Archive for October, 2011

1st Minnesota Light Artillery in the Atlanta Campaign May-Sept. 1864

Much has been written about the First Minnesota Infantry and its well-deserved place in Civil War history, but the experience of that famous unit was not typical. The great majority of Minnesota soldiers served in the Western theatre of the war taking part in battles from Mill Springs, Kentucky, to Sherman’s March through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Surviving members of the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery years after the war. (Photo courtesy of MN Historical Society - http://www.mnhs.org)

One of the best examples of Minnesota units serving in the West was the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery. Formed in the fall of 1861, the battery saw its first action at the bloody battle of Shiloh, where they played an important part in the defense of the “Hornets’ Nest”. They saw more hard fighting at Corinth, Mississippi, and as part of the Army of the Tennessee they endured the long campaign to capture Vicksburg. Later the battery joined General Sherman’s forces in the Atlanta Campaign and his famous “March to the Sea.” The Minnesotans continued with Sherman’s forces through the Carolinas to the final battle of the war at Bentonville, North Carolina. They also participated in the Grand Review of the major Union armies in Washington, D.C., following the war’s end. [Text courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society]

Report of First Lieutenant Henry S. Hurter, First Minnesota Battery

HEADQUARTERS FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY

IN THE FIELD, GEORGIA, Nov. 11, 1864

 OSCAR MALMROS,

Adjutant General of the State of Minnesota

GENERAL:  In accordance with your request of September 24, 1864, I herewith send to you a morning report of this battery from the 1st day of November 1864, also a report of the casualties, etc., during the year, and within a short history of the company.

On the 1st of November, 1863, the battery laid in camp one mile south of Vicksburg; Captain Clayton, then commanding, received orders to go to Minnesota on recruiting service, and started on the 9th, the command then coming in my hands. The months of November and December were, whenever the weather allowed, improved in drilling the battery, also January and part of February, in which latter month, on the 11th, Captain Calayton returned with 73 recruits; on the 24th of February 5 veterans of the battery, in charge of Lieutenant Hurter, left for Minnesota. On the 5th of March captain Clayton exchanged the old guns, two 12-pound howitzers, and two 6-pound rifled guns, caliber 3.67, for four new rifled 3-inch Rodman’s guns. On the 25th the battery went out to black river, twelve miles from Vicksburg, with the First Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, under Brig. Gen. E.S. Dennis. On the 4th of April we were transferred to the Third Division, under brigadier General Legett, and marched back to Vicksburg, were put on board the transport Z.C. Swan, left at dusk and proceeded up river and landed at Cairo, Ill. On the 17th disembarked and came into camp; there the veterans joined the battery again on the 21st. On the 27th embarked on transport Colossus, and moved up the Tennessee river, landed at Clifton, Tenn. On the 1st of May landed there, and after camping four days marched with the so-called Tennessee River Expedition, under Brigadier General Gresham, via Pulaski, Tenn., to Athens, Ala., camped there eight days and left on the 19th for Huntsville, Ala., arriving there on the 20th. On the 22d Captain Clayton left on leave of absence for Minnesota.

