Re-fighting the Civil War

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We recently took in the Civil War Re-enactors event down at Fort Stevens near Warrenton, OR put on by the Northwest Civil War Council. It is a three day event that is scheduled for the Labor Day weekend each year. We originally attended it several years ago when our kids were high school age.

This time  around we had our #2 grandchild with us. We arrived early (got a parking space right up front) and stayed through the afternoon battle. We did catch both battles during our day there (skirmishes really), one in the morning (the South won), and the other in the afternoon (the North won).

Following are some of our photos – caught by my wife’s sure hand.

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Some celebrities in the mix.

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Then there was the cavalry.

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Where our grandson –

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…lined up on this rider.

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I saw these guys (Louisiana Tiger Zouaves):

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and wanted to follow up on them – an ancestor of mine was a Zouave in a northern unit. Karen got this great shot – 

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All in all a great day a Fort Stevens.

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When is a naval officer not a naval officer?

When is a naval officer not a naval officer

When is a naval officer not a naval officer?

The question does not rest upon what the word “IS” means. Rather it pivots upon what the phrase “naval officer” can mean in two different circumstances. The fact that the same two words describe or denote two different offices is the source of the confusion.

At least I was confused when I first came upon the designation of “naval officer” when reading about the makeup of the US Customs Service in the 19th Century, and in this specific instance I was looking at the appointed officials of the Port of New York. The chief officer in charge was called the Collector, the one responsible for collecting the import tax due on any foreign goods entering via that port. These taxes were the only revenue for the US government from the inception of the country until the beginnings of an income tax which saw its introduction at the time of the American Civil War.

(Aside – the Port of New York at times supplied as much as two thirds of all the revenue, and never less than half of what was taken in by the US Treasury).

The Collector, therefore, was a very important position, and he was appointed directly by the President of the United States. In practice it was a political plum, awarded to a fellow member of the President’s political party, as thanks for his aid in a successful election campaign. The Collector in his turn appointed the officials that would serve with him – with titles such as Auditor, Appraiser, Weigher, and their assistants such as Deputy Collector, etc., and in the case at hand – the Naval Officer and his deputy.

Originally I thought that this Naval Officer must be an officer of the US Navy who had been assigned duty to help out the US Customs Service. It would seem a simple request for the Treasury Department (the branch of the US government controlling the Customs and Revenue services) to ask for the loan of an officer from the Navy Department. In a similar vein I had found many examples where Acting Midshipmen left the Naval Academy (usually by resignation or dismissal) and ended up in the Revenue Service to command the ships that agency employed to enforce customs law, to interdict smuggling and occasionally to aid in life-saving. But this was not the case. The Naval Officer in the Customs House was a civil appointment, and he had a particular purpose to fulfill. The position was designed as an important check and balance to the Collector. The naval officer had to sign off on all the transactions that his boss approved. That was the theory, but in practice the fact that they owed their position to the Collector colored their judgment when it came to what their boss was doing, a recipe for fraud and corruption

I learned more about all of this when looking into the father of Midshipman Morgan Lewis Ogden jr., the subject of my two recent Research posts. His father Morgan Lewis Ogden Sr. had been the deputy naval officer of the Port of New York, commencing in May of 1843. From his time at the New York Customs House, Ogden learned some valuable lessons about the workings of this agency. He parleyed that knowledge into a whole new profession after his time there.

Ogden was instrumental in the 1850 Supreme Court decision (US vs Southmayd) that changed the way duties were assessed “on all future importations of sugar and molasses.” He advised Benjamin F Butler, the lawyer who was hired to argue the case before the court. According to prior statute, the assessments were made on the weight stated on the invoice – prior to shipment. By the time the shipment arrived in New York the weight was always less due to leakage and drainage. You can understand the shipper’s sense of injustice when he was taxed on the portion that was lost in transit. Now thanks to this decision “the duties are to be levied upon the actual quantity arriving in the United States.”

