New book forthcoming about the H.L. Hunley – Confederate submarine

From the publisher:

Sea of Darkness bookOn a dark night in February of 1864, the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in combat, torpedoed the Union blockade ship USS Housatonic, a feat that would not be repeated for another 50 years. But fate was not kind to the Hunley that night as it sank with all of its crew on board before it could return to shore. Considered by many to be the Civil War’s greatest mystery, the Hunley’s demise and its resting place have been a topic of discussion for historians and Civil War buffs alike for more than a hundred years.

Adding still more to the intrigue, the vessel was discovered in 1995 by a dive team led by famed novelist and shipwreck hunter Clive Cussler, sparking an underwater investigation that resulted in the raising of the Hunley on August 8, 2000. Since that time, the extensive research and restorative efforts underway have unraveled the incredible secrets that were locked within the submarine at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Join Civil War expert Brian Hicks as Sea of Darkness recounts the most historically accurate narrative of the sinking and eventual recovery ever written. Hicks has been given unprecedented access to all the main characters involved in the discovery, raising, and restoration of the Hunley. Complete with a foreword and additional commentary by Clive Cussler, Sea of Darkness offers new, never-before-published evidence on the cause of the Hunley’s sinking, providing readers a tantalizing behind-the-scenes look inside the historic submarine.

First successful battle-used submarine – C.S.S. Hunley – nearly entire visible for first time in over 150 years

From the Facebook site of the Friend of Hunley:

The Hunley is almost completely visible for first time in over 150 years. Until now, the world’s first successful combat submarine has been covered in an encrusted layer that built up over time while lost at sea.

Using small hand tools to break away this rock-hard layer, they must be careful because even the smallest mistake could potentially damage one of maritime history’s most treasured artifacts.

So far, the project has gone flawlessly. Click like to tell conservators good job and watch the Hunley’s true surface be revealed.

CSA Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost” of the Confederacy

CSA Colonel John Singleton Mosby, Oil on Canvas by Hiram Grandville (1815-1892)

CSA Colonel John Singleton Mosby, Oil on Canvas by Hiram Grandville (1815-1892)

Source: Cowan’s Auction, CSA Colonel John Singleton Mosby, Oil on Canvas by Hiram Grandville (1815-1892)

Item description: Hiram Grandville (1815-1892). Oil on canvas, signed Hiram Grandville / C.S.A. at l.r., and on the painted “mat” at l.r. First Lieutenant / John S. Mosby / First Virginia / Hiram Grandville CSA; 18.25 x 22.5 in.  Professionally restored (with documentation) and housed in modern frame, 24 x 27.75 in. overall. Although little is known about the artist, Hiram Grandville, it has been suggested that he served in the Confederate Army, but this cannot be confirmed.

This exceptional group of paintings of notable Confederate leaders, lots 191-198, were purchased by Paul DeHaan in early 1975 in response to an advertisement placed in the Civil War Times Illustrated. The previous owner had the paintings hanging in his hunting lodge near White Bluff, TN. The paintings were likely done between the 1860s-1870s.
Other Cowan images
Col. John S. Mosby, Rare CDV Pose by Vannerson & Jones

Col. John S. Mosby, Rare CDV Pose by Vannerson & Jones. 

Cowan’s description: CDV portrait (above) of Colonel John S. Mosby, with Vannerson & Jones, Richmond, VA backmark. To our knowledge, this is a previously unknown image of the famous Confederate colonel known as the “Gray Ghost.” Mosby wears a gray frock coat with elaborate “chicken guts” on the lower sleeves and holds his ubiquitous plumbed hat that imbued his cavalier persona.

CDV of Colonel John Singleton Mosby, CSA

CDV of Colonel John Singleton Mosby, CSA

Cowan’s full descriptionpublished by Anthony. Virginia’s premier partisan ranger attained the rank of Colonel, 1st Virginia Cavalry, and left a trail of havoc and frustrated Union commanders in his luminous wake. The stuff of legend, “the “Gray Ghost” is still revered in the Valley to this day. Mosby refused to surrender at the end of the war and simply disbanded his rangers. Afterwards, he befriended US Grant and held a series of government posts thanks to his mentor and former foe.

Union soldier (Foote) describes escaping from CSA prison with assistance from local negroes

Part of the story of military intelligence during the Civil War is the role civilians – in this case local blacks (possibly slaves) – played in assisting Union soldiers and efforts.

The following is a never before published account of the escape of Morris Cooper Foote from a Confederate prison in South Carolina, taken from his actual diary.

Original 1864 diary belonging to Morris Cooper Foote, 92nd NY Infantry

Original 1864 diary belonging to Morris Cooper Foote, 92nd NY Infantry

Tuesday, November 29th, 1864

Beautiful Day. Rec’d a letter from the General. Myself & Capt Coates A.D.G. managed to escape today by making the guard believe we were paroled to cut wood. Traveled as much as we could during the day and night – towards the Congaree river. Dogs after us until dark, took to the swamp.

Wednesday, November 30th, 1864

Beautiful Day. Came across a negro at daybreak, told him who we were. He took us to the Columbia Road & found us a place to hide in during the day. Got us some potatoes but could not get us a boat. So we traveled down the road nearly 1/2th the night.

