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The major contribution of the Coast Survey to the Union armies during
the Civil War was the production of topographic maps for tactical and strategic
use of campaign and theater commanders. There was great need for mapping
as the war showed "in a forcible manner how little accurate information
there was with respect to the topography of the interior of many of our
middle and southern States...." As many of the Army surveyors and topographers
were assigned to line duties during the war [many of whom had served with
the Coast Survey prior to the Civil War], "the want of a sufficient number
of topographers in the regular army was supplied, in answer to the calls
of the War Department and various generals in the field, from the Coast
The principle tools of the topographer during the Civil War were the
plane-table and alidade, supplemented by compass and chain. The use of
the plane-table for military mapping represented a technological advance
as prior to the Civil War "little was known, save in theory, of the value
of the plane-table as a reconnoitering instrument, and it is the testimony
of all officers of these parties ... that for rapidity and accuracy in
the execution of military reconnaissance it is more effective than any
other instrument." Most military mapping was reconnaissance mapping, as
by Coast Survey definition: "When there is any deviation from the closest
attainable accuracy in a finished plane-table sheet, it becomes, strictly
speaking, a reconnaissance map, and the rudest sketch of a country in which
the features are delineated in rough approximation, which for certain temporary
purposes is all that is needed, is likewise so called.... The amount of
accuracy and closeness of detail required depends solely upon the object
for which the survey is undertaken and the time and expense allotted to
it. It is always best, however, to strive for the greatest precision which
the circumstances will allow, particularly as the sheet may at some future
time become available for other objects than originally intended."(1)
As most interior areas in which the Coast Surveyors operated had no
triangulation network, the usual method adopted was to measure a base line
with an ordinary chain [twenty meters in length and comprised of 20 one-meter
sections] and then commence triangulating the area with a plane table.
In detailed surveys for the army, a base of one-half to three quarters
mile in length was sufficient for the survey of an area up to approximately
twenty-five square miles. An efficient topographer "with the usual number
of hands [i.e., workers] and a good sketcher for aid, in a country of average
variety of detail, in which all the houses, prominent barns and out-buildings,
streams, roads, general outline of woods, and approximate curves [contours]
are to be shown, on a scale of 1/10,000, an area of between two and three
square miles can be filled in daily, with not only sufficient accuracy
for military purposes, but so that an accustomed eye with 'the map in hand
would not discover any marked discrepancy.'"
Good topographic sheets would have closure errors of approximately 10
meters in two miles which was sufficient for most military purposes. In
heavily wooded areas, main roads would be run with the plane-table and
filled in by compass, which was quicker but less accurate. When using the
compass and plane-table together and the Army was stationary or moving
relatively slowly, the usual method of surveying was to run the plane-table
down a main road, "...the operator being accompanied by assistants well
practiced in the use of the compass. Upon arriving at any important road
or water-course, an assistant was sent to the right and left, starting
from a plane-table point determined by the chaining, and running as far
as was requisite and then returning to the main road again to repeat the
operation, the compass notes ... being kept in a book prepared for the
purpose. Prominent points determined by the plane-table were used as checks
in the compass work. The intervening topography, where no compass or plane-table
work had been done, was sketched in by the chief of the party, in which
accurate pacing became of great service." Although photogrammetric techniques
began supplanting plane-table mapping in the First World War, the venerable
plane-table was used up through the First World War and even occasionally
by military mappers during the Second World War.
The Coast Surveyors usually held a relatively high position on the staffs
to which they were attached. Oftentimes, they would be given a temporary
rank of either captain or major and then revert to civilian status upon
the end of a campaign. During marches and battles they occasionally served
as aide-de-camp to the Commanding General or as a trusted adviser. They
also served as guides when the occasion arose; as engineering officers
constructing roads, bridges, and defensive works; and, on at least one
occasion, rode with cavalry and took part in an attack.
At least five, and possibly many more Coast Surveyors joined the Army
with S.A. Gilbert brevetted Brigadier General for service in western Virginia,
Tennessee, and Kentucky; Richard D. Cutts brevetted Brigadier General at
the end of the war for service as a colonel on the staff of General Halleck
for the duration of the war; and George D. Wise brevetted Brigadier General
for service with the Quartermaster Corps including responsibility for all
Union Army Ocean Transportation. Ferdinand Hassler, a grandson of the first
Superintendent of the Coast Survey and an Aid on the Survey at the beginning
of the war, served with Union forces and attained the rank of Major by
war's end. Preston C. F. West served on the staff of General William F.
"Baldy" Smith for the first three years of the war, rose to Major, and
took part in over twenty major engagements.
Following the attack on Fort Sumter, the United States and the two-month
old Confederate States of America [South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida,
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas] were thrown into chaos. On April
15, 1861, President Lincoln called for 75,000 90-day volunteers to quell
the insurrection. This precipitated the secession of Virginia, Arkansas,
Tennessee, and North Carolina. With the entrance of Virginia, the Confederacy
shifted its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond in early June.
Thus, the war in the east would be fought primarily on the 100 miles of
territory separating the capital cities of the North and South.
General Winfield Scott, head of the Union Army at the time, realized
quite early the inadequacy of topographic maps required for the defense
of the Nation's capital. The immediate solution to this was to call on
the Coast Survey to provide up-to-date surveys and maps of Washington and
the surrounding area. Two Coast Survey topographic mapping parties commenced
operations in early June, 1861, under the dean of Coast Survey topographers
Assistant Henry L. Whiting. Sub-Assistant F. W. Dorr had charge of one
party while Aid Cleveland Rockwell had charge of the other. The Coast Survey
parties worked over the ground occupied by General Irvin McDowell's army
to the west of Washington and then continued out past his line of pickets
in the direction of Fairfax Courthouse to the west and as high up the Potomac
as the vicinity of today's Chain Bridge. This work was accomplished during
a time of great uncertainty as Washington felt besieged. A Confederate
army was encamped only about 25 miles away in the vicinity of Manassas,
Virginia. Adding to this feeling was the fact that Maryland had many citizens
with secessionist sympathies; and Washington, D. C., was soon to be blockaded
by the Confederacy with batteries overlooking the Potomac which stopped
commercial shipping from reaching the Nation's capital. Armed guards accompanied
the plane table parties, but work was interrupted on only one occasion
by the approach of hostile forces. Survey work continued in this area until
July 20; the last week of work was accomplished without any guard. Concerning
this work, Whiting reported,"The circumstances and conditions of the service
have required the constant exercise of watchfulness and prudence, and that,
I am happy to say, has been most judiciously displayed."
Given the proximity of the Confederate army at Manassas Junction, Whiting's
statement can be better appreciated. The following day, General Irvin McDowell's
Union troops met General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard's Confederate
forces at the First Battle of Bull Run. Although this battle began well
for the Union forces, a late afternoon flanking attack by reinforcing Confederates
drove the Federals in panic from the field in what became known as "The
Great Skeedaddle." Fortunately for the North, the Confederate army was
"more disorganized by victory" than was the Union army by defeat. As a
consequence, the South was unable to follow up this victory by capturing
the North's capital. Many illusions about a quick and easy victory by both
North and South were dispelled as a result of Bull Run. The North suffered
3,000 casualties while the South suffered 2,000 casualties. These were
unthinkable numbers at the time, although far bloodier battles would be
fought in the near future.
The Federal capital was thrown into a panic by the Bull Run disaster.
On July 24, Captain Charles H. Davis, Bache's friend and colleague on the
Blockade Strategy Board, wrote to his wife: "We are having an awful time
here in Washington. I have witnessed alarms on board ship, but those were
on a small scale. A panic in a great city, and that city the capital of
the country, is quite another thing. You know we speak of some people in
the common intercourse of life as being desponding, as taking a melancholy
view of things, looking on the dark side. But now, for the first time,
I understand what an alarmist is; and, next to an incendiary, he is the
greatest curse and pest of society in time of war or general calamity....
Mr. has been keeping everybody who would listen to him in a state of anxiety
by alarming statements, duly authenticated, that the enemy is approaching
in force, that our army is demoralized and disorganized, and, finally,
that the cause is lost. I told him that I was sick and tired of his croaking...."
The following night he dined at Superintendent Bache's with Captain
Du Pont and hoped that at least at his friend's home he would escape from
the incessant chatter of "war's alarms." Instead, "... the conversation
at the dinner-table was upon no other subject." He had no better luck when
he returned to his home as the landlady had just been informed "... that
the enemy would be here before the morning, and that we should all be carbonadoed
[sliced and broiled] and eaten...." and, if not that, then "plundered and
sold for slaves."
The day after the Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln sent for General George
Brinton McClellan, the 34 year-old "Little Napoleon" and self-proclaimed
hero of the West Virginia campaign. McClellan took over command of the
Union forces around Washington on July 27, and by July 30 Davis was able
to report: "Since General McClellan's arrival, there has been a manifest
improvement in certain things.... Immediately after the battle, there were
quantities of stragglers about the streets from the disorganized and demoralized
regiments, and many of them drunk and dangerous. A stop has been put to
this...." McClellan brought a return to near normalcy. General McClellan
also received a bit of advice from his old West Point Professor, D. H.
Mahan, "Let me say to you to cultivate Prof. Bache. He knows more
about men and measures at Washington than almost anyone you will find there.
He is sagacious, prudent and true, and may be of great assistance
Under McClellan, the Army of the Potomac began to take shape. From the
top windows of the Coast Survey office buildings, Superintendent Bache's
nephew, young Richard Wainwright, Jr., watched the training maneuvers through
a telescope. Young Wainwright had the "run of the establishment of his
uncle, Professor Bache, which he knew intimately from the weights and measures
in the basement to the computers in the attic."(3)
His father, Commander Richard Wainwright, was destined to be Commodore
David Farragut's Flag Captain during the passing of Forts Jackson and St.
Philip and the capture of New Orleans.(4)
Under McClellan, the Army kept taking shape. So much so, in fact, that
by early 1862, his leadership was questioned as he continued drilling his
army in Washington, D. C., while a hostile Confederate army remained encamped
at Manassas Junction. All of this inactivity by the Federals and the proximity
of the Confederate force initially kept many Coast Surveyors working on
the mapping of Washington and the surrounding countryside. The continuation
of the mapping of the area around Washington began in August 1861 with
a request by General McClellan to map the northwestern approaches to the
city. This work encompassed the roads and turnpikes from Tenallytown to
Brookville and those passing through Rockville to Great Falls on the Potomac.
This work was not without its hazards as, on September 21, Coast Survey
Assistant Preston C. F. West accompanied a reconnaissance to the west with
General Isaac Ingalls Stevens towards Lewinsville, Virginia. West was mapping
the country in front of Stevens skirmish line when the Union forces were
attacked by Confederates. West sent his unarmed instrument bearers to a
relatively safe area and then offered his services to Major General W.
F. "Baldy" Smith, who had just arrived upon the battlefield. Smith made
West his aide-de-camp and West served on Smith's staff for much of the
remainder of the war. West described this incident:
"...somewhat in detail, simply to illustrate the anomalous position Coast Survey officers then held; the Coast Survey, being a civil branch of the public service, under the Treasury Department, there were no military titles, rank, or uniform, to distinguish the Civil Assistants from the ordinary citizen; no emblem of military authority that they were entitled by law to wear; there was no cartel upon which a Coast Survey officer could be exchanged as such, if taken prisoner, and his duties at the front rendered him liable to capture; there were other drawbacks; after some lively experiences, I began to think that a military status was essentially necessary as I had to direct reconnoitering parties and was confronted with the possibility of an untimely fate if caught in citizen's clothes while conducting such work.
"To remedy this state of affairs, I obtained through the Commander of
the Army a commission from President Lincoln as Captain of the 1st Regiment,
District of Columbia Militia; this was a skeleton regiment at the time
and was not mustered in by the War Department; however I held that Captaincy,
as well as my Coast Survey position, drawing pay from the latter, and was
assigned to duty by Gen. McClellan as Topographical Officer on the Staff
of Brig. Gen. W.F. Smith...."(5)
To Preston C.F. West goes the accolade for being the first to understand
the necessity for military status for Coast Survey officers.
In October, the survey was continued north and west from Falls Church
and Chain Bridge. Very little army related field work was accomplished
during the remainder of the winter of 1861-1862. In early March 1862 Confederate
General Joseph E. Johnston decided his position was untenable at Manassas
in the event of a major offensive by McClellan. He withdrew to a line south
of the Rappahannock River. After evacuation of the Confederate position
Assistant Henry Whiting was directed to execute a minute plane-table survey
of the Manassas area "so as to meet any possible military contingencies
that might arise in the future."
Although the North reaped some measure of psychological value from the
Confederate withdrawal, Johnston's evacuation disrupted McClellan's plans
to sweep past the right flank of the Confederate Army by transporting troops
to Urbanna, Virginia, on the Rappahannock River, and march due west to
Richmond. McClellan believed that, if Johnston remained at Manassas, he
could arrive at Richmond before Johnston had time to move his troops by
rail to the Southern capital. Johnston's evacuation changed McClellan's
whole plan of attack. Instead, he chose to send his troops to Fortress
Monroe, situated at the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay, and use that
as his jumping-off point for the Peninsula Campaign. Fortress Monroe was
situated at the end of the long peninsula between the York River and the
James River. All that McClellan had to do was march straight up the peninsula
At the end of March, his army began arriving at Fortress Monroe and
on April 2, McClellan arrived. On April 4 the Army of the Potomac began
marching. On April 5 it ground to a halt as it discovered the Confederate
defensive works behind the Warwick River stretching across the peninsula
at Yorktown. This necessitated a siege and with siege warfare comes the
requirement to know the ground in great detail as an Army continues forward.
Existing maps and military intelligence of the peninsula were quite poor.
Captain Thomas Jefferson Cram, U. S. A., compiled a map of the lower peninsula
area from existing maps and the work of Army scouts; but he underestimated
the size of the Warwick River and had little correct information on roads.
Thus, McClellan called for assistance from Coast Survey mapping parties.
The Coast Survey party, consisting of Sub-Assistants F. W. Dorr and
J. W. Donn, arrived on April 8 and were soon on the front-lines. Sub-Assistant
P.C.F. West also was present, serving with Brigadier General W. F. "Baldy"
Smith, conducting surveys in the vicinity of Yorktown. Dorr and Donn worked
directly for Brigadier General Andrew Atkins Humphreys, the first Assistant-in-Charge
of the Coast Survey office under Superintendent Bache, and now Chief Topographer
of the Army of the Potomac. Over the next few days they worked to within
a short distance of the enemy lines.
Donn described mapping tactics within sight of the enemy lines and an
accompanying tragic occurrence on April 17, 1862:
"...Having completed all the work in the rear of the Army our next duty
was to approach the line of Confederate works and determine its general
form and position. The ground was traversed in this way from the York to
the Warwick River and thence to the James.... My especial duty along the
lines was to direct the running [of] short base lines with a steel tape
carried by two soldiers in a quick trot. F. W. Dorr with a plane table
would occupy the ends of the base and rapidly sight the lines of redoubt
batteries or breastworks drawing determining lines....A very few minutes
were given to each station but one unfortunate day Lieut. Wagner of the
Corps of Topographical Engineers came up to the instrument 'on station'
and engaged Dorr in conversation [within sight of] a small battery about
a thousand feet distant. The opportunity was seized by the Confederates
manning the battery who opened fire upon the group about the plane table,
comprising besides Dorr and Wagner, a number of pickets and my chainmen.
The first shell fired, a percussion, struck the tripod and exploding literally
blew up the whole group. Dorr escaped with a scratch but Wagner and one
of the chainmen were mortally wounded ... dying in two days. Three men
were killed outright and several slightly wounded. Nothing was left of
the plane table, and the sheet was torn in half and sprinkled with Wagner's
The Coast Survey report for 1862 in relating the same incident differed
slightly in particulars. Concerning the survey sheet, "...The part, however,
on which were represented the positions of the batteries and the desired
connection was fortunately uninjured. Lieutenant Orlando G. Wagner, of
the topographical engineers, standing near by at the time, was mortally
wounded as was also one of the soldiers, Private Jerry Luther, of the Second
Rhode Island regiment, attached to the surveying party. One of the pickets
was killed outright and several were wounded. The alhidade was blown from
Mr. Dorr's hand and the sleeve of his coat torn away, but he received no
personal injury except a slight scratch on the hand. He resumed the survey
at once with a compass and chain...." Although another plane-table was
sent promptly from the Coast Survey offices upon the personal request of
General McClellan,(7) Donn related that
this was the last plane-table work done during the Peninsula Campaign and
that further mapping was done by compass, chaining, and pacing.
On May 3 the Confederates evacuated the Yorktown area, just two days
prior to a planned major attack by General McClellan. Thus the South had
once again disrupted McClellan's carefully conceived plans. Lieutenant
Commanding T.S. Phelps, commanding the Coast Survey Steamer CORWIN, was
among the first to perceive that the Confederate Army had withdrawn when
he conducted a reconnaissance of the Yorktown area on the morning of May
4. [At this time, Phelps was the sole Naval officer on duty with the Coast
Survey in the East.] After reporting this fact to the Navy flotilla commander
in the York River, he was directed to proceed in company with the U. S.
S. CURRITUCK up the York River. The CORWIN shelled a company of Confederate
cavalry at Queen's Creek and then captured a schooner, a sloop, and a launch
a few miles above Yorktown. Over the next few days, CORWIN captured an
additional 2 schooners and one sloop. At West Point, the CORWIN assisted
in liberating "fifty prisoners from civil life... left there by the enemy,
in wretched condition and without necessary subsistence."
As the army moved in pursuit, Dorr stayed behind a few days to survey
the Confederate works at Yorktown. On May 5 the Army of the Potomac found
its battle at Williamsburg. The Confederates fought a ferocious rear-guard
action which held up the Union forces for a day while the main body of
Johnston's army pulled back to Richmond. P.C.F. West mapped the battlefield.
Following the Battle of Williamsburg, the vanguard of the Army of the Potomac
began pursuing Joe Johnston in earnest on May 10.
Dorr and Donn moved with the army and surveyed from Williamsburg to
New Kent Courthouse and then the roads leading to the temporary supply
bases at Eltham Plantation Landing and Cumberland on the Pamunkey River.
By May 16, Dorr's mapping reached White House on the Pamunkey, the ancestral
home of General Robert E. Lee's wife and where George Washington had courted
Martha Custis. The area around White House Landing became a major Federal
supply base within a few days for much of the siege of Richmond. Ironically,
the Coast Survey had surveyed Richmond prior to the beginning of hostilities
and the Union had excellent maps of the area around the Confederate capital.
On May 17, Donn surveyed westward along the wagon road and the Richmond
and York River Railroad as far as Tunstall's Station. The following day,
Dorr proceeded on a reconnaissance to the railroad bridge crossing the
Chickahominy River another seven miles to the west. The army moved up on
May 21 and 22. West, Dorr, and Donn all contributed towards mapping the
area north of the Chickahominy including Gaine's Mill, the Cold Harbor
area, and the roads diverging out from Mechanicsville. By May 28, their
mapping had shifted to the south of the Chickahominy as Dorr followed the
railroad as far west as Fair Oaks Station and then followed the Williamsburg
Road west past Seven Pines to the outer line of Union pickets. At this
point, Dorr was truly at the Gates of Richmond, only a few miles from the
city's center. Three days later Johnston attacked McClellan at Seven Pines
and Fair Oaks Station. Besides 6,000 Confederate casualties and 5,000 Union
casualties, the only notable thing about this battle was that Johnston
was wounded and relieved of command of the Confederate army. This was more
disastrous for the North than for the South, as General Robert E. Lee was
placed in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Over the next few weeks, McClellan moved his siege guns up to the front
in preparation for a major offensive. A tragic occurrence, which must have
affected the Coast Surveyors, was the death of Brevet Colonel William R.
Palmer, a career Army officer and topographic engineer on Brigadier General
Humphrey's staff, who died of typhoid fever on June 18. Palmer had long
been associated with the Coast Survey prior to the war, as he had been
chief of a triangulation party for many years and then had twice been Assistant-in-Charge
of the Coast Survey Office, most recently from 1858 until being detached
from the Coast Survey after the war had begun. He was also a personal friend
of Superintendent Bache and was his room-mate for a time at West Point
when Bache was an instructor at the Military Academy.
By the last week in June, McClellan had nearly completed his preparations
for what he felt was going to be the final battle of the Civil War. He
had only considered this last battle from the viewpoint that Robert E.
Lee would sit behind his defenses and allow the Union forces to pound his
army into submission with their superior artillery. However, Lee had not
been idle. In mid-June he had sent J. E. B. Stuart on his immortal cavalry
ride that completely circled the Union army. On this ride, Stuart ascertained
that the Union right flank, composed of the V Corps under Major General
Fitz-John Porter, was totally unprotected by either man-made or natural
defenses. Furthermore, it was isolated north of the Chickahominy River
as McClellan's 4 other Corps were encamped south of the river. Lee decided
to attack this weak point on June 26, beating McClellan's planned assault
by a few days. This attack precipitated the series of battles known as
The Seven Days. Although the June 26 Confederate attack (Battle of Mechanicsville)
ended with the Confederates receiving much the worse, Lee continued attacking
the following day at the Battle of Gaines's Mill. The Union forces had
fallen back to a strong defensive position in the vicinity of Boatswain
Swamp, near Gaines's Mill. The Federal line broke late in the afternoon
as the weight of Lee's army was thrown against the Union V Corps. Fitz-John
Porter retreated across the Chickahominy River and burned the bridges after
crossing. They arrived south of the river early on the morning of June
Robert E. Lee had won his first victory as commander of the Army of
Northern Virginia but at terrible cost. There were 8,751 Confederate killed
and wounded as opposed to approximately 4,000 Union casualties. Many of
the Confederate casualties resulted from their poor to non-existent maps
of the battleground while the Union had the reconnaissance mapping of Dorr
and Donn. Concerning Confederate knowledge of the area, Confederate Brigadier
General Richard Taylor wrote: "The Confederates knew no more about the
topography of the country than they did about Central Africa. Here was
a limited district, the whole of it within a day's march of the city of
Richmond, capital of Virginia and the Confederacy, almost the first spot
of the Continent occupied by the British race... and yet we were profoundly
ignorant of the country, were without maps, sketches, or proper guides,
and nearly as helpless as if we had been transferred to the banks of the
Lualaba [the Congo]."
During the Battle of Gaines's Mill, McClellan planned to move his supply
base to Harrison's Landing on the James River. In preparation for this
move, McClellan ordered all Union topographers to conduct a special reconnaissance
of White Oak Swamp, south of the Chickahominy. The objective of this reconnaissance
was to discover a ford across the swamp and any roads which led to it.
On June 27 Dorr and Donn reconnoitered the swamp and found both the sought
for ford and an unknown usable road. This was critical as there was only
one other known road through the swamp passing over White Oak Bridge prior
to their discovery. Dorr and Donn returned to McClellan's Headquarters
at Savage Station, sketched a map, and reported their findings to Brigadier
General Humphreys who immediately sent out a company of sappers and miners
to build a bridge across the newly found ford. The two Coast Survey topographers
turned in, thinking their services were completed for the day.
At 11:00 P.M., Dorr and Donn were summoned to the tent of General McClellan
where a conference was being held with Generals Humphreys, Marcy, and Sykes.
Panic must have set in with McClellan at this time as he ordered that Sykes's
Regular Division of 15,000 men with their artillery and wagons be thrown
across the new found ford by 5:00 A.M. the next morning. Sykes's Division
had been the right-most division of the Union Army at Gaines's Mill and
had borne the brunt of the Confederate attack. It was McClellan's intention
for that division and the remainder of Porter's Corps to proceed to Malvern
Hill to prepare defensive positions. Donn, who had found the road, protested
that it would be impossible to find the road at night as Union wagon trains
had been moving all day down the road to White Oak Bridge and had completely
altered the appearance of everything on the roadside. General Marcy remarked
that it simply must be done. With that Dorr and Donn proceeded to their
tent, gathered up their rubber blankets and other necessary items including
pocket compasses and notes from the day's work, and then reported to General
Sykes. They ordered their driver to pack up everything as they knew they
wouldn't be coming back. They then accompanied General Sykes to his command
and it was midnight before it was in marching order. Donn wrote of that
"...It was a terribly black night and a drizzling rain was falling as Dorr and I, two forlorn figures, rode away into the darkness.
"If I had not by instinct been a topographer with a good faculty for
remembering localities the regular division would not have crossed the
White Oak Swamp by the upper ford at five o'clock in the morning, and it
is hard to say what the consequences might have been. I knew by the change
of level in the road when I was near the entrance of the track sought for
and I called to Genl. Sykes to halt his command. I got off my horse and
with a candle examined the woods lying on the right of the road. I found
a track and followed it -- Dorr riding behind, throwing the feeble ray
of a candle as far forward as possible. With the initial bearing I passed
along the road until at a given distance I found that it was diverging
from the proper direction. Returning to the starting point search was made
for another track which was found. This too our examination found to be
wrong but the third time brought us into the desired road which I proved
by riding down it until three bearings and distances corresponded with
my notes made during the reconnaissance. We marched until three o'clock
when a halt was called and the command rested until daylight. I then turned
over the guidance to Dorr who led them across the swamp. Here I left them
and rode down the border [of the swamp] to the bridge and awaited the coming
of Genl. McClellan and his staff. Dorr returned during the afternoon and
reported that soon after reaching the highlands beyond the swamp Genl.