Subsequent to this, Ogden became a claims attorney, representing firms or individuals with claims against the US government for overcharges on import taxes. He kept a home and office in Brooklyn, and also a home and office in Washington DC. One might say that he was a bit of a “fixer” in these matters for he had a lot of clout in both cities. And it did not hurt that his older brother Samuel Gouverneur Ogden was the Auditor of the New York Customs House between 1841 and 1878.

So, when is a naval officer not a naval officer? It’s a bit of a trick question. Both are. But a civil appointee who is a part of the Treasury Department is not the same as a commissioned officer in the armed services of the United States.

(Side note – I have found, so far, ten individuals who were appointed to the US Naval Academy in the ante bellum period with relatives that were Collectors in the Customs service. And only one who was related to a naval officer in the Customs Service).

Rebel Treasure twentyseventh post

Rebel Treasure twentyseventh post

EXT. FRANCE – HARBOR OF NANTES – DAY

THREE MONTHS LATER

ROSS KEENAN, an elderly gentlemen with a lion’s mane of stark white hair and a twinkle in his eye strides along the riverfront, swinging his gold headed cane freely and trying to assure his young companion.

ROSS
She’s a thing of beauty Captain Turner. You’ll see.

LON
It’s just that I was never told up front that she was so–
(pause)
Experimental.

ROSS
Tosh! Hardly experimental at all any more. What with they’ve been able to do in Louisiana and Charleston.

They stop to continue their conversation, causing Lon’s men, who were following behind to bunch up on their heels.

LON
That’s the very thing I can’t get out of my head – the Hunley – lost with all hands.

ROSS
I believe that you will find my design much more stable. Designed to cross the ocean —
(casting about for his thought)
Just as good if not better than that ship out there.

The head of his cane points to the Yankee man-of-war at anchorage in the roads.

JIMMY
(to Louis)
I hear that Upshur is the Captain of that frigate.

LOUIS
Good, I never did like him as an instructor. Be glad to teach him a thing or two.

Ross ushers them through the door into a boathouse.

INT BOATHOUSE – DAY
Ross stops in front of a long tubular object just inside, roughly the size of two locomotive boilers placed end to end, with a narrow pilot house placed amidships. It looks to be a tight fit for anyone, especially the large-boned petty officer.

JONAH
You expect to get me in there?

LOUIS
With you in there, forget about room for any one else.

Ross only smiles and leads them into a larger area that has a boat slip.

ROSS
That was my experimental model.  This is what you’ll be sailing.

There in the boat slip is a larger version – at least three times the size – a big fat cigar, tapered at both ends. Ross beams with pride and excitement.

LON
I’m impressed.

JONAH
There’s no bloody sails at all.

JIMMY
Just think, no need to be out in the wind and rain!
(to Ross)
She’s steam powered, isn’t she?

ROSS
Aye. And then some. But that’s something else all together.
(turns to Lon)
I suppose this is as good a time as any.

Lon reads his orders under the anxious gaze of his men.

[next pt 28]

Rebel Treasure twentysixth post

Rebel Treasure twentysixth post

EXT A DUSTY ROAD IN TENNESSEE – DAY
Title: Near Memphis, August 1864
Two heavily laden wagons plod down the road. Romeo holds the reins of the first, with Lon riding beside him. Jimmy follows in the second with the Petty Officer driving the team.

Then, from around the bend ahead comes a racing rider. Soon, it is clear that it is Louis, who can barely keep the saddle under himself.

LON
(to Romeo)
No mistaking a sailor on horseback.

ROMEO
I just don’t think he likes heights of any kind.

Louis reins up to them.

LOUIS
There are horsemen up ahead.

LON
Ours or theirs?

LOUIS
No telling, they aren’t in uniform.

LON
You keep back with Jimmy and the “freight.” We’ll let them poke around this wagon, but if they try it with yours, you know what to do.

Louis spurs away as a body of horsemen emerges from around the bend. The one in front breaks away from the pack and charges them at a gallop.

ROMEO
Lordy. I know that face.

LON
I do believe I do too.

The obvious leader reins up in front of them. His followers soon catch up and fall into a semi circle to their front.

LON (CONT’D)
Jesse?

JESSE JAMES
Would I have the honor of addressing Captain Turner?

