Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

The Rebellion Record—A Diary of American Events; by Frank Moore

April 20.—Plymouth, North Carolina, garrisoned by one thousand six hundred men, under the command of General Wessells, was captured by the rebels, after an obstinate and prolonged fight. The following account of the operations in the vicinity of Plymouth, and its capture, was given by a participant:

“On Saturday evening, April seventeenth, at about half-past five o’clock, the rebels attacked Fort Gray, on the Roanoke, two miles above the town, with six pieces of field-artillery. They were speedily repulsed, doing but little damage, except sinking our gunboat Bombshell by firing into her. She dropped down and sunk opposite Plymouth, much injured. On Monday they fired occasionally all day at Fort Wessells, and took it by assault on Monday night, with a loss of some sixty killed. Here our men fought like tigers, and the heroic Captain Chapin, of company K, Eighty-fifth New-York, fell. This little fort is about a mile from the town; in it we had about sixty men and four thirty-two pounders. Here, through mistake, the rebels fired on their own men, and, it is said, killed several of them. Our loss here, so far as known, was only two killed, beside Captain Chapin. Our artillery played heavily upon this fort all day Tuesday, ceasing at intervals. On Monday, at dusk, they drove in our pickets in front, killing one and wounding one; and at dark they opened and continued for two hours and a half a most fierce fire of artillery upon Fort Williams, our strongest fort, in which General Wessells had his headquarters during the siege. Fort Williams fired in upon them heavily, with great slaughter, and received but little injury, excepting the death of Lieutenant Cline, of the One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania. Just after dark, one of our gunboats opened upon them a most galling fire. The cannonading now for more than two hours was most grand, awful, terrific, and sublime. I stood upon the piazza of my own room, with shells and balls dropping around me. Men who had been in the Peninsula campaign said they never saw any thing to equal the firing here. One shell from our gunboat, commanded by Captain Flusser, who afterward fell dead on the deck of his own ship, it was said, killed three and wounded nineteen rebels. About nine o’clock all firing ceased, and the rebels retired to the woods in front of Fort Williams.

“The women, children, and our sick, were sent to Roanoke Island on Saturday night, together with a schooner-load of old negroes. Another load went on Monday night.

“About four o’clock on Tuesday morning, the rebel ram, with two guns, came down and swept out all our gunboats, upon which we had depended so much to protect the left and lower part of the town. The gunboats Miami and Southfield were linked together, and the ram ran between them, and ran into the Southfield, and she soon sank. Then the Miami went below.

“All day on Tuesday, the ram lay some two miles below town, and kept up firing all day, but with little or no execution, save perforating the houses. She threw shells most awfully swift. I could dodge balls from other pieces, but it would be hard to dodge one from her. Her guns are thirty-two pounders; a good many of her shells never burst. It takes her about eight minutes to load and fire.

“Early on Wednesday morning, about daylight, the rebels, with five brigades, commanded by General Ransom, (a part of Stonewall Jackson’s division,) made assault after assault upon the redoubt on the left, in which we had about two hundred men and four thirty-two pounders. Coming up with such an overwhelming force, they succeeded, with the loss of scores of killed, in taking this little fort, which let them into the town, up Main street. Shortly after their entrance into the town, about three hundred of us were taken prisoners of war, and marched nearly two miles below town, leaving our beautiful flag still floating over Fort Williams, with the brave General Wessells, his staff, and some two hundred men, still holding out, and refusing to surrender until ten P.M. on Wednesday.

“Their force engaged has been estimated at ten thousand, with a reserve of four or five thousand. Our effective force was about two thousand. Their killed and wounded, I suppose, is about one thousand—some put it at one thousand five hundred. General Hoke, commanding the rebel forces, was heard to say that their loss was about one thousand five hundred, Our killed won’t exceed twenty, and wounded not eighty; captured, including citizens, two thousand two hundred. They shot a great many blacks after the fight was over.”

April 19.—A party of eighty mounted rebels attempted an invasion of Kentucky through Pound Gap, but were driven back by a detachment of the Forty-fifth Kentucky mounted infantry. A band of one hundred and fifty guerrillas was also driven out of the State into Macon County, Tenn., eight of them being killed and ten captured, with fifty of their horses.—The English schooner Fanny was captured off Velasco, Texas, by the National gunboat Owasco.