Sykes' command encountered a large force of Confederate cavalry just from
Richmond on reconnaissance and it was driven back. We came together at
a small school house half way between White Oak Swamp Bridge and Malvern
Hill where headquarters was temporarily established."
The following day, June 29, Dorr and Donn were sent in advance of the
vanguard of the Union Army to lead the way to Malvern Hill. At 11:00 A.
M. they rested at Malvern Hill and remained there until the skirmish line
came into sight and then proceeded on to Wilcox's Landing on the James
River. June 30 they returned to the Union Army Headquarters near the foot
of Malvern Hill and spent the day there during the Battle of Frayser's
Farm. The next morning, Dorr and Donn were summoned to General Humphreys
who stated: "Gentlemen ... the Army of the Potomac is in a desperate condition.
You have no recognized rank as military men and it will be best for your
safety in case of the worst happening that you get away from here.... you
are at liberty to return to Washington if you can find a way of doing so,
and I advise you to go." This demonstrated beyond a doubt the necessity
of imbuing Coast Survey Officers with military rank as Humphreys recognized
the danger these Coast Surveyors would be in if captured by the Confederates.
Preston West, on the other hand, remained on the staff of "Baldy" Smith
as he had status as an Army captain and fought in rear guard actions at
Savage Station and Frayser's Farm while Dorr and Donn as civilians were
guiding the Army of the Potomac to Malvern Hill.
Donn continued his narrative of The Seven Days: "No protest or expostulation
was of any avail so we packed the few articles that comprised our outfit
and departed. We rode to Shirley which had been taken as a hospital and
thence to Harrison's Landing. Several steamers had arrived there during
the night for hospital purposes but orders had been issued that only sick
or wounded with surgeon's certificate would be permitted to go aboard them.
As it seemed to be impossible for us to get away Dorr decided to go back
to Headquarters and refuse to leave the Army until proper instructions
were given. I told him I was sorry to leave him there but I did not propose
to go back but would endeavor by some strategy to go down the river upon
the first boat. I took charge of his baggage and we parted. I succeeded
by a stratagem in getting aboard a quartermaster's boat and in thirty-six
hours I was in Washington and reported to the Supdt of the Coast Survey
Prof. A. D. Bache who was in a terrible condition of anxiety regarding
the safety of the Army of the Potomac. I am glad to say that I did not
leave the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac in a panic and felt confident
that the Army could hold Malvern Hill against the whole Confederate Army.
So when I saw Prof. Bache I told him of the situation and described the
position of the Army and its general condition so far as I knew it, but
sufficient to greatly relieve him his anxiety. Dorr remained with the Army
of the Potomac two weeks after I left him and when Headquarters were established
he made a reconnaissance of [illegible] Run and the country down to the
mouth of the Chickahominy R. During this period he was attacked by a low
malarial fever which held him in its [grip] for many months. The seeds
of disease were sown however in his system which germinated in after years
and finally caused his death, long before he had reached his prime."
Donn left the Army of the Potomac on July 1, the day of the Battle of Malvern Hill. His estimation that the Union could hold off the whole Confederate Army at Malvern Hill was correct. The Confederates once again assaulted a strong Union position and lost 5,650 men killed and wounded to 3,007 Union casualties. Confederate General D.H. Hill declared, "It was not war -- it was murder." Thus ended The Seven Days. Lee had lost 20,000 men, a quarter of his army. Yet, he had demoralized McClellan resulting in his total withdrawal from the Gates of Richmond. Concurrent with McClellan's demoralization, the average Union soldiers were demoralized by McClellan's decision to continue the retreat to the safety of Harrison's Landing; they thought, and seemingly rightfully so, they had gained the upper hand. On July 3, Donn returned to the Coast Survey office in Washington while Dorr remained with the army until July 14.
McClellan's decisions in The Seven Days seem almost inexplicable today.
He had a greatly superior force that had out-fought Lee at Mechanicsville,
Gaines's Mill, and Malvern Hill. Yet, he retreated and lost the will to
continue the siege of Richmond. At Gaines's Mill, only one Corps of McClellan's
five Corps had held off the brunt of Lee's Army. However, this battle panicked
McClellan into a full retreat. During the Battle of Gaines's Mill, he ordered
the shift of his major supply base from White House Landing on the Pamunkey
River to Harrison's Landing on the James River. This move saved the Army
of the Potomac from a potential disaster as Lee was moving to cut off his
retreat to White House Landing. The shift of base and supplies was made
possible because of the reconnaissance mapping done earlier in the campaign
by the Coast Survey and Army topographers working for Brigadier General
Humphreys. Concurrent with shifting his supply center, McClellan began
falling back towards the James with his whole army. Lee had hoped to destroy
the Army of the Potomac before it could rest under the sheltering guns
of the Union Navy on the James River.
The discovery of the new ford by Donn and Dorr across White Oak Swamp
was critical to the movement of the Army of the Potomac during their retreat
and much of the Army crossed over the new bridge erected by Humphrey's
sappers and miners.(8) Without this bridge,
there was only one escape route across the swamp and a monumental traffic
jam would have most certainly ensued with much of the Army of the Potomac
trapped north of the swamp. One can wonder with Donn " what the consequences
might have been" had not two Coast Surveyors found the upper ford at White
The Peninsula Campaign was a failure with the exception of the forced
evacuation of Norfolk by the Confederate Army garrison in May in order
to reinforce Richmond. , the Confederate forces destroyed the ironclad
C. S. S. VIRGINIA (or the MERRIMAC as it was called by the North) to keep
it from falling into Union hands upon leaving Norfolk. This in turn, gave
control of the lower Chesapeake Bay to the Union Navy. It is possible that
the Army of the Potomac would have been destroyed without naval control
of this area as the Harrison's Landing base on the James River could never
have been established by the Union forces. Immediately following the evacuation
of Norfolk, Coast Survey topographers mapped the rebel fortifications on
the Elizabeth River including Sewell Point and Craney Island. Assistant
A. M. Harrison also mapped the destruction at the Gosport Naval Yard. He
reported: "It presented a sad picture of devastation. Excepting the officers'
quarters and one or two other buildings, all the edifices were burnt."
Perhaps the quarters were left in the misguided hope that they would someday
By December of 1862, J.G. Oltmanns was sufficiently recovered from the
wound that he had received on the Pearl River to report to Major General
Nathaniel Banks, commanding general of the Department of the Gulf. Aids
Charles Hosmer and H. S. Lyman also reported and proceeded to Baton Rouge
where Hosmer was attached to the staff of General Grover. Oltmanns in the
meantime was assigned to duty with Captain H.L. Abbott, Banks's chief topographical
Oltmanns and Lymans first conducted a survey of the right bank of the
Mississippi from New Orleans upriver which showed "every road, footpath,
canal, bayou, etc., leading from the levee or from the railroad to the
Cypress swamps...." Following this work, they were sent to make an examination
of the watercourses which connect the Atchafalaya, Red, and Mississippi
rivers to see if effective communication could be established. The goal
of this expedition was to discover a practicable route to bypass Port Hudson,
a formidable Confederate fort commanding the Mississippi River above Baton
Rouge. The United States gunboat KINSMAN was assigned for the use of the
Coast Surveyors. Maps and tracings had been made of the route to follow,
as well as a preliminary survey of the Atchafalaya River before the night
of February 23 when the KINSMAN struck a snag and sank in deep water. Although
Oltmanns and Lyman managed to save the surveys and themselves, they lost
all of their personal gear and much professional equipment with this disaster.
Six men were lost in this mishap. Superintendent Bache wrote to Oltmanns
following this incident: "I congratulate you and Mr. Lyman on your escape.
You appear to be cold proof, water proof, gun shot proof,...."(9)
Because of the unsuccessful conclusion to this expedition, Admiral Farragut
was compelled to attempt passing the batteries at Port Hudson and did so
with measured success on March 14. Farragut managed to pass Port Hudson
in his flagship, the U. S. S. HARTFORD with the U. S. S. ALBATROSS lashed
alongside, but no other Union vessel made it past the fort. Captain Thornton
A. Jenkins commanded the HARTFORD, a veteran of seventeen years on the
Coast Survey prior to the Civil War. Close behind the HARTFORD was the
U. S. S. RICHMOND, commanded by Captain James Alden, a veteran of many
years of West Coast service on the Coast Survey. Alden's vessel was struck
by a shot which damaged its boiler and made it necessary to return downstream.
Lieutenant Commander Andrew B. Cummings, the executive officer of the RICHMOND,
was killed in this engagement, leading Alden to eulogize his death: "In
this sacred cause has fallen the Christian gentleman whose death we now
lament; in this cause have fallen all the brave men whose blood has stained
the decks -- We cannot do our duty better, but at least let us try to do
it as well."
Farragut's passage of Port Hudson and subsequent isolation south of
Vicksburg added to the urgency of reducing Vicksburg or finding a way to
bypass it. During March, Oltmanns made surveys and reconnaissances between
Port Hudson and Baton Rouge. In April, he joined the staff of Brigadier
General Godfrey Weitzel at the beginning of the Bayou Teche Campaign. The
purpose of this campaign was to remove the Confederate presence on the
west bank of the Mississippi River adjacent to Port Hudson. This would
eliminate the cross-river supply system established by the Confederates.
Oltmanns made reconnaissances in advance of the army and also served as
an engineering officer helping build bridges. After the army had passed
Berwick, he transferred to the division of Brigadier General Cuvier Grover
and subsequently took part in the battle at Irish Bend on the Atchafalaya
River where a Confederate force under General Richard Taylor fought a sharp
engagement and escaped the Federals.
During the whole Bayou Teche Campaign, Aid Charles Hosmer was attached
to the staff of Grover and performed as an engineering officer constructing
bridges and as a battlefield messenger delivering orders at Irish Bend.
Although the Confederate forces in this area were not destroyed, they were
no longer able to supply Port Hudson. They also lost a huge amount of supplies,
perhaps making the accounts even for Nathaniel Banks, who was known as
"Commissary" Banks for his ability to lose military stores to "Stonewall"
Jackson earlier in the war. Banks would later regret that he did not crush
the Confederate forces under General Richard Taylor.
Following Irish Bend, Oltmanns made reconnaissances to New Iberia and
then was detached from the army and embarked on the gunboat CLIFTON to
continue searching for a route connecting the Atchafalaya and Red Rivers.
On April 20, the CLIFTON and the three other vessels of the expedition
engaged Fort Burton, Butte a la Rose, Louisiana, forcing its surrender
and opening the northern Atchafalaya to Union shipping. A Union officer
noted: "The fight was short, sharp, and decisive. It was done after the
style of Daddy Farragut. We rush in.... We rushed right up to it and the
four black vessels all firing made a savage appearance."(10)
The CLIFTON was disabled during this engagement. Lieutenant Commander A.P.
Cooke of the U. S. S. ESTRELLA, commanding the squadron, requested that
Oltmanns then accompany his vessel for the remainder of the expedition.
Within a few days, the ESTRELLA accompanied by the ARIZONA pushed through
to the Red River and established communications with Admiral Farragut.
Oltmanns remained with Cooke as the two ships and the ALBATROSS proceeded
up the Red River on May 4 and progressed as far as Fort DeRussy. Here they
engaged two rebel gunboats and Confederate cavalry near the fort which
resulted in the evacuation of the fort. Obstructions across the river prevented
further progress towards Alexandria, Louisiana, until the main part of
the fleet under RADM Porter came up the next day and pushed past the heavy
obstructions. On May 7, Porter took possession of Alexandria. Oltmanns'
work was finished for the time being on the west side of the Mississippi
River and he returned to the staff of Major General Banks to take part
in the siege of Port Hudson. While at Port Hudson, Oltmanns' horse was
shot out from under him and killed.
Although in most instances the Army was only too glad to have the expertise
of the Coast Survey to assist with topography and other engineering efforts,
at Port Hudson Oltmanns was left in a somewhat ambiguous position. Although
while working, he was "under constant fire of the enemy" and had "been
to within a few hundred yards of his strongholds...", Oltmanns complained
that at Port Hudson there was a large Army engineering staff and that he
had minimal work to do. In addition, in his quasi-military status he couldn't
draw Army rations or be given quarters. " For quarters I am indebted to
a friend who evidently has a few feet to spare in his tent. I can not buy
any provisions of the Commissary because I am not an officer and thus am
compelled to rely upon any acquaintance I may accidentally meet."(11)
Vicksburg fell on July 4 and Port Hudson surrendered 5 days later, the last Confederate bastion on the Mississippi River. Following the surrender of Port Hudson, Oltmanns made a complete survey of the Confederate defenses and Union approaches to that strong point. On September 4, Oltmanns was attached to the Army-Navy expedition to Sabine Pass, Texas. This expedition was meant to capture Sabine Pass and establish a Union base for operations
against the interior of Texas. Instead, it met with disaster on September
8 when Union vessels attacked the Confederate fort guarding the pass and
were severely mauled by Confederate cannon fire. Oltmanns witnessed the
disabling and capture of the SACHEM, the vessel on which he was wounded
during Farragut's operations against New Orleans. The SACHEM was totally
disabled by a shot through its boiler and the gunboat CLIFTON lost its
steerage and was subsequently captured following the engagement. No Army
troops were disembarked and the remainder of the expedition returned to
New Orleans a total failure.
In late October, Charles Hosmer returned to the Department of the Gulf
and reported to Major General Banks. He was immediately assigned to assist
in Union landings on the Texas coast at Brazos Santiago during the occupation
of Brownsville; at Aransas Pass; and at Pass Cavallo. At these operations,
he performed both hydrographic duty and land survey work. He traced out
changes to channels and buoyed them, located rebel defenses, and traced
shoreline changes. In early January, Brigadier General Grover requested
his services and Hosmer joined his staff at Franklin, Louisiana, and then
spent the next two months surveying and erecting the defenses of Madisonville
on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. This was done in anticipation
of Banks proceeding against Mobile if there was a successful conclusion
to the Red River Campaign.
Hosmer then accompanied Grover to Alexandria, Louisiana, for what became
the Red River fiasco. Oltmanns, in turn, had been assigned to the command
of Major General William Franklin in western Louisiana following the Sabine
Pass Expedition. As opposed to his problems at Port Hudson, he wrote Bache:
"I am acknowledged and addressed as Capt. of his staff and altogether my
position is agreeable and just." In regards to maps and tracings which
he sent Bache, he adds: "They were all made in advance of the march of
the Army and several times during heavy skirmishing.... As a general thing
I have to ride everyday in camp or on the march over 30 miles...."(12)
Oltmanns remained on Major General Franklin's staff and took part in
the Red River Campaign under the overall command of Major General Nathaniel
Banks. The objective of this expedition was to occupy Shreveport, Louisiana,
and from there to march into Texas. This was another joint Army-Navy expedition
with Porter's gunboats steaming up the Red River accompanied by a Corps
of Sherman's Army, while Banks' army was to follow roads paralleling the
river. Clarence Fendall, who had worked before Vicksburg a few months earlier
and had recently been at Chattanooga, accompanied Porter's expedition and
Hosmer stayed with General Grover. During the march up the Red River, Oltmanns
performed scouting duty and reconnaissance mapping. At Alexandria, he proceeded
in advance of the Union lines and discovered the Confederate pickets, and
then at Natchitoches he made a preliminary survey of the ground that the
Union army occupied. On April 8, 1864, Major General Richard Taylor, C.S.A.,
attacked Banks' troops at Sabine Crossroads near Mansfield, Louisiana.
Oltmanns served as General Franklin's aide-de-camp during this engagement
and at Pleasant Hill the following day. He experienced another close call
at Sabine Crossroads when his horse's bridle was cut away from his hand
by a shell whistling by. Sabine Crossroads was a Union defeat, but the
Confederates got the worst of it at Pleasant Hill. Regardless, Banks continued
to retreat prompting David Dixon Porter to comment that the campaign developed
into the spectacle of two armies running away from each other after each
had claimed victory.(13) Oltmanns then
made surveys of the Union entrenchments at Grand Ecore and performed staff
duty at Alexandria during the Union withdrawal.
After Banks helped Porter extricate his gunboats from the Red River
above Alexandria, Oltmanns concluded twenty-one months of continuous service
with the army in the Department of the Gulf by accompanying Major General
Franklin to New York in July where Franklin convalesced from a wound received
at Sabine Crossroads. By September, Oltmanns was back serving with the
army with Major General Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Upon return
from the Red River Campaign, Hosmer conducted topographical surveys in
the vicinity of Morganza, Louisiana, in the Port Hudson area, and similar
work at Fort Adams. Following this work, he was detached from service in
the Department of the Gulf in June. With the detachments of Oltmanns and
Hosmer, no further work was done by the Coast Survey in the Department
of the Gulf for the remainder of the war.
Just getting to Chattanooga in the fall of 1863 was a major accomplishment.
The Army of the Cumberland under Major General William Rosecrans had taken
Chattanooga from the Confederates under Major General Braxton Bragg in
early September and began the pursuit of what Rosecrans thought to be retreating
Confederates. Instead, Rosecrans met the full fury of Bragg's troops at
Chickamauga Creek, an Indian name meaning "River of Blood" on September
19 and 20, 1863, resulting in over 37,000 casualties between the two armies.
The Union Army fled back to Chattanooga while the Confederates laid siege
to the city. The only bright spot of this debacle for the Union was the
fighting of Major General George H. Thomas who collected the remnants of
the army's right wing and made his stand on Snodgrass Hill which saved
the remainder of the Union army from destruction during its retreat. For
his actions at this battle, Thomas was known afterwards as "The Rock of
Chattanooga sits in a huge bowl with Missionary Ridge to the east, Lookout
Mountain to the south, and the Tennessee River to the north and west as
the city is situated on a bend of the river. Across the river to the west
is Moccasin Point, a narrow peninsula formed by a sharp bend in the Tennessee
River at the foot of Lookout Mountain. Here the river suddenly turns back
to the north. On the west bank of this northerly flowing part of the river
and to the west of Lookout Mountain is Raccoon Mountain, much lower than
Lookout Mountain, but a prominence that assumed a strategic role out of
proportion to its humble appearance.
Lookout Mountain commands the river as well as Chattanooga. Rosecrans
made the error of not occupying this promontory while "digging in" and
allowed the Confederates to occupy it and cut off his river supply route.
This necessitated the establishment of a supply route over sixty miles
of terrible road through the mountains north of the Tennessee River followed
by taking the supplies across the river in small boats from a point just
north of Chattanooga. This road commenced at Bridgeport, Alabama, and ran
in a generally northeast direction. All of the supplies of the Army of
the Cumberland had to be taken over this poor road resulting in half-rations
In the early stages of the siege of Chattanooga, Brigadier General "Baldy"
Smith, then Chief Engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, requested that
Assistant Preston C.F. West and other Coast Surveyors report to Chattanooga
as rapidly as possible. Superintendent Bache sent out messages to West,
Clarence Fendall, F. W. Dorr, J.W. Donn, and Cleveland Rockwell to drop
what they were doing and report to General Smith. All arrived there eventually
except Rockwell who reported to General Ambrose Burnside at Knoxville in
Because of disruptions to travel caused by Confederate destruction of
railroads and heavy Union troop movements on operational railroads, it
took about two weeks to travel from Washington, D. C., to Bridgeport. Preston
West arrived in Bridgeport on October 14 and left the next day on horseback
in company with a Union general. He left his survey gear behind as there
was no room in the eight-mule team ambulance wagon accompanying the general.
It took five days to make this trip but not after leaving the "ambulance
twenty odd miles from here [Chattanooga], at Anderson's Crossroads, the
other side of the mountain [Walden's Ridge.] While we were with the wagon
we had to unload it four times and dig it and the mules out of the mud
at least a dozen times, and at last abandoned two mules (dying) and the
ambulance (broken)...." West continued: " Napoleon's trip across the Alps
could not have been worse than that of the waggoners [sic] etc. to this
Army. It has now been raining for over a week and still continues."(14)
It might be easy to dismiss West's comments as exagerration, but General
Ulysses S. Grant later reported that over 10,000 pack animals perished
on this road during the time it was in use.
West came to Chattanooga three days before General Grant arrived to
take overall command of operations against Bragg's forces. Grant had just
been placed in charge of the Military Division of the Mississippi encompassing
the area from the Alleghenies to the Mississippi River. He removed General
Rosecrans from command of the Army of the Cumberland and replaced him with
General George H. Thomas. "Baldy" Smith became Chief Engineer of the Military
Division of the Mississippi working directly for General Grant.
Smith wished to place West in charge of the Topographical Engineers
of the Army of the Cumberland with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and also
to invest the other Coast Surveyors with military rank as they arrived
so as to facilitate their work in the Chattanooga area. "Baldy" Smith is
generally credited with developing the plan that led to the relief of the
siege of Chattanooga. This plan was based upon knowledge and use of the
topography of the surrounding area. His offer of promotion to West in this
instance could only have been in relation to West's assistance in developing
the plan. Nothing seems to have come of this overture of Smith's, although
General Thomas offered the same position to F. W. Dorr following the victory
at Chattanooga. However, Dorr declined the promotion and assumption of
duties as official head of the Army of the Cumberland Topographical Engineers
because of the jealousies which he felt it would excite among the regular
officers of the Army, but he remained the de facto senior topographer in
the theater. Grant responded to a request from Superintendent Bache(15)
to give the arriving Coast Surveyors military rank following the precedent
set in the previous year by Major General James Foster in North Carolina;
Fendall, Dorr, and Donn were given the "assimilated" rank of Captain soon
West wrote to Superintendent Bache on October 23, 1863:
"Previous to leaving Washington, Mr. Hilgard spoke of the importance of extending the triangulation of the Survey inland and wished me to remember it while out here. I spoke of it today to Genl Smith, and he seized the idea at once and will mention it to Genl Grant at the first opportunity; he told me he had written a letter to the N. Y. Times some time ago in which he referred to the great benefit the Nation had derived from the Coast Survey and its officers during this war and the importance of extending it inland....
"Before acting any further on this subject, I would like to hear from
you privately, so as to be posted in your views for I am afraid that I
may overstep the mark but you can rest assured that if I understand what
you wish, as expressed by Mr. Hilgard, you can count upon the co-operation
of all the important generals out here."
In this letter lay the seeds of the geodetic survey of the United States
and the evolution of the Coast Survey into the Coast and Geodetic Survey.
October 24, "Baldy" Smith took Grant for a tour of the area surrounding
the city and unveiled his plan for breaking the siege. It involved floating
an amphibious force around Moccasin Bend in the dead of night and landing
them at Brown's Ferry west of Moccasin Point and on the east flank of Raccoon
Mountain. These troops would be reinforced by Union forces coming from
Chattanooga, crossing the Tennessee River on a pontoon bridge and passing
over Moccasin Point; and then they would use the rafts that had been floated
downstream for the initial attack to build a pontoon bridge over the Tennessee
River so communication would be opened from the city to Raccoon Mountain.
The Union forces would be further strengthened by the arrival of four divisions
marching from Bridgeport under the command of General Joseph Hooker. In
the early morning of October 28, this plan was implemented and worked perfectly.
Thus was opened the famous "Cracker Line", named for the hardtack brought
to the famished soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland at the cost of only
six men killed and thirty-two wounded. As a bonus, Grant then had 20,000
men in place to launch an attack against Lookout Mountain as well as protect
the route from Bridgeport to Chattanooga. This was one of the most brilliant
maneuvers of the war and was based on a firm understanding of the topography
The irrepressible Clarence Fendall was the second Coast Surveyor arriving
on the scene at Chattanooga on October 29. Fendall, unlike West, had somehow
managed to carry all of his instruments with him although he couldn't use
a pack mule as his planetable instrument case was too heavy. Instead, he
managed to obtain space on a wagon and was nine days in transit from Bridgeport
to Chattanooga. Fendall as at Vicksburg, where his only concern was to
obtain white gloves for assuring he produced the cleanest, best map possible,
was more concerned about the state of his instruments than anything else.
He relates: "After passing over sixty miles of the very worst road I ever
saw, I arrived here this morning. Being mounted I might have arrived much
sooner but was unwilling to leave my instruments, the boxes containing
which were twice bursted open by the rough roads. Had I not been present
to repair them, their contents would probably have been injured. I will
open and examine them as soon as a tent has been assigned to me."