Thursday, December 1st, 1864

Beautiful Day. Had to stop traveling about midnight last night as there was a fire near a bridge that we had to cross. Laid down in the woods & at daybreak made our way down towards the river. Saw some negroes in a field. Lay in the woods til dark.

Friday, December 2nd, 1864

Went up to the negroes at dark last night and they tried to get us a boat but could not. Slept last night in a barn. Lay there all day. Got a boat & started down the river at dark. After going a four miles we found that we could not go down the river by night as the boat was too small & the river full of snags & a rapid current.

Saturday, December 3rd, 1864
Stopped and lay on the bank of the river at last night. Started out this morning in the boat. Traveled down the river all day. Met a nig (negroe) in the evening who piloted from the river to the state road, as we could not go under the R.R., a few miles & lay in the woods 1/2 the night.

Sunday, December 4th, 1864

Lay in the woods all day. Started out at dark & traveled all night on the road that runs down by the river. Coates feet hurt him so that he can scarcely travel. Lay in the woods all day. Near the Santee River.

 Monday, December 5th, 1864

Laid in the woods all day. Started out in the evening but Coates feet hurt him so that he could not travel so we laid in a barn all night. The negroes are our friends in this country. If it were not for them we could do nothing at all.

Tuesday, December 6th, 1864

Started out this morning, met a negro in the woods. Gave us some bread. Told us where we could find a boat. Met several negroes this evening. Got a boat & some provisions. Did not start, but lay on the ban k of the river all night. Rained. Got wet.

Wednesday, December 7th, 1864

Started down the river this morning. Went a few miles & lay on the bank all day. Started out at sunset 7 travelled 1/2 the night and lay on the bank of the river till morning. The Santee River.

Thursday, December 8th, 1864
Laid on the river bank all day. Started out at sunset traveled nearly all night. Passed a R.R. bridge that was guarded. Stopped at daybreak. This Santee River is wider & stiffer than the Congaree & easier to navigate. One earns his freedom who makes it this way.

Friday, December 9th, 1864

Stayed on the river bank all day. Started out in the evening. Paddled all night near morning. Came across with 4 of our own Officers in it. Stopped in a cane-brake at daybreak Saturday. Passed a 2 gun battery in the night.

Saturday, December 10th, 1864

Stayed today in the cane-break. Saw a negro who directed us to the mouth of the river. Started for it at dark. Ran past the last picket-post. Lost our way & could not get out of the river. Stopped at a deserted rice plantation all night. Rained hard.

Sunday, December 11th, 1864

Started out in the morning, paddled around in the bayous and found the mouth of the river in the afternoon. The wind blew so hard that we could do nothing. Our canoes swamped & we ___ in shore & lay in the bushes all night.

Monday, December 12th, 1864

Started this morning on foot for Winyah Bay. Found it but saw no gunboat near shore. Signaled all day. Built a fire at night on the beach and at about 7 a.m. were taken off by a picket-boat of the U.S. Gunboat Nipsic. Captn Henry. Free men!!

Lamar Fontaine, Chief of Scouts under Stonewall Jackson, writes of a successful escape from Union soldiers

Ms Letter by Lamar Fontaine, Chief of Scouts under Stonewall Jackson

Ms Letter by Lamar Fontaine, Chief of Scouts under Stonewall Jackson

…Not a great way from Lancaster…I made by escape through an enlargement in the boxcar…and landed in a snow bank that buried me out of site. And that nite I “captured” a beautiful little mare and made my way…and rejoined my command near “Mine Run” in Virginia, and she was shot and killed on May 8th, 1864.

– Lamar Fontaine, 2nd Virginia cavalry

Excerpted from Cowan’s Auctions, Ms Letter by Lamar Fontaine, Chief of Scouts under Stonewall Jackson

Full item description:

author of All Quiet Along the Potomac, and Confederate States Medal of Honor winner. ALs, 3pp, Lyon, Mississippi, 1898, written on Fontaine and Sons Surveyors and Civil Engineers lettersheets, accompanied by a clipped newspaper copy of “All Quiet” with annotations in Fontaine’s hand, and signed at the bottom by the author.

In this post-war remembrance, Fontaine relates a story that took place when he was being transferred from the Federal Prison at Camp Chase, Ohio to Fort Delaware. The incident occurred in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and involved a Confederate prisoner known as “The Jack of Clubs” who scared the daylights out of an overly curious Pennsylvania boy who wondered what “Rebels looked like.” After describing this humorous incident, Fontaine goes on …Not a great way from Lancaster…I made by escape through an enlargement in the boxcar…and landed in a snow bank that buried me out of site. And that nite I “captured” a beautiful little mare and made my way…and rejoined my command near “Mine Run” in Virginia, and she was shot and killed on May 8th, 1864. In closing he notes that he is enclosing a mutilated copy of “All Quiet Along the Potomac” but the corrections are all right. A postscript apologizes for the tardy response, but relates his letter was stolen in a Post Office robbery and it was just returned to him.

Fontaine, a Texan by birth, enlisted into Confederate service as a 31-yr-old engineer, mustering into service as a private of the 15th Mississippi in May 1861, and then quickly transferred to Jackson’s 2nd Virginia cavalry where he served as a scout. He was twice wounded, captured and escaped. He was a Crimean War veteran, and a Texas Ranger and after the war, he served in the U.S. Navy. It was after the first Battle of Bull Run that Fontaine, serving picket duty with his best friend, penned “All Quiet on the Potomac.” In the still of the evening a sharpshooter’s rifle rang out, and killed John Moore, who dropped a newspaper with the headline “All Quiet on the Potomac.” Fontaine wrote the words to the song that would soon be sung around campfires on both sides of the lines.  A fine, post-war reminiscence by one of the south’s most colorful characters.