April 18.—This day at noon, three guerrillas were discovered in the town of Hunnevillc, on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, forty miles west of Hannibal, Mo. A dozen of the citizens, some armed, mustered to capture them. They had been purchasing stores, and were then at the saloon of a Union citizen, Mr. Dieman. On the approach of the squad, the guerrillas drew in defence, closed doors, and fired upon the citizens, wounding a militia captain, but not dangerously. They also fired upon Dieman, inflicting a severe wound. The citizens fired, killing two of the guerrillas, and wounding the third, who succeeded in escaping from the house and the vicinity. —The Maryland State Fair, for the benefit of the Sanitary and Christian Commissions, was opened with appropriate ceremonies at Baltimore. A speech was made by President Lincoln, in which he referred to the changes that had taken place in Baltimore during the past three years, and to the Fort Pillow massacre, which he said should be amply retaliated.—The rebel schooner Good Hope was captured and destroyed at sea, by the schooner Fox, tender to the National steamer San Jacinto.—The rebel schooner Oramoneta, with a cargo of munitions of war, was captured off St. Augustine, Fla., by the Beauregard.

—An attempt to blow up the United States frigate Wabash, was made off Charleston Harbor this night.

April 17.—Fort Gray, near Plymouth, North-Carolina, garrisoned by National troops under the command of Captain Brown, of the Eighty-fifth New-York regiment, was attacked by a force of rebels belonging to the command of General Pickett, who was repulsed after having made several attempts to carry the position by assault.—An unsuccessful attempt to capture the steamer Luminary was made by the rebels at a point thirty-five miles below Memphis, on the Mississippi River.—The English schooner Lily was captured by the gunboat Owasco, off Velasco, Texas.

—A riot occurred in Savannah, Georgia, this day. Women collected in a body, with arms, and marched the streets in a procession, demanding bread or blood. They seized food wherever it could be found. The soldiers were called out, and, after a brief conflict, the most active and prominent leaders were put in jail.

April 16.—The report of the United States Commissary of Prisoners was made public. It showed that the number of rebel officers and men captured by the National troops since the beginning of the war was one lieutenant-general, five major-generals, twenty-five brigadier-generals, one hundred and eighty-six colonels, one hundred and forty-six lieutenant-colonels, two hundred and forty-four majors, two thousand four hundred and ninety-seven captains, five thousand eight hundred and eleven lieutenants, sixteen thousand five hundred and sixty-three non-commissioned officers, one hundred and twenty-one thousand one hundred and fifty-six privates, and five thousand eight hundred citizens. Of these, there remained on hand at the date of the report twenty-nine thousand two hundred and twenty-nine officers and men, among whom were one major-general and seven brigadiers. There had been one hundred and twenty-one thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven rebels exchanged against one hundred and ten thousand eight hundred and sixty-six Union men returned.

April 15.—The National gunboat Chenango, while proceeding to sea from New-York City today, burst one of her boilers, killing one man, and severely wounding thirty-two others.—A meeting was held at Knoxville, Tenn., at which resolutions offered by W. G. Brownlow were unanimously adopted, favoring emancipation, recommending a convention to effect it, and requesting Governor Johnson to call the same at the earliest period practicable, and indorsing the administration and war policy of President Lincoln. Governor Johnson made a powerful speech in support of the resolutions.—The Ninth Connecticut and Eighth Vermont reenlisted veteran- regiments arrived at New-Haven, Ct, this evening.—General John W. Geary, commanding Second division, Twelfth (afterward Twentieth) army corps, started from Bridgeport, Ala., on an expedition down the Tennessee, last Tuesday, taking with him one thousand men, and one gunboat They shelled along the banks of the river, occasionally routing a party of guerrillas and rebel cavalry, until within eleven miles of Decatur. Here they came to a large force of infantry, artillery, and cavalry. It was nearly dark, and the General ordered the boat up the river again. But the rebels were not to be thus trifled with, and sent a battery of flying artillery up both sides of the river to head off the gunboat. The artillery went up the banks, and got in position to play when the Nationals passed; but the night was very dark, and the General with his men passed in safety. The expedition halted ten miles below Bridgeport, at a small village, and sent out a company as skirmishers. They went in the town, drove some rebel pickets, and captured a mail and seventeen thousand dollars in confederate money. They returned to camp this evening.

