Monday, November 4, 2013
Letter from Union Lieutenant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865
"Camp near Camden, S. C.
My dear wife--I have no time for particulars. We have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day. The chivalry [meaning the Honourable & Chivalrous people of the South] have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, &c., are as common in camp as blackberries.
The terms of plunder are as follows: Each company is required to exhibit the results of its operations at any given place--one-fifth and first choice falls to the share of the commander-in-chief and staff; one-fifth to the corps commanders and staff; one-fifth to field officers of regiments, and two-fifths to the company.
Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising themselves as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a suit of rough clothes from one of my men, and was successful in this place. He got a large quantity of silver (among other things an old-time milk pitcher) and a very fine gold watch from a Mrs DeSaussure, at this place. DeSaussure was one of the F. F. V.s of South Carolina, and was made to fork over liberally.. Officers over the rank of Captain are not made to put their plunder in the estimate for general distribution. This is very unfair, and for that reason, in order to protect themselves, subordinate officers and privates keep back every thing that they can carry about their persons, such as rings, earrings, breast pins, &c., of which, if I ever get home, I have about a quart. I am not joking--I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and all the girls, and some No. 1 diamond rings and pins among them.
General Sherman has silver and gold enough to start a bank. His share in gold watches alone at Columbia was two hundred and seventy-five. But I said I could not go into particulars. All the general officers and many besides had valuables of every description, down to embroidered ladies' pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them, too. We took gold and silver enough from the damned rebels to have redeemed their infernal currency twice over. This, (the currency), whenever we came across it, we burned, as we considered it utterly worthless.
I wish all the jewelry this army has could be carried to the "Old Bay State". It would deck her out in glorious style; but, alas! it will be scattered all over the North and Middle States. The damned niggers, as a general rule, prefer to stay at home, particularly after they found out that we only wanted the able-bodied men, (and to tell the truth, the youngest and best-looking women). Sometimes we took off whole families and plantations of niggers, by way of repaying secessionists. But the useless part of them we soon manage to lose; [one very effective was to "shoot at their bobbing heads as they swam rivers" after the army units crossed over], sometimes in crossing rivers, sometimes in other ways.
I shall write to you again from Wilmington, Goldsboro', or some other place in North Carolina. The order to march has arrived, and I must close hurriedly. Love to grandmother and aunt Charlotte. Take care of yourself and children. Don't show this letter out of the family.
Your affectionate husband, Thomas J Myers, Lieut.,
P.S. I will send this by the first flag of truce to be mailed, unless I have an opportunity of sending it at Hilton Head. Tell Sallie I am saving a pearl bracelet and ear-rings for her; but Lambert got the necklace and breast pin of the same set. I am trying to trade him out of them. These were taken from the Misses Jamison, daughters of the President of the South Carolina Secession Convention. We found these on our trip.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Great story came to us via Ray Davidson…
Tucker’s Marine Brigade
Confederate States Marine Corps
From Drewry’s Bluff to Appomattox Court House1865
by Ray Davidson
In 1998, Confederate States Marines Charles Cleaper, James Hicks and Joe Johnson names finally were added to the exhibit on Black Confederates at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. A tribute and belated honor to a story worth telling of grey coated warriors that served to the honor of the Corps.
Cleaper, Hicks and Johnson enlisted in the Confederate Marine Corps in Charleston, South Carolina and served aboard the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Chicora until March 1865. The Confederate States Marine Corps (CSMC), as well as the Confederate States Navy, authorized recruitment of one black for every five whites recruited. These Marines and sailors served alongside their white counterparts in integrated units. Several skilled pilots on Confederate gunboats were “men of color” and held an officers rank. One such pilot was Moses Dallas, who served with the Savannah Squadron from 1862 to 1864. A letter from the Savannah Squadron Commander to the Secretary of the Navy gives us a small glimpse of the value of blacks to the Confederate Navy:
“I have also been compelled to increase the pay of Moses Dallas from $80 to $100 per month in order to retain him. He is a colored pilot and is considered the best inland pilot on the coast.”
Later Dallas was on the expedition that captured the Federal gunboat USS Water Witch on the rainy night of June 3-4, 1864. He was among six Confederates killed in action during the firefight that erupted as they boarded the ship. Another black Confederate Naval Officer, Ben Newell, piloted the captured gunboat back to harbor.
In early spring 1865 the Union Army was making a concerted effort to capture Richmond, the Southern capitol and defeat Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. All Confederate States Marines along the east coast were ordered to Drewry’s Bluff for defense of Richmond.
The only obstacle that protected Richmond from a river approach was Fort Darling on Drewry's Bluff, overlooking a sharp bend on the James River their eight cannons in the fort, including field artillery pieces and five naval guns, some salvaged from the Virginia, commanded the river for miles in both directions. Guns from the CSS Patrick Henry, including an 8-inch smoothbore, were just upriver and sharpshooters gathered on the river banks. An underwater obstruction of sunken steamers, pilings, debris, and other vessels connected by chains was placed just below the bluff, making it difficult for vessels to maneuver in the narrow river.
Blunting previous Union nautical assaults Drewry’s Bluff remained an integral part of Richmond's defense until the fall of Petersburg and Richmond in 1865. The garrison at Drewry's Bluff took part in the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg. Once Fort Darling had been abandoned by the retreating Confederates, the Union forces quickly cleared a path through the obstructions in the James River beneath Drewry's Bluff. On April 4 President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad passed the fort on the way up the James River to visit Richmond.
BATTLE OF SAYLER’S CREEK
At Drewry’s Bluff, Cleaper, Hicks and Johnson and the men of the Charleston Squadron joined with remnants of the Wilmington (NC) Squadron and Virginia based personnel to form "Tucker’s Marine Brigade" that was named after its commander, Commodore John R. Tucker.
The Battle of Sayler's Creek was fought April 6, 1865, southwest of Petersburg. Tucker’s Marine Brigade had joined up with two Confederate divisions led by Maj. Generals Curtis Lee and Joseph B. Kershaw. These two divisions made up nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army. At Sayler’s creek they were cut off by Sheridan's cavalry and elements of the Union II and VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
Tucker’s Marine Brigade was the only Confederate unit that didn’t break under the first Federal charge. After repulsing the charge, the Brigade – numbering 300 to 400 men, was surrounded by six Union divisions. Tucker would not surrender and counterattacked, smashing the 37th Massachusetts Infantry into fragments and tearing into the 2nd Rhode Island in hand to hand combat.
Withdrawing to a wooded area, these Confederate Marines repulsed multiple Federal attacks. Tucker’s Brigade was resilient and did so much damage that the Federal generals estimated the "Marine Brigade" to number some 2,000 men. Tucker was ultimately talked into surrendering towards the end of the day.
Note: The Slayer’s Creek battlefield was designated a national Historic Landmark in 1985.
APPOMATTOX COURT HOUSE AND THE LEGACY
The remnants of Tucker’s Brigade; four Confederate States Marine Corps officers and 21 enlisted Marines withdrew to Appomattox and surrendered with General Lee on April 9, 1865. The ranking Confederate Marine Officer was 1stLt Richard Henderson (former USMC Commandant Gen. Archibald Henderson’s son). Standing proudly with Henderson were Charles Cleaper, James Hicks and Joe Johnson, “free men of color” who served with distinction as Confederate States Marines.