sourcing recruits

Conscription in early 1865 was kind of a fluid thing. Here are three short pieces from the Seneca Falls, NY library big notebook of Civil War clippings that show 1) the quota for the 24th New york Congressional District didn’t seem to be as high as a Wayne County newspaper stated, but it would still cost plenty of greenbacks to avoid a draft. 2) Towns apparently had been showing a good deal of creativity in not only avoiding a draft but also in avoiding having local men fill the quota.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

THE QUOTA OF THE DISTRICT. – The quota of the 24th Congressional District comprising the counties of Cayuga, Seneca and Wayne, under the last call for 300,000 is 1,700. It will cost the district at least a million of dollars to furnish that number of men.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

OUT OF THE DRAFT. – We understand that the town of Covert is out of the draft, having filled its quota under the last call of the President. The men were recruited in the city of New York by the Supervisor of the town, J.R. Wheeler, Esq.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

OUT OF THE DRAFT. – Our Waterloo neighbors are out of the draft, in consequence of furnishing three years’ recruits last fall under the call for 500,000 men. Burton’s niggers turn out to be a profitable investment after all.

I have no idea if or where Waterloo would have recruited the black men. Also, (I’m reading ahead again) – it looks like Waterloo was actually in the 1865 draft.

New York City and vicinity (between 1861 and 1865; LOC:  LC-DIG-stereo-1s02997)

big supply in Gotham? (“Stereograph shows men reading signs in front of the New York Evening Post building, New York, New York.” between 1861 and 1865 – Library of Congress)

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“service years” quota

150 years ago this month a newspaper up in Wayne County, New York complained about how it understood the federal government was implementing President Lincoln’s December 1864 call for 300,000 more soldiers. The new quotas would be based on the number of service years men had signed up for in prior calls. The paper saw this as changing the rules on the fly and unfairly penalizing localities that had responded promptly to previous calls.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

Quotas Under the New Call.

The quotas of the different districts under the new call vary so much that people do not understand the figuring by which they are established. For instance the district of our district, embracing the counties of Cayuga, Seneca and Wayne, is 3,396; Allegany, Chemung and Steuben 2,903. – Erie, 4,406; Onondaga and Cortland, 2,788; Then again, Oneida is called on to furnish only 275; Broome, Schuyler, Tioga, and Tompkins 546; and Genese [sic], Niagara and Wyoming, none!

Under the late call, it appears that credits are given for the number of years’ service for which the recruits were enlisted. So the localities which furnished their quotas of say 3,000 men for three years, are credited with 9,000 year’s service, while the district which furnished the same number of one year’s men, is credited with only 3,000 year’s service, and each are credited with filling their quota. The practical effect of this is that those localities which set to work promptly to supply the men called for and put them into the field for the term of service required, and during the the time allowed them by the terms of the call, are now informed that they have thrown their money away, and are far worse off than counties which dallied along until the rush was over, and then having the field wholly to themselves, obtained three years men for less money. Had it been understood that this mode of credits was to be adopted, the counties of Cayuga, Seneca and Wayne, would not have thrown away three millions of money on one year’s men, for they could have filled their quota with three years’ men although it would have taken much more time. The whole thing is an unmitigated fraud upon the people, for if such credits were to be given, it was the bounded duty of the war department to let the people know how many years service each man enlisted under the call would be expected to perform. That no such thing was promulgated, and people were led to believe that one year men was all the government wanted – in fact we were assured by men high in authority that the war would be brought to an end before their term of enlistment. But the wrong [wronged?] and deluded people must make the best of this, as they have of a great many other outrages upon their rights committed by this administration. – Lyons Press.

There’s a good chance the Lyons Press is listed as the Lyons NY Wayne Democratic Press 1856-1873.

This article seems to be more evidence for James M. McPherson’s statement that Union conscription “was not conscription at all, but a clumsy carrot and stick device to stimulate volunteering. The stick was the threat of being drafted and the carrot was a bounty for volunteering[1].” – apparently not just for individuals. Despite the price tag localities seemed to want to avoid a draft. There would seem to be something of this in the following column from the January 1, 1865 issue of The New-York Times. “New-York vs. the Draft” seems to have included upping the bounties ti $1,000 and appreciating that naval enlistments counted toward filling the quota.

New York Times 1-1-1865

New York Times 1-1-1865

  1. [1] McPherson, James M. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989. Print. page 605.
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James River battle

In January 1865 the Confederate navy on the James River attempted to attack and destroy the Federal supply depot at City Point in order to help lift the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. The Confederate fleet was stopped at the January 23rd and 24th Battle of Trent’s Reach.