—A body of rebel cavalry made an attack on the National pickets at Bristoe Station, Va., killing one man, and wounding two others of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania regiment They were driven off after a few shots had been exchanged, but carried their wounded with them.—The notorious guerrilla Reynolds, and his command, was surprised by a party of National cavalry, near Knoxville, Tenn., and ten of them killed. Reynolds and fifteen others were captured, together with their horses, equipments, and arms.

—The expedition to Smithfield, Va., which left Portsmouth day before yesterday, returned this day. A participant gives the following account of it:

“The expedition consisted of three regiments, the Twenty-third and Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, and the Ninth New-Jersey. Our regiment, the Twenty-third, alone landed at a point nine miles above Smithfleld. The others were to land below at that place. We took up our line of march, and within about one mile came upon the rebel signal corps, who gave us a volley and fled. We followed, meeting with no opposition for three miles, when we found them posted behind breastworks and reenforced. They were too strong for our skirmishers, and Captain Story, of company F, was ordered to charge the breastworks with his command, companies I and D, about fifty men; and lest this should seem small for two companies, I will say, our whole regiment only mustered three hundred men, and were put into six companies of fifty men each. We were ordered to fix bayonets, and then forward, every man’s eye being on the breastworks as he advanced toward it, expecting to receive a volley; but the rebels fled without firing. We pressed after them; and a mile further came to a mill-dam, with a bridge to cross, and discovered a turn in the road on the opposite side, where the rebels had posted themselves to advantage. A company was ordered into the woods to keep up a fire on them. The videttes were on the road watching the movements of the enemy, but kept themselves well covered, as we had already found they were good shots, having had two men wounded before reaching their breastworks. At this point, Sergeant Thomas Porter, of company I, a daring and brave young man, ventured beyond the videttes to get a shot, when he fell mortally wounded, the ball entering his shoulder, passing entirely down the back, and was extracted near the side.

“At this time we heard firing in our rear, and feared that the guerrillas would give us trouble by attacking our rear-guard; but we were determined to clear our way in front first, and Captain Raymond was ordered to charge across the bridge at all hazards, and disperse the foe, which was handsomely done, capturing the officer of the signal corps and two of his men, while the rest scattered in all directions, we not losing a man. In the morning we were informed that the Colonel’s orders were from General Graham, commanding the expedition, to reach Smithfield at such an hour, expecting we should meet with little or no opposition; but, as the prospect was, that every mile was not only to be disputed, but that we were going to have considerable trouble in our rear with the guerrillas, the Colonel concluded to fall back to the river, under the protection of the gunboats, as we had already three wounded men to get there, and no ambulance to convey them in. On turning back to the breastworks from which we drove the rebels, we took a different road from the one we came up in the morning, but had not gone far, before the guerrillas were following us, and a rear-guard was taken from company F, and they had something to do to keep them back, continually exchanging shots. The rebels were bold and daring; they knew every turn in the road, and would watch their chance to ride up and give us a shot, whenever opportunity offered. When within a half mile of the river where we halted, Corporal Hiram B. Lord, of Newburyport, was wounded in the thigh, the ball passing in one side and out of the other.

“We came to the river-bank and stacked our arms in front of the residence of General F. M. Boykin, who was a noted politician of the democratic school, as letters found on his premises proved, This place has of late been made the headquarters of the rebel signal corps. Here vas found a brass field-cannon in good order. A few rods from here is a fort which was erected at the outbreak of the rebellion, and was to command not only the river, but all approaches to it by land. In it were a number of large guns dismounted, and ten so damaged that they will never be of any use again. It looks as if it had been deserted for some time. Just before dark, our regiment took up its quarters in this fort, as it was thought it would be a good position, in case the enemy should come upon us in force. We had not been in the fort more than two hours, before we were ordered to go aboard the transport, and that night moved down to Smithfield; and the next forenoon the other part of the expedition came out, and we all returned to Portsmouth. A Lieutenant, belonging to frigate Minnesota who accompanied the expedition to Smithfield, was killed, and also an officer of the Ninth New-Jersey killed, and one private wounded. I believe those were all the casualties they met with. The Twenty-third had one mortally wounded, Porter, of company I; two seriously, Lord, of company I, Symonds, of company C; one slightly, Osborn, company G; and one wounded and taken prisoner, Thomas, of company F, who was sent with the quartermaster and another man to signalize the gunboats of our whereabouts. What damage we did the rebels we do not know. The other part of the expedition took some prisoners, two of them wounded; whether they killed any I did not learn. I think this expedition is the second made under the command of Brigadier-General Graham.”

