Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Union Soldier Stabbed Near Belvidere, 12 February 1864

On 19 February 1864, The Belvidere Intelligencer filed the following report under the headline "STABBING AFFAIR." 

The report stated, "A mysterious case of stabbing occurred on Friday night last [12 Feb. 1864] near this place, the particulars of which as are as follows, as near as we can learn: A German (name not known), belonging to the 9th NJ Vols., had put some $300 in the hands of Captain [Joseph] Lawrence [of Belvidere, commander of Company H, 9th NJV] to keep for him, and a few days since, he came to Belvidere, in the company of another German, to get his money.  On Friday evening, the two disappeared, and on Saturday morning, the soldier was found a short distance above town, near the Delaware [River], stabbed in the breast, almost insensible.  He was brought back to Cramer's Hotel, where he remains unable to leave.  The other German examined, but as no evidence could be found against him, he was allowed to leave.  We have not learned whether Capt. Lawrence paid him before the stabbing occurred, or not.  The whole affair seems involved in mystery, which we hope will soon be unraveled."

The mystery must have remained unsolved since there were no other news reports on the incident.

Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards

February 1864: 9th NJ Regt. at Deep Creek, Virginia

Colonel Abram Zabriskie had replaced Charles A. Heckman, of Phillipsburg, as commander of the New Jersey 9th Infantry Regiment in November 1862, after Heckman was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers.  In January 1864, Zabriskie secured a furlough for the soldiers who re-enlisted.  On 2 February 1864, the troops on furlough steamed north for Jersey City.  On 4 February, the people of Jersey City sponsored a parade in honor of the men of the Jersey Ninth.  The soldiers were later treated to dinner at Taylor's Hotel.  The men traveled by train to Trenton, where they divided up to return to their home towns.
The men of the Jersey 9th who did not re-enlist remained in Virginia.  They were sent on reconnaissance duty under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Burnett at Deep Creek, Virginia.  Unfortunately, the small reconnaissance group ran into four regiments of Confederate troops under the command of General Robert Ransom.  The group retreated after Privates Albert Nutt and Joel Hulse, both of Company D, were killed.  Their bodies were left behind and were mutilated by some of the rebels.
Brigadier General Heckman, commanding the Suffolk District, was at Getty's Station, Virginia when he received reports of the mutilations.  Heckman sent 500 soldiers to relieve the embattled reconnaissance unit and to drive the Confederate force back into North Carolina. 
Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards 

February 1864: 47th PA Honors Col. Robert McAllister

From 15 December to 25 February 1864, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were stationed in Florida.  Company A was assigned to garrison Fort Meyers.  Companies B, C, D and I were assigned to garrison Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.  Companies E, F, G, and H were assigned to man Fort Jefferson, the Union's most desolate fortress in the Dry Tortugas, which was considered to be America's Devil's Island. 

The men of the 47th were plagued with malaria, dysentery, hepatitis and other diseases while in Florida.  Private Jenkins J. Richards, of Company E, suffered attacks of dysentery, malaria and hepatitis periodically from 15 May 1863 until his discharge by a surgeon's certificate on 3 June 1865. 

To help pass the time, the troops at Fort Jefferson started a couple of theatrical groups to perform in the fort's theater.  John Lynn Dennett founded "Jack Lynn's Troupe of Pennsylvania Minstrels."  The troupe performed Dennett's melodramas such as "Charles Brandon - or The Gambler's Fate" and some of Dennett's "Serious Comical Burlesques" or his "Extravaganzica Plantationico Display of Ethiopian Eccentricities" or "Sports of the Cotton Field." 

In February 1864, the 47th was relieved of Florida garrison duty by the 110th New York Infantry Regiment and the 2nd US Colored Troops.  The 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to steam to Louisiana to join General Nathaniel Bank's Red River Campaign, which was supposed to isolate Texas from the rest of the Confederacy.  

Before leaving Florida, men of Companies D and H - from Perry County, PA - purchased a number of Florida crabwood canes to be sent to several of Perry County's leading citizens.  Among the canes was one for former Perry County resident Colonel Robert McAllister, commander of the 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  McAllister had moved to Oxford Furnace in Warren County, NJ before the war.  When the war broke out, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in May 1861 at the age of 47 years.  On 30 June 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  On 2 July 1863, McAllister was wounded near the Smith Farm on Emmetsburg Road in Gettysburg, PA by a Minie ball passing through his left leg and an artillery shell fragment striking his right foot.  McAllister recuperated  with his family in the Hotel Belvidere in Warren County.   The Perry County men of the 47th Pennsylvania had heard of McAllister's leg injuries so they wanted McAllister to have a special crabwood cane.

Copyright 1999-2014: Jay C. Richards  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Olustee, Florida February 1864

In January 1864, General Truman Seymour's expeditionary force set out to capture Jacksonville, Florida.  Among Seymour's troops were the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment - with James Furman, of Washington, still in its ranks with Company E, the First North Carolina (Colored) Regiment, and the 8th Regiment US Colored Troops, which included Abram Andrews, of Washington, in his first military campaign.  On February 7, Jacksonville was captured without resistance.  The troops moved inland on February 8 to capture Camp Vinegar.
On February 17, without permission from General Quincey Adams Gillmore, Seymour decided to march toward the Suwanee River, 100 miles from Jacksonville, without first learning the location of General Joseph Finnegan's Confederate troops.  Seymour's expedition moved forward without first making a reconnaissance of the area and without flanking patrols.  Seymour's columns extended for several miles. 
On February 20, after two days marching, the troops stopped near Olustee.  In front was a large swamp and a large wooded area.  General Seymour did not know the wooded area was filled with Finnegan's Confederates.  Confederate artillery, riflemen and sharpshooters opened fire on the Union troops.  After 20 minutes of continuous rebel gunfire, 80 percent of the Union artillery was wiped out.  Without artillery support General Seymour still decided to continue the fight.
 The Seventh Connecticut and the Seventh New Hampshire Regiments came under heavy fire and were beginning to weaken.  The Eighth USCT Regiment was ordered to move up to support the two weakening regiments.  The 9th USCT arrived in time to see the other two regiments retreating.  The 8th USCT Regiment was nearly surrounded by Confederates, but it held its ground for more than two hours before heavy losses forced the regiments to fall back. 
The 54th Mass. and 1st North Carolina Regiments  were ordered to move forward and hold back the Confederate troops until Seymour could rally his retreating troops and place his remaining guns in a good position.  At 4:00 p.m., General Seymour ordered the black regiments to retreat toward his position.  When the Confederates pursued the retreating Union troops, Seymour's guns opened fire and broke the rebel advance. 
Of the 1,861 total Union losses, 627 were from the three black regiments.  The 8th USCT Regiment suffered 50 killed, 187 wounded and 73 missing in action; the 1st North Carolina [later known as the 35th USCT Regiment] suffered 21 killed, 132 wounded and 77 missing; and the 54th Massachusetts suffered 13 killed, 66 wounded and 8 missing.  Furman and Andrew survived and mustered out of Federal Service with their regiments in 1865.
Copyright 1999-2014: Jay C. Richards