The next morning at daylight I received an order to proceed at once to New Castle Ferry, and place myself between the Fifth and Sixth Corps. Deeming time to be of great importance, I moved the command, without allowing the men time to get their coffee. On reaching New Castle Ferry I found that we were in the broad valley lands of the Pamunkey, surrounded by hills within artillery range, which, if occupied by the enemy, would force us to carry them by assault. The Fifth and Sixth Corps were not in this vicinity. I at once sent Captain Farqnhar, of the Engineers, to say to the Lieutenant-general that I was certain from my position there was some mistake in the order, and to ask that it be rectified. While my lines were being formed I began the construction of a bridge across the river, and during these operations, Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of General Grant's staff, arrived to say there had been a mistake in my order, and that it should have been to march to Cold Harbor instead of New Castle Ferry. The command was immediately marched back over the road we had just traveled, and in the direction of Cold Harbor.
. . .
-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1-Volume 36 (Part I)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The XVIII Corps Moves up the Pamunkey III

More on the illustration from the other day . . .

Maj Gen Smiths Expedition disembarking at the White House- LOC

  • Title inscribed upper left.
  • Inscribed vertically upper right with indicators: Ruins of the White House; the scene of Washington's courtship & marriage; the tent by Pilchard.
  • Inscribed within image: men bathing; soldiers stripping, &c.
  • Inscribed on verso: This is only a small portion of the force shown here as there were many large vessels employed such as the John Brooks, the George Leary, the Escort, the Metamone[sic]-all similar to the Hudson river & sound boats but which I have not the opportunity of sketching if Mr Parsons has drawings of these vessels if the view is thought interesting enough they might be introduced covered with troops hanging on like bees. For description see the letters of Mr. Winser in the Times. W.W.
  • Published in: Harper's Weekly, June 18, 1864.
  • Gift, J.P. Morgan, 1919

. . . and some more on the artist himself, William Waud, here and here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

"A melancholy procession": White House Landing after the Battle of Cold Habor

Procession of the Maimed.
The army was particularly well placed for the prompt dispatch of the wounded to the rear, as it was only twelve miles from its water base at White House, on the Pamunkey River. Here sufficient transports were assembled to take the wounded to Northern hospital. There not being enough ambulances to transport all promptly to the rear army wagons had been brought into use. On the morning of June 3, a train of wagons and ambulances was organized, including a total of 2,177 vehicles, which in single line would have reached to White House. On June 4 forty-three new ambulances arrived.
Many of the slightly wounded started for White House on foot rather than go to the field hospitals. Thus all day on June 4, a melancholy procession of blood- stained men kept pace with the jolting wagons with their maimed burdens that filled the road to White House. No such cortege had ever before passed through, the pine thickets, past the silent swamps and over the black streams of that part of Virginia. Although a Federal army had fought there in 1865, its losses had not been nearly as great.
The road being sandy and heavy from rain, progress of the procession of the maimed was slow. As the rough wagons Jolted in ruts or over corduroy of logs in marshy places, the sufferers lyng in them, on beds of straw or boughs, groaned In agony.
Arriving at the river, they were borne aboard the transports and laid in rows in cots or upon the decks.
In the course of the day 1,254 men were placed on transports, which started for Washington. At night there remained in the hospital tents near the shore 1,460 more, ready to depart as soon as they, could be loaded on the boats.
The labors of the army’s medical officers and their helpers at this time were ceaseless. Some of the surgeons had slept but an hour or two in three nights. At first there had been a shortage of nurses, but willing volunteers had been supplied by the Sanitary Commission. The nurses, like the doctors, worked unceasingly. Their experiences in this labor were such as could not be forgotten.

 - The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.)June 04, 1914

This was a "fifty years ago today" piece at the Washington Herald.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The XVIII Corps Moves up the Pamunkey II

Maj Gen Smiths Expedition disembarking at the White House-LOC


                        FORT MONROE, VA., May 29, 1864.

I have been requested by Major-General Smith, through Brigadier- General Ames, to cooperate with the troops which go to West Point, [Va.], this afternoon. I have telegraphed General Ames that I will be happy to cooperate with him. Shall be obliged to go alone, as the boiler of the Mystic is undergoing repair. Respectfully, etc.,

                        CHAS. A. BABCOCK,

            Lieutenant-Commander and Senior Officer Present.

Rear-Admiral S. P. LEE,
                    Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, H Roads.

Report of Lieutenant- Commander Babcock, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Morse, of the convoying of army transports, May 29- 30, 1864.

