Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Civil War at Jamestown Settlement

As part of our granddaughter's trip to Williamsburg and Washington, we spent half a day at Historic Jamestown. Visitors may not realize that the site also has connections with the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the military of both sides became interested in Jamestown's strategic location.  In 1861 Confederates thought it was the best point along the James River for defending Richmond.
Confederate Earthworks
William Allen, a wealthy Virginian who owned Jamestown,  occupied the island in April 1861with troops that he raised at his own expense. Allen was joined by Lieutenant Roger Jones who constructed and commanded artillery batteries on the island. By the end of the year, Jamestown had five earthworks that controlled river traffic and protected the island.

Confederate Earthworks
Of the five Confederate earthworks on Jamestown Island, only two are substantially intact and accessible to visitors. Fort Pocahontas, which stands adjacent to the seventeenth-century church tower, was the first and most significant one for defending Richmond during the early months of the war. The Square Redoubt is located toward the center of the island. Earthworks near Goose Hill and Black Point were constructed to strengthen the river defenses, while a fifth one guarded the bridge and was supported by an infantry lunette.

That summer,two infantry regiments increased the strength of the garrison to more that 1,200 men. Additional fortifications were built below Jamestown and many of Jamestown's troops were transferred to the new forts. As the island's military significance declined, Jones conducted important ordnance and armor tests for the CSS Virginia.

Jones  was succeeded by Major John R. C. Coxe and the force was increased by the addition of local militia. Mr. Allen recruited an  artillery battalion during spring 1862.

When Major General George B. McClellan launched his Peninsula campaign and attacked Yorktown in April 1862, the Confederates  evacuated  Jamestown and the rest of the Peninsula  on the night of May 3. Jamestown was now behind Union lines and the large Federal transport fleet used the port during the campaign. Telegraph wires were run from Jamestown to Fort Monroe which was already connected to Washington, which improved communications between McClellan and the War Department. After Lincoln withdrew the Army, the navy continued to patrol the river.

During Federal occupation, Jamestown became a rendezvous point for escaped slaves, many of whom were evacuated by the navy. When the Union Army left Jamestown, William Allen's slaves burned his eighteenth century mansion.

Jamestown was virtually ignored until 1863 when it became part of a Confederate diversionary movement during the Suffolk campaign. It played a comparable role for Federals in their feint against Richmond during the Gettysburg campaign.

In August 1863 Jamestown assumed a new role as an Federal outpost for Williamsburg, which was the most advanced Union position along the Peninsula. Union forces, including US Colored Troops,  patrolled the river and engaged Confederate guerrillas. The telegraph line was reinstalled during the Bermuda Hundred campaign. The telegraph line was improved in June 1864 during the Petersburg campaign.  General U. S. Grant extended telegraph communications with a mile-long underwater cable from Jamestown to Swann's Point and then ran wires to Fort Powhatan which was linked to his headquarters at City Point. When guerrillas cut wires, Grant ran an underwater cable twenty-two miles from Jamestown to Fort Powhatan. As the Petersburg campaign continued into autumn and winter, Union troops whose terms of enlistment had expired were sent to Jamestown to guard the island until transportation arrived to take them north.

After General Robert E. Lee's army surrendered at Appomattox, Jamestown was used as a location for administering the Oath of Allegiance to former Confederates.

During my visit, I was shown a spent cap believed to be from an artillery piece.  The cap
resembled those used by rifles. It was about the diameter of my finger  and was missing the top of the hat. I have not learned what weapon it was used with. Any information would be very useful.   

Visit Historic Jamestowne

Check out the Archaeological Research - The Dig

Fort Pocahontas

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Civil War at Berkeley Plantation

Berkeley Plantation
I just returned from a trip to Virginia and Washington, DC with my wife and granddaughter.  I promised not to drag them to Civil War sites in the area. So what did I do? We stopped at Berkeley Plantation en route to our hotel. The ladies were tolerant of the Civil War aspects of the site and we enjoyed a pleasant afternoon touring the house and gardens.