LON
That would be an honor, but as you can see I am only a Lieutenant.

JESSE JAMES
(laughs and hands him a letter)
Here. We were sent to find you.

Lon breaks the seal and extracts a paper.

ROMEO
(reading aloud over his shoulder)
Alonzo Turner is hereby commissioned a Captain in the Provisional Navy of the Confederate States of America.
(turns to shout to the others)
Lon’s a Captain!

JESSE JAMES
And my orders are to relieve you and your men of this detail and give you your new orders.

Jesse takes another envelope out. Lon peruses the directive.

LON
It’s alright, men. We turn our shipment over to these gentlemen.

JESSE JAMES
We’re right lucky to have caught you when we did. The territory up ahead is swarming with Yanks. As it is, we’re going to have to take your “freight” down into the mountains yonder.

Lon holds out his hand and Jesse James grips his wrist.

Three of James’ men dismount and trade their horses for seats on the wagons. Everyone in Lon’s party has a horse except Romeo.

LON
Do you have a mount to spare for my man?

James looks to his men, but they all look the other way, pretending they didn’t hear the question.

LON (CONT’D)
Looks like you’re riding with me.

As they watch the wagons change direction and head off down the dusty road towards the Smoky Mountains–

LON (CONT’D)
Well, lads, we’re going to run the blockade and go to France. We’ve a brand new ship waiting for us!

[next pt 27]

Rebel Treasure twentyfifth post

Rebel Treasure twentyfifth post

INT. BEN’S DEN – LATE NIGHT
All is still. Ben steals into his den to do some late night reading.

EXT NAVY YARD – TENSAW RIVER – ALABAMA – DAY
Title: Tensaw River – above Mobile Alabama – July 1864
A solid column of smoke rises from the smokestack of a monster of an ironclad. It pulls away from shore, and chugs slowly towards a huge cradle like structure directly in its path.

ON THE PROW OF THE IRONCLAD
Lon squints ahead lining up the flagstaff with the center of the cradle. He turns and shouts up to the pilot house.

LON
Port one degree, then straight.

Louis lifts one hand from the wheel in acknowledgement.

The vessel glides forward into the embrace of the two arms of the cradle.

LON (CONT’D)
All stop!

Louis leans to the speaking tube and calls down the order.

The prow of the ship reaches the end of the cradle and nudges it forward with its momentum. Gasps of concern go up from the shore, then she stops.

LON (CONT’D)
All hands, secure lines!

Jimmy and Romeo lead engine CREW MEMBERS along both sides and tie off the lines to secure the ship to the cradle.

ROMEO
Port secure!

JIMMY
Starboard secure!

Lon crosses to the starboard side and waves towards shore.

Three ax blades flash up and come down, severing the hawsers that are holding the cradle down. With groaning and popping the ship rises up out of the water, born up by the flotation barrels attached to the frame of the cradle. A ragged cheer rises from the shore.

Lon leans down over the side to look.

LON (to Jimmy)
We’ve gained four feet, plenty of room to pass over the bar now.

Mr. Clay emerges from the pilot house and joins them on deck.

CLAY
Excellent job, my boy.

LON
This kind of job I like. It’s what I trained for. I’m getting fed up with being used as a pack horse.

CLAY
(taken aback)
You should know that you are making quite a name for yourself in powerful circles.

LON
Powerful? Who? Give me their names. Let’s see them get me a command.

CLAY
(sighing)
Listen, I hear you. I’ll see what I can do.

[next pt 26]

Rebel Treasure eighteenth post

Rebel Treasure eighteenth post

MONTAGE OF THE CAPER
(As described in the past and as it happens.)

LON (V.O.)
Like clockwork–

Romeo follows behind the regimental cook with an arm-load of firewood.

LON (V.O.) (CONT’D)
One of us – my servant – will hire out to the 13th New York. He’ll go between us and Jimmy here–

Jimmy sees a copy of the order and its details, which he reports to Romeo and Romeo passes the information on to Lon.

