Confederate POWs in Federal Camp, 1862

civil war Union soldiers guarding Confederate prisoners, Shenandoah Valley, 1862

I would normally crop or resize a photo, but wanted to keep this one full size so you could get an idea of the many little details it holds. This is taken in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. (click photo for closer view).

Several things pop out at me. One, this is early war as evidenced by the tentage. The tall canonical tents are called Sibley tents, designed by a regular army Colonel by the name of Henry Hopkins Sibley in 1856 . Sibley would resign his commission and be commissioned a Brigadier General of Volunteers in the Confederacy and lead a failed invasion of the New Mexico territory. The Sibley tent was a mainstay of the Federal Army until the introduction of the shelter half, a canvass sheet that could be combined with two others to form a low lying pup or dog tent and would save on much needed transportation space.

Another interesting note is the Trooper at the lower right corner with his single shot carbine resting on the ground.Sharps Carbine, 1859

Carbines were issued primarily to the cavalry arm for their portability but were not accurate or as powerful as a single shot musket, so cavalry typically fought dismounted and acted as pickets and skirmishers where they’re mobility could come to bare. Cavalry also did not fight in tight formation as the short barreled carbines did not allow for two ranks with the rear rank firing of the right shoulder of the front.

The square tents are called Wall Tents, an obvious descriptive point in that the tent was constructed like a little house. These were usually officer or quartermaster tents. Enlisted men slept in the Sibley tents. There are several lean to’s visible, constructed of just two canvass halves, but these are too big to be the smaller shelter halves that would later see exclusive use in all branches of the army. Each enlisted man would carry they’re own shelter half further reducing transportation space. Civil War Shelter Half

In front of the long line of men in the background are another group of Union soldiers with their rifles in a stack. This teepee like structure is the default method of releasing ones rifle when not on individual slewing arrangements or on picket and camp guard. Whenever soldiers are at rest, as these are, the rifles are stacked so that three muskets with fixed bayonets intertwine the angles of the bayonet into a free standing structure that the leathers and other gear are then draped over.

The last thing is the old infantryman’s mantra: why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down, why lie down when you can sleep.

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Women of the American Civil War Soldiers and Nurses

AGO records also reveal that on August 3, 1862, a nineteen-year-old Irish immigrant named Albert D. J. Cashier, described as having a light complexion, blue eyes, and auburn hair, enlisted in the Ninety-fifth Illinois Infantry. Cashier served steadily until August 17, 1865, when the regiment was mustered out of the Federal army. Cashier participated in approximately forty battles and skirmishes in those long, hard four years.

After the war, Cashier worked as a laborer, eventually drew a pension, and finally went to live in the Quincy, Illinois, Soldiers’ Home. In 1913 a surgeon at the home discovered that Albert D. J. Cashier was a woman. A public disclosure of the finding touched off a storm of sensational newspaper stories, for Cashier had lived her entire adult life as a man. None of Cashier’s former comrades-in-arms ever suspected that he was a she. Apparently, neither did the commandant at the Soldiers’ Home. She died October 11, 1914, in an insane asylum.(12) [A deposition from a fellow soldier taken in 1915 revealed that her deception was quite complete.]

via Women of the American Civil War Soldiers and Nurses.
I ran across this and the following, leaving good meaning to those wives, daughters, girl friends who want to join their husbands, boyfriends, brothers out in the field for reenacting, if you can’t do the above, then don’t do this:

from the TV show Warehouse 13

My first thought was, he’d better hope that dueling pistol aint loaded. My second was, they should fire their costume and prop guy. I’ve been on a movie set before as I was a german reenactor for the Malmedy Massacre scenes in the Indie film Saints and Soldiers, but they had their act together authenticity wise, so I can imagine the reenactors here having a grumble about how these two look.

Contraband of War: Runaway slaves and the Union Army

Look closely at this image. What is notable are the two servants. They are not in uniform but look to be wearing Union kersey blue trousers. The tents also suggest the three other men are officers as well as some of the equipage. Enlisted men would not have had privilege, pay, or baggage to have a table, chairs, and servants.

I am currently reading about the 21st Ohio Volunteers for my next novel and the man charged with writing the unit history describes a period of time where the regiment was on garrison duty in Alabama around the Huntsville area. It was quite common for them to shelter and retain contraband negroes as servants. An officer was given a ration allowance and expected to see to his own mess. Many a runaway slave was sheltered in the Union camps in this manner as officers and men alike saw it as their duty to both deprive the southern owners of the labor and to help a fellow human being out.