The next day, Fendall was assigned to begin the survey of Chattanooga
and the surrounding area. Shortly afterwards Dorr and Donn arrived and
General Smith deemed it best to have them commence the survey of the city
and the surrounding area as Fendall was only on loan and would be transferred
to Vicksburg in the near future. Fendall's most significant work then became
the survey of Raccoon Mountain in the hopes of finding a better wagon road
to Kelley's Ferry, the discharge point for Union steamers bringing supplies
To this end, he was "furnished with a pack mule and cavalry escort"
and proceeded to Raccoon Mountain to look for existing roads along the
South Bank of the Tennessee River which might increase the efficiency of
the newly formed "Cracker Line." In three days in the saddle, he found
two old roads over the mountain suitable for wagons and "made a map of
the mountain, embracing all of the bridle paths, the U.S. and Rebel courier
routes, etc. I estimated distances by the time occupied by my horse traveling
over them and direction by prismatic compass; beginning and ending at already
established points. The map only amounted to a sketch, but was good enough
for the purpose. The General was in a hurry for results...." Recalling
his criticism of Alexander Strausz's work at Vicksburg concerning such
methods, it would seem that Clarence Fendall had since learned more about
the requirements of wartime mapping. Fendall received word from Bache on
November 5 to proceed to Vicksburg immediately. He left the following day
and arrived there on November 24.
Dorr and Donn arrived with their instruments after a two-week trip over
the Bridgeport to Chattanooga road. Donn related some of the problems associated
with this work in his report written many years later:
"Arriving at Chattanooga in the midst of a half starved army we reported
for duty to Genl. Smith. By his direction Dorr took charge of the Survey
of the Eastern approaches including Missionary Ridge while I entered upon
the survey of the river and the Western approaches including Lookout Mtn,
Raccoon Mtn and the valley of Lookout Creek. The plane table work here
was of a very difficult and trying character. The Confederates had learned
the significance of the white-topped instrument and it became a target
for rifled guns whenever it was seen. We had to seek secluded positions
and work with great caution but the work was advanced rapidly...."
Dorr and Donn continued their mapping efforts for three weeks. In tribute
to their efforts, General Thomas wrote to Superintendent Bache on November
22 acknowledging the work of West, Fendall, Dorr, and Donn in the following
terms: "In the short time they have been on duty at these Headquarters,
they have rendered most valuable service in reconnoitering, surveying,
and mapping the country." The "Rock of Chickamauga" had also been considering
an expanded role for the Coast Survey, perhaps as a result of West's and
Smith's influence as he continued: "Would it not be a legitimate branch
of the duties of the Coast Survey to have the important rivers running
through the country occupied by our armies accurately surveyed? As lines
of communication and supply it would be very important to possess information
concerning their adaptability to navigation at all seasons of the year."
This communication from Thomas was sent one day before Grant put in
motion the attacks that would lead to a crushing Union victory. One week
earlier, General W.T. Sherman and the Army of Tennessee had arrived at
Chattanooga. Paradoxically, Bragg sent Longstreet's Corps to Knoxville
to threaten the forces under Ambrose Burnside at the very time that Union
strength was increasing. Grant began feinting and maneuvering on November
23 in order to mask his intentions of having Sherman strike the north flank
of Missionary Ridge while Joe Hooker attacked Lookout Mountain. However,
the battlefield map produced by Dorr and Donn was not without its flaws.
Dorr and the army topographers working with him had missed a steep valley
separating a small hill from the north end of Missionary Ridge. Given the
working conditions, it is only surprising that more had not been missed.
This valley completely stymied Sherman's flanking attack and he sat on
the small hill looking across at the Confederates on the other side. Hooker,
on the other hand, forced the Confederates to evacuate Lookout Mountain
in "The Battle Above the Clouds" and removed any possible threat to the
supply line into Chattanooga.
On the afternoon of November 25, General Thomas's Army of the Cumberland
began a limited attack against the Confederate center on Missionary Ridge
hoping to draw Confederates away from the force opposing Sherman so that
he could continue his advance against the Confederate right flank. Instead,
the attacking Federals passed Grant's objective which was the Confederate
riflepits at the base of the ridge. 20,000 Union soldiers continued their
charge, advancing against a seemingly impregnable position. They stormed
the ridge, carried forward by their own enthusiasm and the fear that they
would be blown to bits at the base of the ridge if they remained in the
riflepits. It was a spectacle as grand if not grander than Pickett's charge
at Gettysburg. However, this charge, as opposed to the ill-fated Confederate
charge, succeeded against all odds. The Confederate center broke and Grant
won a great victory.
The aura surrounding Grant shined even brighter after Chattanooga. This
victory was a major step on Grant's road to the Presidency as he soon was
made the General-in-Chief of the Union Army and commanded more than 600,000
men. Following the battle, Dorr and Donn finished mapping the area around
Chattanooga that had been occupied by the Confederates. West and Donn accompanied
Grant and Smith to a new headquarters at Nashville while Dorr remained
with Thomas at Chattanooga. West oversaw the construction of the finished
battle map of Chattanooga and prepared it for printing.
The title of this map displayed two prominent names: "CHATTANOOGA" and
"MAJ. GEN. U.S. GRANT." The credits read "Published at the U.S. Coast Survey
Office, from surveys made under the direction of Br. Genl. W.F. Smith,
Chief Engr Mil. Div. Mis. by Capts F. W. Dorr and J.W. Donn, U.S. Coast
Survey, ... and from information relative to the battles furnished by Capt
Preston C.F. West, U.S. Coast Survey." Concerning this map, "Baldy" Smith
wrote to Captain Orlando Poe: "I forward with this [report] a map large
enough to show the strategic movements made before the battle, and also
a map giving the battle-field. These maps are mainly due to the exertions
of Captain West, U.S. Coast Survey, of my staff, and to the labors of Captains
Dorr and Donn..." Reflecting the value of these maps not only for reconstructing
military movements but as active tools during the battle, Smith continued:
"By them the distances were determined before the battle for the use of
artillery, and also the heights of artillery positions occupied by us and
Chattanooga was a turning point not only for Grant, but also for the
Coast Survey. "Baldy" Smith obviously had great influence with Grant at
this time, and he was a strong advocate of the Coast Survey and its value
to the Nation. He was also impressed with the value of continuing the triangulation
of the country into the interior for both military and civil purposes.
Grant could only have been impressed by the Chattanooga battle map and
flattered by the prominence of his name as displayed on the map. Eight
years later during his first term as President, he signed into law the
act providing :
"For extending the triangulation of the coast survey so as to form a
geodetic connection between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United
States... Provided, That the triangulation shall determine points in each
State of the Union which shall make requisite provisions for its own topographical
and geological surveys."
Although many other events went into the ultimate passage of this law,
the technical competence, bravery under fire, and political astuteness
of Assistant Preston West and the other Coast Surveyors at Chattanooga
had much to do with the passage of the act leading to the great survey
of the interior of the United States. Reflecting this major addition to
its functions, in 1878 the name of the United States Coast Survey was changed
to the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey.
After the victory at Chattanooga, John Donn was ordered by "Genl. Smith
by direction of Genl. Grant to make a reconnaissance of the Cumberland
River from the town of Carthage to the head of navigation at Point Isabel
for the purpose of locating a water route for the transportation of supplies
to Knoxville Tenn which was then being supplied by way of Chattanooga,
a long and circuitous route, or by way of Camp Nelson and Cumberland Gap.
I was instructed to examine all streams flowing into the Cumberland from
the south and report upon their navigability. I was placed in command of
the "Pilot Boy" an oak clad gunboat and joined a fleet of iron clads and
transports at Carthage. At Carthage, finding the "Pilot Boy" drew too much
water for Caney Fork, the first stream to be examined, I got a small steamer
drawing fourteen inches of water. About four miles from the mouth of the
Fork we struck the first rapids. Having made several attempts to remove
the obstruction it was found to be impossible and I returned to Carthage.
Careful inquiry showed that the stream was a succession of rapids up to
the town of Sparta - seventy-five miles above its entrance into the Cumberland.
"The fleet left Carthage when the river commenced to rise, the gunboats
leading. For a hundred miles or more we had a running fight with guerillas.
On the way I examined the Obey River and at the head of navigation, the
South Fork both of which I found even more impracticable that the Caney
Fork. While at Point Isabel the Cumberland began to fall and thus removed
much uncertainty as to my early return to Nashville by steaming. I thought
it important to get back to Headquarters as speedily as possible and to
that end I secured horses from the quartermaster at Point Isabel and rode
through Kentucky to Camp Nelson. From there I returned to Nashville. On
arriving I found Dorr hard at work making a survey of the northern approaches
to the city. He had declined Genl Thomas's offer after full consideration
because he was [???] that his acceptance would excite the jealousy of many
of the young officers of the Engineers Corps who were in the Army of the
"I was directed by Genl. Smith to survey the southern approaches to
the city and upon the completion of that work I relieved Dorr of a part
of that upon the North side. When all was completed Captain Orlando Poe
Corps of Engineers having in the meantime relieved Genl. Smith as Chief
Eng relieved me of duty and directed me to report to Washington which was
done about the close of March 1864."(17)
Following the Peninsula Campaign, Coast Surveyors were attached to various
commands up and down the eastern seaboard for the remainder of the war.
Coast Survey topographers were not involved in either the Second Battle
of Bull Run or the Battle of Antietam although P. C. F. West was at Antietam
as a staff officer. Because Assistant Henry Whiting had mapped the area
around Bull Run the previous year, the Federals did not suffer from poor
maps; but instead they suffered from poor intelligence and General John
Pope's overwhelming pride in experiencing their second major defeat in
the vicinity of Manassas. Major General Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who had
followed Andrew Humphreys as Assistant-in-Charge of the Coast Survey Office,
1851-1854, was killed at the rear guard action of Chantilly defending the
main Union Army from an attack by Longstreet's Corps of the Confederate
Army. This was a blow to the Union as he had been mentioned as a possible
candidate to lead the Army of the Potomac. Antietam was a battle of opportunity;
there was little time for Union topographers to compile accurate maps of
the area either prior to or during the battle. Following the battle, about
fifteen square miles, including five miles along the banks of the Potomac,
were mapped by a group of Coast Surveyors in the vicinity of Williamsport,
Maryland. This mapping was done at the request of Major General William
Captain Preston West was on staff to Major General Franklin during the
prelude to the Battle of Fredericksburg and as early as November 17, 1862,
was performing scout duty and determining routes for the Army of the Potomac.
During the battle he guided troops to their position with the Left Grand
Division of the Army. After the withdrawal artillery was positioned "on
the north bank, sweeping the plateau. The positions of these batteries
were pointed out by that able officer, Acting Aide Preston C. F. West,
U. S. Coast Survey."(18)
Other Coast Survey topographers played minor roles in the Battle of
Fredericksburg as Sub-Assistant C. M. Bache and Mr. T. W. Robbins had mapped
the north bank of the Rappahannock River with McDowell's Corps in May,
1862, while McClellan was on the Peninsula. Besides topographical mapping,
they supplied the center line and grades for a railroad bridge which was
being rebuilt across the river and the control points for a side spur which
was to lead from the main line to a foundry in the middle of Fredericksburg.
The Coast Surveyors began topographic work on the south side of the river
on May 26, but this work became too hazardous a few days later when the
Union pickets were pushed in forcing the evacuation of the topographic
party. Sub-Assistant Bache continued working opposite Fredericksburg on
the north bank of the river for the next five weeks and completed a substantial
area of approaches to the Rappahannock before returning to normal Coast
Survey duty. On December 9, 1862, he was detailed to join the Left Grand
Division of the Army of the Potomac under Major General Ambrose P. Burnside.
On December 12, Bache crossed the Rappahannock with Major General Franklin's
Corps. The next day, after 10,000 Union casualties, he returned with a
soundly beaten Union army to the north bank of the river. For the next
few weeks, Assistant Bache continued mapping the roads between the Rappahannock
River and Potomac River as far east as King George Courthouse.
The defeat at Fredericksburg was related to hesitation, a battle plan
gone awry, and Major General Burnside's unerring ability to find an enemy's
most impregnable position and then continue throwing troops against it
in piecemeal fashion. This latter ability was first demonstrated at Antietam,
at the bridge commemorated as Burnside Bridge, where Burnside wasted the
better part of a day and caused hundreds of casualties. He spent hours
attempting to carry the bridge over Antietam Creek, a mere trickle which
could have been waded in most places. Burnside's mesmerization with this
bridge caused McClellan to lose the opportunity to crush Lee's Army of
Northern Virginia and was the indirect cause of thousands of additional
Union casualties during the day's fighting. Perhaps Burnside needed a Coast
Survey hydrographer to place a stick in the water and tell him how deep
Fredericksburg, however, offered much glory to Brigadier General Andrew
Humphreys, Assistant-in-Charge of the Coast Survey Office, 1844-1851, who
led the last Union charge of the day against the stone wall at Marye's
Heights, the scene of 6,000 Union casualties. Just before leading this
ill-fated charge, Humphreys bowed to his staff and said: "Gentlemen, I
shall lead this charge; I presume, of course, you will wish to ride with
me?" Given the choice in those terms, his staff chose to ride with him
and five of his seven staff officers were knocked off their horses that
day. Humphrey's division got closer to the stone wall than any other Union
troops, and possibly Humphreys was the closest of all as he was riding
out in front.(19) This same Andrew Humphreys
had retired from the Army for a short period in the early 1850's because
his health had been broken by the rigors of Coast Survey duty. Soon he
was to become a major general and one of Grant's Corps commanders. Following
the Civil War he headed the Corps of Engineers for 13 years.
Five months after the Battle of Fredericksburg, Lee defeated General
Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville and began the invasion of the North that
culminated in the Battle of Gettysburg. As Lee was marching to the North,
great alarm spread through southern Pennsylvania. It was greatly feared
that the major cities of southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland would
be attacked. Coast Surveyors did not accompany the Army of the Potomac
on its march to the north paralleling the Confederate army, but instead
were engaged in helping prepare the defenses of Harrisburg, Philadelphia,
and Baltimore. The ever-present P. C. F. West was with "Baldy" Smith at
Harrisburg and Carlisle Barracks and then was dispatched to General Meade
at Gettysburg to inform him of Smith's position and readiness to block
the escape routes of General Lee. West "rode the circuit" of the Confederate
forces and arrived at Meade's headquarters on July 4. Meade detained him
for 24 hours and issued no orders for Smith to maneuver into Lee's rear.
William F. Smith attributed this to Meade not yet understanding the magnitude
of the victory that he had won over Lee.(20)
While Confederate forces under General Lee were invading Maryland and
Pennsylvania, Union cities as far away as Philadelphia and Baltimore were
becoming increasingly fearful that Lee would turn to the east and hold
them hostage for tribute or occupy them and cut off northern land communication
with Washington, D. C. On June 16, 1863, Superintendent Bache wrote to
the governor of Pennsylvania and the mayor of Philadelphia in response
to this potential threat offering his and the Coast Survey's services "in
anticipation of the movement of the rebel forces." This offer was responded
to by Major General N. J. T. Dana, in charge of Union forces at Philadelphia:
"I am advised by some of your friends here of your offer to make a reconnaissance
for the construction of defensive works at this place. We have no engineer,
and your aid would be invaluable if you are still able to renew your kind
offer and could come at once, with such of your corps as you can bring."
Bache reported on June 27 and took over the direction of both the reconnaissance
mapping of the approaches to the city and the erection of fortifications.
He arranged to have thirteen Coast Survey assistants and draughtsmen report
to the city. Demonstrating the technical strength of the North, he also
enlisted as volunteers the surveying and mapping staffs of several railroads
to assist in this effort as well as many engineers and surveyors from academia
and private companies in the Philadelphia area. Assistant Henry Whiting
was placed in charge of the mapping of the northern approaches to the city,
while George Davidson was responsible for mapping the western and southern
approaches. Assistant R. M. Bache selected numerous points for immediate
defensive works and with the aid of civilian volunteers quickly erected
earthworks at several of the sites. The threat to the North receded with
the defeat of Lee's army at Gettysburg, but mapping and construction work
continued for the next two months. Assistant Bache continued supervising
construction work for the defenses of the western approaches to Philadelphia.
Assistant C. O. Boutelle, who had just returned north from duty with the
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, planned and constructed one of the
forts on the western defensive line. Fortunately, these works were never
used, although Confederate General Jubal Early made one last thrust into
the North, attacking Washington, D. C., from the north in July 1864.
Other Coast Survey work in the eastern theater of operations accomplished
in 1863 included surveys of the Maryland bank of the Potomac in the vicinity
of Fort Lyons, triangulation and topographic surveys between Alexandria
and Georgetown, a survey between Fort Marcy and Langley, Virginia, and
an extension of the topographic survey of the southeast side of the District
of Columbia. At the end of the year, a telegraphic longitude crew was sent
to West Virginia to determine points for use in constructing the military
map of West Virginia. This represented the first precise geodetic work
accomplished by the Coast Survey in the interior of the country not related
directly to coastal surveys or western river surveys. This survey was often
hindered by Confederate guerrillas cutting telegraph lines, but time signals
were successfully transferred at all points except Charleston, West Virginia.
With the beginning of the 1864 spring campaign, Coast Surveyors Preston
C. F. West and Frederick W. Dorr were sent into the field to accompany
the expedition of General Benjamin Butler to the Bermuda Hundred area on
the James River. Frederic Dorr accompanied General Godfrey Weitzel and
was chief topographer of the Department of North Carolina and Virginia.
Assistant West, with the assimilated rank of captain, once again served
with General W. F. "Baldy" Smith in March and subsequently landed at Bermuda
Hundred on the night of May 6. On May 7, West commanded 110 Union troops
on a commando mission to destroy the railroad bridge over Swift Creek while
elements of Butler's command were fighting a "brisk engagement" at Port
Walthall. He reached the bridge with 10 of the men (having sent 40 back
and stationed another 60 in reserve) which was four miles in advance of
the Union lines. Unfortunately he found the Confederate reserve force of
1,000 men with arms stacked and drawing rations. According to West, "Five
minutes' thought told me it was a very risky place and I concluded to return
as quickly as possible...." He did this but captured a prisoner on his
return trip to Union lines. West was involved in a separate action on May
9 at Swift Creek. Butler was originally facing a small force of Confederates
and could have walked into Richmond; but by the time that he decided to
move in earnest, Major General P. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. A., had mustered
a force of 20,000 to oppose his movements. West took part in the battle
at Kingsland Creek on May 16 where Beauregard and Butler each suffered
approximately 4,000 casualties. Although Butler probably could have taken
the initiative, he chose to fall back to a line of entrenchments dug across
the peninsula formed by the confluence of the James River and Appomattox
River. The geography of this area was such that a Confederate Division
was all that was required to keep Butler bottled up in this area for the
next month. Beauregard's soldiers joked that they were running the largest
prison camp in the South.
Grant recognized the futility of Butler's position and ordered "Baldy"
Smith's XVIII Corps to join his forces in attacking the main body of Lee's
army in the vicinity of the North Anna River. West served as a guide during
this campaign and with a contingent of twenty men traveled up the south
bank of the Pamunkey River and established Smith's first communication
with Grant's army a few miles north of Cold Harbor. Guiding the remainder
of Smith's troops to the Cold Harbor area, West took part in the opening
day of the Second Battle of Cold Harbor (the Battle of Gaines' Mill during
the Seven Days is also referred to as the first battle of Cold Harbor)
on June 1 and then took part in the action of June 3 as Smith's Corps attacked
the Confederate defenses on the right. 8,000 Union troops fell in the opening
8 minutes of the battle. Cold Harbor, perhaps more than any other Union
disaster of the war, occurred because of poor to non-existent intelligence
of the nature of the enemy defensive works. According to Bruce Catton in
A Stillness at Appomattox, "Neither Grant nor Meade had ordered
anybody to make a detailed survey of the ground. Apparently they assumed
that the corps commanders would do that as a matter of routine. The assumption
was wrong, since Corps routine in the Army of the Potomac did not extend
to such matters, and so nobody knew anything of any consequence about what
lay ahead...." The real culprit was time. Smith, as much so, if not more
so than most Union leaders of the Civil War, made use of Coast Survey topographers
when time allowed. West certainly was capable of surveying his segment
of the Union line. Grant gambled that a quick attack would catch the Confederates
unprepared. In this case, his gamble failed.
Following the Second Battle of Cold Harbor, the opposing armies settled
in for what most thought would be a protracted period of trench warfare.
Instead, Grant shifted to his left and, in a move reminiscent of Vicksburg,
shifted south to the James River in preparation for crossing and attacking
the railroad junction town of Petersburg. Brigadier General Henry W. Benham
(Assistant-in-Charge of the Coast Survey Office 1853-1856) directed the
construction of a record-setting pontoon bridge across the James River
on June 15, 1864. This bridge, which facilitated the movement of Grant's
army across the James River, was 2,200 feet long and supported in its central
section by three schooners anchored in the river.
Smith's XVIII Corps was moved by transport from White House on the Pamunkey River to City Point on the James River as the vanguard of the movement on Petersburg. P. C. F. West was experiencing a chronic illness at this time which necessitated his detachment to the North. This finished his Civil War combat mapping and staff work as he did not return to the Army again prior to the end of the war. West served for three years with the Army and, being always active in the front, had participated in 20 battles. Because of his position as a staff officer to "Baldy" Smith and his presence at many major battles, West also had the opportunity to observe many of the most powerful men in the United States during the major crises of their lives. He was a fortunate man to live through the war without injury. Combined with his early work on the Texas Coast and then the West Coast, West led one of the more interesting lives of the mid-Nineteenth Century. After the war he went to work for Alexander Agassiz at the Calumet and Hecla Mine in Michigan and became the chief mining engineer and supervisor of that great mine.
Unfortunately for Major General Smith, he did not overrun the defenses
of Petersburg. If he had, perhaps the Civil War would have ended months
earlier, as Lee's railroad lifeline would have been severed. Unknown to
William F. "Baldy" Smith was that the apparently formidable defenses were
manned by only 7,000 Confederates, many of whom were not regular troops.
Because of Smith's inaction, the Confederates managed to reinforce their
Petersburg defenses prior to the arrival of the main body of the Army of
the Potomac. As a result, 10 months of siege warfare followed. Smith was
castigated for his inaction and was relieved from command in July, 1864.
He spent the rest of his life in acrimonious defense of his role at Petersburg.
In his autobiography which was written for his family many years after
the war, he laid the blame for this failure on General Benjamin Butler
and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that occurred between Butler
and General Grant.(21)
With siege warfare came the need for further detailed mapping. Coast
Surveyors John W. Donn and Henry Marindin reported to the Petersburg area
and commenced mapping for the Army of the Potomac. The following report
of Major Nathaniel Michler, although not mentioning Donn and Marindin,
indicates the nature of the work performed at Petersburg and the contribution
of the Coast Survey. On July 9, 1864, Michler became aware of the plan
to breach the Confederate lines by means of a large explosive device to
be blown up beneath their defensive works. To accomplish this required
an exact knowledge of the location of the Confederate lines as well as
the beginning point for the Union mining operation to commence. Michler
directed his "principal assistant, Major John E. Weyss, to commence on
the 9th an exact triangulation of the front of Petersburg, locating our
own line of work as well as that of the enemy.... By this triangulation,
performed under the fire of the enemy's batteries and sharpshooters, the
different spires and prominent buildings in Petersburg were located, and
having been furnished by Professor Bache, Superintendent of the United
States Coast Survey, with a copy of the beautiful map of that city and
Appomattox River prepared a few years ago in his department, I was able
to combine the two, and thereby obtain an exact and connected map of the
locality of our siege operations, covering the whole ground occupied by
On the morning of July 30, a huge explosion tore the Confederate lines
apart. Union troops stood poised to charge through the quarter-mile wide
gap that had been caused by the blast itself and the evacuation of adjacent
trenches by the Confederates. The Union troops went to the Crater and milled
about instead of charging through. Union leadership, once again under Ambrose
Burnside, had failed. The surveyors and miners had accomplished a wonderful
work which should have split Lee's army and led to the fall of Richmond.
Instead, Union troops were massacred in the Battle of the Crater. Only
4,000 casualties occurred, a small number by Civil War standards. But they
were so unnecessary, and if the soldiers had been properly led, the war
would have ended in the late summer of 1864.
Petersburg remained besieged until early April, 1865. Michler's map
served as the standard for the campaign, combining Army triangulation work
with Coast Survey work. As at Chattanooga, such a map of the whole front
on a common datum, immensely aided Union artillery. On April 2, the Union
Army broke through and routed Lee's Army. Confederate Lieutenant General
Ambrose Powell Hill, who had toiled for 6 years as the chief of the Drawing
Division of the Coast Survey, was killed by two Union soldiers while trying
to rally his Corps. Hill had the distinction of being mentioned in the
dying words of the South's two most famous soldiers, Robert E. Lee and
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
Following the evacuation of Petersburg, Lee headed to the west with
Grant's Army in pursuit. Among those pursuing Lee were Major General Andrew
Humphreys, commander of the II Corps, and Major General E.O.C. Ord, commander
of the Army of the James. General Humphreys had 6 years on the Coast Survey
as Assistant-in-Charge of the Office prior to the war while Ord had two
tours with Coast Survey triangulation parties, the last one on the West
Coast where he conducted survey work in Southern California. Humphreys
hounded the Confederate Army in this last campaign of the war, while Ord
was present at Grant's acceptance of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox
Although Lee had surrendered, the Confederacy was not quite finished.