At the reorganization of the Seventeenth Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. F.P. Blair, the battery was attached to the Fourth Division, Brigadier General Crocker commanding. The corps left Huntsville for Decatur, Tenn., on the 25th of May, and from there marched via Summerville, Warrenton and Hendricksville, Tenn., and Cedar Bluff to Rome, Ga., 5th of June; from there to Kingston, Cartersville, Allatoona and Acworth, Ga., where we arrived on the 8th of June, joining there Sherman’s army, and especially the Army of the Tennessee, under the gallant McPherson, consisting then of three army corps; the Fifteenth, under Major General Logan, Sixteenth, under Major General Dodge, and the Seventeenth under Blair. On the 12th of June our guns opened for the first time on the enemy, who had works north of the Kenesaw Mountains, on the top of which we could observe large crowds of people looking at the doings of the two armies. More or less firing until the 20th, when the rebels evacuated their lines, and the army advanced about two miles and took position on the foot of the Kenesaw Mountain. Heavy fighting was done there, but the enemy’s position being very strong, Sherman moved the Army of the Tennessee, then forming the left wing, on the night of the 2d of July, in rear of our lines of the other troops on the extreme right, thus forcing the enemy to give up his position on the mountain and in Marietta, in order to oppose our crossing the Chattahoochee river. On the 4th of July the right section with two regiments of infantry, Fifteenth and Sixteenth regiments of Iowa Volunteers, advanced towards Nickajack creek, but soon found the enemy in force; the whole corps was engaged before night, and on the morning of the 5th, after shelling the rebel works for about half an hour, the infantry stormed and took them, pushing the rebels slowly back in their main works on the river. The battery was in position on a high hill, in full view, about two miles from the rebel works, and although for some time fired on very lively, had nobody hurt. On the 11th the rebels evacuated during the night and fell back on the opposite shore. On the 16th the Army of the Tennessee made another flank movement to the extreme left again, passing through Marietta, Rosswell, crossing the Chattahoochee river near that place, and after passing Decatur turned westward, meeting the enemy about two miles from Atlanta on the 20th. The battery took position and opened with good effect, but so did the rebels, killing five of our horses, their shells falling thick around us, one shell striking under the trail of one of our guns and setting the piece straight on its muzzle. Fired some on the 21st. Changed position twice that day, and occupied that night and part of the 22d a fort in rear of the Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, near the place where Major General McPherson fell. The bloody battle of the 22d was fought under our eyes, we not being able to fire one round, as our trains were moving between us and our lines, until in the evening, when we silenced a rebel battery, who opened a flank fire on the Sixteenth Army Corps. On the 26th we made another flank move to the right again; arrived on the morning of the 28th near Ezra Church, when about noon the rebels made an assault on the Fifteenth Corps, but were badly repulsed, leaving the front literally covered with dead and wounded. The left section had taken position and fired a few rounds, but could not do much, the position being too much exposed. On the 30th July, when we had just moved into park, a 64-pound shell from the rebels struck the right caisson, exploded the powder in two limber chests and some of the shells, but did not harm a man with one exception, although we were at close intervals, and men promiscuously among the carriages. On the 2d of August the centre and left sections, and on the 6th the right section, moved into positions fixed for them in the lines; we were then about two miles from Atlanta, but fired our shells with ease into town. More or less firing was done, according to the enemy’s annoyance, we advancing our works ever few days. On the 14th Lieutenant Koethe was killed inside of our works by a stray rebel bullet passing through his heart, killing him instantly. On the 26th we moved from our position and with the army to the right, striking the Montgomery railroad on the 28th, destroying it effectually, and then moving towards the Macon railroad, meeting the enemy on the 31st near Jonesboro, and driving him steadily, following to near Lovejoy Station, when we returned to Eastpoint, going into camp there to rest, refit and recruit up. We laid there from the 10th of September to the 3rd of October, when marching order came suddenly; as our horses were not all in condition for a long, tedious march, only two sections turned out, the centre section remaining in charge of Second Lieut. John D. Ross at Atlanta, Ga. The other two sections were under command of First Lieut. H. hurter, Captain Clayton being chief of artillery, Fourth Division, Seventeenth Army Corps. We left camp at 6 o’clock on the 4th of October, marching over very bad roads till night, and next morning to a place three miles southwest from Marietta. From there we went through Acworth and Allatoona, where a few days before the rebels were nobly repulsed by a small garrison, of which the Fourth Minnesota Regiment of Infantry formed a part – Cartersville, Kingston, Adairsville, Calhoun, Resaca, through Snake Gap, to near Villanow, Ga., where we remained two days, and from where we sent all surplus baggage, etc., to Chattanooga, Tenn., leaving but one team with the battery. Marched on the 18th from here to Summerville, Alpine, Ga., to Gaylesville, Ala., where we camped from the 21st to the 29th. During this time the artillery of the Seventeenth Army Corps was organized into an independent brigade under Major Powell, Second Regiment Illinois Light Artillery, Captain Clayton being assistant chief of artillery. Out of ten batteries belonging to the corps, only three were selected to remain with the army, via.: the Fifteenth Ohio Battery, First Lieutenant Burdick commanding; Company C, First Michigan Light Artillery, First Lieutenant Shier commanding, and First Minnesota, Lieutenant Hurter commanding. All the others were sent back to Nashville, Tenn., into the reserve artillery pack. Left camp on the 29th at 6 o’clock A.M., marched through Cedar Bluff, and arrived on the 30th near Cave Spring, Ga., where we remained in camp on the 31st in order to have the troops mustered for pay.

