ET Storms Perryville

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After the regiment had gathered at the station at 11, it was still another four hours before the train set out. The fog of war was in full swing by the time they left.  Caution was the watchword, so they stopped frequently to collect intelligence.  But they encountered only rumors at every stop.  While in Philadelphia, Colonel Lefferts of the 7th NY had heard that the railroad ferryboat Maryland was seized and destroyed.  Butler had heard the same thing but didn’t give it credence.  And thousands were feared to be gathering in Perryville to oppose them.

Butler carried with him permission to seize the ferryboat if necessary, or destroy it if he deemed it more prudent.  Butler toured the cars and saw to it personally that the soldiers loaded their weapons.  He let it be known that they may very well suffer many casualties.  He encouraged letters be written home and left with the conductor to be forwarded.

At one point, Butler ordered the train to proceed at top speed (30 mph).  And soon after came the cry of “Man Overboard.”  One of the men had become so frightened that he leapt from the speeding train.  He had stripped off his coat and shirt, and fled only in his trousers and shoes.  Not wanting to delay after an attempt to retrieve him, Butler posted a reward, and pushed on.  By this, the men learned for the first time their destination – Annapolis, for it was there that the reward would be collected.

An half mile out of Perryville, they stopped and detrained.  The zouaves deployed first, the sappers and miners behind them, and Company K to provide cover. Captain Devereux ordered his men at the double quick not waiting for the rest of the regiment.

What crowd there was in the sleepy town dispersed  at the sight of the armed men.  There was no opposition as they stormed aboard the Maryland. Nothing was prepared for them, the ferryboat was out of fuel and water and had no engine crew.  The regiment pushed four coal cars aboard, added water to nearby empty whiskey barrels and fielded a crew of twenty from their members.  It took two hours to accomplish these tasks and to load their baggage.

By 6pm they were ready to depart, and cast off for Annapolis.  The boat’s captain and pilot were the only employees of the railroad aboard.  Neither of them seemed friendly or helpful. So their loyalty was suspect.

It was fine night for April, but soon got very dark.

ET waits on his Leaders

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The 8th had learned that their sister regiment, the Sixth, had been bloodied in the streets of Baltimore.  It was April the 19th 1861. The fact of this historic date was not lost upon these soldiers from Massachusetts. It was the 86th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord and was usually celebrated in remembrance as the “shot heard around the world.” Just as their forefathers had faced a dire situation, so too were they now. ET and his fellow soldiers were waiting in the Girard House (a hotel) for the decision of their leaders.  Many spent their time writing home, telling their folks about where they were and what they’d seen.

That evening, General Butler gathered his staff at the Continental Hotel to discuss their next movement.  The only one of the company captains to attend was Devereux of the Zouaves.  Were they going to fight their way through Baltimore or was there another way?

Many claim to have come up with the winning solution (an interesting history can be written about these claims).  But the only one who truly matters is Samuel Morse Felton, the president of the PWB Railroad (Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore). He offered to Butler the ferry boat owned by his railroad that operated between Perryville and Havre de Grace, MD. Instead of traversing to the latter city, they could travel down the Chesapeake to Annapolis and from there march to Washington, bypassing Baltimore altogether.

So this plan was settled upon and other decisions flowed from that. The Zouaves were to lead the assault into Perryville; backed up by Company K; and a special unit, called Miners and Sappers, was formed from volunteers from the other companies, and issued axes, crowbars, and picks. Their task was to remove any obstacles thrown up in front of them.  Butler sent a telegram to Governor Andrew informing him of their plans and to request that Cook’s flying artillery be sent on immediately, for he judged that they would be needing more firepower.

Devereux and the captain of the Allen Guard took their companies to the Broad Street station (for the PWB RR), arriving there at 2 am, the morning of April 20. There they found the 7th NYNG regiment already aboard the cars. And waited.

Butler met with Colonel Lefferts of the 7th NY and tried all morning long to convince him to accompany his regiment, even to the extent of pulling rank. But Lefferts ultimately refused, and removed his men from the cars for he had decided to take ship from Philadelphia to go around by water to Washington.  There was an unspoken rivalry between the two as to who would reach Washington first.

The rest of the 8th regiment finally joined the Zouaves and Company K at the station around 11 am.  And together they set off into the unknown future.