General William Tecumseh Sherman was finishing his march through the Carolinas.
While marching through Georgia in 1864, Sherman had the advantage of a
single base map that all of his units worked from. When he issued orders
to various commanders, those orders were referred to specific locations
on the base map. Prior to beginning the campaign through Georgia and the
famous "March to the Sea," Captain Orlandoe M. Poe, Sherman's chief topographical
engineer, wrote to Julius Erasmus Hilgard, Assistant-in-Charge of the Coast
"I have just received yours of the 26th of April, enclosing proof-sheet of map of Northern Alabama and Georgia.
"I am directed by General Sherman, commanding the Military Division,
to perform the very pleasant duty of thanking the Coast Survey for the
promptness with which the map was gotten up, and its fine appearance. It
will be the standard during the campaign upon which we have just entered."(23)
Guided by the Coast Survey "standard" map, Sherman's forces marched
through Georgia and occupied Savannah on December 20, 1864. Captain Poe
requested that Coast Survey topographers accompany the Army in its pursuit
of the rebel army to the north. Poe directed the surveys of Sub-Assistants
Cleveland Rockwell and F. W. Dorr in Tennessee and requested that they
rejoin him at Savannah. By late January, Rockwell, Dorr, and two aids,
W.W. Harding and Franklin Platt, had reported to Sherman's headquarters.
On January 28, they were at Pocotaligo surveying Confederate works and
the approaches to them. After the Confederate withdrawal from Pocotaligo,
the Coast Survey party accompanied the right wing of Sherman's army and
witnessed the burning of Columbia, South Carolina, on February 17. Movement
was too fast to need detailed topography during this pursuit as the Coast
Surveyors were at Cheraw on March 4; Fayetteville, North Carolina, ten
days later; and Goldsboro, on March 23. There was a minor action at Averysboro
on March 16, where Joe Johnston fought what was to be his final battle
of the war. At Goldsboro, Dorr and Rockwell conducted surveys as Sherman
wished to hold that town with a small garrison. By April 10, Sherman moved
on Raleigh. A detailed map was captured showing the Confederate defenses;
thus, no plane-table work was necessary. On April 14, Johnston surrendered
after receiving notification of Lee's surrender. The Coast Surveyors were
detached and proceeded to the Washington, D. C., office for peacetime instructions.
Frederick W. Dorr and Cleveland Rockwell were among the first of the Coast
Surveyors to take the field in June 1861. Four long years later their war
came to an end.
Many Coast Survey civilian mates and master's mates served as Volunteer
Officers with the Union Navy during the Civil War while at least one served
as a civilian pilot and blockade runner for the Confederacy. The first
to serve with the Union was Aloysius J. Kane, appointed a Master's Mate
on the U.S.S. MOHAWK on March 14, 1861. Kane claimed that he was not only
the first of the Coast Surveyors to volunteer for naval service, but, in
fact, was the very first Volunteer Naval Officer to join the Union Navy
on the eve of the upcoming conflict.
It was not serendipity that led Kane to join the Navy 10 days after
Abraham Lincoln's inauguration as President. He had first-hand experience
in dealing with the insurrection of the Southern populace. A few months
earlier, he had been appointed Master's Mate on the surveying schooner
JOSEPH HENRY working on the coast of Florida. The commanding officer of
the JOSEPH HENRY, George S. Bagwell, deemed it necessary to appoint a loyal
Unionist mate because of "an emergency having arisen which necessitates
prompt action by the officers of the Federal Government" to protect the
vessel and complete the work of the vessel on the west coast of Florida.
As part of Kane's duties, he obtained "two Navy cutlasses and two revolvers
with suitable ammunition" from a Navy vessel at Key West in February 1861,
for the protection of the ship and its officers. This was not the action
of hysterical men. Two Coast Survey vessels and four revenue cutters belonging
to the Department of the Treasury had already been seized by Southern authorities
including the Brig WASHINGTON which had often been used on Coast Survey
Following departure from Florida and the arrival of the JOSEPH HENRY
at New York Navy Yard in March 1861, Aloysius Kane(24)
applied for and received his appointment in the Navy. By the end of the
war, Kane was promoted to the rank of Acting Ensign and served on at least
three ships: 1) the MOHAWK in which he was a watch officer and assistant
navigator; 2) the tug MERCURY which was standing-by to assist Union vessels
during the attack on Port Royal; and 3) the COMMODORE JONES which was sunk
by a torpedo (mine) in the James River on May 6, 1864 while engaged in
minesweeping duties. His duties on the MERCURY and COMMODORE JONES were
probably similar to those on the MOHAWK. Kane was fortunate to survive
the COMMODORE JONES incident as 40 men lost their lives when the vessel
was destroyed by a 2,000 pound torpedo that "exploded directly under the
ship with terrible effect, causing her destruction instantly, absolutely
blowing the vessel to splinters."(25)
Although Kane did not rise to high rank or command or pilot any vessels
in major actions, his experiences were probably typical of the role of
most Coast Surveyors volunteering for the Union Navy. They all shared the
possibility of being blown "to splinters" without a moment's notice interspersed
with the tedium of patrol, blockade, and transport duty. Although most
of these men have been relegated to anonymity in the annals of Naval history,
at least three Coast Survey sailing masters had illustrious Civil War careers
that deserve further notice. Robert Platt and William Budd contributed
greatly to Union Navy combat and blockading operations. The same knowledge
of the shifting channels and tides and currents of the southeast coast
that made Coast Surveyors valuable assets to the Union Navy, also made
those that cast their lot with the Confederacy natural pilots for blockade-running
steamers departing from southern ports. J.C. Carlin, who served many years
on the Coast Survey, was a successful Confederate blockade runner and displayed
great physical courage in a spectacular attempt to destroy the U.S.S. NEW
IRONSIDES off Charleston entrance in 1863. Following are their stories.
The Coast Survey had its own Billy Budd. More properly speaking it had
William Budd, Sailing Master. But as opposed to the hero of the Hermann
Melville novel, this William Budd was not a victim of circumstances. He
was a man who made things happen. When they did happen, they usually happened
in a way that William Budd was the better for them. His fighting prowess
was so highly regarded, that late in the war Secretary of the Navy, Gideon
Welles, was hoping that a Confederate commerce raider, the TALLAHASSEE,
would encounter Budd at sea, as "Budd, who commands the MERRIMAC, will
prove an ugly customer for the pirate, if he falls in with him."(26)
He was also a man whom events had a way of finding. He encountered and
retrieved the first Confederate mines, referred to as torpedoes, heralding
the beginnings of modern mine warfare; and it was he whose gunboat helped
support the first black combat troops operating east of the Mississippi
River. He was also a fortunate man. His capture of the British steamer
MEMPHIS netted him the single largest award of prize money of the Civil
War. He was a pioneer of riverine warfare and, in his way, was among the
first to understand the grim requirements of total warfare. He feared no
man, neither Confederate nor Union. He raised havoc with the Confederates
no matter what his role or command. At the same time, he showed no fear
of superior officers and even went so far as to write a letter to General
George B. McClellan, at the height of McClellan's popularity, complaining
about the ineptitude of senior officers in the Navy. He apparently had
more than a passing acquaintance with the Secretary of the Navy Gideon
Welles as he had many communications with Welles during the course of the
war. This extraordinary individual was one of the few volunteer officers
to rise to the rank of Volunteer Lieutenant Commander during the course
of the Civil War and commanded six United States vessels between 1861 and
First notice of William Budd in the records of the Coast Survey occurred
in the Superintendent's Report for 1858 when he was commended by Lieutenant
Edward Clark, U.S.A., Assistant in the Coast Survey. Clark reported on
the triangulation of Charlotte Harbor, Florida, and spoke of Budd in terms
of his intelligence and helpfulness. Again in 1860, Assistant George A.
Fairfield praised Sailing Master Budd for his "ready cooperation . . .
in the erection of signals and scaffolds required at the theodolite stations."(27)
Budd was then sailing master of the Coast Survey Schooner CASWELL. This
recognition of Budd was almost unprecedented for the civilian crew and
officers of Coast Survey vessels prior to the Civil War. It was even more
remarkable that Superintendent Bache chose to print this small praise,
as the sailors and crews of his vessels, with the exception of the Naval
officers, seemed to be virtually nonexistent to him and the Coast Survey
hierarchy. Budd must have been an extremely competent man to warrant Bache's
recognition. It would seem that he was also well-connected politically
On April 22, 1861, Commander James H. Ward, U.S.N., sent a message from
the New York Navy Yard to Gideon Welles proposing formation of "a flying
flotilla, to be composed of one larger and two smaller steamers, and three
light-draft schooners." The bearer of this message was Coast Survey Master
William Budd. Ward would command the larger vessel as would Lieutenant
D.L. Braine and Master Budd the two smaller steamers. The three schooners
would be the Coast Survey Schooners BAILEY, COBB, and DANA.(28)
The purpose of this flotilla would be "to serve on the Chesapeake and its
tributaries; to interrupt the enemy's communications; assuredly keep open
our own; drive from those waters every hostile bottom; threaten all the
points of a shoreline accessible to such a force exceeding 1,000 miles
in extent; protect loyal citizens; convoy, tow, transport troops or intelligence
with dispatch; be generally useful; threaten at all points, and to attack
at any desired or important one."(29)
In spite of the obvious hubris of this message with its assumption that
six small vessels would pose a threat to the Confederacy along the whole
extent of the Chesapeake Bay, Welles responded positively on April 27 detaching
Ward and Braine from their duties at the New York Navy Yard and noting
that "Master Budd, of the Coast Survey, has been detached from that duty
and will be connected with the expedition." This small force became known
as the Potomac Flotilla and its operations were confined almost exclusively
to the Potomac River for the remainder of the war. On May 17 William Budd
was commissioned a Volunteer Acting Master, and placed in command of the
armed steam tug RESOLUTE(30).
In the few weeks prior to the formation of the flotilla, the Navy relied
on the gunboat ANACOSTIA for reconnaissance work in the Potomac River.
Because of the constriction of the Potomac at Mathias Point, the Navy was
quite concerned that the Confederates would erect batteries at that location
and disrupt Union shipping proceeding up the Potomac to Washington. This
was particularly critical because the primary line of communication with
Washington from the north consisted of the railroad through Baltimore.
Although Maryland remained in the Union, the sympathies of many of its
citizens were decidedly secessionist. Consequently, the land routes to
Washington were subject to possible disruption during much of the war.
The ANACOSTIA made a reconnaissance of 45 miles down the Potomac from Washington
on May 15. Lieutenant Thomas S. Phelps, the last remaining Naval officer
on Coast Survey duty, headed this reconnaissance effort with a contingent
of Coast Survey personnel for making a hydrographic survey of the river.
No indication of batteries was observed at Mathias Point, but he noted
a battery being erected at Aquia Creek, a little further down the river.
One week later the Potomac Flotilla engaged in its first action. On
May 24 the RESOLUTE, ANACOSTIA, and THOMAS FREEBORN were part of the amphibious
force under Commander Stephen C. Rowan of the PAWNEE that captured and
occupied Alexandria, Virginia. This was the first landing of Union troops
on Virginia soil. Then on May 31 the U.S.S. THOMAS FREEBORN under Commander
Ward, supported by the ANACOSTIA and RESOLUTE, attacked the batteries at
Aquia Creek and then again the following day. Little work was accomplished
in the way of silencing Confederate batteries and little damage was suffered
by the Union vessels. The day before this action, Commander Ward conducted
a reconnaissance at Mathias Point and landed "with Acting Master Budd and
Master's Mate Lee and a small party of seamen and made a most minute exploration.
. . ." Ward was "able to speak with ocular certainty and . . . say that
not a sign of a movement, the cutting of a sapling, driving a stake, or
casting a shovelful of earth toward the erection of a battery exists. The
jungle is very thick, but we penetrated a belt of it 300 yards wide from
the shore and 3 miles in length, assuring ourselves of the facts. . . .
Because of heavy brush along the river banks, there was always danger
of ambush; Ward would lie dead from a Confederate bullet at Mathias Point
within a month. On June 3, Budd was ordered to provide Superintendent Bache's
good friend Captain William R. Palmer, U.S.A., Topographic Engineers, and
Assistant-in-Charge of the Coast Survey Office, and Coast Survey civilians
Charles Junken and William F. Sands with transportation down the river
to conduct reconnaissances of Lower Cedar Point, Mathias Point, and White
House Point. Palmer made "three sketches . . . giving the width and depth
of the river, the height and topographical features of the banks, etc."
The work was expedited by the presence of the U.S. Sloop of War PAWNEE
as "the proximity of her guns may have had a good influence on the rebels,
as, although I [Palmer] landed and scoured the woods at these places with
an escort of two officers and twenty men only, I was not disturbed by them."(32)
After this short reconnaissance, Budd went on an intelligence gathering
cruise to the lower Potomac and ascertained that the area on the Maryland
shore around St. Mary's and Breton's Bay was a smugglers' haven. Vessels
would load with supplies in Baltimore and proceed to the St. Mary's area
to discharge their cargoes. Then they would be loaded in small vessels
for clandestine transfer to the Virginia shore. Budd noted that "There
have been more provisions landed in St. Mary's within the last month than
the inhabitants of that vicinity would require for three years." To combat
the illicit trade reported by Budd from this area, Commander Ward outfitted
the three Coast Survey schooners of his flotilla with six armed men each
and stationed them at strategic points along the river. Budd encountered
another aspect of riverine warfare on this expedition as he reported that
Maryland natives had threatened the lightkeeper at Blackistone Island (St.
Clements Island) with violence and the light with destruction if it was
not immediately extinguished. The lightkeeper, to his credit, declined
to extinguish the light; and on relating this to Budd, he requested arms
and ammunition. Six muskets with ammunition were provided. Budd topped
this trip off with his first capture of an enemy vessel, the schooner SOMERSET,
which he burned on the Virginia shore.
For the next few weeks, Budd and the RESOLUTE were engaged in routine
intelligence gathering, looking for Confederate batteries on the Virginia
shore, capturing at least one vessel, the schooner BUENAVISTA, and burning
another. On the night of June 14, a Union schooner went aground just below
Mathias Point. This vessel, the CHRISTIANA KEEN, was boarded and burned
by a force of Confederate soldiers. These troops were suspected of firing
at Union vessels from the point and apparently had been quartered at the
home of Dr. Hooe, a descendant of early Virginia settlers who were keepers
of a local ferryboat service. In response to this, Budd landed at Hooe's
plantation on June 24. At the time of Budd's attack, there were a few troopers
on the Hooe premises, but Budd "dispersed them with a few rounds from my
bow gun, and before they could return in force I landed and fired the premises,
which were completely destroyed . . . I took a secession dragoon uniform
(officer's) that I found there, and destroyed everything else."(33)
Destruction of "everything else" became a Budd trademark by the conclusion
of the war.
Oddly, this punitive attack had the exact opposite effect from its desired
one. The Confederates apparently had given little thought to blockading
the river up to this point, but following Budd's attack on Hooe's home,
Confederate Brigadier General T. H. Holmes wrote to the commanding general
of the Confederate forces in Virginia: "The landing was effected under
the guns of the enemy, and doubtless was with a view to discover whether
we were erecting a battery there."(34)
Holmes goes on to suggest the establishment of a battery at Evansport instead
of Mathias Point because of its proximity to Fredericksburg.
Three days after Budd's attack, Commander Ward was killed while providing
support for a contingent of sailors he had sent ashore to cut trees and
brush in the Mathias Point area. The sailors were attacked by a large number
of Confederate troops; while Commander Ward was aiming a gun on the THOMAS
FREEBORN, he was struck by a bullet fired by a sharpshooter on the shore.
He bled to death within an hour.
Two days after Ward's death, the commercial steamer ST. NICHOLAS, running
between Baltimore and Washington, was commandeered by a force of Confederate
sympathizers. The idea for this hijacking originated with Commander George
N. Hollins(35), C.S. Navy, who had been
offered hospitality by Dr. Hooe the week before Budd's attack. The complete
plan involved taking over the ST. NICHOLAS, loading on board Confederate
troops, coming alongside an unsuspecting U.S.S. PAWNEE, and taking over
that vessel before it could react to a surprise attack. This might have
worked except the PAWNEE was in Washington for Commander Ward's funeral
on June 29.(36) In his report to Confederate
authorities on the ST. NICHOLAS affair, Hollins heaped invective on Budd
for his role in destroying the Hooe premises; paradoxically, he substantiated
Budd's interpretation of the role of Dr. Hooe as a Confederate sympathizer
and conspirator. Hollins reported that he had left Baltimore on a steamboat
on June 18 to defect from the Union and landed across from Mathias Point
on the Maryland shore from where he "crossed the Potomac in an open boat
. . . On reaching the Virginia side, I went to the residence of Dr. Hooe,
about 20 miles from Fredericksburg. This place I reached at 1 a.m. This
gentleman was a perfect stranger to me, but he received me kindly, entertained
me handsomely, he and his charming family so soon to be rendered houseless
and homeless by the incendiary act of the vandal Captain Budd, of the United
States gunboat, a name ever to be remembered, desecrated as the insulter
of unprotected females, firing into barns and houses, and everything but
what might be expected of an officer or a gentleman."(37)
The following day, June 19, Dr. Hooe chartered a buggy and personally drove
Commander Hollins to Fredericksburg. Perhaps Budd was a vandal and an insulter
of unprotected females; but Dr. Hooe was assuredly a Confederate sympathizer
and an active enemy of the Union. As a Union officer William Budd did right
in destroying Hooe's property, one of the first acts of total warfare against
the Southern civilian population during the Civil War. In a way, Commander
Hollins' verbal outburst against Budd was a grim reminder that few understood
the coming horror of the next four years where acts such as Budd's would
Two weeks after the destruction of the Hooe plantation, the RESOLUTE
was getting underway from its anchorage off Aquia Creek. Commander Rowan
of the PAWNEE happened to see two large casks secured by a line between
them floating down the river. He directed the small steam tug to investigate
the casks. Budd ascertained that each cask had two fuses, each about 40
feet long. Budd poured water down the air holes into which the fuses led
and then towed the "infernal machines," as he referred to them, under the
stern of the RESOLUTE. Rowan suggested that Budd tow them to Nanjemoy and
land them on the shore for inspection. While towing, one of the casks began
to sink and Budd attempted to raise it and place it on deck for inspection.
This first mine ended up sinking, but Budd succeeded in securing the other
"with its attendant torpedo, and hoisted the whole affair on board this
vessel complete." Commander Rowan suggested that the idea of the mine design
was to "drop it down with the tide, and at a suitable distance to set fire
to matches, and when it had swung across the cable with one of the machines
close under each bow, to explode in due time and destroy the ship." Rowan
continued, " The idea was a wicked one, but the execution clumsy." This
was the first recorded instance of mine warfare in the Civil War. It would
be well over a year before the Confederates succeeded in destroying a Union
vessel with a mine.(39) From there the
pace would accelerate and by war's end more than forty Union vessels would
be sunk or substantially damaged by Confederate mines.
Over the next month Budd continued reconnaissance and picket work. In
late July he sailed across Chesapeake Bay and entered the Pocomoke and
Wicomico Rivers for gathering intelligence and disrupting Confederate supply
routes. He captured a number of small vessels that he sent to the Washington
Navy Yard for adjudication and prize money. While on the east side of the
bay a force of Virginians attempted "to intercept and capture my vessel
. . . Six hundred riflemen were sent up with two fieldpieces from Horntown.
Happily, I got a hint of what was going on and dropped quietly down at
night below the point of danger. The insurgents came, but too late."(40)
Budd was in the thick of things once again on August 10 attacking a
Confederate supply depot and receiving camp for recruits from Maryland
near the mouth of Machodoc Creek, just south of Mathias Point, on the Virginia
shore. In Budd's words: "On going into the creek I was fired at with musketry.
I landed, destroyed the premises, and captured a large boat that arrived
from Maryland the night before. When I landed there was a party of secessionists
from Maryland in the house; they made their escape into the woods. I chased
them for a mile, but they got off. I took ten contrabands who belonged
to the person (Colonel Brown) owning the premises. Colonel Brown has been
the receiver and forwarder of supplies and recruits, and of course his
property used for that purpose is confiscated." The term "contrabands"(41)
was a euphemism for slaves. From Budd's terminology it is apparent that
he was aware of the political problems associated with such a capture.
No hue and cry arose from loyal slaveholders in Maryland or other slave
states as he had found a unique way in which to aid the slaves of secessionist
masters. Prior to this capture, it had been Navy and Army policy on the
Potomac to leave the Negroes to their own devices, and in many shameful
episodes officers had refused asylum to escaped slaves who came to United
States ships for protection and shelter.(42)
Budd's "capture" of the slaves with the attendant explanation that they
were confiscated property that had been used to aid and abet the enemy
was so extraordinary that Commander Thomas T. Craven, the new commander
of the Potomac Flotilla, sent Budd to Washington to see Navy Secretary
Welles and report to him "the circumstances attending the capture of ten
negroes, who have been returned to his vessel to await your further orders."
From the official records it is unclear what became of these contrabands.
It can be fairly assumed that they were not returned to Colonel Brown or
that they ever again aided and abetted the Confederacy.
Five days after Budd's destruction of the Machodoc Creek receiving depot,
the RESOLUTE left the Aquia Creek anchorage to make a reconnaissance of
Mathias Point. Budd observed a schooner aground at Lower Cedar Point and
sent a boat crew to capture it. At this point Budd's luck went sour for
one of the few times of his Civil War Naval career. The boat crew "had
just reached her and were in the act of making fast when a volley of musketry
was fired from the adjoining bushes, not more than five or six yards distant,
instantly killing three of the boat's crew and wounding another." Budd
opened fire with cannon, threw shells into the bushes hiding the enemy,
and scattered their force. While Budd was shelling the attacking force,
the survivors of the boat crew succeeded in getting the boat off from near
the shore. The RELIANCE came up and aided in "throwing shell at the flying
enemy" and also sent a boat to aid Budd's stricken craft. After recovering
its boat which was "completely riddled, particularly in the after part,"
the RESOLUTE returned to Aquia Creek from where the flotilla commander
ordered Budd to proceed to the Washington Navy Yard with his dead and wounded.
Prior to setting out for Mathias Point on the morning of August 15,
Acting Master Budd began composing a remarkable letter. The letter was
all the more remarkable coming from a low ranking volunteer officer who
was in command of a tugboat, albeit a fighting tugboat. Budd wrote to Major
General George Brinton McClellan, who three weeks before had been made
head of the Army of the Potomac and the defenses of Washington, D.C. McClellan
at this time was arguably the most influential man in the United States.
He was touted as a young Napoleon and was riding a crest of popularity
from victories in northwestern Virginia that assured the loyalty of that
strategically important area for the Union. These victories cast him in
the role of the perceived Savior of the Union following Irvin McDowell's
defeat at Bull Run.
Budd began his letter to McClellan while still at anchor at Aquia Creek:
" SIR: The whole naval force in the Potomac, with the exception of the brig PERRY, at Alexandria, is now at anchor at this point. The squadron consists of the PAWNEE, POCAHONTAS, ICE BOAT, YANKEE, FREEBORN, RESOLUTE, and RELIANCE.
There is not a single Federal gun between Aquia Creek and Fort Washington, nor from Aquia to the mouth of the Rappahannock.
I would call your attention to the fact that close to the mouth of Potomac, in Virginia, are two rivers (Coan and Yeocomico), both capable of admitting vessels drawing 12 feet of water.
Also, between the Potomac and Rappahannock, there is an estuary (Great Wicomico River), also having a depth of 14 feet. These inlets possess admirable facilities for concealing vessels and boats, and are all unguarded. You will see by consulting any map of the country that there is an abundance of land and water communication from these places to the Rappahannock.
The enemy has within a short time cut down all the woods and large trees on Brent's Point (which forms one side of Aquia Creek), so as to enable him to sweep the point with guns, which have lately been placed in position on the opposite side of the creek, and are as yet masked, his object being to guard himself from any attempt to land above and out of the range of his main works. Last night he threw up an earthwork connecting two of his hill batteries, about 1,200 yards distant from each other. While I write this, he is fortifying a ravine between Potomac and Aquia Creeks. The PAWNEE is within good shelling distance looking at the performance. His rifle guns will hunt her out of that when he gets them in position. The enemy is evidently strengthening his position by every possible means. We do nothing.
I suppose if anything takes place here we are all to fight on our own hook, as we have no plan of signals, organization, or attack.
The promised increase of force has not yet arrived, and the enemy has the river to himself above and below us."
As Budd had written this portion of his letter to McClellan prior to
the action at Lower Cedar Point, one cannot blame the boldness of this
letter upon a state-of-mind brought about by the loss of three of his crew.
He continued on with this letter after returning to Aquia Creek:
"2 P.M. I have just returned from an examination of Mathias Point .