LON (V.O.) (CONT’D)
He will help as they transfer the gold from the dock to the railroad depot. And just before they leave–

Romeo appears with Jimmy at the open door to the boxcar and shouts up to the platoon of soldiers.

ROMEO
There’s been a holdup, we’re going to get to eat before we leave after all.

All the soldiers hop down from the car except HIRAM, one of the guards, who shuts and bolts the door behind them.

HIRAM
(through the door slot)
Bring me something, Smitty!

LON (V.O.)
Jimmy will go forward and slip up into the engine cab, and announce the departure. And then we’ll take the train!

Lon helps Jimmy bound and gag the ENGINEER and FIREMAN. In seconds, Jimmy has the train underway.

LON (V.O.) (CONT’D)
Meanwhile, Louis, with the prior help of Romeo will have secreted himself in a box inside of the rail car.

The guard, sensing the movement of the car, sits down on the box.

INSERT
inside the box, Louis, his knife at the ready, presses up on the lid and it won’t budge. He’s trapped.

LON (V.O.) (CONT’D)
As I said it should all come off like clock work.
(pointedly to Jesse)
And we’ll meet you and the wagon at the water-stop.

EXT WATER-STOP – NIGHT
In a cloud of steam the train glides to a stop, with the railcar door on a level with the bed of the wagon driven by Jesse and Jonah the naval petty officer. Lon hails him from the cab.

LON
All secure?

JESSE
Aye. The telegraph wire is cut. And won’t no one be bothering us.

He chuckles and exchanges a sly look with the petty officer. Jimmy hops up to the bed of the wagon and tries the door. It won’t budge.

JIMMY
Come on, Louis. Open up! You can’t keep all that gold for yourself!

HIRAM (O.S.)
Who goes there?

INSERT
the guard has his rifle held at the ready. Behind him, boxes have been stacked on top of the box with Louis inside.

JIMMY
(to Lon)
It’s Hiram. I guess he must have discovered Louis.

Lon  joins Jimmy.

LON
You may as well open up, Hiram. We don’t want to hurt you.

HIRAM (O.S.)
No, sir. I won’t. I can’t let you in.

Jesse strides over to the door and pounds on the wood.

JESSE
You open this door, soldier, or we’ll burn you and the car to the ground. You hear me?

HIRAM (O.S.)
All I hear is a lot of noise.

Lon puts a calming hand on Jesse and motions to Jonah.

JONAH (saluting)
Sir?

LON
Let’s get our gear set up.

Jonah, Romeo, Jimmy and Lon soon have a tripod erected over the railcar, and a series of pulleys are hooked to its roof. And to Jesse’s amazement they commence hauling away, and lift the roof right off of the car.

Jimmy makes to leap up to the top of the railcar wall, but Lon holds him back, and a shot RINGS out.

LON (CONT’D)
Now! Before he reloads!

Lon and Jimmy clamber over the top and soon subdue Hiram and release Louis.

LOUIS
(coming out of the box)
Let me at him!
(brandishing the knife)
When I’m through with you–

Lon jerks him back and takes the knife away.

LON
You’re wasting time. We have things to do.

EXT. WATER-STOP – LATER
Louis places the last of the boxes onto the stack loaded in the wagon. Lon shuts the door.

LON
Jimmy! Get the engine ready. Jonah! Jonah you go with Jesse. Romeo you’ll take the horses and follow after us.
(to Jesse)
We’ll meet up at the property.

The sound of pounding hooves rumbles in the distance.

FURTHER BACK DOWN THE TRACK
A company of cavalry pulls up with the water stop in view.

CAVALRY SERGEANT
There she is!

But the train is clearly pulling away and picking up speed.

CAVALRY LIEUTENANT
We’ll cut across to the toll road and cut them off by the stone bridge!

[next pt 19]

Rebel Treasure sixteenth post

EXT. MAIL STEAMER, OFF GULF COAST OF PANAMA – DAY
Title: April 1861
Early morning haze rises from the water along the shore, giving the appearance that the land is floating on a low cloud.
Lon paces the foredeck in his U. S. uniform, deep in thought. At Romeo’s approach, he stops his pacing and goes to meet him.