From the February 11, 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly at Son of the South:


THE great military event of the week was the attempt made by the rebel iron-clads on the James to descend the river past our obstructions on the night of January 23. Hints had been given out that General LEE was about to do something that would astonish the world. The design of this iron-clad raid was as bold against us as it was perilous to the vessels engaged. The blow was mainly directed against the army on the north side of the James. The rebel fleet, after passing our obstructions, was to recapture Fort Harrison; and it is likely that a raid on City Point was also in contemplation. The object is thus stated by the Richmond Whig of January 25 :

” The expedition of our iron-clads down the river had been designed to break the enemy’s pontoon bridges, and thus destroy his communications, and to take advantage of the ascertained fact that he had withdrawn most of his naval force from the river, probably to Wilmington, leaving but one ironclad and some wooden vessels in the channel above Varina. There was also reason to suppose that the recent freshet had washed out a portion of his line of obstructions.” At least three iron-clads — the Richmond, Virginia, and Fredericksburg engaged in the raid. These were accompanied by the Drewry, a small wooden gunboat, mounting one gun. This boat got aground, and was blown up, either by the enemy or by a shell from our batteries.

The Fredericksburg is said to have passed the obstructions successfully, but this is uncertain. At least it is doubtful whether, even if they succeeded in passing their own obstructions, they found it so easy to pass ours. The rebels only claims that one iron-clad, the Fredericksburg, succeeded in getting through. The Virginia and the Richmond got aground, but escaped at high tide. The land batteries prevented the success of this raid, the most prominent among them being the Curtis House Battery.

From The New-York Times January 25, 1865:

GREAT NAVAL BATTLE.; Rebel Iron-Clad Attack on City Point. THE ENTIRE REBEL FLEET ENGAGED. Their Disastrous Repulse by the Forts. THE IRON-CLAD VIRGINIA DESTROYED. Two Others Damaged and Run Aground. ESCAPE OF THE REMAINDER.

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, Jan, 25.

The Star says: — “Dispatches received here state that yesterday morning at 2 o’clock a rebel fleet of five vessels — The Richmond Squadron, so long being prepared — came down the river to destroy our depots and works at City Point.

The high water caused by the freshe[t] enabled them to pass the obstructions which our commanders had placed above City Point, for the better protection of the place.

A battle quickly ensued between the rebel fleet and our nearest battery or fort, in which one of the rebel vessels was blown up and instantly and entirely destroyed, while two others were so badly damaged by shot and shell as to compel them to seek safety by speedy flight back in the direction of Richmond, accompanied by the other two, which escaped damage to speak of.

Admiral FARRAGUT left here yesterday evening for the scene of this action, and it is understood that he will at once assume naval command there.

The same issue of the Times reported that Union headquarters hypothesized that  General Lee was using the naval action as cover for the evacuation of Richmond:

Further Particulars The Object of the Attack.

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Monday, Jan. 2[???]

The TIMES special correspondent, at City Point, states that the idea entertained at headquarters of the descent of the rebel fleet, which ended so disastrously to the rebels in the sinking of the chief iron-clad, the Virginia, and the disabling, and running aground of the other two, is that the effort was on the part of Lee an attempt to raise a great hullabaloo, under cover of which he would attempt to evacuate Richmond. The evidence daily accumulates that the rebel chiefs would now be very glad to withdraw themselves and the only remaining army of the rebellion safely from Richmond. But it is too late to effect thin design.

According to HistoryNet the rebel James River Flotilla was taking advantage of the depleted Union navy on the James due the expedition against Fort Fisher. You can view a slideshow of the battle at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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three star flag

The 160th New York Infantry fought in Louisiana through 1863 and during the Red River campaign in the first months of 1864. It then got to Virginia in time for the Battle of Snicker’s Ferry. The Regiment wouldn’t be mustered out until November 1865, but it sure was time to return a much-used regimental banner. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

Banner of the 160th Regiment.

The once beautiful banner presented by the ladies of Auburn to the 160th Regiment, some two years ago, was brought here last week by Serg’t. Lyman Manchester, who has borne it through fifteen general engagements. The old flag is sadly mutilated, and bears ample testimony of the fiery ordeals through which it has passed – having only three stars remaining upon it. Serg’t. M. intends to return it to the hands of the donors. – Lyons Press.

Sergeant Manchester seems to have had real good timing – the regiment’s suffered its last casualties at Cedar Creek in October 1864. It mustered out way down South in Savannah, Georgia.

Lyman S. Manchester - NY 160th Infantry

Lyman S. Manchester – NY 160th Infantry

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peace signs

Blair (between 1860 and 1875; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpbh-00036)

old Blair

About 150 years ago people up in this neck of the woods could read about some rumored peace maneuvers. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

More Peace Rumors.

The telegraph of Thursday evening gives us more Peace rumors. We give them for what they are worth. The Richmond Examiner of the 16th says: The rumors concerning the nature of paper negotiations old Blair carries back with him are very numerous, but we are confidently assured the missionn [sic] [h]as brought the peace question to a point that provides for the appointment of Commissioners from either side, with authority to lay a peace foundation, That is all.