Rebel sharpshooter talks of killing Union scouts and negroes “so they won’t tell on us”

L.W. Griffin, Great CSA Sharpshooters Letter with Cover

L.W. Griffin, Great CSA Sharpshooters Letter with Cover

[S]he (Mary) ask me if they kill our men when they takem tiem they tell our men so the officers to keep them from going to them the negros kills some of our men they say for we kill all of them. I donte intend to take a negro. we sharpe shooters ar a going to kill all of them and if thar white men with them we agoing to kill them so they wont tell on ous.

– Lorraine Walker Griffin enlisted in the North Carolina 16th Infantry

Partially excerpted above from Cowan’s Auction, Great CSA Sharpshooters Letter with Cover

Full item description:

2pp, In line ner petersburg / June 20th 1864, from L. W. Griffin to his father and other family, cover addressed to M. L. Griffin in Rutherford County, NC. The siege of Petersburg was part of Grant’s plan to strangle Richmond by taking the north side of the river, then moving the army to the south of the city. There had been skirmishing around the city, which is located on the Appomattox River just over 20 miles south of Richmond, throughout the war. Eventually Lee’s defenses ran from Petersburg to Richmond, in a 40 mile line defended by the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Lorraine Walker Griffin enlisted in the North Carolina 16th Infantry on May 1, 1861 and remained until paroled at Appomattox Court House 9 April 1865. He was wounded at least once in Autumn of 1862, but was able to return to duty in December. A barely literate farmer from Rutherford County, this letter relates the early stages of the final push to end the conflict. L.W. tells his family that they arrived on Saturday (the 18th) and had been on the line ever since. …[T]he yanks is in 2 miles of our brigade we go out on the scout and slip on them and shoot in to them then run for life for they are all on horses. He then relates information about family: …I tell Mary that the Rediment Jim was in is up at Lynchburg. L.W. then relates that the officers are telling the enlistees that any captives are killed by the Federal troops, especially the USCT, to discourage the war-wearing troops from deserting. [S]he (Mary) ask me if they kill our men when they takem tiem they tell our men so the officers to keep them from going to them the negros kills some of our men they say for we kill all of them. I donte intend to take a negro. we sharpe shooters ar a going to kill all of them and if thar white men with them we agoing to kill them so they wont tell on ous. Rumors had been circulating that Confederates did not bother to house African American POWs, a factor that may have led to inflated reports of the massacre of USCT captives after Saltville (see Lot 133). He describes one escape from the Federals in which they had been following the Union troops that were guarding POWs, presumably with the intent to free the prisoners before they were moved out of reach. A group of Union scouts spotted the skirmishers and attempted to stop them. [T]hey have shot so much at me it looks like they cant hit me.

One of the most touching comments in the letter, however, concerns his brother, apparently the only brother. I cam thro the Battle ground whar Brother was capturd I saw lots of grave along the road but could not find his. I dont think he is ded unless he dide after they got him. Oh how sad I felt hunting for my Brothers grave. I wont have no brother to hunt mine. The Civil War database lists 3 Griffins from Rutherford County besides L. W., two Jameses and George – likely all related. One James is recorded as dying in 1862, the other was captured 24 May 1864 at North Anna (VA). George died of wounds 20 May 1864 at Ware Bottom Church, VA. Certainly worthy of further research.

New book on female spies in the Civil War is getting rave reviews on Amazon

As of late January 2015 Karen Abbott’s book – Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy – is getting rave reviews on Amazon. The book has almost 200 reviews and they average 4.5 stars. It’s the #1 seller under U.S. Civil War – Women’s History.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

LiarTemptressSoldierSpy hc cKaren Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

Karen Abbott illuminates one of the most fascinating yet little known aspects of the Civil War: the stories of four courageous women—a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow—who were spies.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

Using a wealth of primary source material and interviews with the spies’ descendants, Abbott seamlessly weaves the adventures of these four heroines throughout the tumultuous years of the war. With a cast of real-life characters including Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, detective Allan Pinkerton, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor Napoleon III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy draws you into the war as these daring women lived it.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy contains 39 black & photos and 3 maps.

1st Mississippi Marine Brigade (U.S.) soldier shares his disdain for Copperheads and slavery

Important Civil War Archive of the Mississippi Marine Brigade

Important Civil War Archive of the Mississippi Marine Brigade

I have seen come very nice places along the different rivers,” he wrote, “but wherever I have been I could notice the effects of that abominable curse slavery. The best of the slave states cannot compare with the poorest of the Free states. I have found that the poorer classes of people are generally a poor, ignorant, degraded and so as politics is concerned, a deluded people, while the rich are aristocratic, selfish and irreligious… If slavery is such a blessing as the Copperheads of the North and the Secessionists of the south say it is… what other cause for this difference than slavery? You will fine that it is only the lowest and most degraded and ignorant class of the North who favor Jeff Davis and band of traitors… since Old Abe has made the start, let slavery and the Rebellion die together and the Copperheads too for all I care, and that as soon as possible…

– William O. Albright, 1st Mississippi Marine Brigade, excerpted from Important Civil War Archive of the Mississippi Marine Brigade, Cowan’s Auction.