ROMEO
The captain’s steward told me that the mail steamer that passed us yesterday is the one that’ll be taking the gold North.

LON
Good. We’re in time.

INT. SHIPPING OFFICE – CRISTOBAL, PANAMA – DAY
A more than puzzled look greets Lon in the face of the balding, fortyish MR. HARVEY, seated behind a desk piled high with shipping manifests. He looks away from Lon to his SECRETARY who had ushered him in.

MR. HARVEY
(to the Secretary)
What’s the meaning of this interruption? Can’t you see I am busy?

SECRETARY
I believe, your standing order requires me to present immediately anyone sent by Mr. Clay.

MR. HARVEY
(flustered but unrepentent)
Quite right! So you have, now begone!

As the secretary retreats behind the door, Harvey thrusts an open palm out to Lon.

MR. HARVEY (CONT’D)
Your bona fides?

Lon removes a strip of paper from his wallet and passes it to him. Mr. Harvey holds it up to the lamp on his desk, the heat of which causes a message to appear. He grunts in satisfaction.

MR. HARVEY (CONT’D)
And what can I do for you, Mr. Turner?

LON
Some information. Mr. Clay informed me that you would be able to put a ship at my disposal.

MR. HARVEY
You’ll have to make other arrangements, I am afraid.

LON
Sir?

MR. HARVEY
Haven’t you heard the news?
(Lon shakes his head)
Here!

He shoves a newspaper headline at him, it reads:
“The War Begun”

LON
It finally happened! When?

MR. HARVEY
Two weeks ago. Baltimore is in flames. Norfolk is ours. Old Abe is quaking in his boots.

Mr. Harvey’s jubilation sobers as he notices Lon’s downcast demeanor.

MR. HARVEY (CONT’D)
That upsets your plans?

LON
Mine. And those of our fellow Knights. I was charged with scouting out the possibility of seizing a certain shipment before it was delivered to New York.

Mr. Harvey’s gaze wanders to his window and the ship moored to the dock.

MR. HARVEY
Ah! But she is not going to New York! Washington has ordered that the gold be taken to the capital via Annapolis.

LON
Interesting!
(he walks to the window)
I think I’ll ask her captain the favor of transporting me and my servant back to the Academy.
Can you get a message right away to Mr. Clay for me?

Rebel Treasure sixteenth post

[next pt 17]

Rebel Treasure first post

Rebel Treasure first post

                                                                                                                                                                                              FADE IN:
EXT. USS PREBLE – DAY

Title: OFF THE COAST OF FRANCE 1865
The last of a rain squall sweeps the deck of the sloop of war, as overhead the sky clears. In the growing light, an odd-looking vessel appears in the view of the forward look-out.

LOOKOUT
Ship in sight!

QUARTERDECK OF USS PREBLE

LT. CYRUS MANNING, the executive officer, brings the speaking trumpet to his lips

LT MANNING
Where away?

LOOKOUT
The middle channel, sir.

The lieutenant turns to CAPTAIN UPSHUR for instructions. The captain calmly trains his spyglass on the middle channel.

P.O.V. THROUGH UPSHUR’S SPYGLASS
A faint trace of steam rises from the funnel topside of the elongated hull pointed in their direction. A sudden shift of wind pulls into view the Confederate battle-flag flying at her stern.

BACK TO SCENE

CAPTAIN UPSHUR
It’s her! Beat to quarters!

The RATTLE of the drum calls the GUN CREWS to their stations.

INT. COMMAND DECK OF THE C.S.S. GRAY WHALE
A young, steely eyed Confederate naval captain, ALONZO TURNER strains to see through the fog and mist on the other side of the viewport.
A small CREW mans the gauges and gizmos that pack the command deck. He removes the speaker tube from its hook.

ALONZO
Forward lookout, any report?

Behind him we see a highly polished brass plaque with the inscription: C.S.S GRAY WHALE.

Cue Final Jeopardy music.

INT. JEOPARDY GAME SHOW SET – DAY

                                        ALEX TREBEK
Well, it now comes down to today’s current leader, Mr. Gates of Baltimore, Maryland.