Off White House, Pamunkey River, Virginia, June 1, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report in relation to the part taken by this vessel in cooperating with and convoying transports with troops under command of Major-General Smith, which arrived at this place on the 30th ultimo.
After telegraphing you on the 29th that General Smith requested my cooperation I got underway at 5 p.m. of that day and, followed by two transports, proceeded to West Point, coming to anchor at 9:30 p.m. During the night several transports filled with troops arrived from Yorktown. On the following morning I was informed by Brigadier-General Ames that all the transports with troops were going to the White House, and requested me to convoy them. I immediately got underway and, taking the lead, proceeded up the Pamunkey River, arriving at this place with transports and troops safely at 11:30 a.m. on the 80th ultimo. I saw nothing of the enemy, and found no obstruction whatever in the river. I have stationed the Shokokon off Cumberland, with orders to protect the transports from the enemy should they make their appearance. The Cohasset is at anchor off the White house and this vessel at the railroad bridge [Richmond and York River Railroad]. The Mystic still remains at Yorktown. At present all the vessels I have with inc are fully supplied with ammunition, coal, and provisions.
 I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

                    CHAS. A. BABCOCK,
            Lieutenant- Commander and Senior Officer Present.

Rear-Admiral S. P. LEE,    
    Comdg. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Hampton Roads 

-Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series I - Volume 10: North Atlantic Blockading Squadron (May 6, 1864 - October 27, 1864)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The XVIII Corps Moves up the Pamunkey I

                    STONINGTON, CONN.,
                        August 9, 1864.
SIR: My continuous and active service in the field has prevented me from making out reports of certain operations of the troops under my command at an earlier date, and as many of the subordinate reports have not been made to me for reasons similar to those which have delayed mine, I can now give but a résumé, and propose to include in the report to your headquarters operations of my command while with the Army of the Potomac an not under the orders of General Butler. On the 27th of May I received orders to concentrate my command, consisting of the two white divisions of the Eighteenth Corps, and the divisions of Generals Ames and Turner of the Tenth Corps, in rear of the lines at Port Waithall, preparatory to embarkation at Bermuda Hundred, to join the Army of the Potomac. My orders were to land on the north side of the Pamunkey to protect the engineer troops, who were to be sent to work on the bridges at that point. The following is the order upon which I moved:

                    WASHINGTON, May 28, 1864-2.30 p.m.
Major-General SMITH:
Lieutenant-General Grant directs that on reaching White House you will put the railroad bridge there in condition for crossing troops and artillery, and leave a sufficient force to hold it. Ask General Butler to give you artillery enough for that purpose. The railroad bridge corps will immediately leave Alexandria with men and materials for executing the work. As soon as you occupy the place telegraph here your progress in ascending the river and landing.

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1-Volume 36 (Part I)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sheridan at White House, May 1864

Image from Peninsula Campaing(1862) of the bridge at White House Landing- LOC

May 21st- Moved about 4 a.m. to White House formerly the residence of General W.H.F. Lee, and at one time occupied by the Custer family; during the Peninsular Campaign it was used as a hospital. At 9 a.m. foraging parties were sent out toward Richmond and procured sufficient supplies for several days use. Heavy cannonading was heard between Meade and Lee. In the evening a gunboat and transport arrived with supplies. Officers from Custer's brigade came in, reporting the burning of two bridges and cutting of the railroad, but found the bridge across the South Anna too strongly guarded. After the expedition had started on its way to Hanover Station, General Sheridan discovered that the old railroad bridge at White House had been but partly destroyed, the timbers and cross ties being in good condition. The men of the First Division were sent out in detachments in the surrounding country for lumber, each man bringing in a plank or a board, and soon sufficient was accumulated for a flooring and the bridge was made serviceable in a day.
May 22d- Four transports, guarded by two gunboats, arrived with rations and forage. By mid day the whole command was bivouacked at White House, and at 5 p.m. commenced crossing the rickety structure, the men leading their horses. Devin's brigade finished crossing about midnight, with the loss of but a few horses and mules that went overboard, and then encamped about a mile north of the river. Lieutenant Bell, Sixth New York, acting corps commissary.
May 23d- Moved out at 5 a.m. and marched via Lanesville to King William C.H. The Sixth New York, taking the advance of the corps, moved rapidly to Aylett's, two miles south of the Mattapony River, capturing a large number of horses. Crossed the river at 4 p.m. on a bridge of its own construction, and remained all night on the north bank of the river, on picket and guarding Dunkirk Ferry, the rest of the cavalry remaining on the opposite side.

-History of the Sixth New York Cavalry: (Second Ira Harris Guard) Second Brigade -- First Division -- Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865
 Compiled by Hillman Allyn Hall, William B. Besley, Gilbert Guion Wood
 Blanchard Press, 1908      

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Some Indian Words

    This is an abridged version of Gerard's essay concentrating on those words I felt most relevant to this blog . . .      