The Richmond Whig of the 16th also announces that Mr. Blair had a private and confidential interview with the President. He came in no official capacity, and had no official intercourse with any member of the government. The belief in well informed circles is that this interview may lead to a conference of authorized agents or commissioners of the two governments. It is known that President Davis will permit no obstacle of form to stand in the way of sending or receiving commissioners. It is understood that Mr. Blair told the President that he came in no official character, but with the knowledge and consent of Mr. Lincoln. He expressed the opinion that Mr. Lincoln would certainly appoint commissioners to meet commissioners appointed by our President.

Let us hope that there is some foundations for all these rumors, and that Peace may soon come to our distracted, oppressed and bleeding country.

received old Blair in Richmond

received old Blair in Richmond

The Richmond Daily Dispatch had its own rumors/take on Peace in its January 16th issue:

Monday morning…January 16, 1865.
The war News.

Mr. Francis P. Blair, Sr., left Richmond on Saturday, on the flag-of-truce boat, for Grant’s lines. As the end, and object, and results, of his mission have furnished the theme for endless speculation and discussion, we are glad to be able to relieve public curiosity by laying before our readers some facts concerning his interview with the President. He called upon the President on Friday morning. The meeting, especially upon the part of Mr. Blair, was marked by a degree of cordiality that was as refreshing as it was unexpected. He shook the President’s hand warmly, assuring him at the same time of his undiminished regard and esteem. The first compliments over, he requested a private conference with the President, which was immediately accorded him. After a private conversation of an hour’s duration, Mr. Blair took his leave, expressing himself highly gratified with the reception he had met and the results of the conference. Some time after his departure, the president wrote him a note, stating that as he (Mr. Blair) would, perhaps, like to have in writing what he (Mr. Davis) had said to him, he had written to report that he was willing, as he had ever been, to appoint commissioners to meet commissioners of Mr. Lincoln, with a view to an adjustment of the difficulties existing between the two countries. It is under stood that Mr. Blair told the President that he came in no official character, but simply with the knowledge and consent of Mr. Lincoln. He expressed the opinion that Mr. Lincoln would certainly appoint commissioners to meet the commissioners appointed by our President.

The same boat that carried Mr. Blair down the James river brought back General Singleton, and Illinois Peace Democrat, another unauthorized peace commissioner. This peace commissioner business is fast becoming ridiculous. For the benefit of whom it may concern, we will state that General Singleton is at the Spotswood Hotel, where he has been called on by a number of citizens.

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bored of war

Fort Fisher, N.C. View of the land front, showing destroyed gun carriage in second traverse (by Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Jan. 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-03746)

boon to the Southern economy? (“Fort Fisher, N.C. View of the land front, showing destroyed gun carriage in second traverse” Library of Congress)

150 years ago today Richmond’s Dispatch was full of Northern accounts of the the fall of Fort Fisher. The editors spun the resultant closing of the port of Wilmington as economically advantageous:

The fall of Fort Fisher, and the subsequent closing of the port of Wilmington, though deemed disastrous in a military point of view, has necessarily diminished the value of gold by lessening the demand. The public are not aware of the vast amount of influence exercised over the gold market by the operations of the blockade-running at Wilmington. From twenty thousand to one hundred thousand dollars in gold were required to meet the weekly demands of the buyers, and nearly all the gold drawn from the market flowed out through that channel. On Mondaymorning last, one thousand dollars in gold were sold at sixty- two and a half in Confederate money for one in specie. Two hours afterward came the news of the fall of Fort Fisher. Immediately gold rose to seventy-one, and for several days continued to advance, through the combined influence of the brokers, till it reached seventy-six; but here it stopped, and has since had a steady downward tendency.

So far, then, as the monetary affairs of the Confederacy are concerned, our prospects are brighter than for many days past; and should our currency continue to improve under the wholesome treatment now advised and in contemplation, our prospects in other points of view cannot grow worse.

In another section of the paper, after discussing slavery statistics, the editors wished the Yankees would just go home because the war had become so monotonous. They wanted to be able to report on other things. From the Richmond Daily Dispatch January 21, 1865:

Unidentified soldier in Union uniform and Massachusetts belt buckle with drum (by Sewall Shattuck, between 1861 and 1865; LOC:  LC-DIG-ppmsca-32644)

those nauseating Yankee drums (“Unidentified soldier in Union uniform and Massachusetts belt buckle with drum” Library of Congress)