Captain Canfield of the 21st describes a point where near mutiny existed over the coddling of southern civilian slave owners and the forcible return of negroes being employed as servants. The history of the 21st Ohio can be found on Google Books for free.

History of the 21st Regiment, Canfield pg. 54-55

On the 23d a planter came near camp, and meeting Captain Canfield, said he heard his servant was in his (Canfield’s) camp, and asked the captain if he had any objection to his going to see. “Oh, no,” said the captain, “not in the least;” but seeing several groups of men casting significant glances toward the stranger , he added, “You will not consider me responsible for anything that happens.”

Hearing this the stranger turned back. Shortly after the Lieutenant Colonel’s orderly came with an order dated and directed to Captain Canfield, saying:

Negro boy Pat, in your company is the property of —-. You will deliver him outside of camp lines to his master. Signed J.M.Neibling, Lt. Col Comdg Rgt.

Captain Canfield wrote in answer, acknowledging the receipt of the order, and added “I respectfully decline to obey it,” signed it officially, as Captain Commanding Company, and kept a copy of the correspondence. Nothing further was said or done about this, however.

Matters were in this condition, when for the first time in two months I was detailed as officer of the day, a duty I should often have performed before. I received my order in the evening, and that night I made up my mind that when I went on duty the next morning, I would break up the slave trade in the regiment for twenty four hours at least; and my success surprised me. The county jail was full of prisoners, chiefly fugitive slaves, who were not turned over to me, but one of my sentinels was posted there, and I assumed whatever authority I lacked to investigate the resin of their detention. I knew very well there were no charges against these black men. After my guard was fully posted and every duty performed I took a non-commission officer and file of men for escort, and reported to Lieutenant Colonel Neibling for any orders he might be pleased to give me. I found him sitting in the shade of a public house near the depot, surrounded by a number of gentleman of the town. After informing me that there were no new orders for me, I was turning away to leave him, when he called out to me, “Where are you going with that guard?” to which I answered, “I am going down to release the prisoners int he jail, against whom there are no charges.” He answered me, “Sir, I order you not to do it.” I then said with deference of manner, “Colonel, will you be so good as to have charges preferred against them.” He replied in a towering rage its as none of my damned business, and that I should go to my quarters in arrest. Of course I obeyed the order of arrest, and quite crestfallen, went to my tent, followed by the boisterous laughter and jeers of Colonel Neibling’s companions, who were sitting about him and heard all that was said.

I had up to this time been considered a severe disciplinarian, and had incurred the displeasure of many officers and mend of the regiment on that account, and their judgement at first as, that I was served right. But before sundown hat day, all of the slaves were relieved by Colonel Neibling himself, and the regiment was in rebellion against its commanding officer, and my arrest was the pretext of the mutiny.

An interesting and oft unknown look into the inner workings of civil war Union regiments in the field.

Civil War News News Briefs

Historic Checks

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A box found during a bank vaults inventory turned up 70 checks signed by 24 U.S. presidents. The treasure trove was acquired by Huntington Bancshares during a 1983 hostile takeover of Union Commerce Corp.

Wall Street Journal writer David Benoit said the box included what perhaps was the last check Abraham Lincoln wrote — to “self” for $800 on April 13, 1865.

Prof. Richard Sylla of New York University, chairman of the Museum of American Finance, said, “This is a classic example of one bank acquiring another and coming up with some old records as a result.” He worries that many such records are thrown away.

The Huntington had the documents appraised and exhibited them in Pittsburgh before a planned auction. However, public response caused the bank to cancel the sale. The check collection was donated by a former director of Union Commerce and was displayed during the U.S. Bicentennial.

via Civil War News News Briefs.

Visiting Picacho Pass Historic Site

Picacho Pass today
Picacho Pass

On April 15, 1862, the western-most “battle” of the American Civil War was fought on the flanks of Picacho Peak, a rocky volcanic spire situated 50 miles northwest of a small Sonoran Desert town named Tucson. Today, the old wagon route which passed by Picacho in 1862 is roughly traced by U.S. Highway 10, which connects the modern metropolises of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Only when the highway runs by Picacho is the open desert view blocked by a series of sheer ridges towering to the west. In 1862, this area was virtually deserted due to its natural desolation, and the fact that all U.S. Army troops had departed the previous year, leaving the local settlers and Indians to do as they wished. Before marching off to join the Union Army being assembled in the East, the local garrison troops had opened their supply depots to the nearby civilians, telling them “take what you need, and get out.” Not everyone heeded this advice. Many people who had staked their lives and fortunes on the Southwest decided to remain, strengthening the local militia units which already populated this secessionist area. For their part, local Indian tribes like the Apache thought they had finally chased away the “bluecoats” and they were naturally determined to make the most of it.