. . I fell on a party of about thirty Confederates. We had a brush. I lost
three killed and one wounded, but cannot tell the loss on the other side.
I hunted them out of their cover with shell and shrapnel, but only one
of their number was actually seen by me to be killed. I was not in force
to penetrate the cover after they abandoned it."
Budd finished this letter to Major General McClellan with a statement
of virtually unparallelled audacity. At a time when officers could be put
under arrest and subjected to court martial for publicly criticizing their
superiors, Budd requested, "Will you not change the policy of the naval
force and Department, and compel them to drop Micawber's(43)
role and do something?" Perhaps General McClellan took note of Budd's letter.
However, on August 18, McClellan wrote to Brigadier General Charles P.
Stone that he believed that the Confederates were massing to cross the
Potomac near Poolesville, Maryland, or at Aquia Creek "where they are erecting
strong batteries."(44) It is possible that
the gunboats were massed at Aquia Creek to help prevent a Confederate attempt
to cross the Potomac. Two days after McClellan's letter to Stone, Secretary
of the Navy Gideon Welles wrote to Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War,
urging the necessity of occupying and fortifying Mathias Point in order
to keep open the navigation of the Potomac. Welles wished this to be a
joint Army-Navy venture certainly dispelling the notion that the Navy was
playing "Micawber's role."
Over the next week, Budd cruised on the Potomac gathering intelligence
and hoping to capture the occasional prize. His service on the Potomac
came abruptly to an end on August 26. Commander J.W. Livingston of the
U.S.S. PENGUIN wrote to the Potomac Flotilla Commander, "Captain Budd,
of the RESOLUTE, yesterday unfortunately was disabled by wounding his foot,
which will lay him up for some time."(45)
As there is no other reference to this incident in the Official Records
of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, it
can only be wondered if Budd had shot himself in the foot literally or
It was not long until William Budd was back in action. On October 11,
1861, he was ordered to assume command of the armed sidewheel steamer ELLEN(46)
attached to the South Atlantic Blockading squadron. Over the next few months
he was assigned to various locations and expeditions on the southeast coast.
In late December the ELLEN proceeded to Tybee Roads from Port Royal but
then returned by the first week in January 1862, to assist in an amphibious
operation with troops under Brigadier General Isaac Ingalls Stevens. The
ELLEN's mission in this action was to proceed up the Broad River and Whale
Branch with the gunboat SENECA, under Lieutenant Daniel Ammen, and attack
the Confederate gun emplacements at Seabrook and Port Royal Ferry.(47)
Budd's duty for the next three months was similar to the Broad River/ Whale
Branch expedition. In late January he accompanied an expedition led by
Commander Charles H. Davis into Wassaw Sound who was conducting reconnaissance
surveys for obstructions in the waterways leading to the Savannah River.
A few weeks later the ELLEN was sent from Port Royal back to Tybee Roads
and Wassaw Sound and commenced guarding Lazaretto Creek near the entrance
to the Savannah River with orders "to seize anything attempting to pass
In early March, the ELLEN accompanied the U.S.S. PAWNEE, U.S.S. OTTAWA,
and the cutters of the U.S.S. WABASH to Fernandina, Florida. On the first
day of this expedition Fort Clinch and Fernandina were given up by the
Confederates without a fight, and the cutters of the WABASH captured the
rebel steamer DARLINGTON. The DARLINGTON carried a Confederate Army surgeon
whose personal effects were on a small schooner that was captured at the
same time. Acting Master Budd was attached to the cutters of the WABASH
and was among the first to board this schooner. Showing the muddled rules
and inconsistencies of the war while it was yet a year old, Flag-Officer
Samuel F. Du Pont received a complaint alleging that Budd had appropriated
some of the surgeon's personal property. Du Pont immediately wrote Budd
requesting to know if Budd had taken any personal effects, "and should
any of these things from her, having been considered a prize, have found
their way on board the ELLEN, you will see that they are instantly returned
to Dr. Lungren, a prisoner of war, whose private chattels should be respected
. . . I understand that Dr. Lungren, having permission, visited your ship,
and was rudely treated by you. I desire explanation on this head also."(48)
In this instance, Budd was caught in a political crossfire. Du Pont was
probably attempting to convince Florida citizens that they had nothing
to fear from Union troops and sailors. Budd on the other hand was acting
no differently than he had while operating on the Potomac and probably
felt perfectly justified in confiscating anything he could from any individual
whom he felt was not loyal to the Union. Commander Percival Drayton reported
to Du Pont a few days later that Budd "was exercised by the large discretion
that you had given him. I however set everything right."(49)
This episode blew over with no ill effects as Budd was promoted to Acting
Volunteer Lieutenant on May 9. In the meantime his ardor for scourging
the Confederates had not abated. On March 13 he proceeded to St. John's
Bluff in the vicinity of Jacksonville accompanied by a contingent of infantry.
He found two earthworks in an unfinished state and confiscated 5 guns and
a number of shells. He burst one old gun and reported "before leaving the
bluffs I set fire to the houses, platform, etc.; everything not carried
off was destroyed."(50) William Budd left
his calling card again.
In mid-March he accompanied an expedition down the St. Mary's River
as far as Palatka. On this trip Budd was in charge of the first cutter
of the WABASH and was sent by the expedition commander on a mundane mission
to confiscate nine bags of coffee belonging to the rebels. Apparently taking
rebel coffee was within the realm of acceptable behavior. By the end of
March Budd was back in the St. John's River with the ELLEN and Lieutenant
Commanding T.H. Stevens of the OTTAWA. Here he helped raise the sunken
yacht AMERICA which had been scuttled in Dunn's Creek. This was the famous
yacht that had begun the American domination of the America's Cup races.
The AMERICA had passed into Confederate hands early in the war and was
used as a fast dispatch boat carrying passengers and diplomatic information
to England.(51) Because of the historical
interest associated with this salvage operation, Flag-Officer Du Pont personally
commended Budd and one other individual associated with the raising of
By this time the incessant demands of cruising up and down the coast
had taken its toll on the ELLEN, and Budd put into Port Royal for repairs
in May. He was detached from the ELLEN and proceeded to New York where
he took temporary command of the U.S.S. MAGNOLIA(52)
for a transit to Key West, Florida. The MAGNOLIA was going to join the
East Gulf Blockading Squadron after being fitted out with guns and modified
for naval service at the New York Navy Yard. Blockade duty was both grueling
and boring; ships spent months on station without seeing an enemy sail
or firing a shot in anger. Occasionally blockading vessels were shot at
by their sister ships mistaking them for blockade runners. On the other
hand, there were great rewards for a lucky few. Hamilton Cochran, in Blockade
Runners of the Confederacy, pointed out the nature of these rewards:
"This prize money was the one big hope of every officer and man aboard
the blockading squadrons. An article on this subject in the December 1870
issue of Harper's Monthly Magazine described the situation as follows:
"What a life of adventure and watchfulness there was aboard the blockading
squadron! What hopes of prize money! What eager chases of a flying enemy!
The chase of a blockade runner was always a scene of intense excitement
to every person aboard the federal cruiser. Pride, patriotism, and pocket
were all appealed to. Blockade runners were richly laden, and their capture
put half the value of the vessel and cargo into the pockets of their captors.
England was very unpopular with the Union sailors, for that nation had
built and manned many of these illegal traders. It gave the Union seamen
great pleasure to know that their captors touched the purses of English
Although William Budd was only transiting to Key West where he would
turn over command of the MAGNOLIA to another officer, he maintained his
characteristic vigilance. It was soon to pay off. Destiny was coming his
way in the form of the British blockade runner MEMPHIS.
A month earlier, in the early morning hours of June 23, this large British
steamer succeeded in eluding the Union blockading vessels and entered Charleston
Harbor. This was an embarrassment to the Navy and the United States Government
as it was becoming increasingly difficult to convince foreign powers that
the blockade was effective. For the blockade to be legal, it had to be
effective. Every time a major steamer made its way through the blockade
with a cargo for Confederate forces and civilians, the Southern press would
announce it to the world as an example of the ineffectiveness of the blockade.
Thus the Navy Department had great interest in assuring that the MEMPHIS
either stayed bottled up in Charleston Harbor or did not escape with a
valuable cargo to help pay Southern war debts and further embarrass the
United States in the eyes of the world.
The MEMPHIS spent over a month in Charleston, much of the time in sight
of the blockading ships. In the early morning hours of July 31, 1862, the
MEMPHIS slipped out of Charleston Harbor and evaded the vessels of the
Union fleet. It set a course to the northeast and the captain and pilots
were probably congratulating themselves on another successful run when
they encountered the MAGNOLIA forty miles southeast of Cape Romain. When
Budd first saw the MEMPHIS at about 6:00 A.M., it was six miles inshore
of his position. The MEMPHIS was nominally a faster ship than the MAGNOLIA,
rated at 14 knots as opposed to the MAGNOLIA's 12 knots. But the MEMPHIS
was overloaded with 1600 bales of cotton and 500 barrels of resin. The
value of this cargo was more than $500,000.
When the captain of the MEMPHIS became aware that the MAGNOLIA "intended
to overhaul him, he made every effort to escape, hauling more to the eastward,
so as to make his fore-and- aft canvas draw (the wind being southwest),
firing up and driving the vessel as fast as possible. After having chased
him for about an hour and a half I fired a shotted gun, throwing the projectile
between his masts and about 200 yards beyond him, upon which he showed
English colors but still persevered in his efforts to escape. Steadily
gaining on him I fired a second time, the shot dropping close alongside
of him; then finding that he would not heave to I threw a shell, which
exploded close to his starboard quarter, the fragments flying over his
poop. At this he stopped his engines . . . " Besides a huge cargo, Lieutenant
Budd found one of the pilots to be "J.C. Carlin, a resident of Charleston,
and formerly attached for a number of years to the United States Coast
Survey. He is intimately acquainted with the whole Southern coast . . .
" Carlin had been captured once before in like circumstances and had commanded
the successful blockade runner CECILE. Including Carlin, there were three
pilots aboard whom Budd later had detained by a U.S. marshall.(53)
Following the capture of the MEMPHIS, Budd removed all crew and passengers
from that vessel and replaced them with a skeleton crew from the MAGNOLIA.
The reason for this was two-fold: 1) to eliminate the possibility of the
British crew scuttling the ship; and 2) to avoid the fate of the Union
prize crew of the EMILY ST. PIERRE which had been captured off Charleston
four months earlier. In the case of the EMILY ST. PIERRE, the English crew
had overpowered the prize crew within three days and sailed to England
in triumph. Although close to Port Royal at the time of capture, Budd chose
to return to New York and proceeded in company with the MEMPHIS. Upon arrival
in New York, he immediately telegraphed Secretary of the Navy Welles with
information of the capture and added the cryptic message: "I have got important
information; telegraph for me to come to Washington."(54)
Perhaps this important information involved the British steamer LLOYDS
which had entered Charleston and was due to sail on August 10. More likely,
Budd wished to establish his claim to the MEMPHIS and assure his cut of
the prize money. And this was considerable. The following year, Charles
Boutelle wrote to Superintendent Bache "Budd will receive about $40,000
from the "Memphis" capture alone. He is a very fortunate man and I hope
he will use his fortune well."(55) The
final amount that William Budd received for this capture was $38,318.55,
approximately 20 times his annual salary as a Lieutenant. This was the
highest award of prize money for a single capture of any Union Naval Officer
of the Civil War.(56) The crew of the MAGNOLIA
split close to $200,000 among themselves prorated for rank and position
on the vessel. Not bad for less than two weeks duty on a ship that had
not yet even made it to its blockading station.
William Budd continued displaying a personal friendship with Gideon
Welles during this episode as he offered him a chair, reputedly having
belonged to George Washington, that he had captured on the MEMPHIS. Welles
mentioned this in his diary and related: "The chair was private property
and sent by a lady to someone abroad, for friendly feeling to the rebels
. . . I sent word . . . that the captors could donate it, or it might be
sold with the other parts of the cargo. It is, I apprehend, of little intrinsic
value. If it really belonged to Washington, it seemed to me impolitic to
sell it at auction as a Rebel capture . . . "(57)
Welles suggested that it be sent to the commandant's house at the Washington
Navy Yard which seemed the most rational course of action for such an historical
Budd next was assigned to the small screw steamer U.S.S. POTOMSKA(58)
and given orders to report to Rear Admiral Farragut's Gulf Blockading Squadron
at Pensacola. Once again William Budd would display his proclivity for
being on the fringe of historic events.
Next to the emancipation of slaves, the second greatest social change
of the Civil War period was the inclusion of fugitive slaves and contrabands
in the armed forces of the United States. Many prejudices had to be overcome
before allowing Negro soldiers to join the ranks of American fighting men.
The use of black soldiers, or Colored Troops as they were termed, began
before Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation. Major General
Benjamin Butler enlisted a number of Louisiana colored regiments following
the occupation of New Orleans in April 1862 and radical Kansas leaders
also were busy enlisting black soldiers in 1862. The first recorded use
of colored troops against the Confederates occurred in October 1862 when
Brigadier General James Lane, former Kansas Senator, sent a contingent
of black troops into Confederate controlled parts of Missouri. This resulted
in a series of engagements with Missouri guerillas and bushwhackers in
which the colored troops were successful.
While Generals Butler and Lane were recruiting and training colored
troops in their respective territories, Major General Rufus Saxton, just
a few short years before the chief of the Coast Survey drawing and engraving
division, was equipping and training the 1st South Carolina Colored Volunteers.
These blacks were recruited from the Sea Island plantations that were under
Federal control and from contrabands that filtered through Union lines.
The difference between these troops and those recruited in Louisiana and
Texas was that by orders issued August 25, 1862, they "were mustered into
the service of the United States by War Department Authority rather than
by some enterprising general officer acting on his own initiative."(59)
The goal of the War Department was to raise and equip a force of 5,000
colored troops to supplement the relatively small number of white troops
that could be spared from the main fighting fronts for the occupation of
the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida.
William Budd's path was intersecting that of the South Carolina troops
as he had to divert to Port Royal on October 2 because of mechanical problems
with the POTOMSKA. Because of a backlog of repairs at Port Royal, the machine
shop was unable to attend to his vessel. The POTOMSKA was unfit to continue
on to Pensacola and outside blockading service; but, instead of waiting
on repairs, Budd volunteered for river and sound service with the South
Atlantic Blockading Squadron. For the next few weeks, the POTOMSKA operated
in Doboy Sound and in the vicinity of St. Simon's Island. On October 29
it was ordered to blockade Sapelo Sound.
At about this time General Saxton decided that he wanted to test the
fighting qualities of his colored troops and conceived a plan to send a
company of them on a raiding expedition along the southern coast in the
steamer DARLINGTON under Colonel O.T. Beard. The major action of this expedition
occurred on November 7 in the Sapelo River. The DARLINGTON headed up the
Sapelo River with the gunboat POTOMSKA in support. When it became too shallow
for the POTOMSKA, Lieutenant Budd went on board the DARLINGTON with ten
armed men to share in the fortunes of the day. It is probable that Budd
did this on his own initiative. He displayed courage and disdain for the
Confederates in doing so; he was probably well aware that a white officer
in company with colored troops, if captured, would be shown little mercy.
The DARLINGTON was attacked from bluffs while proceeding to Fairhope; there
the colored troops destroyed the salt works and other property. On the
way back down they were attacked by a greater force. In response the colored
troops landed, drove back the enemy, and burned all the buildings in the
area. A little further down the river, Budd rejoined the POTOMSKA, and
the colored troops landed again at a plantation, drove in Confederate pickets,
burned everything of use, and the most important buildings. Both during
Budd's absence from the POTOMSKA and after his return, the POTOMSKA provided
fire support to the colored troops by shelling the woods and suspected
Confederate strongholds. On this particular day, Company A of the First
South Carolina Volunteers recruited slaves as they progressed and returned
with 156 men under arms. They began the day with 62. The formula was simple:
"As soon as we took a slave from his claimant we placed a musket in his
hands and he began to fight for the others."(60)
Besides recruiting more than 90 fighting men, the expedition also liberated
61 women and children. The day's totals were 7 Confederates killed at the
cost of 4 Union wounded, numerous buildings destroyed, and nine large saltworks
destroyed with the accompanying destruction of $20,000 worth of horses
Colonel Beard graciously recognized that he was "greatly indebted to
Lieutenant Budd for the success of this day." At the close of November
7, Lieutenant Budd wrote a letter to Chaplain French of the Army:
"Sir: It gives me pleasure to testify to the admirable conduct of the
negro troops (First South Carolina Volunteers) under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Beard, Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, during this day's operations.
They behaved splendidly under the warm and galling fire we were exposed
to in two skirmishes with the enemy. I did not see a man flinch, contrary
to my expectations. One of them particularly came under my notice, who
although badly wounded in the face, continued to load and fire in the coolest
manner imaginable. Every one of them acted like veterans."(61)
This letter is possibly the first official recognition of the high worth
of black troops to the Union cause. William Budd honestly expressed his
preconceived notion of how the colored troops would behave under fire.
But he also eloquently expressed that he came away from the day's action
with great respect for the courage and ability of the colored troops. They
had passed General Saxton's test of fire in Lieutenant Budd's opinion.
Budd also showed much of himself in the above letter. From the wording
of his letter, he appeared to have logically detached himself from the
action about him in observing the actions of the colored troops with whom
he was serving. Perhaps that coolness and logical detachment were the secrets
of his success. To have the presence of mind to observe anything but the
safest place to keep from being shot while exposed to a "warm and galling
fire" demonstrated self-control of the highest degree.
Lieutenant Budd remained on the POTOMSKA for another 4 months following the raid up the Sapelo River. Most of this time was spent uneventfully on station blockading Sapelo Sound. In late February, 1863, he captured the schooner BELLE loaded with a small cargo of coffee and other supplies for Charleston. In early March the POTOMSKA proceeded to Port Royal for repairs and was declared "completely broken down." After repairs, Budd proceeded to blockade duty at St. Simons and then in June proceeded to Fernandina, Florida.
At the end of August 1863, Budd was transferred once again to serve
as commanding officer of the U.S.S. SOMERSET, a ferryboat converted to
a gunboat, with the East Gulf Blockading Squadron. For most of his time
on the SOMERSET, Budd was responsible for blockading the west entrance
to St. George's Sound and the port of Apalachicola. This was boring duty
with little opportunity for the sort of excitement that Lieutenant Budd
apparently loved. On October 30 he conducted a "scouting expedition" in
Apalachicola and discovered 10 bales of cotton in a warehouse that he confiscated
and sent off for prize money.
The next 6 months were uneventful. Fortunately for Lieutenant Budd, a Confederate plot to capture the U.S.S. ADELA was hatched in early May 1864. The ADELA was a 211-foot sidewheel steamer that was responsible for guarding the east entrance to St. George's Sound. This turned into a total fiasco for the Confederates in large measure because of Budd. He somehow caught wind of the plot and devised a preemptive strike to assure the Confederate force was unsuccessful. The Confederate force of 90 men, commanded by Lieutenant George W. Gift, C.S.N., congregated at Apalachicola and were planning to make their attempt to overpower the ADELA on the night of May 12. They had seven boats equipped with "muffled oars, paddles, grapnels, and incendiary material" as well as medical equipment, weapons, and ammunition.
In transit to Apalachicola Lieutenant Gift took pains to prevent outside
communication even to the point of posting a guard, but somehow Budd became
aware of his plans. On the early morning of May 12, Lieutenant Budd sent
a party from the 110th New York Volunteers and a naval boat crew to land
a few miles below Apalachicola and march to the town and arrive at daylight.
Budd proceeded with two launches to the town of Apalachicola where he arrived
at dawn off the city wharves. Here he encountered the enemy just beginning
to embark in their boats. Budd reported, " The rapid approach of the first
launch caused them to abandon that project and retreat through the town,
which movement was hastened by a couple of shells from our howitzer . .
. They abandoned everything and ran like sheep, without firing a shot."
In their hasty retreat they passed a short distance from the Union shore
party. Unfortunately, they were mistaken for Union troops by the shore
force and most of the Confederates escaped. Rear Admiral Theodorus Bailey,
commanding the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, wrote following this action:
"... an armed force of the enemy led by officers of the rebel Navy . .
. were altogether forestalled by the action of Captain Budd, which turned
the tables upon them . . . "capturing 6 of their 7 boats and their "rifles,
cutlasses, ammunition, grappling irons, medicines, signal flags, haversacks,
. . . together with 7 prisoners. . . . "
William Budd was relieved of command of the SOMERSET in late June and
placed in command of the U.S.S. MERRIMAC with orders to protect U.S. interests
from the depredations of Confederate raiders on the fishing banks off eastern
North America. Budd's luck came through again while in transit as he captured
the schooner HENRIETTA about 100 miles northwest of Tampa Bay. However,
this schooner only carried 16 bales of cotton as compared to the 1,600
bales on the MEMPHIS. This was Budd's last capture of the Civil War. By
the middle of August 1864, Secretary Welles would be writing the forlorn
hope in his diary that he hoped the Confederate commerce raider TALLAHASSEE
would encounter Budd and the MERRIMAC on the banks as its captain would
find Budd "an ugly customer." Instead, the TALLAHASSEE evaded Union capture
and slipped back into Wilmington, North Carolina, in late August after
destroying or bonding 31 Union commercial vessels.
William Budd's war was coming to an end. He was detached from the MERRIMAC in October 1864, promoted to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander the following month, and then waited three months before being assigned to the FLORIDA. By this time all of the major southern ports had fallen and there was little need for the massive blockading squadrons. The FLORIDA was assigned to duty with the West Gulf Squadron. Ironically, he saw little action until April 24, 1865, when the Confederate ram WILLIAM H. WEBB ran the blockade of the Red River and attempted to evade Union capture by proceeding down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. The WEBB was initially identified as an Army transport; when the mistake was discovered, the FLORIDA and three other vessels were ordered in pursuit. About 25 miles below the city, the WEBB encountered the U.S.S. RICHMOND proceeding up the river and ran aground. It was set afire rather than risk combat with the man-of-war. Although the FLORIDA did not fire its guns in this action, it is fitting that William Budd partook in one of the last Union Navy combat actions of the Civil War. A few days later the FLORIDA was ordered to New York, and carried in custody the commanding officer and other officers from the WEBB. They were delivered as "prisoners of war" to appropriate authorities at the New York Navy Yard on May 9, 1865, ending William Budd's part in the Civil War.
William Budd's odyssey with the Union Navy took him from the earliest
Union naval combat actions of the Civil War with the Potomac Flotilla,
through the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, the East Gulf Blockading
Squadron, and the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. He rose from the rank
of Acting Volunteer Master to Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commander, apparently
the highest rank that volunteer naval officers attained during the Civil
William Budd was honorably discharged from the Navy in January 1866,
reentered as an Acting Master in March 1867, and then was discharged for
good in June 1868. Nothing more of him is recorded in either the records
of the Coast Survey or the Navy Department. He displayed intelligence and
an innovative spirit with both the Coast Survey and the Navy; he was a
fierce and worthy adversary of the Confederacy; and he was a pioneer of
many aspects of modern warfare including riverine warfare, mine warfare,
and the acceptance of black troops in the United States armed forces. Although
he subsequently disappeared from the pages of history, he should be remembered
for his many Civil War contributions.
Robert Platt was the antithesis of William Budd. He did his job, sometimes
in a spectacular manner, and then slipped into the background. In later
years, Robert Platt was described as "an intuitive seaman and could always
be depended upon to do the seamanlike thing." As compared to William Budd,
he was singularly unflamboyant and spent his life both during and after
the Civil War in service to the United States at a relatively modest level.
He remained with the Government until reaching mandatory retirement age
although he knew that he had little opportunity for promotion or personal
gain. He was born in North Carolina in 1835 but chose to remain loyal to
the Union when war broke out. Both before and for many years after the
Civil War he served on Coast Survey surveying vessels; and then toward
the end of his career, he served as commanding officer of the Fish Commission
Steamer FISH HAWK working out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. An interesting
facet of his career is that he was given the equivalent of a battlefield
commission in the United States Navy while serving with the South Atlantic
Blockading Squadron in early 1863 and remained in the Navy for the next
34 years although his commission stipulated that he was "not in line of
Robert Platt was always recognized as extremely competent by his superiors.
He was senior master mate and executive officer of the Coast Survey Steamer
BIBB for a few years prior to the outbreak of war. When the war came, his
former commanding officer, Lieutenant Alexander Murray, USN, recommended
that he be appointed as a Lieutenant in the Revenue Service. This was seconded
by Lieutenant Commanding N. C. Blake, USN, who noted that although a native
of North Carolina, " His love of the flag is stronger than that of the
states' right doctrine. . . . " In spite of these recommendations, Platt
remained with the Coast Survey.