Full item description:

William O. Albright, 1st Mississippi Marine Brigade and Jacob Albright, 12th Michigan Infantry, ca 100 items total, including 18 soldiers` letters from William and 10 from his brother Jacob, and 12 from other soldiers.

Few outfits during the Civil War were more unusual or more controversial than the Mississippi Marine Brigade, a small outfit based on riverboats in the Mississippi Valley. The origins of the Marine Brigade can be traced to the quixotic Charles Ellet, whose fixation upon naval vessels is a story unto itself. Prior to the war, having apparently imbibed a significant quantity of ancient Roman wine, Ellet developed a novel theory for how to defend American waters. Too unconventional for improvements in cannons or sailors, Ellet reasoned that the best defense would be a fleet of stoutly constructed, heavily fortified vessels that would point in the right direction and, steaming full speed ahead, ram into their adversaries, shattering the wooden hulls. For several years, Ellet’s rams found few fans among the naval brass, but when the potential of ironclads was revealed by the battle of the Monitor and Merrimac, Ellet was given his chance. The small fleet of nine rams that Ellet assembled proved their worth by sinking four Confederate ships in a single engagement near Memphis. After Ellet’s death in action in 1862, his brother Andrew took command and proved no less innovative. Andrew Ellet’s biggest contribution was the Marine Brigade.

Conceived of as a rapid reaction force that would patrol the western waterways and respond to threats to Union lines posed by Confederate guerrillas and regulars, the Marine Brigade was essentially an army unit (including infantry, cavalry, and artillery) borne on ships. Organized in St. Louis in February and March 1863, the regiment attracted volunteers by promising lighter duty than the regular Infantry or Cavalry, and in fact, Ellet attracted convalescent soldiers otherwise unable to serve in active field service. Based on five unarmed transports, the Marine Brigade worked in concert with the ram fleet, but it quickly earned as much of a reputation for pillaging and lax discipline as for martial prowess, and conflict between Ellet and David Porter did little to improve the situation. By the late summer 1864, with the center of conflict shifting eastward and the continued ill discipline and poor reputation of the outfit, the Marine Brigade was disbanded.

A member of the band of the 74th Indiana Infantry, William O. Albright appears to have been more than an ordinarily avid soldier, but he seems never to have had the greatest regard for military procedure. In September 1862, Albright wrote from Kentucky that although he would still play with the band, he would trade in his drum and play only fife from then on. “Ive got em by the wool,” he wrote. “I am kind of a priveleged character, they cant make me do anything but play the fife., neither cook, chop wood, carry water stand guard, drill, or anything else, and now I intend to stick to me fife as long as I am in the army, for they have got my dutch up, and as it happens I read the army regulations once.

But however strong-minded he might be, Albright was held back more by ill health than ill discipline. Throughout the fall, he was sidelined with one illness after another, periodically unfit for duty. Between bouts, he could still manage to pugnacity in a letter home, writing in November 1862 “I would like to have the war close, but I want to see the rebels whipped out first. as far as the land itself is concerned, I would say let em rip…. General Mclellen is about gone up, good. I hope Old Abe will soon see that he can’t whip the south with rebel officers in his command…” Like many Indiana soldiers placing their lives on the line, he could muster more than a little bile for the Copperheads at home. But by late winter, it appeared that any whipping that would take place, might do so without the participation of Albright the infirm.

Enter the Marine Brigade, stage right. In January 1863, Albright subjected himself to the rather lax physical examination, and was pronounced fit for duty for the Marine Brigade. He informed his family “if there is any place in the army that I can stand on account of my health, it is in the place I am in now, and if I keep my health, the next 3 years will see me in the army if the War should last that long… I am naturally more of Water than a Land Shark, so you see I am in my natural element.” Although the Brigade’s ships were still under construction, Albright was optimistic that he would soon see active service, and he yearned to see Vicksburg itself. Once again, he gravitated to the band: “in a Band that can play after the Regt is all together and formed. There will be 23 Musicians, 1 Bass Drummer, Fife Major, Drum Major, 10 Fifers, 10 Drummers. I like the Officers better than in the old Regt…

In February, Albright reported that the pace of preparations for the Brigade was picking up. “All the Convalescents that can are pitching right in,” he wrote, “especially those that have been on long marches. there are some in this Co that have been in the old service from 6 to 20 months, and would now rather risk their lives for 3 years longer in the Boat than serve the balance of their time on land.” The Secretary of War, he was told, had issued an order limiting service in the Marine Brigade to convalescents, and from what Albright heard, “the Rebels swear vengeance on this Brigade, they hate us more than any other Regt. out, for they know very well that we are determined to keep the Mississippi River open.” His pride did not allow him to leave it at that. “I should not wonder,” he added, “if we will be somewhat of a stumbling block to them, and I would not be surprised if we would stumble onto them at Vicksburg before long…

Posted aboard the Steamer Diana, luxurious accommodations he thought, Albright soon found himself before the Rebel stronghold at Vicksburg: “Well, I begin to realize now that I am soldier, before this I seen nothing, done nothing, and came very near spiling just for the want of something to do. Now then, I am just where I want to be, right in plain sight of Vicksburg, although between 4 & 5 miles distant from it, but with a spy glass we can see all the Rebs are doing… we could see the Rebs just swarming on top of some large building in the City, Courthouse I expect it is, and by all appearances of things we are not very welcome here, for last night they tried to shell us a little, but I guess they found their guns were a little too short at one end, and not quite long enough at the other…