Ben stands dazed.

ALEX TREBEK (CONT’D)
Mr. Gates?

BEN
(startling from his reverie)
Sir?

ALEX TREBEK
Mr. Gates, the answer is “The last submarine to sail under the flag of the Confederacy.”

Ben’s answer appears on his lectern screen, “What was the C.S.S. Gray Whale.”

ALEX TREBEK (CONT’D)
Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Gates. The question should be “What was the C.S.S. Hunley.” Though at $8500 you are still in the lead, pending your bid, of        course.

Ben’s screen displays his bid – $8500, the whole amount.

BEN
But the Hunley was the next to last submarine in the rebel navy.

Mr. Trebek looks around in confusion as the audience buzzes with excitement. He cups a hand over his earpiece.

ALEX TREBEK
Again I am sorry Mr. Gates, but the judge’s ruling is final.

In the audience, Ben’s wife ABIGAIL CHASE GATES and his best friend RILEY POOLE exchange pained glances.

ALEX TREBEK (O.S.) (CONT’D)
Mr. Reuben, you are today’s Jeopardy champion.

[next pt 2]

ET in the City of Brotherly Love

ET in the City of Brotherly Love

From Jersey City, the 8th MVM boarded the cars of the Camden and Amboy railroad. The officers passed through the cars, inspecting the men and their weapons. And admonished them to be prepared.  Along the route, people took impromptu holidays from their work to throng the stations to greet them and see them on their way.
At 5 pm they arrived in Camden and there boarded the ferry to Philadelphia.
When the ferry docked the crowd was so heavy that even the police could not clear a path for the regiment.  The crowd overflowed onto the tops of the buildings lining the streets. The soldiers could only make their way single file through the welcoming crush.
The people of Philadelphia were particularly glad to see the boys from Massachusetts because the news out of Baltimore was very scary. The Sixth regiment MVM had passed through Philadelphia the day before (one day in advance of the 8th).  So at the time that the 8th was in New York and New Jersey, the Sixth was attempting to pass through Baltimore from one station on the east side to the B & O RR on the west.  In the midst of their advance some street toughs with Southern sympathies assaulted them with rocks  and brickbats. When the dust cleared four soldiers of the Sixth lay dead.
And the mayor of Baltimore consequently ordered that the city be closed to the further passage of troops.  Zealots from Baltimore taking that cue went out and burned the railroad bridges leading to the city.
What was General Butler and the 8th going to do?

E T and Company J

ET and Company J

 I used the roster from the history of the 23rd MVI to create a database covering all its members. I did the data entry for it during my lunch breaks at work.

As I was involved in this task I considered how to go about digging up the same info for the 8th MVM.
Somehow I stumbled across a list of Civil War regiments online referenced with names and e-mails of their researchers. I contacted the individual, Carol Botteron, who managed the list and happened to have an interest in the 8th MVM.  She replied to me with a list of books written about various aspects of the regiment. She also asked if my ancestor was a recipient of the Minuteman of 1861 medal issued by the State of Massachusetts years after the war. It was awarded to all of the soldiers that answered Lincoln’s call out of the state militias after Fort Sumter was fired upon. I replied that I did not know and that perhaps it was in the hands of other family members.
She said that I could find a photo of one in the volume History of the Minutemen of 1861.  So a check with the library led to another order with ILL.
The volume had an entire chapter devoted to Company J. It laid out in sketch form the history of the unit, relating some highly interesting and startling revelations.
As an aside, about a decade later I had a round of e-mail exchanges with a researcher in New Hampshire who adamantly insisted that there was no such designation as Company J in the US Army. He explained that this was to obviate any confusion between the letters “I” and “J,” and had the further pariah status of being a “jinx.” Looking at this assertion and his cited authorities (all of a later date than mine), I chalked it up to a bureaucratic standardization after the fact, or a state versus federal understanding.  Whenever the members themselves wrote about the unit later it was always called Company J, and even the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s official report for the year 1861 called the unit by the designation “J.”
So E T was proud member of an historic unit. He was also that rarity in the Civil War, a Zouave.