In the late summer of 1861 he was in the party of Assistant Charles
O. Boutelle conducting surveys in the vicinity of Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine,
and the United States-Canada boundary. Platt was sailing master of the
schooner ARAGO which was armed and placed under the control of the Treasury
Department Revenue Service. The ARAGO was ordered to patrol waters near
the boundary as Confederate vessels were putting into Canadian ports as
well as carrying on clandestine trade with some citizens of Maine. In particular,
the vessel was on the lookout for four ships that had run the blockade
at New Orleans and were known to be heading for the coast of Maine. On
the morning of September 4, 1861, the ARAGO spotted the ALICE BALL, one
of the Confederate-owned vessels; and Charles Boutelle, after firing a
shot across the bow, sent Robert Platt to board the ALICE BALL. Platt ascertained
that the vessel was indeed owned and operated by Confederates, confiscated
a Confederate flag and flew it upside down under the United States flag
when he took the ship to Eastport. During this time, the ARAGO also captured
the EXPRESS and the ORIZIMBA as well as quelling a mutiny on the American
ship GENERAL NORELL. The quelling of the mutiny was at the request of the
captain of the GENERAL NORELL and Platt and twelve armed crew members from
the ARAGO boarded the vessel and clasped in irons 10 of the 16 crewmembers.
Bigger matters were brewing than chasing down random Confederate vessels
in New England waters. Plans were being made for the expedition to Port
Royal and on October 16 Gideon Welles wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury
requesting that the Coast Survey Steamer VIXEN and the schooner ARAGO be
attached to the fleet making up for the expedition. Boutelle sailed with
the fleet commander and Platt was given command of the VIXEN for the trip
south. On October 29, the United States fleet sailed out of Hampton Roads.
Within a few days a great storm hit the fleet and scattered the ships about
such that most had to make their way individually to Port Royal entrance.
The VIXEN was the first to arrive off the sound entrance.
Most reports to the Coast Survey office from the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron were sent by Charles Boutelle directly to Superintendent Bache
and generally had little mention of individual Coast Surveyor's. Accordingly,
there is little mention of Platt's work although the Port Royal operation
gives an inkling of his role. Among other duties, he did much of the hydrography,
helped place buoys to mark channels, and piloted gunboats and transports
over the bar and into the sound. The VIXEN, and then the BIBB as its replacement
in early 1862, also served as a dispatch vessel and carried mail, messages,
and senior personnel throughout the operating area of the South Atlantic
Over the next year and a half, Platt took part in many naval operations.
Because of his outstanding work, he was commissioned an acting ensign by
Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont in March 1863. Admiral Du Pont's rationale
for doing this was that, "Mr. Platt has been of great service in this squadron,
is an educated and thorough seaman and is, moreover, to pilot the fleet
into Charleston Harbor, as I have reason to believe that his knowledge
of the channel exceeds that of any of the pilots we have here, and for
which perilous service he has patriotically volunteered." On the night
of April 5, 1863, Platt and Sub-Assistant John S. Bradford went aboard
the ironclad KEOKUK and buoyed Pumpkin Hill Channel into Charleston Harbor.
On April 7, 1863, the ironclads followed the buoys on the Pumpkin Hill
Channel and steamed into Charleston Harbor. This was the first great test
of steel ships versus a well-fortified harbor. In this instance the harbor
was the clear victor. The rate of fire of the ironclads was too slow while
the sheer number of shore installations assured victory for the Confederate
forces in this battle. Platt was pilot of the lead ship, the monitor WEEHAWKEN,
under Captain John Rodgers. Early in the battle a ball struck the turret
directly over Platt's head loosening a bolt which struck Platt in the head
and knocked him unconscious. By various accounts Captain Rodgers applied
first aid to Platt in order to revive him and then "held him up to the
sight slots" for the remainder of the battle while Platt continued piloting.
By another account, Platt was supported by two sailors and continued his
piloting duties. Captain Rodgers in his official report noted that, "I
am much indebted to Mr. Robert Platt of the United States Coast Survey
Steamer BIBB, for his cool and efficient pilotage of the vessel which he
continued to direct after a ball touching the pilot house immediately over
his head had given him a severe concussion...."
Robert Platt was not the only Coast Surveyor who took part in the attack
on Charleston. According to one description, "Despite the wide difference
in rank, there was a mutual bond between Captain Platt, the commanding
officer and Collins, his very able quartermaster. They were a smooth-working
team, both seamen of the highest order." During the attack, Collins was
his leadsman and stood "on the broad exposed deck of the monitor WEEHAWKEN"
and "calmly called the depths to the conning tower. Neither his voice nor
the methodical casting of the lead changed, as the attacking vessels crept
into the range of the enemy's powerful guns; not even when ducked by the
spray from striking shots. The fire became so severe he was ordered in.
Still he called back, 'I'll give you the soundings as long as you need
'em, Cap'n." This was not trivial duty as the turret of the WEEHAWKEN was
struck at least 53 times during the battle and many more shots passed close
Robert Platt received the equivalent of a battlefield promotion for
his role in the attack on Charleston. He was promoted to the rank of Acting
Master, apparently equivalent to Lieutenant, junior grade. The next two
months were spent in surveying the entrance to Port Royal. This resulted
in the discovery of a channel leading to the north which would shorten
the transit to Charleston by seven miles for light draft vessels. The BIBB
returned north on June 17, 1863.
The survey party under Boutelle returned to the South Atlantic Blockading
Squadron in the late fall of 1863. The primary vessel for use of the party
was the Coast Survey Steamer VIXEN of which Platt was in charge during
Boutelle's many absences while visiting other Coast Survey parties and
inspecting their work. In early May 1864 he was with Assistant Boutelle
and engaged in hydrographic operations, setting buoys, and pilotage duty
on the St. Johns River, Florida. On May 10 the Army transport HARRIET A.
WEED was destroyed by a torpedo on the St. John's River. The Coast Survey
Schooner CASWELL was being towed by the WEED at the time of the explosion
but fortunately escaped damage. Platt and Boutelle went to inspect the
wreckage on board the VIXEN. Platt's sharp eyes noticed ripple marks in
the channel and subsequent investigation discovered six submerged torpedoes.
Boutelle anchored the VIXEN below the ripples and sent two cutters under
Platt and William Harding to drag for the torpedoes. They succeeded in
securing one within an hour and Platt secured a knife to a pole and cut
it loose from its moorings. He then towed it ashore and "bored several
augur holes into it (carefully wetting the augur while boring.) The powder
was then poured out and the torpedoes brought safely on board" the VIXEN.
Boutelle then drew diagrams of the plunger mechanism which exploded the
torpedo and all other details associated with it for use of the naval authorities.
On May 11 the VIXEN proceeded to Port Royal Sound and two weeks later took
part in the abortive attack on the South Edisto River in which the Army
transport BOSTON was lost. Over the next few months, Robert Platt was in
charge of the VIXEN and was primarily engaged in performing pilot duty
for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
In December 1864Commander Thomas S. Phelps was detached from the Coast
Survey Steamer CORWIN. Phelps was the last of regular Navy officers to
remain on duty with the Coast Survey. With his detachment, Acting Master
Robert Platt was assigned to command the CORWIN. He was engaged in offshore
soundings between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout for most of 1865. On July
20 the CORWIN was at the wharf coaling in Beaufort, North Carolina, when
the Army transport QUINNAPAUG carrying Union soldiers bound for home struck
the reef off Shackleford Banks. The transport was sinking and set her colors
half-mast and union down. The CORWIN was ordered to get underway immediately
and assist in rescue operations. Although no numbers were given, Platt
and his crew are credited with "the saving of many lives."
This was Robert Platt's last act related to helping Union forces during
or in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. He would continue serving
his country for the next 32 years until reaching mandatory retirement age.
He served over twenty years at sea during that period with most of that
duty on the Coast Survey with the last few years spent serving with the
United States Fisheries Commission. In 1883 with the abolishment of the
grade of master he was made a Lieutenant, junior grade, not in line of
promotion. In recognition of his sterling reputation and his three years
of combat naval experience during the Civil War, Robert Platt was promoted
from Lieutenant, junior grade, to Commander by a special Act of Congress
(Senate Bill 3150, 54th Congress, 1st Session, Report No. 1114, June 3,
1896.) His career and the final respect and consideration shown to him
by the United States are unique in the history of the United States Navy.
Captain James Carlin, as he was known in the South, although apparently
holding no naval rank, was an Englishman who had come to the United States
many years earlier and had spent much time working on the Coast Survey.
He had worked on the southeast coast and must have worked under Commander
John Maffitt. Although no mention is made of him in the annual reports
of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, he seems to have been well known
within the circle of civilian officers who manned the Coast Survey vessels.
William Budd after capturing the MEMPHIS referred to him as "J.C. Carlin,
a resident of Charleston, and formerly attached for a number of years to
the United States Coast Survey. He is intimately acquainted with the whole
Southern coast . . . " As mentioned earlier, Carlin was on board the MEMPHIS
and apparently had helped pilot it out of Charleston Harbor the evening
of July 30, 1862. Carlin earlier had commanded the successful blockade
runner CECILE. Carlin, with two other pilots, was detained by U. S. marshals
when the MEMPHIS was delivered to New York City.(62)
James Carlin was not incarcerated for the duration of the war as on
the night of August 20, 1863, he put out from Charleston Harbor in a small
steam vessel. This vessel had two booms with torpedoes attached. His mission
was to attack the U.S.S. NEW IRONSIDES. At 11:30 P.M he passed the obstructions
of Charleston Harbor and by midnight had the NEW IRONSIDES in sight. At
approximately 1:00 A.M. Carlin was within a quarter of a mile of the ship
and lowered his torpedoes and proceeded to make the final run. At about
50 yards off Carlin shut off the engine and put his helm hard astarboard.
Inexplicably the small steamer did not respond. Coupled with this problem,
the NEW IRONSIDES began swinging with the tide. Consequently, the small
vessel ended up parallel to the ship and jammed against its bow. By this
time the watch of the ship was thoroughly roused and hailed the small steamer.
Carlin responded that his ship was the U.S.S. LIVE YANKEE and bound from
Port Royal. All this time, his engineers were trying desperately to start
the small steamer. Eventually they got the engines started and slipped
away back into the night. The NEW IRONSIDES hurried them on their way with
two cannon shots that passed twenty feet to each side of their vessel.
James Carlin had missed his chance at immortality by a whisker. His attempt
on the NEW IRONSIDES was many months earlier than the successful attack
by Lieutenant William B. Cushing on the C.S.S. ALBEMARLE, one of the most
famous naval exploits of the Civil War..
Three Coast Survey Assistants who had volunteered for service in the
Army were brevetted brigadier generals by the Act of March 13, 1865. These
three men had very different military careers; one was a leader of troops
in the field; another on staff to General Henry Wager Halleck, the General-in-Chief
of the Union Army; and the third served with the Army Quartermaster Corps
and was Chief of Ocean Transportation at the war's end. Samuel A. Gilbert,
known as "Iron Sam" to his men, led the 44th Ohio Volunteers for much of
the Civil War; George D. Wise, who served first on the Mississippi as Quartermaster
for the Army gunboat fleet, ended his war career as one of the highest
ranking officers in the Quartermaster Department and was responsible for
much of General Ulysses S. Grant's success as a practitioner of amphibious
warfare; and Richard D. Cutts, of the famous Cutts family and nephew of
Dolly Madison, had a shadowy Army career as an advisor and aide-de-camp
to General Halleck.
Samuel A. Gilbert was a product of the rolling farmland of eastern Ohio.
He was the son of the first mayor of Zanesville, Ohio, and was born there
in 1825. He was among the first of Coast Surveyors to receive his early
education in the heartland of America as compared to the eastern seaboard
or in Europe. After his father's death in 1844, he obtained an appointment
on the "Survey of the Coast at fifteen dollars per month and board - and
for the next five or six years had but little other than hard fare, hard
knocks, hard study, etc.,etc."(63) In the
early years of his career, Gilbert worked on the Gulf Coast in the winter
and spring; he then worked on the New England coast in the summer and fall.
He was a broad-shouldered six-footer who was as adept physically as he
was mentally. He married in 1854 and his oldest son, Cass, became a famous
architect and designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.,
among other accomplishments.
Although traveling with the Coast Survey for much of his career, Samuel
Gilbert returned to his family at Zanesville with sufficient regularity
to become a well-known and respected figure in the area. At the outbreak
of the Civil War he returned to Zanesville and on June 11, 1861, was appointed
Lieutenant Colonel of the 24th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. By the end of July,
he and his regiment were in northwestern Virginia helping secure the area
that is now known as West Virginia. This strategically important area was
secured by Major General George B. McClellan in the early months of the
war which led directly to McClellan's ascendancy in the Union Army. During
the first few months in this area, little of note occurred; but Gilbert
used his engineering knowledge to construct defensive works on Cheat Mountain
that elicited a commendation from Brigadier General J.J. Reynolds. Over
the next six months, Confederate raiders, bushwhackers, and regulars attempted
to dislodge the Union forces from this area. In September, a force led
by General Robert E. Lee attacked the Union forces but were repulsed. Gilbert
participated primarily in action against Colonel Rust's brigade of Lee's
On October 14, Samuel Gilbert was appointed colonel of the 44th Ohio
Volunteer Infantry located at Camp Piatt (near present-day Piatt, West
Virginia) and took part in various small actions over the next six months.
On May 1, 1862, his regiment, now considered part of the larger Kanawha
Division, moved to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, where he was attached
to the brigade of Colonel George Crook. Soon Gilbert commanded both his
44th Ohio and also the 47th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On May 20 these units
accompanied Crook's raid on the Virginia Central Railroad in which his
troops marched over eighty miles in sixty hours.
A few days after this raid, Gilbert and Crook were engaged in a fight
at Lewisburg, West Virginia, with a Confederate force numbering about twice
that of the Federals. In spite of the odds, Crook determined to fight.
Gilbert, in a memoir, recounted the sum total of staff work and planning
that went into this engagement:
"... Enemy deploying into line on opposite side of valley in plain sight
about three fourths of a mile distant displaying more than double our numbers.
The space between our forces and the enemy occupied by the long straggling
town. Col Crook and myself riding from the town to where our men were bivouaced.
I asked, 'What are you going to do?' He answered, 'Fight them.' 'How will
we do it?' 'You take the right and I'll take the left of the town and we'll
go for them.'"
Following this planning session, Gilbert began forming his men into
line when the Confederates opened artillery fire on them with shell killing
one and wounding two. The Confederates also were forming line of battle
and began marching toward the Union forces. They met in an open field,
"neither party having any cover. We reserved our fire until within about
a hundred yards and then charged their battery, which consisted of one
twelve pdr field howitzer, two three-inch rifled cannon, and twelve pdr
smooth bore all of which we captured except two gun limbers. Their infantry
ran away leaving forty or fifty killed and about eighty wounded and over
one hundred prisoners in our hands -- leaving a guard over these we pushed
forward in pursuit until checked by the bridge over the Greenbriar River...."(64)
Following this action, the summer passed with numerous small expeditions
until August, 1862, when the bulk of the Kanawha Division was ordered to
join General Pope east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In spite of his entreaties
to accompany this movement, Colonel Gilbert was left in West Virginia in
command of the defenses around Gauley Bridge, along the main invasion route
from the south up the Kanawha Valley to Charleston. Following the celebrated
capture of Pope's letterbook and his subsequent defeat at the Second Battle
of Bull Run, the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland and was repulsed
at Antietam on September 17, 1862. Because of information contained in
Pope's letterbook, the Confederate command realized the weakened condition
of Union forces in West Virginia and sent General W. B. Loring, CSA, to
invade the area in early September and commence movement toward Charleston
with approximately 5,000 troops.(65)
This invasion forced the evacuation of Union forces and Gilbert was
ordered to fight the rear guard actions and impede the Confederate advance.
Gilbert had 600 men and 2 artillery pieces at his disposal. The retreat
began on September 10 with Gilbert's men fighting a series of engagements
from Gauley Bridge to Charleston to assure that the bulk of Union forces
passed through to safety unscathed. On September 13 Gilbert made a stand
at Charleston withdrawing slowly throughout the day. About 3 P.M. he ordered
Elk Bridge, near the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers, destroyed
"after all had crossed. About this time ... the skirmishers along Elk became
actively engaged, and the infantry firing became general all along the
line, and, soon after, the enemy opened batteries, which had been planted
on the west side of the Kanawha, opposite the mouth of the Elk, and on
the hills east of town, thus making a cross-fire upon our position. They
also threw a large body of infantry up Elk, on our left, but this move
was promptly met and foiled. All who crossed were either disabled, or recrossed
precipitately, and we held our own until dark, when, in accordance with
orders, I withdrew my skirmishers and retired from the field, the batteries
on the west side of the Kanawha playing vigorously upon us, without effect,
as moved off."(66)
After the withdrawal from the Elk, Gilbert's forces marched north to Ravenswood, arriving on September 16. In his official report Gilbert expressed his indignation that the Union supply trains were mismanaged during the retreat either "through the carelessness or stupidity of drivers and absence of wagonmasters...." Fortunately there was no Confederate pursuit as General Loring chose to rest on his laurels in Charleston. Within a few days Gilbert was at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on the Ohio River, and then by December he was placed in command of the Second Brigade of the Army of Kentucky in General H. G. Wright's Department of the Ohio.
The remainder of Gilbert's active war-time role was spent on garrison
duty in the strategically important area of eastern Kentucky. As one of
the border states with strong sympathy towards slavery and secession, the
period following President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was critical.
In early 1863 there were meetings of the Kentucky Legislature at Frankfort
at which secession from the Union was seriously discussed. Samuel Gilbert
happened to be in charge of the troops at Frankfort at this time and helped
in suppressing the secessionist movement:
"In Feb having information of the treasonable purposes of certain politicians about assembling in Frankfurt, and considering the wide spread dissatisfaction with the Proclamation of Emancipation on the part of the Citizens of Kentucky, as demonstrated in part by the speeches and acts of members of the Legislature then in session, who although elected by large Union majorities were every day making speeches full of violent denunciations of the President threatening resistance by force etc. The Kentucky troops under my command becoming almost mutinous, I reported to Maj Gen H. G. Wright through Brig Gen Q.A. Gillmore these circumstances and asked for instructions. None were given. And feeling that the responsibility of permitting treason to be openly organized under my nose lay with me, I determined 'to nip it in the bud' which I accordingly did by ordering the convention to disperse; an order that their guilty consciences caused them to obey with alacrity."
Colonel Gilbert understated his role in this affair as he broke up a
midnight meeting of the legislature by posting troops outside the doorway
to the capitol and then strode in to the meeting unannounced, shouldered
his way to the podium, and declared that "... I desire to inform you, in
no unmistakable words, now and here, that you can hold no such [secession]
convention within my lines, and command this assembly to disperse or I
will arrest every one in it." Given the options, the assembly dispersed
without carrying a motion for secession.(67)
Although the date of this event is unclear, it is certain that Samuel
Gilbert was recommended for promotion to the rank of Brigadier General
on January 20, 1863. Concerning Gilbert and another officer, General H.
G. Wright wrote to General Halleck, "Few men can be found combining the
qualifications necessary to important commands in a higher degree than
these two officers."(68) Unfortunately
Gilbert was not promoted at this time although he commanded upwards of
5000 men for much of the next year. 1863 was a difficult year for Colonel
Gilbert as it was spent moving from one town to another in response to
real and perceived threats from Confederate raiders. Lexington, Danville,
Somerset, Mount Vernon, and Camp Nelson were all headquarters at one time
or another. On one occasion he made a forced march from Lexington to Somerset
of over seventy miles with only a two hour rest. In August he was ordered
in to East Tennessee to serve with a force under Major General Ambrose
Burnside. Gilbert was made post commandant at Knoxville and then on September
7 began a forced march to Cumberland Gap accompanied by General Burnside.
Two regiments of Gilbert's troops made the 60 miles in 52 hours. Upon their
arrival, Gilbert prepared his men for an assault but the enemy commander
surrendered without a fight and Gilbert was left in charge of the enemy
positions and 2,500 Confederate prisoners.
Gilbert saw no more action during his remaining time in the Army. Upon
returning to Knoxville his health broke down as the result of a protracted
lung infection. He left Knoxville on November 1 for a 30 day medical leave
but returned to duty on November 20 because of the Confederate attack on
Knoxville by troops under General James Longstreet. Gilbert was unable
to rejoin his brigade until the siege was lifted following the defeat of
Braxton Bragg at Chattanooga. Gilbert served as an engineering officer
engaged in reconnaissance towards Knoxville during the siege period. At
the turn of the year his regiment reenlisted as veterans and because of
some nuance of Army regulations was required to march home to Ohio. This
march was a cold hell:
"... on the 10th in pursuance of orders [it] started on its return march
to Ohio shoeless, hatless, ragged tatterdemalions, without blankets or
overcoats and but three days half rations of meat and corn meal only. We
started from Strawberry Plains during a violent snow storm. We had to ford
Clinch River then full of running ice which was only effected by felling
a large number of over hanging trees at a narrow place, thus creating a
temporary [gorge?] below which we effected our crossing with the aid of
a foraging train which was fortunately in that vicinity. We passed the
Cumberland Mountains at the Big Creek Gap and crossed the Cumberland River
at Williamsburg upon the ice. Supplies of food met us some twelve miles
beyond this place and from that time our hunger was appeased. We reached
Camp Nelson Ky on the 15th of January having been less than six days marching
on foot over ice, snow and frozen ground over a high range of mountains
across two considerable rivers a distance of about one hundred and forty
Upon return to Ohio, Gilbert's regiment was reorganized as the 8th Ohio
Cavalry. By this time Samuel Gilbert was too sick from tuberculosis to
continue on arduous duty with the Army. Knowing that he could not perform
his duties well if he remained with the Army, Gilbert reluctantly tendered
his resignation. As a token of their respect and affection, the soldiers
of his regiment presented "Iron Sam" with a sword that cost $900 and was
inscribed with the motto, "I scorn to change through fear." The scabbard
was made of silver and gold. He spent 1864 at home attempting to regain
his health. On March 13, 1865 he received the honor of being made a Brevet
Brigadier General for his services in support of the United States. He
was also invited to accept the Republican nomination for Governor of the
State of Ohio about this time but declined because of his health.(69)
Shortly after, he attempted to resume duty with the Coast Survey. He
wrote his recollections of Civil War service in November 1865 at the request
of Julius Hilgard, assistant in charge of the Survey during Superintendent
Bache's lingering illness. "Iron Sam" could not beat the disease that was
ravaging his body. He and his family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where
he died in 1868. Gilbert's life was cut short by the illness he contracted
in fighting for the Union. In a way, he wrote his own epitaph in his report
of Civil War duty for the Coast Survey:
"... allow me to say that my career although not very notorious or leading through battles of great magnitude was of a kind which draws upon a man's resources and energies very prodigally and offers no return but slight award in the way of fame or promotion.
"That I was not of the killed, wounded or missing in any of the great
or decisive conflicts is probably due to the fact that circumstances not
under my control prevented my engaging in them."
The Civil War gave birth to the great Army transportation system of
the modern world. Prior to the Civil War the largest action that the United
States Army had taken part in was the Mexican War which involved the transportation
of perhaps 20,000 men with their equipment. This operation paled in comparison
with the problems of transporting and supplying hundreds of thousands of
troops with all of the accompanying paraphernalia of warfare. Hermann Haupt,
the chief of railroad operations for the Union forces, is particularly
well known for his herculean efforts in keeping the railroads running in
Virginia. Less well-known is the fact that at various times the Army Quartermaster
Corps had over 400 vessels either directly owned or under contract moving
men and materiel. The moving force behind this tremendous effort was George
D. Wise, brother of naval officer Captain Henry Wise,(70)
and an Assistant on the Coast Survey.
Nothing in George Wise's background would have indicated that he was
destined to become one of the first transportation chiefs of the modern
Army. He was an Assistant on the Coast Survey from the early 1840's and
headed topographic survey crews in the mid-Atlantic region and Florida
panhandle region. He never made over $1200 a year which placed him about
in the middle of the Assistants by pay and seniority. Within the Coast
Survey and its descendant organizations he is best known as the author
of "A Lamentable Ditty," a satyrical view of the lonely life of a Coast
Early in the Civil War George Wise volunteered for Army service. Perhaps
through his brother's influence or perhaps because he was one of the few
Army officers with nautical experience, he was assigned as Quartermaster
of the Mississippi River gunboat fleet. He was originally appointed by
Commodore Andrew Foote at a pay of $200.00 per month, twice the salary
he had been making on the Coast Survey. Because of the odd arrangement
whereby the Army owned and operated the gunboat fleet although it was manned
by Navy officers and crew, Wise was appointed a captain in the Army and
was directly accountable to Quartermaster-General of the Army Montgomery
C. Meigs. In the first few months Commodore Foote complained about this
arrangement and felt that Wise was unqualified to perform all the duties
that were required for operating the gunboat fleet. Foote then appointed
Mr. S. Henriques, who had formerly sailed with him, as paymaster-in-chief
of the gunboat fleet on October 29, 1861, and wrote to Meigs that he also
acted as his clerk and secretary as well as supervising contracts.(71)
Quartermaster-General Meigs emphatically replied that "No chief paymaster
can be needed. That is the duty of the captain and assistant quartermaster,
Captain Wise, who is the legal agent for the disbursement of all quartermaster's
funds connected with the gunboats."(72)
Quartermaster-General Meigs' view prevailed and Wise became firmly entrenched
as the chief disbursing officer for the fleet. In spite of his field-oriented
career in the Coast Survey, Wise showed that he was a human administrative
dynamo and soon became familiar with all phases of the operations of the
gunboat fleet including supply and contract negotiation. By the end of
1861 Foote wrote to Gustavus Fox concerning a possible transfer of the
gunboat fleet to the Navy, "We are greatly dependent upon the army for
wagons to transport our ammunition, for storage, and for many other things.