This, general, is a short sketch of the military history of this battery. Any particulars you wish to add, you will be enabled to get from our non-veterans, who will soon be discharged and return to the state.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. HURTER

Senior First Lieut., Comdg. Battery

1st Minnesota Light Artillery flag

EXTRACT FROM MONTHLY REPORT OF CAPT. WILLIAM Z. CLAYTON, FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY, DATED IN THE FIELD, GEORGIA, JULY 31, 1864

            On the 2d day of July the battery moved from its former position at the foot of Kenesaw Mountain to the right. On the 4th it was ordered, section at a time, to the front and went forward with the skirmishers. During the day it fired about 80 rounds of ammunition; during the night constructed a work and on the morning of the 6th went into it. On the 8th the enemy opened from a post in front of us, with 18 pieces of artillery. We, with other batteries of our division, returned the fire. We fired 123 rounds with good effect. On the 16th moved to the left and crossed the Chattahoochee river at Roswell; went into position on the 20th and fired 130 rounds. While in this position we had 1 private and 4 public horses killed with one shell from the enemy’s gun. On the 26th moved to the right. On the 27th the battery was engaged while the enemy was stubbornly endeavoring to turn the extreme right flank of our army, and fired 22 rounds from one section. On the 30th the battery was relieved and moved into park at 5 o’clock P.M. At 6 P.M. we had 1 caisson blown up by the explosion of a 64-pound shell thrown from the enemy’s gun.

—————–

The 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, like the one seen here, was a staple of the Battery from March 5, 1864 through the end of the war.

 HEADQUARTERS FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY,

BEFORE ATLANTA, GA., Aug. 18, 1864

 OSCAR MALMROS,

Adjutant General Minnesota,

SIR:  I have to report the death of First Lieut. William C.F. Koethe of the First Minnesota Battery, who was killed on the 15th of August, while temporarily in command of four pieces of this battery, which were in position to operate against the city of Atlanta.

The enemy had a complete enfilading fire upon the position which Lieutenant Koethe occupied, and a rebel sharpshooter shot a ball through his left arm, which passed through his heart and came out on his right side. He died without a struggle.

Lieutenant Koethe was from Germany, where his father still resides. He entered the battery, at its original organization, as a private; served as such until the 1st of September, 1863, when he was promoted to second lieutenant for his noble worth in the service of his adopted country. He was again promoted to junior first lieutenant, July 19, 1864. He rendered noble service on the 20th, 21, 22d and 28th of July, in command of his section of the battery, during the fearful struggle in front of Atlanta.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM Z. CLAYTON,

Captain, First Minnesota Battery

—————–

EXTRACT FROM MONTHLY REPORT OF FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY, DATED AUG. 31, 1864.

            On the 1st of August the battery laid in park near Ezra Church, Ga., in rear of our lines. Centre and left section moved into position on the 2d and the right on the 6th; they fired more or less every day until the 25th, when the whole army of the Tennessee moved to the right, striking the Montgomery & Atlanta railroad on the 28th. After destroying the same effectually we moved on towards Jonesboro, on the Macon road; we came into position on the 31st, but did not fire any that day.

—————–

HEADQUARTERS, FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY,

NEAR ATLANTA, GA., Sept. 15, 1864.

OSCAR MALMROS,

Adjutant General Minnesota,

GENERAL:    Inclosed please find the return of this company for the month of August, 1864, it having been utterly impossible to forward the same at an earlier period.

The battery is now in camp, resting from the fatigues and troubles of the late campaign, but preparing vigorously for a fall and (who knows), if necessary, winter campaign. May only the North make one more effort, send forth the scores of young men lounging around in the great cities, wasting their money and their health, and fill up our decimated ranks once more, I am sure that the next summer would not see anything more of this rebellion.

But, alas! How many homes will be desolate, how many hearts of loving wives, endearing children will wait in vain for their returning husbands and fathers! Many a place will be vacant, that before the war was blooming in health, beauty and love, its occupant lying silent and cold in strange soil! We too have to lament the death of two of our men, two of our best soldiers, who have died, not on the battle-field, but victims to disease and the treatment that our soldiers receive from those so-called surgeons in the hospitals. William Vincens, sergeant, and Gustavus Andre, private, both from New Ulm, died, the latter on the 4th inst., at Vining’s Station, Ga., the former at Atlanta on the 7th inst. Their friends will be much surprised at the news, as the time of the enlistment of the two was almost expired.

Tendering you my best respects, I am, yours very respectfully,

H. HURTER,

First Lieutenant, Commanding Battery

—————–

EXTRACT FROM THE MONTHLY REPORT OF FIRST LIEUTENANT H. HURTER, FIRST MINNESOTA BATTERY, DATED NEAR ATLANTA, GA., SEPT. 30, 1864.

