Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 27, 1861: Return From Manassas

On July 21, 1861, the Federal Army of the Potomac was defeated by Confederate troops near Manassas Junction, VA at Bull Run.  The army retreated to Washington, DC.  The three months enlistments of many state militia soldiers would expire on July 31. 

On July 27, Charles Butts and Abram Depue, of Belvidere, returned home on the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad from Trenton.  Riding the train with Butts and Depue were John Longstaff, Joseph W. Johnston, Jacob T. Thomson, and James Vannatta, of Washington.  Their three months enlistment in the 2nd NJ Militia Regiment was almost up.  When the militia veterans arrived at the Bel-Del Railroad Station in Belvidere they were welcomed by a cheering crowd.  The men returned to Trenton by train on July 31 to muster out of the three months service. 

On August 3, 1861, Butts, Depue Longstaff, Johnston, Thomson and Vannatta were the guests of the Borough of Washington.  A public reception was held in their honor .  The men were met at the train depot and were escorted into town with a parade led by parade marshals J. E. Lynn and Cadet James M. Sanno and the Washington Brass Band.  The returning veterans rode in a fine carriage surrounded by citizens of Washington, who were on foot.  Following a number of speeches, the veterans were escorted to the Washington Hotel for a feast sponsored by the Weller family, the hotel owners.  The dinner was followed by a band concert.  Butts and Depue were transported back to Belvidere in the carriage of Alexander P. Berthoud, Esquire - the man who would command the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862.

[Cadet James Sanno later joined the 7th US Infantry Regiment and would fight in the Civil War, the Plains Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War.]

One soldier returning from the war, who was riding the Belvidere -Delaware Railroad, became a hero.  The newspapers only knew his last name was May and did not know his hometown nor his regiment.  The August 10, 1861 edition of the Easton Daily Evening Express [Easton, PA] wrote, "A GALLANT SOLDIER. A few evenings since, just as the Belvidere train was leaving Moore's station, a little boy fell from the bridge into the water.  The instant the splash was heard, a soldier, who with his company was on the train, sprang out of the cars, plunged into the canal and saved the boy's life. So quietly was this done that very few on the train knew anything of it, and the gallant soldier was left behind.  We understand his name is May.  All honor to the noble fellow."  There was no follow-up story detailing what happened to Private May and the boy he saved.

Returning Pennsylvania regiments' veterans arrived at Lehigh Valley Railroad Station in Easton for a welcome home parade complete with bands - led by Pomp's Cornet Band - and "three cheers and tiger [a howl]" from residents standing along the streets.  Church bells rang throughout the borough and an artillery salute was fired on Mount Jefferson.  The veterans in Easton were happy to be home, especially those who survived the battle at Manassas, but many were angry with several newspapers and Democratic Party politicians for not supporting their fight to save the Union.  This anger would boil over on August 19, 1861.     

Copyright 1997-2011: Jay C. Richards   

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