We also receive our funds through Acting Quartermaster Wise, who, if this
transfer is made, I hope will obtain the position of storekeeper, or some
other position with a salary equally as good as that he now receives."(73)
The "transfer" referred to the possible transfer of the gunboat fleet to
Over the next six months, Wise became increasingly more valuable to
the gunboat fleet. Mr. Henriques, who had come at the request of Flag Officer
Foote, became sick and left Cairo leaving Wise virtually in control of
all aspects of the management of the gunboat fleet. Coal, vegetables, ordnance,
repairs, chartering of vessels, and even procurement and inspection of
new vessels fell within his realm of responsibility. He became aware of
the legal aspects of capture and resale of Confederate steamers and other
property. He also became knowledgable concerning the nuances of the revenue
laws related to the capture of enemy property, knowledge that would be
quite profitable for him within the next year. Even Abraham Lincoln was
aware of the work and needs of Captain Wise. On February 28, 1862, George's
brother, Commander Henry Wise, wrote the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury
informing him "that the President is anxious to have money sent to Assistant
Quartermaster Wise, at Cairo, as soon as possible. Flag-Officer having
telegraphed to the President that he is in want of funds."(74)
This brother to brother communication extended two ways. At least on one
occasion Henry requested that George send a message in cipher relative
to the conditions on the river for the President. This worked particularly
well because Henry Wise was assistant to the Chief of Ordnance, John Dahlgren,
who was a confidant of the President.
Assistant Quartermaster Wise also displayed personal qualities that
assured that he get along with the highest levels of the Union Army and
Navy. He wrote personal letters to Quartermaster-General Meigs, Rear Admiral
Andrew H. Foote, and was mentioned prominently in letters from Mississippi
River Fleet Captain Alexander Pennock in correspondence with Andrew Foote
and his successor Rear Admiral Charles H. Davis. Wise in turn was quick
to commend Pennock in correspondence with Foote. It is probable that Wise
knew Pennock from his Coast Survey work on the Virginia coast as Pennock
was 5th District Lighthouse Inspector at Norfolk, Virginia, from late 1852
It was also necessary to battle the elements on the Mississippi River
in the spring of 1862. Late on April 1 a spring storm passed through Cairo
"which did some slight damage to our wharfboat; blew the steamer SALLIE
WOOD over to the other shore, and in the trouble the captain broke his
leg; also some of the transport steamers lost smokestacks, parted lines,
etc. The rain came through the roof over me so fast that I had to raise
an umbrella. We are all right again this morning and the atmosphere of
Cairo sensibly purified by the blow...."
There must have been a heavy upper Midwest snowmelt in the winter of
1862 as the Mississippi River began rising in early April. On April 20
Wise wrote a personal letter to Rear Admiral Foote and reported: "... Cairo
is almost under water and the cars can not come nearer than Mound City,
to which place our mail is carried by water. There is considerable apprehension
that the levee will give way, as at our landing the water is only a foot
or two from the top. From my room [on the wharfboat] I can look down upon
Cairo, and sociable visiting is carried on in boats, while first floors
are used as bath rooms and fish pond. The St. Charles Hotel, there is a
probability, will be cleaned, as the river is expected to make a new channel
through it. There is much alarm among the boarders, and Mrs. Pennock and
Mrs. Stembel have both taken refuge on board our ark...." Commander Pennock
acknowledged this a few days later when he wrote Foote, " I am snugly domesticated
on board of the wharf boat. I have two rooms nicely fitted, thanks to friend
Wise, who is never so happy as when he is contributing to the comfort of
others. Mrs. Wise, Stembel, and Pennock enjoy their new home. We are decidedly
more comfortable than we were at the hotel. If the river continues high
we may have to take to salt grub, but no one will mind that." Assistant-Quartermaster
Wise had come a long way from his days on the Coast Survey when he had
written "A Lamentable Ditty" decrying the time spent far away "from the
wife of my bosom."
May 10, 1862, Flag-Officer Charles H. Davis, friend of Superintendent
Bache and veteran of Port Royal Sound, relieved Flag Officer Andrew Foote
as commander of U. S. Naval Forces, Western Waters. Foote had been wounded
at the Battle of Fort Donelson and never fully recovered from its effects
before dying in June, 1863. One of Commodore Foote's final acts was to
order "Quartermaster Wise to proceed with all possible dispatch to St.
Louis to procure a good, comfortable steamer, to be fitted up as a hospital
boat, with surgeon, steward, etc., complete." Wise proceeded to St. Louis
and attacked this problem with typical vigor. Within a month he had outfitted
the captured rebel steamer RED ROVER with 200 hospital beds, medical equipment,
and supplies for three months operations. This steamer also carried 300
tons of ice for the use of the sick as well as for Union transports and
During the time he was in St. Louis, Wise found time to write a personal
letter to Commodore Foote in which he espoused his view of the cost-effectiveness
of the gunboat fleet, "... our gunboat flotilla has not cost, including
the building of the gunboats, $3,000,000 to this date. When we look at
the results it has accomplished, the money has been well laid out, and
if we balance it by the destruction and capture of the enemy's property
we shall be largely in pocket...."(75)
In reference to a minor Confederate victory that left two Union gunboats
sitting on the bottom but able to be refloated, Wise continued: "I do not
think the rebels will try it again, although it must be confessed they
had their own way for a time, but, like all their successes, they are never
able to follow them up. They are not good for a 4-mile race." George Wise
was among the first to understand the grim economic equation of waging
war and the necessity of getting the "most bang for the buck." He comprehended
at this early stage of the war that victory may not go to the swiftest,
but to the side with relentless perseverance, the most resources for waging
war, and the unswerving determination to use those resources to grind down
a foe "not good for a 4-mile race."
George Wise also knew of the seamy underside of warfare on the Mississippi.
A few months after the outfitting of the Red Rover he wrote to the gunboat
fleet commander in reference to a captured steam boat, "An influential
firm in St. Louis, J. & E. Walch & Co., claims to be the owner
of the CLARA DOLSEN, and that she was used by the rebels against their
will.... The fact of it is, that in most of the steamers which remained
South after the rebels took possession of the Mississippi, having ample
time to escape if they had wished, it was found convenient to have two
owners,one North and the other South, so that their bread would be sure
to fall 'butter side up'."(76)
Wise demonstrated his ability to get the job done once again as the
RED ROVER was in Cairo by June 10. A few days later Flag Officer Davis
wrote Wise, "I have waited until I had an opportunity to make a personal
examination of the hospital boat RED ROVER before expressing to you my
great admiration for your success in this undertaking and the sincere gratitude
felt toward you by myself and the officers and men under my command for
the judgment and humanity with which you have executed this important work...."
Davis also told Wise to select the site for a coal depot at Memphis as
the Union gunboat and ram fleet had recently defeated the remnants of the
Confederate river fleet at Memphis leading to the capture of that city.
This particular job seems to have led to Wise's enrichment and the wrath
of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter a year and a half later.
The RED ROVER was not finished a day too soon. Within two weeks of its
joining the fleet, it served as the hospital for the wounded and dying
crew members of the MOUND CITY whose boiler had been shot through and exploded
on an expedition up the White River into Arkansas. At least 112 crewmen
of the MOUND CITY died as a result of being scalded by the escaping steam.
After arranging for their transportation, Wise provided the wounded and
their medical assistants with funds for travel to shore facilities.
Like Flag Officer Foote before him, Davis was so impressed by Wise's abilities that he wrote to him on July 4, "I am so strongly persuaded that the business of the flotilla would be in the highest degree benefited by your retaining a relation to it similar to that which you now hold, that I can not but urge it upon you to make the necessary application for the office of navy agent, provided it is created.
"I place so high an estimate upon your services that I shall deem it
my duty to do all in my power to secure you this situation...."
On July 16, 1862, Congress passed an act directing that the gunboat
fleet be turned over to the Navy after all the administrative details of
such a transfer had been ironed out. Wise continued as quartermaster of
the fleet until October 1 when General Order No. 150 effected the official
transfer. David Dixon Porter was installed as commanding officer of the
gunboat fleet and relieved Charles H. Davis within a few weeks of the Navy
assuming control of the gunboats. At the time of the transfer Wise was
responsible for supplying, repairing, and attending to the administrative
details of 83 vessels including 8 iron-clad gunboats, 10 wooden gunboats,
various transports and cargo craft, the RED ROVER hospital ship, the large-wharfboat
that was used as a naval depot at Cairo, 13 steam tugs, and 38 mortar-boats.
All total he was responsible for managing vessels with a total tonnage
of over 19,000 tons.(77) Although an impressive
total, this was but a warmup for his work in the final year of the war.
George Wise stayed on the river for the next year servicing the Army
transports and other Army craft operating on the Mississippi and its tributaries.
During this time he initially won the friendship and praise of Rear Admiral
Porter but a squabble over prize money put a damper on their relationship.
Within a month of Porter's arrival on the river he was exhorting his new
supply officer to emulate the work of Captain Wise. On November 23, 1862,
the admiral wrote to the new Navy paymaster and supply officer, "I again
impress upon you the importance of having large supplies of coal ready
to meet my order in Cairo. I shall require for the present 1,600 tons per
month.... I think that I have been sufficiently explicit in this communication
to show you the importance of being prompt and liberal with supplies. Captain
Wise, with his limited means, never kept this squadron waiting one moment.
I hope you will do likewise...." A month later he wrote to Fleet Captain
Pennock at Cairo, "Let every vessel that comes down bring coal enough to
last her to Vicksburg and some days longer. There is none here, although
the army is getting down plenty. Get me coal and send it to Vicksburg without
delay. I wish I had the army arrangements, then I should never want for
In early June Rear Admiral Porter wrote to Fleet Captain Alexander Pennock
at Cairo requesting that Wise send fresh vegetables down to the gunboat
fleet. Pennock responded that Wise had taken thirty days leave. This was
an odd time to be taking leave as the siege of Vicksburg was underway and
it would seem that Wise's services would have been needed. Given a letter
written by Rear Admiral Porter a few months later, it is possible that
Wise was taking care of personal business related to the capture of rebel
steamers at Memphis the year before. In September Rear Admiral Porter wrote
to Secretary of the Navy Welles complaining that:
"In Cairo the prize commissioners are three civilians.... The manifest dishonesty with which these cases have been managed has given great dissatisfaction to the seamen and others.
"Quartermaster George D. Wise, U.S. Army, has had paid to him $30,000
or more as informer on the vessels captured at Memphis."(78)
Wise found a way to tap into the prize money normally reserved for Naval
officers and crew. Porter was furious. It seemed clear to him that "all
prize matters should have been acted on by a court of admiralty, and I
do not see how they could have been tried as violations of revenue laws."
Porter's ire with Wise being granted prize money had no effect on Wise's
subsequent Army career. He was soon transferred to the Eastern theater
of operations where the war was heating up. On April 16, 1864, Quartermaster
General Montgomery C. Meigs ordered Wise from his station in Baltimore
to proceed to New York to consult with two other Army officers and "dispatch
to Washington all the light-draught steamers that can be obtained, and
send to Fort Monroe not less than fifty schooners and forty barges suitable
for transporting horses, wagon, and troops." Over the next few months these
vessels would support the landings on Bermuda Hundred, transportation of
troops from Bermuda Hundred to the Cold Harbor area, and movements of Grant's
troops to the Petersburg area. A secondary, although major effort by Wise
at this time, was the movement of 25,000 men of the Twenty-fifth Army Corps
from City Point, Virginia, to Texas with their equipment, horses, and armament.
Quartermaster Wise spent most of his time in Washington, D. C., during
the remainder of the Civil War. In late May he visited General Butler's
troops in company with General Meigs at Bermuda Hundred and heard light
musketry while passing Wilson's Landing; then in July 1864 he was deployed
to Fort Slocum on the northern border of Washington to help meet the threat
from Confederate General Jubal Early's attempted raid on the capital. These
two episodes appear to have been his closest approaches to combat during
Over the next nine months Wise managed the operations of the Union Army
transports and cargo vessels supporting both General Grant in Virginia
and General Sherman after his forces arrived in Savannah. The winter of
1864-1865 was the high point of the Union ocean transportation and supply
efforts. After General Sherman reached Savannah in December, 1864, Wise
was responsible for procuring and scheduling the ships to supply over 300,000
men. He also had to assure that transportation was provided for the portion
of General Sherman's Army that was moved by sea to Beaufort, North Carolina.
A few statistics(79) that give an idea
of the magnitude of Quartermaster Wise's ocean transportation operation
Average tonnage employed: 224,984
Average number of steam vessels employed: 351
Average number of vessels employed including
steam vessels, sailing vessels, barges, etc.: 719
Greatest number of troops afloat at one time: 40,000+
Average daily cost: $92,414
Quartermaster Wise was also responsible for providing transportation
for the Union troops sent to assault Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in both
December 1864 and January 1865. The reaction time for these operations
was relatively quick. Prior to the second assault on Fort Fisher, Wise
received a letter from Brigadier General Rufus Ingalls, Grant's Chief Quartermaster,
relating that "Lieutenant-General Grant wishes sea-going vessels to be
assembled at once at Fortress Monroe, prepared with coal and water, for,
say, fifteen days, for 8,000 troops.... I wish them all assembled and in
readiness on or before Monday, the 2d of January." This letter was sent
on December 30.(80) Quartermaster Wise
was good, but not quite good enough for a 2-day turnaround. It was not
until January 8 that all arrangements had been made. The second and final
assault on Fort Fisher took place on January 13. Two months later, Colonel
George D. Wise was made a Brevet Brigadier General for his service during
the Civil War.
Even after the final surrender of the Confederacy, Brevet Brigadier
General Wise remained busy arranging for the transportation of troops.
As late as June 3, 1865, he was arranging transports from City Point to
points north for two divisions of Major General Godfrey Weitzel's command
and an additional 3,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry.(81)
Another facet of his work at this time was to sell as many of the transports
and cargo vessels that were then owned by the Army to private interests
and terminate contracts for the leasing of vessels. This was all part of
the tremendous down-sizing of military assets that occurred immediately
following the Civil War.
Although never having faced combat, Brevet Brigadier General George
D. Wise was one of the first great transportation officers of the United
States Army. He had a tremendous talent for business and administration
that was dormant during his fifteen years with the Coast Survey. Even at
the beginning of the war, it would have seemed impossible to believe that
one individual could have been responsible for managing the movements of
over 700 vessels engaged in the supply of over 300,000 men by war's end.
He also had a great talent for looking after his own interests. By the
end of the war, his salary had tripled from the $1200 per year that he
received as an Assistant and he pocketed at least another $30,000 in prize
money from his time on the Mississippi. Needless to say, George Wise never
returned to the Coast Survey. Never again would he be "Condemned to tramp
on the Coast Survey."
Perhaps the least known of all Civil War Brevet Brigadier Generals was
Richard Domenicus Cutts. As Cutts was a nephew of Dolly Madison and the
son of a former Congressman, this is rather surprising given the political
nature of the Civil War and the blatant use of connections to attain positions
of power and influence. However, Cutts was an intensely private man and
his position as Aide-de-Camp to General Henry Wager Halleck insured continued
anonymity. Cutts was a graduate of Georgetown University and first went
to work for the Coast Survey in 1843 while Ferdinand Hassler was Superintendent.
He worked on the East Coast and Gulf Coast until 1850 when he was sent
to California to supervise the primary triangulation and topographic work.
Most of his work was in the San Francisco Bay area and it is probable that
he became a friend of Henry Halleck as Halleck was a prominent lawyer and
businessman in San Francisco at that time.
In 1855, Cutts was detached from West Coast duty and assigned to duty
with the State Department to help determine the offshore boundaries of
river entrances in both the United States and Canada in conjunction with
a fisheries treaty signed by the United States and Great Britain. This
position required both the tact of a diplomat and the knowledge of a scientist
and surveyor as Cutts was often put in the position of mediating between
the two countries and suggesting a boundary line determined by his studies
of the physical nature of the river entrance and the adjacent seafloor.
He remained on this duty for most of the period up to the beginning of
the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, he joined the Army in the summer
of 1861. He is first mentioned in the official records as a colonel and
aide-de-camp on topographical duty to General Henry Wager Halleck on November
30, 1861.(82) This was shortly after Halleck
had assumed command of the Department of Missouri which included the forces
of General Ulysses S. Grant. At this time, Cutts was placed in charge of
topographic mapping at St. Louis and requested the services of the Coast
Survey. Sub-Assistant John M. Mechan and Assistant Richard M. Bache were
detailed to St. Louis and completed the work of mapping the approaches
to the city in 1862.
Colonel Cutts in the meantime was detailed to escort the two highest-ranking
Confederate prisoners yet captured to Fort Warren at Boston Harbor. These
were Generals Lloyd Tilghman and Simon Bolivar Buckner who were captured
by General Grant at the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson. On February 25,
1862, General Halleck instructed Cutts to make sure the prisoners were
completely disarmed, closely guarded, and not to communicate with any person.
He added, "If they attempt to escape put them in irons." Because of snow
blocking the railway, Cutts did not arrive in Boston until March 9 and
then transferred the prisoners to Fort Warren. On his return west, he proceeded
to a Federal prison at Springfield, Illinois, and took the oath of allegiance
from 1,640 Confederate prisoners. A few weeks later, he inspected a prison
at Alton, Illinois, and advised that 6 civilians held for aiding Confederate
escapees be released on bond and that they be tried by civil authorities
as their incarceration already had the desired effect of discouraging others
from doing likewise.
After the Battle of Shiloh, General Halleck went to Pittsburgh Landing
to determine the extent of General Grant's culpability in the Union losses
and also to direct the movement of the Union Army to Corinth, Mississippi.
Cutts accompanied Halleck on this campaign and served as a topographer
and engineering officer. Halleck's approach to Corinth was glacial and
he was criticized for allowing the Confederate Army under P. G. T. Beauregard
to escape at the end of May. However, he achieved his objective, which
was to gain control of the railroad junction town of Corinth, with minimal
casualties. This was the last time that Halleck commanded troops in battle.
He was promoted to General-in-Chief of all land forces and spent the remainder
of the war in Washington, D. C. Cutts accompanied him to the capital and
stayed with him for the remainder of the war.(83)
Richard Cutts military career could have been very interesting for the
3 years that he spent in Washington on the staff of General Halleck. He
must have participated in conferences with the President and possibly briefed
the President on occasion in his capacity as a topographic officer. Being
part of Halleck's inner circle, he had to have been aware of all of the
political games played by the various generals in the field; and, given
his background in the Coast Survey, he must have been struck by the irony
of Halleck's disdain for those whom he termed "military charlatans."(84)
In particular, these "charlatans" were political generals such as Ben Butler
and Nathaniel Banks. However, no record exists of his thoughts on these
matters or his observations while associated with General Halleck. The
only inkling of his role during these years occurred just prior to the
Second Battle of Bull Run when Halleck sent him out as a trusted messenger
and confidant to find General John Pope and report on his position and
the disposition of his troops as there was no communication between Pope,
McClellan, and Halleck in the critical days before this battle.(85)
This mission apparently accomplished little as Pope was soundly defeated
and his career effectively ended following the Union defeat on August 30.
Richard Cutts remained in relative anonymity for the remainder of the
war. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment occurred in the days immediately
following the surrender of the Confederate forces. On April 22, 1865, General
Halleck sent Cutts the following message: "Come to Richmond immediately.
I wish you to take charge of rebel archives. Everybody has been plundering
them."(86) Halleck's foremost motivation
in saving these papers was to preserve "important links of testimony against
prominent traitors." He also acknowledged, "At any rate, they will prove
of great value to those who may hereafter write the history of this great
rebellion." (87) Richard Cutts was the
individual who saved over 10 tons of Confederate documents for the use
of future scholars in studying Confederate policy, strategy, and tactics.
Halleck acknowledged Cutts' role when he wrote, "Colonel Cutts, of my staff
... has applied himself to the task with great industry, energy, and tact.
He deserves much credit for collecting and saving so large a mass of public
papers and documents, which in a few days more would have been destroyed
or hopelessly scattered."
It is ironic that the final military work of Richard Cutts resulted
in saving for posterity a record of the thoughts and actions of thousands
of Confederate soldiers and politicians when so little of his own career
was documented. Following the war, Cutts returned to the Coast Survey where
he spent the remainder of his professional career.
The most remarkable thing about the role of the Coast Survey Office
in the Civil War was that it functioned just like it did before the war,
only on a grander scale. The most notable difference was the establishment
of lithographic presses as an adjunct to the copper-plate printing press.
With that exception, the structure of the office remained virtually the
same as it had for years.
At the outbreak of war, Major William R. Palmer was the Assistant-in-charge
of the Office. Major Palmer was a good friend and former room-mate of Superintendent
Bache when Bache was an instructor at West Point. In his annual report
Palmer pointed out:
"The diffusion of such knowledge as results from our various hydrographic,
geodetic, astronomical, and magnetic operations, which in former years
was freely accorded to all applicants has, by the exigencies of the times,
been necessarily restricted, and in a great degree confined to the use
of the general government."
The "general government" referred primarily to the demands of the Army
and Navy; because of their needs the lithographic division was established
and placed under the direction of former Army officer William P. Trowbridge.
Trowbridge had been associated with the Coast Survey for a number of years
and was chief of the West Coast tidal party in the early 1850's. In 1861
the lithographic division produced about 1,200 charts, 400 diagrams of
various types, and over 700 copies of memoirs for use by the blockading
squadrons and Army units working in coastal regions. The copper-plate printing
division under John Rutherford produced 17,600 charts, maps, and sketches
during 1861. Of this effort, Palmer wrote, "The printing establishment
has been taxed to its utmost capacity . . . ."(88)
Major Palmer made this observation in late 1861 and died 6 months later.
He did not see the near-quadrupling of this effort by 1864.
If one read only the reports of office activities for the Coast Survey
for the years 1861-1865, it would be difficult to ascertain that a great
conflict was occurring. Charles Schott's computing division continued computing;
the tidal division under Louis F. Pourtales continued reducing tidal observations;
the duties of the drawing, engraving, photography and electrotyping divisions
all remained virtually the same as did the functions of the distribution
system under the miscellaneous division. The ubiquitous thanks to Samuel
Hein, the disbursing agent for the Coast Survey, made it into all of the
Coast Survey annual reports. It was a tribute to the organizational ability
of Bache and the vision of Hassler that such an organization was in existence
and able to quadruple output during the war years without hardly missing
a beat. If there are heroes in such an organizational effort, the pressmen
must be recognized in the first rank. John Rutherford ran the copper-plate
press for most of the war although he apparently left the Survey in either
late 1864 or 1865. Perhaps he was just worn out.
In spite of the demands of war production, there was still time in the
Coast Survey for scientific investigations, printing of related scientific
material in the annual reports, and descriptions of plans and programs.
Unfortunately, there was also an increased incidence of obituaries many
of which were eulogizing Army officers who had formerly been associated
with the Survey. Some war-related investigations were done by office personnel
including studies by Charles Schott on the trajectory and ricochet angles
of 15- and 20-inch projectiles and on the magnetic effects of iron ships.
Bache also took part in the magnetic studies. Henry Mitchell was consulted
for the ideal location of a naval base on the Delaware River and recommended
that the base be situated sufficiently far up the river to escape the effects
of the salt-water wedge that flows up along the bed of the river in the
dry summer months. Mitchell had first noted this effect on the Hudson River.
The practical reason for his recommendation was that metal hulls would
corrode more rapidly if the base were sited too far down the river in the
area of salt-water wedge effect.
The appearance of normal operations was reinforced by the continued
publication and distribution of the Superintendent's Report during the
war. In particular, reference to the content of the appendices of these
volumes hardly indicates that a state of war existed. During the war years
over 150 appendices were published. Of these only 20 were directly related
to the war effort. The minuscule nature of the reporting on war exploits
is indicated by the fact that these 20 entries covered less than 40 pages
out of the 1200 pages devoted to appendices during this period. Such items
as Superintendent Bache's reports on the magnetic work at the Girard College
Observatory (20 years earlier), George Davidson's Directory of the Pacific
Coast, and a few relatively large reports by Charles Schott on geodesy
and magnetism accounted for over half of the published material in the
appendices. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this apparent attempt to
emphasize normal operations was the re-publication in 1862 of Superintendent
Bache's "Notice of Earthquake Waves on the Western Coast of the United
States, on the 23rd and 25th of December, 1854." There was no reason given
for the reprinting of this publication which had appeared in an earlier
report. It was a very interesting paper and was the first publication to
give a reasonably accurate average depth of the Pacific Ocean, but it still
seemed quite out of place. Following this paper was a work by Captain Edward
Bissell Hunt, United States Army, entitled "On the Origin, Growth, Substructure,
and Chronology of the Florida Reef."