            The battery marched on the 2d instant from the position it held on the 1st near Jonesboro, Ga., to the right, and when near Lovejoy’s Station, came in sight of the rebels, firing about thirty shots at them. On the 5th instant it left this position again, marching back to Jonesboro and Eastpoint and reaching the present camp grounds on the evening of the 9th, whence we tried to fix ourselves as comfortably as possible.

On the 4th instant Private William Winges was wounded in camp by a rebel rifle ball passing through his left cheek.

—————–

EXTRACT FROM REPORT OF LIEUT. SAMUEL EDGE, SIXTEENTH OHIO INFANTRY, ACTING SIGNAL OFFICER, DATED HEADQUARTERS SIGNAL DETACHMENT, FIFTEENTH ARMY CORPS, EAST POINT, GA., SEPT. 12, 1864

 * * * June 14, moved to the front of Kenesaw Mountain, and established two stations of observation. Lieutenants Edge, Worley, and Allen occupying one, and Lieutenants  Weirick and Fish the other, received several contraband messages of considerable importance, which were transmitted with promptness to Major Generals McPherson and Logan. June 15, occupied the same stations; received several contraband messages, all of which were transmitted to the generals. Lieutenant Weirick directed the firing of the First Minnesota Battery, Captain Clayton, by the aid of his glass, which resulted in blowing up a caisson and knocking off one wheel of a gun. * * *

 —————–

 EXTRACT FROM REPORT OF COL. WILLIAM HALL, ELEVENTH IOWA INFANTRY, COMMANDING THIRD BRIGADE, OF OPERATIONS JUNE 27 AND JULY 5 AND 22, DATED HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, FOURTH DIVISION, SEVENTEENTH ARMY CORPS, IN THE FIELD, GEORGIA, JUNE 28, 1864.

 * * * My line of battle extended from the left of the First Brigade and behind a line of rifle-pits thrown up by me on the crest of the hill on the 24th instant. My regiments were posted in the following order: The Fifteenth Iowa Volunteers on the right in support of the First Minnesota Battery, and having on its left the Tenth Ohio Battery. * * *

 —————–

EXTRACT FROM REPORT OF BRIG. GEN. WILLIAM W. BELKNAP, COMMANDING THIRD BRIGADE, DATED HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, FOURTH DIVISION, SEVENTEENTH ARMY CORPS, NEAR ATLANTA, GA., SEPT. 11, 1864.

 * * * September 9, moved at 9 A.M. and reached present position at 12 M., where the command is in line with the Fifteenth, Thirteenth, and Sixteenth Iowa on the left of the First Minnesota Battery, the Eleventh Iowa being in reserve. * * *

 —————–

[Source: Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, Vol. II, pp. 517-522]

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In Memory: Senator Edward Dickinson Baker (1811-1861)

Edward Baker was born in London, England. his family moved to the United States in 1815, and Baker spent the next ten years of his life in Philadelphia before his family moved to Indiana and then Illinois. While still a teenager, Baker studied law and was admitted to the Illinois bar at the age of nineteen. At twenty-four, Baker moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he became over the next seventeen years a prominent attorney and political figure. During his time in Springfield, Baker became close friends with another rising young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. Abraham and Mary Lincoln named their second son after their close friend Baker.

Senator Edward D. Baker

In his early political life, Baker was a Whig, although he did not always follow the party line. At the age of twenty-six, Baker entered the Illinois legislature and served two terms in the lower house before moving to the state senate in 1840. In 1844 he defeated his good friend Lincoln for the district’s Whig nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives and won the election. While in the House beginning in 1845, Baker broke party ranks by supporting the expansionist policies of President James K. Polk.

At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Baker traveled from Washington to Illinois to raise a regiment. he became colonel of the regiment and took it to serve under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico. Baker returned briefly to Congress at the end of 1846 and, wearing his uniform, urged the Congress to vote more funds for the maintenance of soldiers at the front.

Shortly after the beginning of 1847, Baker resigned his congressional seat and joined Winfield Scott’s Mexico City campaign. From April through September 1847, Baker fought in all the major battles of the war and commanded a brigade at one point.

After the Mexican-American War, Baker returned to Illinois, where he moved to another congressional district and was elected to Congress. In 1851 Baker left Congress and the following year moved to California. Baker’s Whig and then Republican affiliations meant that he would have little political future in heavily Democratic California. He became, however, a popular local attorney in San Francisco and, in spite of his politics, was much in demand as a public speaker.