The first skirmish described by Albright came while the fleet was anchored off Mound City, Tenn., on May 7, 1863: “We went up the River as far as to Eastport all right, scouted along up the River a little, burned some Distilleries, Mills, &c. and raised Ned a little… Coming back a few mile below the mouth of Duck River between four and five hundred rebs, poor ignorant scoundrels, mistook our fleet for transport boats loaded with cattle fired into us with three pieces of artillery and their muskets. Musket balls no damage except one shot and killed a sergeant on the Adams. Cannon balls which happened to be shells instead of solid shot made the splinters fly some. Seven or eight struck the Autocrat, five or six the Diana. One of shells passed through the center of smokestacks just above the lower part of the hurricane deck. Exploded in the first smokestack… only a few solid shot thrown. One killed a man on the Autocrat… tore the left side of his breast and his left arm off. Rebs skedaddled after we open fire on them. I guess they found they had stirred up a hornets nest….

Because of the Brigade’s high mobility, Albright probably had the opportunity to see more of the theatre of war more quickly than other infantrymen, and whether or not this was the reason, he was clearly affected by what he saw. “I have seen come very nice places along the different rivers,” he wrote, “but wherever I have been I could notice the effects of that abominable curse slavery. The best of the slave states cannot compare with the poorest of the Free states. I have found that the poorer classes of people are generally a poor, ignorant, degraded and so as politics is concerned, a deluded people, while the rich are aristocratic, selfish and irreligious… If slavery is such a blessing as the Copperheads of the North and the Secessionists of the south say it is… what other cause for this difference than slavery? You will fine that it is only the lowest and most degraded and ignorant class of the North who favor Jeff Davis and band of traitors… since Old Abe has made the start, let slavery and the Rebellion die together and the Copperheads too for all I care, and that as soon as possible…

On June 3, the Diana was back before Vicksburg, witnessing the final month of Grant’s famous siege. “We could hear the cannons roar,” he wrote, “we could see them flash and the shells a whizzing through the air. It was nice to stand of[f] and look at, but I guess the Rebs did not think it quite so nice. We had a little muss with about 1,000 of the Rebs on our way down the Miss, our Commissary Boat was fired into by two six pounders, we ran back and gave chase, our Cavalry overtook them about 8 miles from the River. They came very near being more than enough for our Cavalry, but several Companies of the Inft. coming up with the Cav. turned the tide in our favor, and the Rebs skedaddled again…” Shortly thereafter, however, Albright was hospitalized for illness, perhaps malaria, and he was permanently discharged in August.

With such tight bonds in the Marine Brigade, however, discharge did not mean divorce. After his departure from the service, Albright’s comrades in the Brigade wrote him at least five letters filling him in on their exploits. In April 1864, H. Horn described the Brigade’s role in ferrying troops on the Red River expedition and the capture of Fort de Russy, “with a loss of 5 men killed, 30 wounded, the loss of the enemy was about the same. There were 300 prisoners and a large amount of ammunition, 7 siege guns, and 4 field pieces. A few days after this we went to Alexandria, there 400 more prisoners were taken, but without the loss of a man. There our boats were released from the expedition…

On June 20, 1864, Horn wrote again (on fine printed letterhead from the 1st Inf. Regt. of the Marine Brigade) from Vicksburg: “We have seen some of the smoke of the Rebs guns and have heard some of their shot rattle around us. Since I last wrote add two of our members are numbered with the slain… Another of Co. H has had his arm shot off…This took place at the town of Columbia, Ark., above Greenville, Miss. Our boat in company with Diana, Baltic, had been fighting old Gen. Marmaduke who was said to have 5000 men. He planted his cannon at Colubai and there across the bend where we burned that house the first time we came down the river…. When we cam into range they lit into us with 4 guns. We were then going up. No one was hurt. The boat was struck 8 times. As soon as we were out of range we met another transport coming down. We let the one go that we had and lashed to the other leaving her on the opposite side of the batteries to shield her from the balls. As soon as we came into range she lit into us with 10 pieces some of them 20 pounds… Their fire was all directed at the Adams. They aimed to shoot through us to hit the transport… Joseph Fields was shot through the bowels he was on the starboard side and was firing his gun when killed…” In a third letter, Horn reported further fighting with Marmaduke near Port Gibson.

William received letters from several other soldiers, too. The otherwise unidentified John wrote from Little Rock in May 27, 1864, describing the whipping his regiment gave to the Rebels on the Saline River (Red River Campaign): “A detachment of cavalry was sent out from here to see about our wounded & to bury the dead. They returned one day last week, I believe, saying our wounded had been taken to Princeton & those but slightly wounded to Camden; but the dead were left on the field (after being stripped, according to rebel custom) unburied. Rebel prisoners since taken say they burried 2100 of their own dead on the field. They said the story among them was that we threw our dead into the river, to prevent them from seeing them….