During his lifetime Captain Hunt, who was a protégé of
Bache's, published over 20 scientific papers which included the first suggestion
and attempt in the United States to make an index of scientific papers
using common terminology and abbreviations, wrote a paper on the Gulf Stream
in which he obliquely attacked Matthew Fontaine Maury, and even wrote on
the meaning of infinity. His paper concerning indexing of scientific information
is pertinent in today's world of information science. He also invented
one of the first pressure depth-sounding instruments which was later modified
to measure the rise and fall of the tide off Charleston harbor.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he had been engaged for five years
in building Fort Taylor at Key West, Florida. As such, he was familiar
with the Florida reef and spent considerable time reflecting on its nature.
His studies indicated that the Florida peninsula was at least 5.4 million
years in forming, a radical and seemingly stupendous value at that time.
Even at that he made the disclaimer that, "the aggregate of time given
seems really and truly insufficient." Captain Hunt was actually off by
an order of magnitude too little. However, he had the moral courage to
speak out against the prejudices of the day concerning the age of the earth
and by extension man's place in the natural order. By publishing Hunt's
paper in the annual report, Superintendent Bache showed an open-mindedness
and willingness to tackle controversy in the realm of science. The most
remarkable thing about this paper is that it was written in the year that
experienced Shiloh, McClellan's debacle on the Peninsula, Second Bull Run,
and Antietam. Under a different set of circumstances this paper probably
would have been a subject of great debate in scientific circles. As it
was, it wasn't even noticed. Within a year, recently promoted Major Hunt
was dead and never again had a chance to make his mark upon American science.
He died accidentally in a test of a device called a "sea miner," basically
a projectile meant to strike an enemy vessel underwater. Curiously, such
a device is now called a torpedo and what was called a torpedo in the jargon
of the Civil War is called a mine today. Major Hunt died as he lived, a
man in advance of his times.
Regardless of the scientific merit of Captain Hunt's reef studies and
Superintendent Bache's magnetic and seismic sea wave studies, it seems
singularly odd that time and energy were devoted to such matters in 1862.
Perhaps Superintendent Bache was unconsciously attempting to find a refuge
from the horrors of war. On a personal level he suffered several emotional
blows in 1862 as Brevet Lieutenant Colonel William Palmer, one of his best
and oldest friends, passed away as the result of disease during the Peninsula
campaign. A brother-in-law, Commander Richard Wainwright who had served
many years with the Survey beginning in the Hassler years, died as the
result of disease while Flag Captain for Rear Admiral Farragut on the Mississippi
River. Assistant A. S. Wadsworth died in Washington, D. C., in early August
apparently from cholera contracted in the Washington area. His death occurred
while on his way to pay a visit to Superintendent Bache. Add to these the
deaths of Major General Isaac Ingalls Stevens and Captain J. R. Smead on
August 30 at Chantilly, Virginia. Stevens was Assistant-in-Charge of the
Office in the early 1850's while Smead was in charge of the engraving division
at the beginning of the war. On October 8, Brigadier General William Terrill
had his lung ripped out by a rebel cannonball at Perryville, Kentucky.
Terrill was in charge of a triangulation party for the Coast Survey just
prior to the beginning of the war. If these deaths were not enough, General
Henry Benham, Assistant-in-Charge of the Office after Stevens, was arrested
and came home in disgrace following a cowardly retreat from the Battle
of Secessionville that would have allowed the Union Army to march through
the back door of Charleston.
All of the death and disaster must have affected Superintendent Bache.
Coupled with these blows were the almost super-human schedule that he maintained
as Superintendent of the Survey, service with the Lighthouse Board, duties
as a member of the Navy permanent commission which was in charge of evaluating
various inventions, and his role as vice-president of the United States
Sanitary Commission, a forerunner of the American Red Cross. As the war
progressed his duties pressed ever heavier; and as the list of dead increased,
his inner reserves must have been sorely tested. Prior to the Confederate
invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1863, Bache somehow found time
to be a guiding spirit in the formation of the National Academy of Sciences
and then headed the efforts to plan and construct defenses for Philadelphia.
Although Philadelphia was never attacked, this was a major exercise as
it wasn't clear in June of 1863 if the Confederate Army would or could
march through all of Pennsylvania.
Superintendent Bache's level of effort continued through 1863 and well
into 1864. The death of Major E.B. Hunt in October, 1863, was another heavy
blow. The tiresome schedule and exhaustion was telling as shown by Bache's
reaction to a letter received in mid-May of 1864 from J. M. Foltz, a surgeon
in the Navy. Foltz wrote from Philadelphia that in a conversation with
Assistant Spencer C. McCorkle that McCorkle expressed the sentiment that
he "hoped Lee would whip Grant." Surgeon Foltz felt "compelled from a sense
of duty" to report this to Bache ". . . for such action as it deserved."
Superintendent Bache immediately notified the Secretary of the Treasury,
Salmon P. Chase, reporting the charge of disloyalty and that he was removing
McCorkle from the Survey.
McCorkle was notified that he was fired on May 20. He went to Surgeon
Foltz and established that Foltz had in fact been talking to McCorkle's
brother, James R. McCorkle. Surgeon Foltz immediately sent a message to
Bache informing him of this error. Superintendent Bache wrote to McCorkle
on May 21 stating, "I will have the matter rectified as soon as possible."
McCorkle did not even get an apology. This episode illustrated that Bache's
judgment was clouded by this point in the war. He must have been physically
and mentally exhausted to fire a long-time Survey employee without even
giving the accused an opportunity to defend himself. This unilateral personnel
action differed significantly from his removal of George U. Mayo from the
Survey in 1861 as Bache had the evidence directly from Mayo's own hand
that he was disloyal. In the case of McCorkle, Bache acted on the testimony
of another individual without seeing any evidence first-hand. It is unfortunate,
but Superintendent Bache's letter to Spencer McCorkle was one of the last
official letters that he wrote prior to the onset of what must have been
either a massive stroke or the sudden culmination of a nervous system disease.
Superintendent Bache spent the remaining years of his life as an invalid
who was not only physically debilitated but apparently also mentally incapacitated.
For the next 32 months the de facto head of the Coast Survey was Julius
Hilgard. Even without Superintendent Bache's guiding hand, the Coast Survey
continued to operate as a well-oiled machine until the war came to its
Superintendent Bache fell as a patriot in the service of his country.
More than any of the great scientists of the period, Bache rose to the
occasion during the Civil War and established himself as the model for
the patriot scientist and science administrator of future wars. He could
have accepted the seeming fate of the Survey at the beginning of the war
and retired to a comfortable position far from the cares and fears of Washington.
Instead, he fought for the Survey and by saving it made a major contribution
to the Union cause. Coast Survey maps and charts guided Union Navy and
Army forces from New England to Texas along the coast and in most of the
Army campaigns in the interior including the Peninsula Campaign, Vicksburg,
Chattanooga, Atlanta, and General Grant's war of attrition against Robert
E. Lee in the final year of the war. Superintendent Bache's wisdom helped
guide the United States Sanitary Commission and contributed to saving untold
lives. His technical ability was used in the service of the Navy Permanent
Commission and in the Lighthouse Service. His political acumen was essential
in forming the National Academy of Sciences, an organization born in controversy,
but one that has survived to fulfill the vision of Bache. Alexander Dallas
Bache - patriot, scientist, administrator - was a great American.
4. The elder Wainwright had met and married Bache's sister Sally in the 1840's while attached to the Coast Survey. He died of malaria on the Mississippi River in 1862. The younger Wainwright became a naval officer of great renown. Following in the family tradition, he served on the Coast Survey in the 1870's, served heroically in the Spanish-American War, and went on to become the first Chief of the Division of Operations (roughly equivalent to the Chief of Naval Operations) of the U.S. Navy in 1909. Richard Wainwright, Jr., almost single-handedly dragged the Navy into the Twentieth Century with emphasis on fleet tactics, improved gunnery techniques, and improved maintenance methods.
5. Letter from Preston C.F. West to Assistant Henry L. Marindin, dated March 8, 1890. NOAA Library Rare Books Room, Collection of copies of documents relating to the services of Coast Survey officers during the Civil War 1861-1865. These documents were reports from Coast Survey officers concerning Civil War service as related to the establishment of veteran's benefits. Collected in 1900.
6. Reminiscences of J. W. Donn apparently written ca. 1888 in response to request from Coast and Geodetic Survey to relate war record. NOAA Library Rare Books Room, Collection of copies of documents relating to the services of Coast Survey officers during the Civil War 1861-1865. Collected in 1900.
7. General McClellan was well aware of this incident. In a letter to his wife dated April 18, 1862, he mentioned, " Poor Wagner of the Topogs, lost an arm this afternoon by the bursting of a shell - he is doing well however." Unfortunately, McClellan's prognosis was incorrect. (In: Sears, S. W. Editor. 1992. The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan. p. 240. Da Capo Press, New York.)
"It has been found that when the Coast Survey officers are serving in
the field their work is much more effective if a local military rank is
given to them by which soldiers and officers recognize them and civilians
such as clerks and other army outsiders are separated from them. General
Foster made trial of this assigning the local rank of Captain or Major
as their age in the Coast Survey service seemed to require and the duties
to which he assigned rendered expedient. As they receive their pay and
allowances from the Coast Survey there is no question of that kind comes
up to make the arrangement inconvenient. I would respectfully request that
you issue a general order assigning to Coast Survey Officers serving in
your military Department the assimilated rank of Captain, or higher if
their pay and emoluments require it."
(In: Simon, J. Y., Hoffman, J. M. and Wilson, D. L., Editors. 1982. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Volume 9: July 7-December 31, 1863. p. 638-639. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale and Edwardsville.)
16. Of this map of Chattanooga, Richard W. Stephenson of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress included the following comment on page 184 of his 1989 work, CIVIL WAR MAPS : "Before, during, and after this battle, Coast Survey Sub-Assistant F. W. Dorr, under the direction of the Union's Engineering Brigadier General William F. Smith, made a detailed field survey of the area and produced this accurate tactical map. The accuracy of the terrain representation and the correctness of the location of the cultured features are excellent attributes of this map, which was useful to the Union forces; but the clarity and correctness of the location of both Union and Confederate fortifications, entrenchments, and troop deployment gives it a unique place among military maps of the period."
17. Reminiscences of J. W. Donn apparently written ca. 1888 in response to request from the Coast and Geodetic Survey to relate his war record and experiences. NOAA Library Rare Books Room, Collection of copies of documents relating to the services of Coast Survey officers during the Civil War 1861-1865. Collected in 1900.
18. Report of Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres, Fifth U. S. Artillery, Chief of Artillery, December 24, 1862. In: Scott, R. N. and Lazelle, H. M. 1888. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. XXI, p. 525. Government Printing Office, Washington. Other references to Preston C. F. West in this volume occur on p. 72, 452, 517, 523, 524, and 766.
24. A record of Aloysius J. Kane's service can be found in the Rare Book Room of the NOAA Central Library at Silver Spring, Maryland. His Coast Survey record and record of Naval service are confused by his use of the name "Louis J." or "Lewis J." Kane as a young man. Under the name Louis J. Kane he was made a mate in the Coast Survey on December 19, 1860. He had served with the Coast Survey since October 1859. According to Callahan's List of the Officers of the Navy of the United States and Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (1901. p. 305. Hamersly and Co., New York), his first appointment in the Navy was recorded under the name "Lewis J. Kane" on March 14, 1861. "Lewis" Kane resigned from the Navy on 8 April, 1862, and then reappeared on the Navy roster by the name Aloysius J. Kane as a Mate on 22 December, 1863. (Kane's personal communications to the Coast and Geodetic Survey indicate that he was appointed a Master's Mate on that date and mentioned no break in service.) He then was promoted to Acting Ensign on 20 September, 1864. He served in the Navy until resigning on 1 March, 1870. Kane's record is made more difficult to unravel as, under "Aloysius J." Kane, his name is out of alphabetical order in the list and precedes the name "Kammerer." In later correspondence with the Coast Survey and the Civil Service Commission, he signed his name "A. J. G. Kane, L. L. B., Harvard University." He is also referred to as "Colonel Kane" indicating Army service, perhaps in the Spanish-American War. Pertinent dates in the "List of the Officers...." correspond with dates given by Kane in his correspondence with Superintendents Otto H. Tittmann and Ernest Lester Jones of the Coast and Geodetic Survey further assuring that "Louis," "Lewis," and "Aloysius" was all the same individual.
From the nature of Kane's tenure in the Coast Survey, it is apparent that Superintendent Bache had instituted a program for the training and development of Coast Survey ship's officers similar to his recruitment and development of field survey officers. This probably was a result of the removal of most naval officers from Coast Survey service in the late 1850's. When Kane first came on duty with the Coast Survey in 1859, he had just turned 16. Kane made it plain in subsequent communications with the President of the Civil Service Commission and Ernest Lester Jones that he received training far and above that reserved strictly for deck hands during his stay on the Survey. He states emphatically that his subsequent appointment and promotions in the Navy were directly related to that Coast Survey experience and training. Specifically, in attaining the rank of Acting Ensign, he had to pass a test that demonstrated knowledge of many diverse technical areas. Kane reported that the examining officer "presumed the technical training and experience gained by the officers in the Coast Survey . . . endowed these officers with qualifications excepted by officers of the merchant marine."
28. These schooners were apparently on duty in the Chesapeake Bay area when Ward wrote this message. They were among the first of many Coast Survey vessels transferred to the Navy during the Civil War. See: Letter from Ward to Welles, June 10, 1861. O.R.N. Series I, Volume IV, p. 508-509.
30. The screw tug RESOLUTE, 90 tons, was built in 1860. It was 88' 2" long, 17' in breadth, and drew 6'6". It carried one 1 24-pound gun and 1 12-pound gun. Records at the United States Navy Historical Center indicate that Budd may have spent a few days on the RELIANCE, a sister ship of the RESOLUTE, prior to taking command of the latter.
35. Hollins claimed credit for the idea in his report to the Confederate government and was the senior officer present when the ST. NICHOLAS was taken over. However, Lieutenant Hunter Lewis of the Confederate Navy has also been credited as being the original source of the plan.
38. As an example of how the psychology of the Civil War would change over the next few years, on June 4 and 5, 1863, three Union gunboats and an Army transport carrying 400 troops made a raid up the Mattapony River not far from the Hooe residence. Their objective was to destroy a foundry at Walkerton, Virginia. This raid was successful and also resulted in the destruction of a flour mill and a large quantity of grain as well as the capture of livestock. When the gunboats were returning down the river, they "dropped shells into many deserted houses and completely scoured the banks...." (Naval History Division. 1971. Civil War Naval Chronology 1861-1865. p. III-90. Government Printing Office, Washington.) It had become standard operating procedure by this stage of the war to destroy civilian property that could even be remotely suspected of sheltering or providing aid to enemy forces.
41. The term "contraband" to describe runaway slaves was coined by Brigadier General Benjamin Butler in May of 1861 to describe fugitive slaves who had fled into his camp at Fortress Monroe. Budd, as opposed to giving shelter to fugitive slaves who had fled their masters, instead confiscated property that was aiding the rebellion. That property happened to be slaves.
42. Captain William R. Palmer's report of June 8, 1861, to Alexander Dallas Bache, concerning his reconnaissance of the Potomac contained the following statement: "The negro slaves expressed a strong desire that I should take them with me; this I declined doing." (O.R.N., Series I, Vol. IV, p. 506.) Commander Steven C. Rowan, commanding the U.S.S. PAWNEE, wrote to Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, on June 12, 1861: A colored man came off this morning in a small boat, stating that he belonged to Mr. Healy [Hooe?], and asked my protection .... I declined to receive him. He left the ship and continued down the river." (O.R.N., Series I, Vol. IV, p. 508.) Rowan again on June 25 to Gideon Welles relates that a negro came aboard and provided him with information concerning the locations and numbers of troops on shore. Rowan related: "I regret that the negro was brought off, but being on board I don't know what to do with him. I send him in the GUY to the navy yard to be disposed of as you may direct." (O.R.N., Series I, Volume IV, p. 535.) In this instance, Rowan provided the man with transportation to Washington. However, it is apparent that this was done only because of the odd circumstances and not from any desire to see the man free. Given the date, it is entirely
possible that this Negro was taken from the premises of Dr. Hooe by William Budd. Although the official records include no mention of his taking a contraband, in The Civil War at Sea (Jones,V.C. 1960. p. 132. Holt, Rinehart, Winston. New York.) V.C. Jones relates that Budd took a slave from Hooe's home prior to setting it afire and allowed that man to come to his vessel.
43. The term "Micawber's role" refers to a character in David Copperfield, a novel by Charles Dickens. Micawber was characterized by being eternally optimistic that "something will turn up" while making no plans or exercising any foresight.
44. Letter from McClellan , G.B. to Stone, C.P. August 18, 1861. In: Sears, S.W. 1992. The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan Selected Correspondence 1860-1865. p. 86-87. De Capo Press, New York.
52. The MAGNOLIA was an 843-ton sidewheel steamer that had been captured in February 1862, while attempting to run the blockade in the Gulf of Mexico.. It was capable of making 12 knots and carried a crew of 95. Its armament consisted of 1 20-pounder and 4 24-pounders.
56. It is difficult to trace amounts of prize money awarded during the Civil War. Over 1,300 prize cases were eventually adjudicated in United States courts. As of 1867, J.T. Headley in Farragut and Our Naval Commanders (p. 604. E.B. Treat and Co., New York.) stated: "Payment has already been made to nearly ten thousand different claimants, in sums varying from twenty-five cents to thirty-eight thousand dollars. There still remain to be adjudicated about six hundred prizes, the most of which will be condemned and the proceeds paid to the captors. In 1958, Hamilton Cochran wrote in Blockade Runners of the Confederacy, (p. 293. The Bobbs-Merrill Co. Inc., Indianapolis.): "... the U.S.S. MAGNOLIA captured the contraband steamer MEMPHIS. Her cotton and resin were valued at more than half a million dollars so that a single lieutenant from the MAGNOLIA received $38,318.55 for his single share." Although these statements do not preclude the possibility that there was a single higher prize award, it does make it very improbable. However, the flag officers commanding the various blockading squadrons received a share of each capture made by their squadron. Consequently, their total prize awards sometimes amounted to over $100,000.
64. Gilbert, S.A. 1865. War Record of Samuel A. Gilbert, Assistant U.S. Coast Survey, Brevet Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers. In: Hand-written report to Julius A. Hilgard, Assistant-in- Charge of U.S. Coast Survey Office, November 23, 1865. Rare Book Room of NOAA Library, Silver Spring, MD.
65. George W. Randolph, Confederate Secretary of War, sent the following message to Major General W. W. Loring on August 29, 1862: "Pope's letter-book has been captured. On August 11, Cox was ordered to retain 5,000 men in Western Virginia, and to send the remainder by river and railroad to Pope.... Clear the valley of the Kanawha and operate northwardly to junction with our army in the valley...." (Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I - Volume XIX, Part I, Chapter XXXI. p. 1069.) General Loring stated that he left with his command, "about 5,000 strong." Gilbert wrote in his personal memoir that he thought the "enemy was heavy in number, about fifteen thousand...." It is curious that even without General McClellan's influence with his Pinkerton spy network that Union forces were so consistently wrong in their estimation of Confederate troop strength.
66. Gilbert, S. A., 1862. Report of Col. Samuel A. Gilbert .... September 21, 1862. In: Scott, R. N. And Lazelle, H. M. 1887. The War of the Rebellion A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XIX, Part I, Reports, Chapter XXXI. p. 1063-1068. Government Printing Office, Washington.
67. Two versions of this story reside in the Cass Gilbert Collection of the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The first was told by Gilbert's wife and had Gilbert striding into the clandestine meeting in uniform while braving the threats and curses of the assembled legislature. The second version was taken from a letter written to the Covington Gazette (whether Kentucky or Ohio is not noted in the Cass Gilbert papers) sometime in 1895 by J. A. Soulder, a former Union soldier who served under Gilbert and helped encircle the capitol. Soulder claimed this event took place on January 5, 1863 while Samuel Gilbert's personal memoir placed the date in February 1863. The quotation in the text is from Soulder's account. A search of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies failed to turn up any record of this event.
68. Letter from H. G. Wright to Halleck, January 20, 1863. In: Scott, R.N. and Lazelle, H. M. 1887. The War of the Rebellion A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XX, Part I, Reports, Chapter XXXII. p. 87-88. Government Printing Office, Washington.
70. Captain Henry Wise, U. S. N., became chief of the Ordnance Bureau following the assignment of Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren to command of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in 1863. The Confederate forces also had a Henry Wise and George Wise. Brigadier General Henry A. Wise was the United States Representative from Virginia who so ably defended Ferdinand Hassler and the Coast Survey in the attack of 1842. He is most noted as the firebrand Governor of Virginia during the famous John Brown raid. In 1862 he was in command of Confederate forces on Roanoke Island during Ambrose Burnside's successful amphibious attack. General Wise escaped from the island but his son was killed during the fighting. There was also a Confederate Captain George Wise who was mentioned occasionally in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
71. Letter from Andrew H. Foote to Montgomery C. Meigs, October 29, 1861. In: Scott, R.N. 1883. The War of the Rebellion A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume VIII, p. 367. Government Printing Office, Washington.
72. Letter from Montgomery C. Meigs to Andrew H. Foote, November 21, 1861. In: Scott, R.N. 1883. The War of the Rebellion A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume VIII, p. 371. Government Printing Office, Washington.
74. Assistant Quartermaster Wise is mentioned often in respect to servicing the needs of the Mississippi River gunboat fleet in Series I, Volumes 22 and 23, of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. Specifically: Volume 22, pages 485, 496, 640, 642, 643, 673, 675, 679, and 760; Volume 23, pages 68-70,89, 91,105-107, 110, 148, 157-159, 179, 207-208, 211, 224-226, 250, 253, 261,263, 265, 293, 306, 373, and 389. After October 1, 1862, control of the gunboat fleet passed to the Navy. Although no longer affiliated with the Navy, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter mentioned him as an example to his new supply officers in reference to the sort of service he wished he could be receiving (Volume 23, pages 500 and 644.)
77. Letter from George D. Wise to Montgomery C. Meigs, November 10, 1862. In: Ainsworth, F.C. and Kirkley, J. W. 1899. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies .... Series III, Vol. II, p. 832-833. Government Printing Office, Washington.
79. These statistics are culled from Colonel George D. Wise's final report found in: Ainsworth, F. C. and Kirkley, J. W. 1900. The War of the Rebellion A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series III, Volume V. p. 287-293. U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington.
83. The career of Henry Wager Halleck has been poorly documented. He was maligned for his role as General-in-Chief and never got around to writing memoirs to explain his position and the interactions between himself, President Lincoln, the various politicians in Washington, and the generals in the field. Perhaps the best analysis of his role in the Union winning the Civil War came in: Ambrose, S., 1962. "Halleck, Lincoln's Chief of Staff," 226 pp. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. In this work, Ambrose makes the point that Halleck was a master at managing warfare and that through his expertise the Union armies were kept supplied, transportation provided, and grand strategy was developed. Halleck was an advocate of centralization of control, emphasis on maneuver to defeat the enemy, and the belief that control of critical geographic points was the key to winning the war. Although his own personal weaknesses precluded his being able to effectively establish a centralized command, his career, and that of his staff including Richard D. Cutts, established the groundwork for developing the command system followed in the modern military.
85. Letter from Halleck to McClellan, August 28, 1862. In: Scott, R. N., 1885. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XII, Part III, p. 707. Government Printing Office, Washington.
86. Letter from Halleck to Cutts, April 22, 1865. In: Davis, G. B., Perry, L. J., and Kirkley, J. W. 1894. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XLVI, Part III, p. 889. Government Printing Office, Washington.
87. General Halleck reported these thoughts to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on May 11, 1865. (Davis, G. B., Perry, L. J., and Kirkley, J. W. 1894. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume XLVI, Part III, p. 1132. Government Printing Office, Washington.) Stephen Ambrose in Halleck: Lincoln's Chief of Staff (1962. pp. 203-204. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge) makes the point that shipments of these papers, "81 boxes weighing ten tons, made up the bulk of the Confederate part of the War of the Rebellion, the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, an indispensable tool for Civil War students."
88. Palmer, W. R. 1861. In: Bache, A. D. Report of the Superintendent . . . 1861, Appendix No. 12, Report of Major W. R. Palmer, U. S. Topographical Engineers, Assistant U. S. Coast Survey, In Charge of the Office, and Sub-reports of the Chiefs of Office Divisions. p. 140.