Berkeley Plantation
Berkeley Plantation contains about 1,000 acres on the banks of the James River in Charles City County, Virginia.  Berkeley Plantation was originally called Berkeley Hundred and named after the Berkeley Company of England.  Benjamin Harrison IV built on the estate what is believed to be the oldest three-story brick mansion in Virginia and is the ancestral home to two Presidents of the United States: William Henry Harrison, his grandson, and Benjamin Harrison his great-great-grandson.

Cols. A. V. Colburn and D. B. Sackett
and Gen. John Sedgwick at Harrison's
Landing, Virginia during the
Peninsula Campaign, 1862.

The Army of the Potomac escaped to Harrison's Landing following the last battle of the Seven Days Battles (June 25 to July 1, 1862) which were the concluding engagements of the Peninsula Campaign. The Army of the Potomac (140,000 men) encamped around Berkeley Plantation. The Union defensive position was a strong one that Lee did not consider attacking. With its back to the James River, the army was protected by Union gunboats, but suffered heavily from heat, humidity, and disease. The US Navy brought supplies and food from Hampton Roads to Harrison's Landing. President Lincoln visited there twice in the summer of 1862 to confer with General George B. McClellan. In August, they were withdrawn by order of President Lincoln to reinforce the Army of Virginia in the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run.

Daniel Butterfield

While at Berkeley, General Daniel Butterfield composed the familiar tune "Taps," first played by his bugler, O.W. Norton. The tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the Scott Tattoo which was used in the US from 1835 until 1860.  and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army  General Butterfield, commander of the Third Brigade of the First Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, composed  while at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, in July 1862 to replace a previous French bugle call used to signal "lights out". Butterfield's bugler, Oliver Wilcox Norton, of East Springfield, Pennsylvania, was the first to sound the new call. Within months, "Taps" was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874.

William "Willie" Johnston from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, was a drummer boy in Company D of the Third Vermont Infantry. His service during the Seven Days retreat in the Peninsula Campaign was exemplary. He was the only drummer in his division to come away with his instrument, during a general rout. His superiors considered this a meritorious feat, when fellow soldiers had thrown away their guns. As a result, he received the Medal of Honor on the recommendation of his division commander, thereby becoming the youngest recipient of the highest decoration at 13 years of age for a deed performed when he was 11 years of age.


Visit Berkeley Plantation
Play Taps Audio File
Seven Days Battles

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

13th Kentucky Cavalry, C.S.A. -"Caudill's Army"

The history of the 13th Kentucky Cavalry or "Caudill's Army" is presented in great detail by the Ben Caudill Camp No. 1629.  The book includes the entire roster (143 pages) of the Confederate unit including 13 pages of pictures of some of its members.

The 13th Kentucky began its life in September 1861 as the 5th Kentucky Infantry.  A local farmer and preacher, Ben E. Caudill was elected captain of Company F. In October 1862 the enlistment time expired for most of the men and moist of them were recruited to join the10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles under Colonel Caudill. The unit soon adopted the nickname "Caudill's Army."  The regiment was not reorganized and renamed the 13th Kentucky Cavalry until March 1865.

The regimental history presents detailed descriptions including maps of the many battles in which the unit was engaged. In 1862, they fought in the battles of Leatherwood, Poor Folk, Wallins Creek, Mill Cliff, and First Whitesburg. In 1863, they skirmished at Camp Cumberland and fought at Gladeville, Blue Springs, Henderson's Mill, Rheatown, Pugh's Hill, and Blountville. They participated in Captain Everette's raid into Kentucky in November and December. The 10th fought at First and Second Jonesville, Chavies, Cove Mountain, Colley Creek,Mt. Sterling, Cynthiana, Laurel Gap, First Saltville, and Cranes Nest, Bull's Gap, and Marion in 1864. Their last engagements were at Harlan Courthouse in March and First and Second Wytheville in April.

The book also contains sections on The Branson Slayings, Daniel Noble, the Execution of Gilbert Creech, and the regiment's association with General John Morgan. 

Copies of the regimental history can be purchased from the Ben Caudill Camp No. 1629 at their Regimental Store. The price is $21.97 which includes shipping.