Albright received ten letters from his brother Jacob, 12th Michigan Infantry (Veteran), including one describing the scene on the battlefield near Devall`s Bluff, Ark., on the day after a fight: “there was a good many rebel graves on the field that I saw, and the trees wheare all peeked up; and it looked as if somebody had been pulling the bark from the trees…” Three other letters came from George Riegle (unknown regiment) and two from Harlen Bowen, of the 10th Wisconsin. John Porter’s letter of March 1864 describes the early maneuvers of the Atlanta Campaign before Porter breaks out: “Liberty Oh! Sweet liberty if ever I forget thee let me right hand forget her cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth for this our fathers died and for this their sons are willing to do the same…

Among the best letters in the collection are a number that deal with the home front and politics, rather than military affairs. Ten letters from a fired up German friend of Albright’s, Charles Kretschmar, provide vivid descriptions of wartime Lancaster, Pa., including a political rally with floats featuring a representation of a Copperhead with a human head bearing the inscription, as Kretschmar wrote, “‘The Chicago Platform’ and near its mouth, you could read the words ‘In November I shall bite no more!’ Another transparent had the inscription: ‘Little Mack must clear the track.’” After Lincoln’s assassination, Albright sent Kretschmar a likeness of the dead president, “that noble patriot and immortal martyr of liberty, more particularly so, now that he is dead, and I hope that in process of time, it may become a tie that will unite out hearts stronger and more fervently in the bonds of mutual friendship and union. But what do you say in regard to that horrid transaction in the city of Washington, that horrible tragedy — the assassination of the President of the United States?!? ‘Oh horrible! Oh horrible!! Most horrible!!!’ ‘By their fruits ye shall know them,’ says our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Abolitionist and Emancipator of mankind (for I glory in the name, to be called an abolitionist, and I deem it not to be a shame, (as the slave-drivers and copperheads do), but rather the highest honor for a man, to be an abolitionist.) Now, you see, that is the infernal, diabolical work of the infernal slave-drivers and the still more infernal copperheads!

Added to the collection are seven items related to the organizational fathers of the Marine Brigade and ram fleet, Charles and Alfred Ellet. The two ALsS from Charles to Commodore C.H. Davis are exceptional and important pieces, including direct and substantive discussions of his ram fleet. Ellet’s early death in June 1862 make any letters of his, much less those with significant content regarding the rams, of considerable scarcity. From near Fort Pillow, May 28, 1862, Ellet writes: “The enclosed communication [not present], which U had written this morning, and was about the send to you when I received your note, will explain the current of my own thoughts on the same subject — my view being, as you will perceive, to act as soon as possible, on the offensive…. I concur in your opinion of the needless exposure of the rams to the enemy’s guns to which you allude, and had myself gone our to forbid it… Allow me to add, Commodore, that almost the only efficient service these rams can render, is that for which they were specially built — viz. to ram into the enemy, with good speed, and head in, and smite him. With that view my instructions which I have given, have been to wait while we remained here, until the enemy advances so far above the Point that he cannot refuse the collision and retreat — and then go in, each boat for itself, and strike wherever the blow can be delivered to the best advantage…

In the second letter, written on the same day, Ellet proposes running his rams below Fort Pillow to make a bold strike at the Rebel fleet. “The importance of this movement is, I think, likely to be very great in view of the battle which is no daily expected at Corinth. If that battle results in our favor, by occupying the river below, and by destroying the rebel fleet, we willed deprive the defeated army of its means of crossing the Mississippi and renewing the contest on the other side…

These remarkable letters are accompanied by an original copy of the pamphlet, Coast and Harbour Defences, of the Substitution of Steam Battering Rams for Ships of War (Philadelphia, 1855), in which Charles Ellet first lays out his ram powered strategy. A fine copy in attractive custom-made box; some chipping to printed wraps.

Accompanying these items are a pair of invoices for ordnance stores issued to Charles Ellet, a mounted albumen portrait of Alfred in uniform (seated, in profile), and a letter from Alfred to Commodore Davis, June 25, 1862, relaying a note from David Farragut that support from Davis’ ironclads in an attack on Vicksburg would be beneficial. More unusual is a commendation for the crew of the Monarch, one of Ellet’s ships: “It is reported to the Col. Commanding by Liet Col. Ellet that not a man on board the Monarch from Captain Dryden down, flinched from his duties when called on last evening to aid in the attempt to sink the rebel gunboat lying under the batteries of Fort Pillow. The officers and crew of the Monarch, to a man, all volunteered for the Service, and stood to their posts as brave men ought to do. The Colonel commanding the fleet reposes perfect confidence in the discipline and gallantry of all the officers and men now on board that boat.

The collection further includes three photographs, all presumably of Albright: a carte de visite of a man wearing a fur cap, and bearing a 5¢ Confederate Jeff Davis stamp on the front; a tintype in paper matte of a man seated, reading, and an albumen print of an older Albright laid onto a page removed from a veterans’ publication, with Albright’s service added in manuscript.

Finally, there are a few miscellaneous items, most notably a printed order for transport issued to Albright as he was being discharged in August 1863, fixed with a five cent Confederate Jeff Davis stamp.

A fine and important collection for one of the oddest episodes in the history of the American “Brown Water Navy.” Even single letters for the Mississippi Marine Brigade are scarce, but correspondences of good content covering an entire enlistment are almost vanishing so, and the materials relating to the Ellets themselves rounds out a remarkable collection. 

