ET and Old Ironsides

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When E T and the other soldiers awoke in the morning, most were unaware of what had transpired in the wee hours.  General Butler and his officers had been on the alert the whole time.  They had walked a tight rope. They didn’t know what to expect from the authorities ashore, both at the Naval Academy, nor of the civilian ones in Annapolis itself. It was a slave state after all, and hence held strong political and emotional ties to the seceded states.  And as the state’s major city Baltimore, had proved willing to resist the decisions of the Federal government, they were not sure which way this cat was going to jump.

On the other side of the coin, Captain George S. Blake, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy was himself convinced that the vessel off his station, having been observed descending from the direction of Baltimore, was filled with hostile elements bent on seizing the installation, its stores and weapons. Also at risk was the United States Frigate Constitution, posted here since September of the preceding year as a school-ship. Blake had orders from the Secretary of the Navy to defend her, or failing that, destroy her. To that end a sailor was kept in the hold of Old Ironsides, prepared to set a match to the 60,000 pounds of gunpowder stowed below.

In truth, both were men on the same side, yet neither knew. Both sides sent out feelers, that passed each other in the murk, and more misunderstandings ensued. By the first light of day, the two parties finally cleared things up. Both sides were going to get what they wanted. General Butler had a place to land his troops, the necessary next step on his march to Washington, and Captain Blake would get men to help defend the grounds, and most important of all, personnel to help man the Constitution.

Most of the Marines assigned to the Academy had been ordered to other stations prior to this.  Blake asked Butler if he could assign some men as a marine guard for the Constitution. Butler chose the Salem Zouaves and ordered them to transfer to the ship. He also put a call out for men who knew their way around a sailing vessel, a request easily fielded by companies recruited from the seacoast of Massachusetts.

So the soldiers made their preparations and breakfasted on whatever rations were left. And the Maryland came alongside the man of war.  And so E T stepped from one deck to another and became a marine for a time, serving on the historic and oldest vessel in the US Navy.

 

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.