                                        SOME VIRGINIA INDIAN WORDS
                                                By WILLIAM R. GERARD

To the April-June, 1904, number of the American Anthropologist I contributed an article on "The Tapehanek Dialect of Virginia" a subject which I had had under study for several years and which concerned a peculiar Virginia speech that, in its phonetics, was almost identical with the dialects of the Cree group or division of the Algonquian language. In a notice of that article, in the October-December, 1904, number of this journal, Mr William Wallace Tooker expresses, in regard to the meaning of a certain number of the words mentioned therein, opinions that differ very widely from those which I hold, and which I perhaps too briefly stated. It seems proper, therefore, that I should again go over as much of the ground as the space accorded me will permit, in order to explain more fully the reasons for the statements that I made and which have been called in question by Mr Tooker, whose ideas in regard to the manner in which Algonquian phrase-words are constructed are extremely novel and differ very materially from those which I have gained by a quarter of a century's study of the dialects of this linguistic family, radically, grammatically, comparatively, and especially from the view point of its laws of letter-change, and are certainly far removed from those of the ancient framers of the language. I shall state at the outset that after a careful examination of Mr Tooker's article, which is remarkable, among other things, for the positiveness of its assertions, unmodified by an occasional qualification of "perhaps" or "possibly," and which call to mind the Abnaki saying that nekeinat ghclusin, I see no reason whatever for changing a single one of the views of a philological nature that were expressed in my former article.
Winauk. — Mr Tooker, following Dr Trumbull, believes that this name stands for waen-ohke, and means the 'going-around place.' There are three objections to this view, any one of which would be fatal. In the first place, the name was not that of a promontory, but of a piece of land of which the southern extremity terminated in a low meadow point on James river(a) ("Careless Point," as Captain Archer named it). In the second, the preposition waéenu, 'round about,' belongs to the dialects of Massachusetts, none of which was spoken on James river.(b) In the third, waeenu ohkeit (that is, ohke with the post positive preposition, as Algonquian grammar requires in such a case) means 'round about the land,' 'earth,' or 'country,' not 'going-around place,' and could not be used as a name for a locality. The place was doubtless named from the presence there of a conspicuous specimen of winâk, or sassafras, a tree which in favorable situations attains a great height.
Chickahominy. — The fact that the three last syllables of this word constitute those that form the name of a well-known food product has led to the erroneous conclusion that the two words are in some way connected, and also to the delusion that the suffix in each of them stands for the inseparable substantival -min, meaning 'fruit,' 'seed,' or 'grain,' and sometimes used specifically to designate a grain of Indian corn. Such was the idea of Professor Devere, who derived the name from the impossible word checahaminend, to which he ascribed the meaning of 'land of much grain.' Mr Tooker also seeing in the word some reference to Indian com, and laboring under the mistaken belief that it was the name of a people and not of a place, offers in explanation of it a word of so novel construction that I shall pause for a moment to analyze it. This word, to which he attributes the meaning of 'coarse-pounded corn people,' is chick-aham-min-anough. In his explanation of this compound,(c) he tells us that the element -aham is a " special affix or verb" (sic), which implies that he "beats or batters" the object min after the manner of the root-word or prefix chick. In the eastern Algonquian dialects the intransitive verbal suffix -häm and the corresponding transitive -hämën, denote forcible action, and, when combined with roots meaning 'to hit,' or 'strike,' form intransitive and transitive verbs that assert, respectively, that the subject 'pounds' or 'brays,' or 'pounds it' or 'brays it' (something inanimate). Since -häm is an intransitive suffix, and intransitive verbs do not govern objectives, it is difficult to see why Mr Tooker should select an object for his intransitive verb and why he should suffix it to the latter, for even had his verb a transitive form, the object could not be affixed to it, but would have to consist of a substantive standing apart In order to indicate the manner in which the object is brayed, he selects the adjective kitchi, which he uses in the sense of 'coarse,' a meaning which it could not possibly have. This adjective denotes, primarily, superiority or preeminence, and, when employed in the sense of 'large,' or 'great,' signifies that the thing qualified is large or great as compared with some object of the same class or similar to it. From its peculiar meaning it could not be used as a root for a verb expressing forcible action. Having abbreviated this adjective to chi,  Mr Tooker finds that he needs a k in his word and thereupon boldly affixes this letter to the adjective and thereby forms a root(d) of entirely different meaning. Of the suffix anough, of the meaning of which I have to confess my ignorance, Mr Tooker regards the terminal y in the word Chickahominy as a "softened " form. It will be seen from this brief analysis that the combination under consideration does not constitute a word, but is simply a collocation of vowels and consonants.
 In the eastern Algonquian dialects, verbs having the inanimate active transitive form of the class ending in -měn (e) had the peculiarity that they could be used as passive participial adjectives, (f) and, from this sense, could pass to that of substantives.
The Indians of Virginia (like those of the three Americas, from Maine as far south as to Peru made a very nutritious food preparation by parching Indian corn and reducing it to a fine powder, which they called rokěhaměn, 'softened.' This word is cognate with Abnaki nuk'haměn, used as a designation for flour, and with Lenape lok'haměn, used as a name for bran or shorts. In Strachey's time (1610-13), this word had undergone no alteration; but later on, it became, in the pronunciation of English-speaking people, rockahominie (Beverly, 1705), rockahomine (Lawson, 1709), rockahominy (Byrd, 1728).
 Again, the natives of Virginia, by boiling the acorns of the basket and live oaks (Quercus michauxii and Q. virens) in water, extracted therefrom an oil which they called manahamen, 'removed from,' 'skimmed from.' In the pronunciation of the settlers this word soon became monohominy. The Virginians also made a food product by coarsely cracking Indian com, winnowing away the chaff, and sifting out the flour, and, to it, as well as to the porridge prepared from it, applied the name of usekutehĕmin, meaning 'crushed by pounding' (from u, prosthetic vowel; seku, a root meaning 'to crush' ; te, a particle denoting that the action expressed in the root is done with a blow or stroke ; and hemen, a verbal suffix denoting, in the transitive form of the verb, instrumental action upon an inanimate object). Strachey appears to have been acquainted with this word only in such corrupted forms as usketehamun, uskatahomen, and usketehamun. The English colonists soon became very familiar with this Indian food product, but, finding its aboriginal name altogether too cumbersome for current use, contracted the already corrupted word to its verbal suffix, homen, hamun, homin, etc., and, rounding off this disjunctum membrum with a vowel, formed such terms as homeni, fiamuni, homini, etc. The very first mention, in print, of this abbreviated word is found in the form of homini in Smith's True Travels, Adventures and Observations, p. 43 (1630). Thus originated a term concerning the source and meaning of which there has been, up to the very present (the writing of these lines), more speculation than about any other Indian word that has entered the English language.
A few miles above the mouth of a tributary of James river was situated the town(g) of a "lustie and daring people" (independent of Powhatan) on a tract of land called Tshikĕhämĕn(h) (or, in the spelling of the period, Chicohomin, Chickahaman, Chickahamin), meaning 'scraped,' and implying a clearing. Smith, who was the first to visit this town (on the morning of November 10, 1607),  made its name known in the form of Chickahamania, a spelling in which the Latin toponymic suffix -ia was an addition of his own, just as was the same suffix in such Indian names as Tanxitania and Shakaconia. The various writers of the period changed Smith's expletive syllables to e, a, ie, and y, the latter of which prevailed.(i) Thus originated the name Chickahominy, a word which, like rockahominy and monohominy, has preserved its root and taken on a paragogic syllable, while hominy, with its expletive syllable, is simply the corrupted suffix of a verb which has suffered the apheresis of its root (seku, 'to crush').

