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.

E T Hits the Big Apple

E T hits the Big Apple

A note about railroads of the period – they were wide-spread, especially east of the Mississippi, and the war would develop them further when their strategic uses were realized. But they were usually just lines between two cities, you would come in on one line to a terminal, cross the city on foot or some other conveyance to another station and then take another line to your next destination. It is this distinction that when grasped will go a long way in understanding how the events unfolded as they did.
E T and the Eighth regiment MVM left Boston from the Worcester station. They passed through Worcester, then on to Springfield. There one more company met up with the regiment – the Allen Guard of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They had come in on another train. The Allen Guard became Company K, assigned to lead the left flank of the regiment.
It was after 10 o’clock at night when the now completed regiment departed Springfield for New York City.   They travelled the entire night; a long sleepless night.
They arrived around 7am at the New York and New Haven depot at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 26th Street. It was another whirlwind, with no time to take in the sights. The local hotels feted them with breakfast, (the Zouaves were the guests of the famous Astor Hotel). By 11am the regiment had reassembled in City Hall Park and marched from there through crowds of well-wishers to Courtlandt Street. At the river they caught the ferry to Jersey City.
The rumors about what lay ahead were growing.

E T Leaves Home

E T Leaves Home

So, E T signed up on April 15th, but that did not mean that he and the SLI would be going out right away.  The President’s call was in effect, but it was up to the Governor of the state, in this case, Republican John Andrew, as to which regiments would be filling the state’s quota.

And the decision was in, the regiments being called up were the Third, the Fourth, the Sixth and the Eighth. The Salem Light Infantry was company A of the Seventh Regiment, and hence not slated to go. But there were certain factors in play behind the scenes.  The governor had been a guest of the Salem Company at an exhibition in the beginning of the month, and was impressed.  And Captain Devereux wanted his company to go, if it had the honor of being the “right-flank company of skirmishers,” the “point of the spear” in today’s parlance.  And the Eighth regiment was undermanned.
Besides this the governor was also stewing over another decision – who to send out as the brigadier general in charge of the Massachusetts troops. He really did not want to send the most obvious choice Benjamin F Butler. It was a trust issue. In the last election Butler, a Democrat, had supported the Breckinridge faction of that party, the very ones who were now pointing their weapons at Lincoln in Washington DC.
In Salem, through the 16th and 17th, time was spent in preparations and awaiting the governor’s decision. And the order came on the 17th, the Governor acceded to the Captain and that is how the SLI went out as Company J of the 8th regiment MVM, the brigade under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Benjamin F Butler. On that same evening, E T and 29 other recruits were voted into the company.
The next morning, the 18th, the SLI was mobbed by well-wishers at the armory. From there they had to push their way through the crowd to the train station, giving a “seven cheer” to one and all. (The “seven cheer” like the Rangers’ “Hooah” went like this. A count from one to seven, followed by the words “Tiger,” then “Zouave,” and then the object of their cheer).
And the first movement was to Boston where all the companies of the 8th were to rendezvous.

E T was a Zouave

ET was a Zouave

I remember seeing the word Zouave in the ending credits to the Danny Kaye comedy The Court Jester. The marching knights in that film were listed as the Jackson Michigan Zouave Drill Team.  They performed a very close formation drill. I recall a lot of stomping. (Loved the film, by the way – “the poison is in the vessel with the pestle…”).

A check with a dictionary described Zouave as a name for a French Algerian infantry unit, known for their colorful uniforms, a swinging stride, close order drill and unorthodox field tactics (i.e. forming themselves into pyramids to scale walls).  They came to notoriety in reports of their exploits in the Crimean War in the mid 1850s.
All these things being asides and context, another volume from ILL came and with it I got down to particulars. It was the history of the Salem Light Infantry, its story from inception to 1890.  It all began in 1805.  Civic minded men (exclusively of the Federalist Party) from the Salem community offered themselves in service by forming a militia company. They were just in time for the War of 1812. Most of the action however for this region took place at sea, but with the constant pressure of the British fleet offshore and their threats of invasion, the SLI was kept busy answering the night alarms. They were ready if the British showed their faces.
A run through the accompanying rosters turned up many names of Salem families: Derby, Lander, Peabody, Endicott, Devereux and yes Osgood, (and of later interest upon other discoveries – the name of Orne).
Over the years they did service in many ways: honor guards for important dignitaries such as Lafayette, Presidents Monroe, Jackson and Polk; annual training in summer musters in the field; and a constant round of entertaining and being entertained by other militia companies.
In February of 1860, a new captain was elected for the company.  He was Arthur F Devereux, just recently returned from Chicago. He had been a patent lawyer out there, in partnership with Elmer Ellsworth. Their business failed, but their side passion, involvement in the local militia group, excited the nation when they introduced the Zouave drill there.
And that is what Captain Devereux brought back with him to his home town. So by the time a year had rolled by the company was schooled in the Zouave way and was probably the best prepared company in the Massachusetts militia.
E. T. enlisted in the Salem Zouaves on Monday April 15th 1861, three days after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the day that President Lincoln had issued his proclamation calling for the state militias to come to the aid of the capital and to put down the rebellion.

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.