His political future bleak in California, Baker accepted the invitation of Oregon Republicans to move to that state and run for the U.S. Senate in 1860. Baker did so and won the election. As senator-elect from Oregon and the only Republican senator from the West Coast, Baker made it a personal crusade to encourage those states, particularly California, to stay in the Union. Some people later credited him with saving the heavily Democratic state for the United States.

On his way to Washington after his visit to California, Baker stopped in Springfield to meet with President-elect Lincoln. Over the next several months, Baker made several stirring speeches urging support for the Union. He refused the offer of a brigadier general’s commission because any commission at the general rank would require him to resign his Senate seat. Therefore, when offered the colonelcy of the 71st Pennsylvania (sometimes referred to as the 1st California because of Baker’s ties to the West Coast), he accepted. Throughout the summer of 1861, Baker divided his time between training his regiment and serving in the U.S. Senate.

In August 1861, Baker commanded a brigade along the Potomac, though he remained at the rank of colonel. On 28 September 1861, Baker commanded his brigade at a skirmish near Munson’s Hill, Virginia. A week earlier he had been offered a major general’s commission but was apparently still considering it and had made no reply.

Colonel Edward D. Baker monument at Balls Bluff

On 21 October, Baker’s commander Brigadier General Charles P. Stone ordered Baker to demonstrate against Confederates across the Potomac near Poolesville. At Balls’ Bluff, without careful reconnaissance, baker moved across the river into a trap. He was killed, and most of his command were killed or captured. he had never replied to the offer of a major general’s commission.

The president deeply mourned the loss of his friend, but the most lasting impact of the debacle was the persecution of Charles Stone. Many blamed stone for the popular Baker’s death. That Stone was a Democrat did not help his cause. He was called before the Committee on the Conduct of the War and eventually arrested without charge. He was imprisoned for 189 days and never held an important command for the remainder of the war.

– David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler [Source: Heidler and Heidler, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A political, social and military history. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 161-162.]

150 Years Ago: Battle of Ball’s Bluff Oct. 21, 1861

Ball’s Bluff was a small battle by the standards of the Civil War, but it had ramifications far beyond its size. It was only the second significant battle in the east, and received a great deal of attention in both North and South. Edward Baker, a senator from Oregon and close personal friend and political ally of President Lincoln, was killed during the battle and became a martyr to those who took a hard line against the Confederacy. Perhaps most importantly, the defeat spurred the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War by Congress; the Committee became a persecutor of those who were considered to be soft on defeating the Confederacy and destroying slavery.

George McClellan took command of Union forces around Washington, D.C., in the wake of the defeat at Bull Run in July 1861. He immediately set about training and improving the state of his army. As the good campaigning weather of fall 1861 passed, however, he began to feel pressure to advance on the Rebel forces just across the Potomac River from Washington. Probes and raids by Yankee forces over the Potomac combined intelligence gathering with training. On 19 October McClellan ordered General George McCall to conduct a reconnaissance toward the village of Dranesville, Virginia, covering a topographical survey of the area. McClellan alerted neighboring commander General Charles P. Stone of the movement and told him to keep a vigilant watch on the town of Leesburg; if the Rebels evacuated it, he could move in. A “light demonstration’ on Stone’s part would help move them on.

Stone moved one brigade to the Potomac opposite Leesburg. When an inexperienced scouting party crossed into Virginia during the night of 20 October, it mistook shadows for an unguarded Confederate camp. Stone ordered Colonel Charles Devens and 300 men to make a dawn attack. If no other Confederate forces were found, Devens was to stay on the Virginia side and conduct a further reconnaissance. When Devens found no camp, he pushed on to Leesburg, which he found empty of enemy troops. Devens requested reinforcements so that he could hold Leesburg.

When Stone ordered additional troops to join Devens, only three boats were available to ferry soldiers to the Virginia side and so movement was slow. Colonel Edward Baker was ordered to take command of the larger force, totaling 1,640 men. Baker was an inexperienced soldier, but he was also an old Illinois friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, in fact, had named his second son after Baker. After he had moved west, Baker was elected senator from Oregon. He had turned down a commission as brigadier general, because it would require his resignation from the Senate. An outspoken enemy of any who would compromise with the slaveholding South, he looked forward to an opportunity to prove his point in battle.

Baker ordered his men to form a line of battle in a clearing near the river. Immediately in the rear of his position was 100-foot Ball’s Bluff; a single narrow path led down to the Potomac. More experienced officers worried about a wooded ridge immediately in front of Baker’s line. Confederates on that height would be able to shoot down at the Union soldiers in the clearing below.