Iowa soldier shares disdain and contempt for Copperheads

Civil War Archive of William C. Holden, 2nd Iowa Infantry

Civil War Archive of William C. Holden, 2nd Iowa Infantry

When we infantry soldiers hear of a cavalry man getting killed, someone will exclaim, ‘What! That must be impossible. I never heard of the like before.’ They will do for scouting but when it comes to fighting they don’t amount to much. As for Copperheads at home, he was outright scornful. If the peacemaking, armistice, traitorous, vile, damnable, whitelivered, sneaking, cowardly ‘fire in the rear’ villains would dare to show their face in our camp, he wrote, we would furnish gratuitously, rope enough to suspend them to the highest limb of the first tree, for bate, for the carrion crow…

Source: Cowan’s Auction, Civil War Archive of William C. Holden, 2nd Iowa Infantry

Full item description below:

Living on the Iowa side of the border with Missouri, William Holden grew up with guerrilla warfare at his doorstep, and at only 17, he became one of the state’s first wave of volunteers for the Union army. When he enlisted with the 2nd Iowa Infantry on May 21, 1861, Holden could not have known that his regiment would earn the distinction of being the first deployed into the field, that it would serve longer than any in the state, or that it is considered to have served with particular valor. From Ulysses Grant’s epic capture of Fort Donelson to the battles of Shiloh and Corinth, the siege of Vicksburg, the Atlanta Campaign, and Sherman’s March to the Sea and March through the Carolinas, the 2nd Iowa participated in an extraordinary number of the decisive campaigns in the western theater.

Holden’s surviving letters begin at the end of January 1862, while the 2nd Iowa was stationed in St. Louis, and shortly thereafter, his letters swing into action. After the regiment was called to participate in Grant’s assault on Fort Donelson — the engagement that helped open the northern part of the Mississippi River for the Union – Holden was informed that he and his still-green comrades were to take the fort at the point of the bayonet without firing a shot. His letter displays the finely honed sense both for the bravado with which he approached his service and the remarkable success he seemed always to find.

When we came in ful view over a slight declevity in the hill the Rebels opened on us a most terrific fire which mowed our men down like rain. Our boys answered it with a deafening shout and marched steadily on without returning the fire. On we marched over the tangled trees toward the fort wile volley after volley was thinning our ranks and at last we reached the works and charged over them with another wild huzzah, and then opened our fire with the muzzles of our guns almost against them. They could not stand the shock but turned and fled in disorder to their next intrenchments.

They soon rallied however, and came on in gallant style to drive us back, but the right wing of our own Regt had got up the hill and gave them another warm reception… Our Regt was still in advance, and so close under the walls of the next fortification that some of the balls fired by the 52nd Ind. struck some of our men. The 25th Ind was then ordered to carry the next works at the point of the bayonet but they failed, and as our Regt had bore then brunt of the battle on that wing, we were ordered to take cover behind the enemys works which we did in good order… The left wing of our Regt had one half of their men shot before we got up the hill, or ever fired a gun. I walked over man a brave comrade in that charge, that I would have almost died myself. My heart bled for them as I seen them falling. Our gallant captain was killed in the charge. Our colors were shot down three times in the charge but was as often picked up again and borne forward…

In keeping with Grant’s inexorable plan, the 2nd Iowa moved out within a month and entered the even fiercer battle of Shiloh where, as Will reported home, Grant was not prepared to meet them [the Confederates]. He had not a line formed or a battery planted. In fact, Holden’s regiment found themselves stationed at one end of the famous Hornet’s Nest, the critical point in the first day’s fight, where Union forces fended off eleven separate assaults by superior numbers of Confederates, hoping to buy precious time for reinforcements to arrive. Holden’s letter is a long and detailed account of the entire battle, from the panicked reaction upon the first Confederate assault and the moment when he knew the battle had been lost: to the timely arrival of reinforcements under Gen. Don Carlos Buell, and ultimately to the Union triumph. Holden’s description of the moment the tide of battle: About 3 o’clock our Regt was brought into action after having laid under fire all day. Our Brigade was near the center, and in a short time after being engaged, the brigades on our right and left gave way, and the Rebels poured in on both flanks of the brigade. Our Regt succeeded in making their escape, but the 12th and 14th Iowa Regt were completely surrounded and taken prisoners. By this time Gen Buell arrived, and rode along the line and told the men to hold their ground two hours longer and he would have 25,000 fresh troops on the field. This kept up the spirits of the men and they fought with renewed vigor, but kept losing ground….