(a) " . . . a sharpe point, which is parte of Winauk: "— Archer.
(b) "The analysis of a geographical name must be sought in the language spoken by the name-givers." — Trumbull in Coll. Conn. Hist. Soc., 11, p. 50.
(c) Algonquian Series, IX.
(d) Kitchik 'to be speckled,'spotted,' 'dappled.'
(e) This suffix has been spelled with all the short vowels of the alphabet : -män, măn, měn, mĭn, mûn.
(f) For example: Natick, ûsowitämûn, 'he names it,' ûsowitämûn (pass, adj.) 'named'; wûsûkhûmûn, 'he writes it, 'wûsûkhûmûn (pass, adj.) 'written.'
(g) The exact location of this town, which must have been of some importance, is notknown, since it does not appear on Smith's map; but we know from the True Relation that it was situated between the mouth of the river and the town of Manascosick, which lay at a point 10 or 12 miles upstream.
(h) The verb is found in every Algonquian dialect from Maine to Virginia. It is from the root tshik (1) 'to scrape'; (2) 'to sweep.'
(i) The practice of adding a syllable to the suffix of passive adjectives of this class was not confined to the people of the South, for we find an example of it in the North. The Lenape Indians of New Jersey called the thin-shelled nut of the shag-bark hickory ( Carya
) sĕkuskandämĕn meaning 'crushed with the teeth.' Among the many corruptions which this word underwent in the vicinity of New York City was that of cuskatominy.

 - American Anthropologist, Vol. 7
 The American Anthropological Association, 1905

(To Be Continued)