Actually, Confederate units under the command of Colonel Nathan “Shanks” Evans were slowly arriving on the battlefield and exchanging shots with the Yankees. At 3:00 p.m. the Confederates launched a general assault on the four regiments at Ball’s Bluff. Soon, Evans’s 1,600 Rebel soldiers in wooded cover were pouring shot into Baker’s forces in the open. For three and one-half hours, the Union soldiers held on. Baker was killed around 5:00 p.m. Unable to stand the fire and unable to retreat in an orderly manner, the Yankee formation began to crumble. Some leaped off the bluff in an attempt to reach the river, and many were killed or injured by the fall. Others climbed safely down Ball’s Bluff, but the few boats were swamped by the numbers trying to regain the Maryland side. As the Confederates fired down from the top of the bluff, boats sank and scores drowned in the river. By 7:00 p.m. the battle was virtually over and most Federal survivors were prisoners.

Union losses totaled 49 killed, 158 wounded, and 714 captured or wounded. Confederate casualties amounted to 33 killed, 115 wounded, and one man missing. The obvious disparity in losses was clear to all and trumpeted by the Confederates, while the defeat having occurred so near to Washington ensured that newspaper reporters would quickly spread the news to the rest of the country.

National Cemetery at Ball's Bluff

The effects were quickly felt in the north. For Lincoln, Baker’s death was a personal blow. When informed, Lincoln stood stunning and silent for several minutes. He walked slowly back to the executive mansion with bystanders noting tears rolling down his face. Baker was buried in a state funeral attended by the president, vice president, congressional leaders, and the Supreme Court. He immediately became a martyr to the cause of the Union, despite the fact that his inexperience had contributed to the disaster.

Nonetheless, the political establishment was intent on discovering darker motives for the disaster. Although many regular officers blamed Baker, Republicans who favored a hard war policy and the destruction of slavery blamed McClellan and Stone. On 20 December, Congress created the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Representatives from both the Senate and the House of Representatives thus formed a permanent committee to inquire into and investigate how the war was being directed. Investigations were conducted in secret, and the committee was soon persecuting those suspected of having Southern sympathies.

Their first victim was General Charles P. Stone. Witnesses denounced Stone, alleging that he secretly communicated with unnamed Southerners and returned runaway slaves to their owners. He was also blamed for failing to reinforce Baker at Ball’s Bluff. The Committee took their findings to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who ordered Stone relieved of command and arrested on 8 February 1862. Stone was never tried, but enough testimony was released to the newspapers to paint him as a traitor. Stone was released from prison in August 1862, and though he served again, his military career was virtually at an end. Stone’s experience remained an example and warning to Union commanders throughout the remainder of the war.

– Tim J. Watts

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 167-169]

Additional Links:

The U.S. Army has a detailed look at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff that was published previously as Ball’s Bluff: An Overview and is now on line. You can find that here.

The Civil War Trust has a webpage dedicated to the Battle of Ball’s Bluff with additional resources, including recent efforts to preserve the historic battlefield from development encroachment. You and find their Ball’s Bluff page here.

The Balls’ Bluff National Cemetery contains 25 burial plots containing the remains of 54 soldiers. Only one, plot #13, is identified as James Allen, a soldier from the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority began its Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Restoration program in 2004, to restore the park’s appearance to what it looked like in 1861. You can find more information about those efforts here.

You can read a brief biography of Senator-Colonel Edward Dickinson Baker here.

For further reading:

Farwell, Byron. Ball’s Bluff: A small Battle and Its Long Shadow (1990).

Grimsley, Mark. “The Definition of Disaster.” Civil War Times Illustrated (1989).

Holien, Kim Bernard. Battle at Ball’s Bluff (1985).

Stears, Stephen W. “The Ordeal of General Stone.” MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History (1995).

Tap, Bruce. Over Lincoln’s Shoulder: The Committee on the Conduct of the War (1998).

Excerpts from Midnight Rising: John Brown and the raid that sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

A new book on the famed abolitionist John Brown will be released next week (Oct. 25). It is written by Tony Horwitz, who previously wrote the best-seller, “Confederates in the Attic.” Bloomberg recently posted five excerpts in advance of this book, which are made available here. We’ll review this book in approximately 2-3 weeks, once the book is released and we read it fully.

From the author’s website, www.tonyhorwitz.com:

The author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the Civil War era to tell the gripping drama of a man and a mission that changed the course of history.