via Visiting Picacho Pass Historic Site.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 25

Saturday, Jan. 25, 1862


The storm that had been battering the fleet off Cape Hatteras abated somewhat today, and efforts were redoubled to move the ships over the Hatteras sandbars into Pimlico Sound. The work was purely physical, as opposed to military, as there was insufficient Confederate manpower on either land or sea to seriously threaten the project.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 25.

Book Review: A Brave Black Regiment

A Brave Black RegimentA Brave Black Regiment by Luis F. Emilio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written by Louis F. Emilio after the war of his experiences as a captain in the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Volunteers, A Brave Black Regiment is a true to life account of these two regiments exploits in the civil war. Watch Glory, but read this book and Blue Eyed Child of Fortune (from the letters of Robert Gould Shaw of his war experiences). A Brave Black Regiment shows that fact is far more riveting than fiction and you get to see the real privations that the 54th went through before and after Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Emilio and other white officers of the 54th (the 55th was formed out of the excess of volunteers of free blacks from Massachusetts) were granted commissions from the Governor of Mass. as other officers were in the volunteer service. This differed from the selection process used by the army to fill officer quotas in the USCT formations of a written exam and board interview. Emilio was a non commissioned officer in the 23rd Mass. at the time Gov. Andrew began petitioning the War Dept. for the raising of a black regiment. Contrary to the movie, Andrew was not the first to raise a black regiment, but the 54th and 55th were the first northern units raised from free blacks. Emilio took his chance and requested an appointment for commission and was granted it after an interview with those whom Andrew commissioned to recruit officers.

What is also notable is the service the regiment gave after Fort Wagner and the fight at Olustee, Florida where it and the 55th and several USCT regiments fought alongside white brigades and further proved their mettle in a fight.

View all my reviews

This Day in the American Civil War for January 23

Thursday, Jan. 23, 1862


As if Missouri did not have enough trouble and woe to contend with, it had U.S. Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck to contend with. Halleck was “commander of the Department of Missouri”, essentially the military governor of the state. As such, he had a wide range of powers and no apparent hesitation about using them. He had suspended habeas corpus several weeks earlier. He had also imposed an assessment, levied on “pro-Southerners”, for the relief of pro-Northern refugees from areas of fighting. While there were indeed large numbers of refugees whose homes had been destroyed, or communities were in such disarray that they feared for their lives, this affected adherents of both sides. Payments had been slow in coming, and today he ordered the confiscation of property and even the arrest of “pro-Southerners” who had not yet paid, to make up the difference.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 23.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 22

Wednesday, Jan. 22 1862


The USS “Lexington” set forth to perform reconnaissance in advance of the planned attack on Ft. Henry, Tenn., with Brig. Gen. Charles F. Smith in charge of the project and Lt. Shirk assisting him. It was a hard winter, with much snow in the mountains and rain in the lowlands; the river was very high, and still rising. This hampered the effort, but not so much that the “Lexington” and the other union gunboats were prevented from firing a few mortar rounds at Ft. Henry. In other Naval action, Lt. Worden reported to his superiors that construction of the radical new gunboat “Monitor” was progressing on schedule. The only delay was caused by late delivery of the 11-inch guns with which the ship would be armed.

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 22.

This Day in the American Civil War for January 20

Monday Jan. 20 1862


The U.S. Army and Navy’s amphibious attack on Hatteras Inlet was not exactly setting any speed records in its execution. Part of this was by design, intended to avoid problems encountered in prior attack attempts in wintertime. For this reason it had been prearranged to sail in two groups, which were to rendezvous offshore and wait for stragglers to catch up so the attack could be made as a unified force, a not-insignificant factor given the vicious gales that could strike the coast in the wintertime. The rendezvous had been set for Jan. 13, and in fact the weather had been dreadful, with many ships driven onto shoals, sandbars and land. Today, however preparations for the initial attack, on Roanoke Island, were firmly in hand. A Confederate ship chancing on the scene hastened to alert Navy Sec. Mallory that he “there saw a large fleet of steamers and transports.”

via This Day in the American Civil War for January 20.

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