Not to let down the folks at home, Holden went from battle to battle. Pursuing the retreating Confederate Army, the 2nd Iowa entered Mississippi and laid siege to and eventually captured the vital railroad center at Corinth, Miss. His next letter describes the Battle of Corinth, less well remembered than Shiloh, perhaps, but no less important in securing the Union force in the deep south. The artillery of the whole division was playing on them, he wrote, as was the infantry on their front and on their flanks. They waver. Their leaders are all down, and every stand of colors have been shot down. At this moment two field officers finely dashed to the front, sieze each a stand of colors and dash forward, their men gather courage and follow, the officers soon fall, and their horses go back without them, but the men push forward, although our fire is mowing them down by hundreds, but they press on and soon gain the works and our forces retire… The account continues at much greater length to describe the desperate stand taken by the 2nd: Our position was on a slight eminence, in the edge of a heavy piece of timber and in front of us lay an open field a quarter of a mile in width, through this field the Rebels had to advance to the charge. They advanced as usual with them in solid column. We awaited them in silence. When they got within about 200 yards we received the command to fire, and our fire told with fearful effect on the enemy. We were soon loaded again, and at about 100 yards poured in a fire so destructive as to cause them to halt. Their field officers rode to the front to cheer them on, but they were soon dismounted…. Col. Baker of our regt fell mortally wounded and our cartridges being all shot away, our boys knowing what to be done took it upon themselves to do it, and that was to charge the enemy, and we did it in regular Fort Donelson style… The remainder of the letter – and there is a great deal more – deals with Rosecrans’ rallying of the troops, the heroic actions of the 7th Iowa (and cowardice of the 81st Ohio), and yet another charge that brought a perfect slaughter on the Rebel side. The loss to the 2nd Iowa, he records, was severe. Of the 320 effectives they carried into the battle, 20 were killed in action, including their Colonel, probably their lieutenant colonel, and four lieutenants. Holden himself was slightly wounded in the leg.

After Corinth, the regiment spent several months fending off Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate cavalry, and guerrillas, contending with poor and inadequate rations, making sorties into the surrounding countryside to suppress what remained of the Confederate forces. Holden was implacable in his desire to crush the enemy and disdainful of some of his comrades in the cavalry who seemed to have it so easy.  When we infantry soldiers hear of a cavalry man getting killed, someone will exclaim, ‘What! That must be impossible. I never heard of the like before.’ They will do for scouting but when it comes to fighting they don’t amount to much. As for Copperheads at home, he was outright scornful. If the peacemaking, armistice, traitorous, vile, damnable, whitelivered, sneaking, cowardly ‘fire in the rear’ villains would dare to show their face in our camp, he wrote, we would furnish gratuitously, rope enough to suspend them to the highest limb of the first tree, for bate, for the carrion crow… Like his commander, Grant, Holden would accept nothing less than unconditional surrender.

Although nearly a year of Holden’s correspondence has been lost, when it recommences, it picks up with the same verve with which it left off. On August 8, 1864, Holden opens a window onto his participation in the Battle of Atlanta and its aftermath. In typical 2nd Iowa fashion, the regiment was involved in a mano a mano charge on rebel fortifications, and Holden survived a near brush: It was very dark in the woods, and thick underbrush. There was a gap in our line on our right between us and the 4th Division skirmishers, and I started to find the right of our line and got in the gap. I heard men talking about 30 yards from me and supposing they were our men, started towards them. When I got near them, I stepped on some brush accidentally, which made considerable noise, and bang, bang goes two guns wand two balls come close by. I stopped still and stood there for several moments, and then moved silently away, thanking the rebs for firing when they did…. A month later, he described with pride the sight of grizzled union veterans entering the city: The old veterans looked rough, but they marched with the proudest step, that I ever saw soldiers march with; their torn and tattered flags and banners floating to the breeze, and splendid brass bands playing ‘Hail Columbia,’ ‘Red, White and Blue’, ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘Yankee Doodle.’ Their guns did not look so flashy and bright in the sunlight, as they did a little more than four months ago when they started from Chatanooga.

After defending the lines near Rome, Ga., what remained of the 2nd Iowa –consolidated with the remnants of the 3rd – joined Sherman in the decisive March to the Sea and March through the Carolinas. Since he would have been unable to send letters home during the marches, only one letter survives from Holden’s stay in Savannah, discussing the delays and hardships caused by the weather as they prepared to head north. After his arrival in Goldsboro and the total defeat of the Confederacy in the east, Holden summed up his experiences:  If he [Johnson] has surrendered the war is ended, and we will now begin to think of home. After four years of desperate war, we have triumphed. Not a star has fallen from our flag. We have a whole union, and a free Union. The stain of slavyer is blotted out, and the South may blame themselves for being deprived of it. They have been terribly punished for attempting to destroy the government, and I believe it was a punishment sent upon them by God, because they trafficked in human souls. I feel proud that I can say that I entered the service at the very beginning of the struggle, and remained at my post until peace was conquered. I might say I was present when it was born, and was in at its death. We have proven to the World that a Republic based upon the principles of justice, right, humanity, and freedom can stand any shock. We have shown to the crowned heads of Europe, that man is capable of self government…

Holden’s last letter is a stirring account of joining the Grand Review in Washington, D.C., en route to mustering out of the service. Having been apprenticed in the printing trade before the war, Holden returned to civilian life and entered into the newspaper business in Ottumwa. In 1873, he moved to Nebraska, becoming an important figure in newspapers there. The quality of his Civil War letters certainly seem to have set the stage.

Many Civil War collections include an outstanding letter or two where the writer manages to transport the reader in place and time. Holden’s letters, nearly all of them, attain a level of clarity and insight rarely found in a teenaged volunteer, and they deal with the most dramatic scenes of the most dramatic battles of the war. Time and again, the 2nd Iowa was thrust into the critical part of major engagements and through grit, experience, and force of will, they helped turn defeat into victory.

The letters show expected wear and tear, and have been fully transcribed. An outstanding opportunity to acquire a dense collection from a young and humble plough boy who happened to be born with the attention to detail and care for of a journalist.

Lot includes typed transcriptions of all letters and other photocopied documents relating to Holden.