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia before the Civil War. Now, Midnight Rising paints Brown’s uprising in vivid color, capturing a nation on the brink of explosive conflict.

Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was prepared to shed blood in the cause of freedom. After fighting against slavery in Bleeding Kansas, he secured money and guns from clandestine backers called the Secret Six, and convened a guerilla band that included three of his sons, his teenaged daughter, a former slave desperate to free his wife from bondage, and a dashing poet who acted as a spy inside Virginia. Then, late one autumn night in 1859, Brown marched from his mountain hideout into Harpers Ferry, seizing the town’s federal armory and vowing to liberate every slave in the South.

The bloody fight at Harpers Ferry prompted a counterattack by U.S. Marines under Robert E. Lee and shocked an already divided nation. While Southerners branded the raid an act of treason and terror, Brown’s bravery and eloquence made him a hero to many Northerners. The crisis also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure the president once labeled “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

In this riveting book, Tony Horwitz probes the troubled soul of Brown, the desperate passion of his followers, and the spirit of a sundered nation. The result is both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a fiery time that still resonates in our own.

“With his customary blend of rich archival research, on-location color, and lyrical prose, Tony Horwitz has delivered a John Brown book for our time. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry Raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown’s tragic place in American history. Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller’s verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was-and still is-so troubling and important to our culture.”  -David Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Bloomberg’s excerpts are in five parts, which you can find in the links below:

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 1)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 2)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 3)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 4)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 5)

 

Civil War filmmaker still owes $263K on county loan

HAGERSTOWN, Md.—

Director Ron Maxwell — who owes Washington County $263,000 on an overdue loan — said Thursday he’s “absolutely” confident he still can make the last movie in a Civil War trilogy.

 

Director Ron Maxwell (By Ric Dugan/Hagerstown Journal Mail)

“As long as I’m walking around and breathing, there’s hope,” Maxwell said, referring to “The Last Full Measure.”

Maxwell made “Gettysburg,” which came out in 1993, and “Gods and Generals,” which was released in 2003 and filmed largely in the Tri-State area.

In 2002, Washington County gave Maxwell a $300,000 loan to start working on “The Last Full Measure” by 2005 and produce at least half of it in Washington County.

Otherwise, he had to repay the money, plus 4.5 percent annual interest, by 2010.

“It’s being paid over a number of years and it continues to be paid, and it will be paid. That’s … all I can tell you,” Maxwell said during a brief interview as he left a Maryland International Film Festival VIP reception in Hagerstown on Thursday.

But Maxwell’s last payment was $19,107 on June 2, 2008, according to county officials. That leaves his debt at $181,786 on the principal and $263,041 total, including interest.

When The Herald-Mail wrote about Maxwell’s loan debt in 2007, County Attorney John M. Martirano said the county was considering a lawsuit to collect the balance.

Assistant County Attorney Andrew F. Wilkinson said in August that a lawsuit was still possible.

For now, however, the county continues to talk to Maxwell and his Washington, D.C., attorney, Richard J. Leighton, Wilkinson said Friday. He said he and Leighton are scheduled to confer again in mid-November.

Leighton couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Maxwell said he met privately with the Washington County Board of Commissioners within the last six months “and everybody understands that it’s gonna be solved.”

But none of the four commissioners contacted Friday was satisfied with Maxwell’s progress in paying his debt.

“He’s not on track, and he owes Washington County taxpayers …,” said Terry Baker, the president of the commissioners. “He hasn’t lived up to his obligation.”

Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said loans in the film industry are risky. She said the county now needs to focus on getting repaid.

When he met with the commissioners, Maxwell suggested alternatives to repaying the loan, according to Commissioner William B. McKinley. One was a local film festival, which would attract people to Washington County and boost hotel-motel tax revenue.

McKinley said that wasn’t reasonable.

“We need the money back,” he said.

“I think we’re getting to the point where negotiations are ending” and the matter will go to court, Commissioner Jeff Cline said.

Cline questioned the image of Maxwell’s red-carpet entrance at The Maryland Theatre on Thursday evening.

“He arrived in a white limo to a town he owed $300,000 to, and he was treated like a hero,” Cline said, wondering why Maxwell couldn’t have at least made small payments in the last three years.

Commissioner John F. Barr couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.

Maxwell pledges payback

Maxwell was in Washington County on Thursday for the film festival kickoff and on Friday for a director’s-cut screening of “Gods and Generals.”

He said it took 15 years to make “Gettysburg,” the first film in the trilogy, and 10 years to make “Gods and Generals,” the second part, which was a “prequel” to “Gettysburg.”