—A forage-train belonging to the National forces under the command of Colonel Williams, of the Kansas infantry, was attacked and captured at a point about eight miles from Camden, Ark., by a portion of the rebel forces under General Price.—Leavenworth Conservative.

—The Richmond Examiner contained the following review of the situation: “Whilst the black cloud is slowly gathering on the horizon which will soon overspread the heavens, and, amid roaring thunder, discharge its flashes of lightning, a silence full of awe reigns through all nature, unbroken except by the painful soughing of the wind and a faint muttering in the distance. Such is the apparent quiet that oppresses our mind, and makes us bend low before the fearful storm that we feel in our heart is not afar off. Even the busy hum of preparation is hushed; what man can do to prepare for the fearful day has been done, and the South, at least, stands ready, like the strong man armed; the good knight, with the sword loose in its sheath, his harness bright and his heart full strong. Our men, after all their struggles and buffetings, riddled with wounds, broken by sickness, tried by cares, overcast by checks, are yet undaunted and unwavering; and once more, after imploring the Most High for his blessing, cast off the dust and ashes from their head, and rise at the call of danger, hopeful and confident as when they buckled on their maiden swords. People and army, one soul and one body, feel alike in their innermost hearts that when the clash comes, it will be a struggle for life or death.

“So far, we feel sure of the issue. All else is mystery and uncertainty. Where the first blow will fall, when the two armies of Northern Virginia will meet each other face to face; how Grant will try to hold his own against the master spirit of Lee, we cannot even surmise. But it is clear to the experienced eye that the approaching campaign will bring into action two new elements not known heretofore in military history, which may not unlikely decide the fate of the gigantic crusade. The enemy will array against us his new iron-clads by sea, and his colored troops on land.

“Europe will watch with nervous interest the first great trials made of these improved monitors, if it should be our good fortune to finish and equip our own vessels of that class in time to meet them on equal terms. For since Aboukir and Trafalgar—a longer pause than was ever before known in the history of Europe—there have been no great naval fights, where fleets have met and the empire of the ocean has been at stake. Great wars have been carried on by land, but the sea has not been the scene of like great conflicts. During this long truce, two new elements—steam and improved projectiles—have entirely changed the conditions of such contests.

“Vessels have become independent in their movements. Wind or tide may aid or impede, but they are no longer essential, and steam enables them to approach each other at will, untrammelled by external agencies. The power of the engines of war which they carry has steadily increased; and in precise proportion as the projectile gained in weight and distance, the means of defence were improved in the armament of vessels. Thus, we have now guns of a calibre unknown since the first days of artillery, and ships armed like the mailed knights of the middle ages. They promise a truly fearful character for the result of the first hostile meeting on a large scale.

“The experiments heretofore made with ironclad vessels have been but very imperfect trials. During the Crimean war certain ‘floating batteries’ of the French attacked the very strong batteries of Kinsburn, and silenced them with apparent ease. They were, however, mere iron boxes, having neither masts nor yards, and, in fact, in no point like the iron-clads of our day, with their plate armor at the sides and their turrets on deck. A trial on a larger scale was contemplated against the forts of Venice, when peace came and resigned them to the dockyard.

“In our navy, also, the vessels of the enemy have, with the exception of the fight with the Merrimac, attempted only the reduction of stone walls at Charleston. Successful in beating down brick and mortar, and reducing granite to atoms, their projectiles have been found powerless against sand-bags and heaps of rubbish. The only serious encounter that can be called a fair trial of iron-clads resulted in the destruction of the monitor Keokuk, by the superiority of our projectiles—steel bolts and spherical shot—devised by Brooke, the ingenious inventor of the deep-sea sounding-line. The Yankee gunboats occasionally, with their light draughts and powerful guns on pivots, have ascended our rivers with impunity, frightened the people on shore, and controlled the country for miles around. The prestige that attended them at first, and cost us so dear, has, however, completely vanished. Like every dreaded danger, they succumbed as they were fairly looked in the face. Now we know fully their vulnerability, and the perils of a water transport for troops, with their helplessness when attacked in boats.

“Since the first trials, however, the Yankees have made great efforts to remedy the evils that attended their early iron-clads—their want of buoyancy, their sinking too deep forward to approach well at certain landings, the necessity to tow them out at sea, and their slowness, which would embarrass the fleet to which they may be attached. They claim now to possess vessels as buoyant and free in motion as ordinary steamers, impenetrable to any known projectile, including the new Whitworth arms, and provided with a heavier armament than the last built iron-clads of the English. These they propose to carry into our harbors, and if we there can meet them, a conflict such as the world has not seen yet will take place. The famous deeds of our noble Merrimac will be repeated, and England especially will watch the result with intense interest, as she well knows that these Yankee iron-clads were, in reality, not built for us, but for British ports and British vessels. After Mr. Seward’s insolent despatch to Mr. Adams, which Earl Russell so conveniently ignored, they are amply forewarned.

“Another fleet of smaller but equally dangerous vessels has been built in the interior of the country, and there is no doubt that the Yankees will again send out the fleet of light gunboats, well armed and iron-clad, to force their way into regions otherwise inaccessible, to carry war to waters where they are least expected, and to overcome shore defences by a tempest of converging fire. They will again try to illustrate the powerful aid which a land army may receive from the kindred branch afloat, manœuvring on its flank, and supporting it by bold demonstrations. It is fortunate for us that we are both forewarned and forearmed. We have been steadily informed of the powerful engines of war prepared for our destruction. We have had our successes on the Lower James and in Charleston harbor.

“We have, just in time, received the instructive account of the first trial of an English-built iron-clad, the Danish monitor Rolf Krake, before Prussian batteries, and may derive great comfort from the severe punishment she has received by guns far inferior to those we hold in readiness. For we also have not been idle, and both afloat and on shore all is prepared to resist attack and to meet the foe on his own terms. Our rivers also will have less to fear, for repeated triumphs and captures have taught us the value of horse artillery and light movable batteries against the best-armed boats. Still, the conflict will be fierce and full of interest, not only to those who are engaged in it, but to all observers. Our fate is at stake; but we may, in all probability, have to perform the rehearsal of a fearful tragedy soon to be enacted on a still vaster stage, amid the crash of ancient empires and the uprising of powerful races in the old world.

“The other new feature likely to give a strange coloring to the summer’s campaign is the large force of armed blacks which our enemy is practising to employ. They have apparently reconsidered their first plan of using them mainly for garrison duty, and we see them, in Virginia and other points of attack, place them in the van, or send them, well mounted, on foraging expeditions, in order thus to harden them for war. Whilst it cannot be expected that they will ever fight with the bravery or gallantry of our own men, we are disposed to believe that they will be as soldiers but little inferior to the riff-raff of Germany and Ireland, which enters so largely into the composition of the Northern army. The history of war teaches us that the most indifferent material may be made useful by careful association, and it is a maxim of common experience that those who will not fight alone and by themselves, will stand their ground, if properly supported and surrounded by large numbers. It is never wise to despise an enemy, least of all when he is as yet untried.”

April 14.—Major-General Alfred Pleasanton was assigned to duty as second in command of the Missouri department, by order of Major-General Rosecrans.

—An expedition, under command of General Graham, consisting of the army gunboats, the Ninth New-Jersey, the Twenty-third and Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, the One Hundredth and the Eighteenth New-York regiments, and two sections of artillery, under Captain Easterly, left Fortress Monroe last night, and landed at different points. They concentrated at Smithfield, Va., this evening, and succeeded in routing the enemy, capturing one commissioned officer and five men—all wounded; also several horses and carriages, and some commissary stores. A rebel mail, and one piece of artillery, formerly taken from the gunboat Smith Briggs, were also captured. Fifty contrabands were brought off at the same time. The Union loss was one missing, and five slightly wounded.