Eight years have passed since he started trying to make “The Last Full Measure,” so “if we get it done within the next two years, we’ll be on schedule …,” he said with a laugh.

“One thing you can put in print: I will never turn my back on this county,” Maxwell said.

Jeff Shaara wrote “The Last Full Measure,” a book Maxwell has tried to turn into a movie.

Hagerstown attorney D. Bruce Poole, who represents Shaara, said Shaara and Maxwell haven’t spoken in years about making a “The Last Full Measure” movie. But Shaara “is confident that under the right circumstances,” the movie could be made and would be successful, Poole said.

Maxwell and Shaara each own 50 percent of the movie rights, according to Poole.

The loan agreement called for Maxwell to make quarterly payments to the county. However, records show he made one payment in 2006, four in 2007 and one in 2008.

The loan for “The Last Full Measure” followed an earlier loan Maxwell’s film company secured in 1997 to make “Gods and Generals.” Washington County and the city of Hagerstown backed $300,000 of the loan, The Herald-Mail reported at the time.

Maxwell’s film company repaid that loan.

“Gods and Generals” cost about $56 million to make and had a domestic gross of about $13 million, according to the movie-industry website http://www.IMDb.com.

A director’s cut DVD of nearly six hours, twice the length of the theater version, was more popular.

This Week in the Civil War: October 16

Oct. 16: War by telegram. The fall of 1861 is bereft of major fighting until Union Major Gen. George B. McClellan gets a disastrous battle going — by telegram.

Oct. 21, 1861 witnesses a badly coordinated attempt by Union forces to cross in boats from Maryland to the Confederate-held Virginia side of the Potomac River, northwest of Washington. Their aim: to seize a key railroad juncture at Leesburg, Va. But Union forces will get no further than the steep Virginia slope of the Potomac riverbank at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. It all began with a line in a seemingly innocuous McClellan telegram to a subordinate, Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone. McClellan advises Stone, commander of troops along the Potomac, to “keep a good lookout upon Leesburg,” adding “perhaps a slight demonstration on your part would have the effect to move them.” Stone obliges by sending two Union companies across the river the night of Oct. 20, 1861.

They scale the bluff and report back that it’s a dangerous, steep slope. The next day, thousands of Union troops begin crossing, their incursion begun. But Confederates above on the heights at Ball’s Bluff fiercely counterattack. Heavy Confederate cannon and rifle fire drives the green federal forces back down the bluff, many splashing mortally wounded and bleeding into the river. Others drown trying to swim away in uniform. When it’s over, hundreds of Union troops are dead and hundreds more are missing or taken prisoner — out of roughly 1,780 ill-trained Union troops seeing their first action.

A leader of the Union attack, Col. Edward D. Baker, who served in the U.S. Senate from Oregon, is killed. Baker is a good friend of President Abraham Lincoln and the Union rout causes such an uproar in Washington that a congressional oversight committee is formed for the conduct of the war.

Spielberg to film ‘Lincoln’ scenes in Richmond

By BOB LEWIS, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. – The Capitol of Virginia, onetime seat of the Confederacy, is being converted for a few weeks more in keeping with how it looked at the close of the Civil War — for filming scenes from Steve Spielberg’s major production, Lincoln.

Bronze statue of Grace Bedell and Abraham Lincoln, Westfield NY.

Spielberg and members of his production company were guests Monday night of Gov. Bob McDonnell at Virginia’s Executive Mansion, just a few hundred feet from the state Capitol.

On the grounds of the 200-year-old seat of Virginia government, the grass is going without mowing in spots for some weeks to give it a more natural appearance at the request of the filmmakers. Lincoln visited Richmond after the fall of the Confederacy in 1865, shortly before his assassination.
 
Rita McClenny, head of the Virginia Film Office, said Spielberg’s moviemakers will be filming on Capitol Square in Richmond and other locations including Petersburg this fall through December. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.

Richmond’s urban area and the Capitol complex in particular have served as the set for movies many times before. The Capitol’s South Lawn and the South Portico, which were initially designed by Thomas Jefferson, doubled as the White House exterior in Dave. The interior doubled as the interior of the U.S. Capitol for the film “The Contender.”

It also was a stand-in for official Washington in the films “G.I. Jane,” “First Kid” and The Jackal. Its building interiors also served as the gloomy environs for Hannibal. And the region assumed an 18th century look for HBO’s miniseries John Adams.

Spielberg’s credits, among many others, include “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List,” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

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