—This morning, a force of confederate cavalry, estimated at some twenty in number, and supposed to be a portion of Captain Jumel’s command, stationed on the Grosse Tête, appeared in front of the village and park on the opposite side of the Bayou Plaquemine, La., and a party being detailed, crossed over and set fire to all the cotton at that place, while parties were at the same time engaged in burning that on flatboats at the village.—Plaquemine Gazette and Sentinel.

—Colonel Gallup, at Paintsville, Ky., while falling back to get an advantageous position, attacked one thousand rebels, killing and wounding twenty-five, including a rebel colonel, and capturing fifty rebels, one hundred horses, and two hundred saddles.

Near Shelbyville, the rebel advance ran into Colonel True’s advance, which was going from West-Liberty to Shelbyville; Colonel True captured six rebels, and then pressed forward to join Colonel Gallup.

April 13.—The rebel General Buford appeared before Columbus, Ky., and demanded its unconditional surrender. Colonel Lawrence, in command of the post, refused the demand, and the rebels retired.—The ocean iron-clad steamer Catawba was successfully launched at Cincinnati, Ohio.—The schooner Mandoline was captured in Atchafalaya Bay, Florida, by the National vessel Nyanza.—The rebel sloop Rosina was captured by the Virginia, at San Luis Pass, Texas.

—Last night the notorious bushwhacking gang of Shumate and Clark went to the house of an industrious, hard-working German farmer, named Kuntz, who lives some twenty-five to thirty miles from the mouth of Osage River, in Missouri, and demanded his money. He stoutly denied having any cash; but the fiends, not believing him, or perhaps knowing that he did have some money, deliberately took down a wood-saw which was hanging up in the cabin, and cut his left leg three times below and four times above the knee, with the saw. Loss of blood, pain, and agony made the poor fellow insensible, and he was unable to tell where the money was concealed. His mangled body was found to-day, life extinct. A boy who lived with him, succeeded in making his escape, terror-stricken, to give the alarm. After leaving Kuntz’s, the gang went to an adjoining American farmer, and not succeeding in their demands for money, they destroyed every thing in and about the place, took the man out, and literally cut his head off.—Missouri Democrat.

—The British schooner Maria Alfred, with an assorted cargo, intended for the rebels, was captured in latitude 28° 50′ N., longitude 95° 5′ W., by the National vessel Rachel Seaman.

April 12.—The English steamer Alliance, while attempting to evade the blockade, was captured near Dawfuskie Island, in the Savannah River, Ga. Her cargo consisted of assorted stores for the rebel government.

—Fort Pillow, Ky., garrisoned by loyal colored troops, under the command of Major Booth, was attacked by the rebel forces under General Forrest, and after a severe contest was surrendered to the rebels, who commenced an indiscriminate butchery of their prisoners, unparalleled in the annals of civilized warfare.— (Docs. 1 and 139.) •

—A detachment of the First Colorado cavalry had a fight with a party of Cheyennes on the north side of the Platte River, near Fremont’s Orchard, eighty-five miles cast of Denver, on the State road. Two soldiers were killed, and four wounded. Several of the Indians were also killed.—The steamer Golden Gate, from Memphis for Fort Pillow, laden with boat-stores and private freight, was taken possession of by guerrillas to-night, at Bradley’s Landing, fifteen miles above Memphis, Tenn. The boat, passengers, and crew were rifled of every thing.

April 11.—At Huntsville, Alabama, a caisson of Croswell’s Illinois battery exploded, killing instantly privates Jacob Engelhart, John Olsin, Win. Humphrey, David Roach, Wm. Mattison, and Horace Allen, and wounding George Barnes, and Wm. Regan. Several of the bodies of the killed were blown to atoms, and portions were found five hundred feet distant. The horses attached to the caisson were killed. The railroad depot was badly shattered. One citizen had his thigh broken, and several others were slightly injured.—Last night a gang of guerrillas burned two houses, and stole several horses on the Kentucky side of the river, opposite Cairo, Ill. — The Mexican schooner Juanita, while attempting to evade the blockade, was captured and destroyed by the steamer Virginia, off San Luis Pass, Texas.—The schooner Three Brothers was captured in the Homasassa River, by the National vessel Nita.