We devoutly wish there was some other subject to write about except Yankees and Lincoln. We are as sick and tired of the disgusting monotony as any one can well be. Even roast beef and plum pudding would lose their charms if one were compelled to dine on them every day in the week, and every week in the year, for four years, much more pork and beans, and codfish and potatoes. We are nauseated with the whole subject of Federals and flank movements, ditching and entrenching, bombshells, iron-clads and torpedoes. We are disgusted with the name of every prominent man in the United States, not simply because they are grand rascals, but because they have become tedious. To have to indict the same thieves at the Old Bailey every day in the week; to see the same ugly, vicious faces peering over the dock every day of the year, is equal to being Mayor of the city of Richmond. Nothing is so offensive as a stale rogue. The interest that villainy at first arouses wears off by repetition. Even the inventive genius of the Yankees fails to keep up our curiosity. The novelty of both their crimes and absurdities has disappeared, and they can no longer produce a sensation. They have made arson, robbery and murder so common that the newspapers, in order to keep up with these performances, have become little better than Newgate Calendars. We wish, just by way of variety, they would become decent and civilized, and relieve us from a bore which has become more intolerable than the bores of their cannon. We wish they would all go home, if only to give the newspapers something else to write about. Only to think of four long years, in which every article, every day of the year, is about war and Yankees.

We appeal to them as fellow-beings on two legs, and having the same external aspect of humanity as other men, will they not begone and let the newspapers alone? How would they like to be invaded in this way, and have nothing to write about but drums, trumpets and gunboats? We say nothing of bloodshed, burning, hanging, confiscation and the like. It is a fearful thing to have only one subject to write and talk about for four years.

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American intrepidity

800px-DavidDixonPorter&Staff (The Photographic History of The Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Six, The Navies   . The Review of Reviews Co., New York. 1911. p. 257.)

“nerved … to the conflict” (Admiral Porter and staff, December 1864)

and pertinacity

Here are some examples of Northern newspaper reaction to the Union capture of Fort Fisher.

A local paper in upstate New York thought the price was way too high if the port of Wilmington was not totally sealed off. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

The Capture of Fort Fisher.

The fall of Fort Fisher is the military event of the week. It was captured by our forces on Sunday last, after a most gallant and stubborn resistance on the part of the enemy. The bombardment by the fleet was undoubtedly the severest ever witnessed, and it was the determination of Admiral Porter and Gen. Terry, who commanded the land forces, to capture the fort at whatever cost or sacrifice. The failure of the attempt a few weeks ago nerved them to the conflict, and the result is one of the most brilliant achievements of the war. – Our loss was very severe and, unquestionably greater than has been reported.

Plan of Fort Fisher and vicinity, North Carolina. Plan of second attack, January 15th, 1865. (by Robert Knox Sneden; LOC:

yeah, but Wilmington still hasn’t been captured

The capture of Fort Fisher does not necessarily involve the fall of Wilmington, neither does it entirely close the port to blockade runners. All this becomes a matter of uncertainty in the future, and if we judge of the result by what followed in the capture of Fort Morgan at the entrance of mobile bay some time since, all the sacrifice of like and treasure will have been in vain.

I’m pretty sure the Albany Argus was a strongly pro-Democratic party publication during the war. It appreciated the display of American courage. From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in January 1865:

The Argus says the capture of Fort Fisher by acts of singnal [sic] valor of fleet and land forces, is the brightest achievement of our arms. The captured fort will stand a monument of the cowardice and incapacity of BUTLER, and the valor and skill of TERRY and PORTER, and of the intrepidity of American troops.

US Grant (Campfire and Battlefield, by Rossiter Johnson;

“indomitable pertinacity”

A more widely read and pro-war paper chalked the up the victory to the character of Lieutenant General Grant. From the January 28, 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly at Son of the South:


THE history of the Wilmington Expedition is another proof of our Lieutenant-General’s indomitable pertinacity. He never undertakes without final accomplishment. He may not succeed in the first instance, or a partial reverse may reveal to him the insufficiency in the means taken, or the incompetency of his subordinates. But he holds on notwithstanding, providing new means and shelving incapable officers, knowing that in the end, sooner or later, victory awaits the patient soldier.

Campfire and Battlefield by Rossiter Johnson (

General Terry with a resume highlight

BUTLER failed to take Fort Fisher, and men had hardly got through with reasoning upon his failure and its causes before the news of complete success, under another commander, upsets or modifies their military critiques. This success is of the first importance. The capture of Fort Fisher does not mean alone the taking of 75 guns and several hundred prisoners. It involves a loss to the rebels of their principal port, and to us whatever gain may come from the release of our blockading fleet at this point. But its chief value is in relation to the future military operations of Generals GRANT and SHERMAN. The Cape Fear River is a convenient base for the most efficient co-operation of the two great armies now overshadowing the Atlantic rebel States.

The assault made on the 15th, and the five hours’ fight hand to hand with the garrison of the fort, is not surpassed in the annals of war. …

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friendly request

President Lincoln and family (c1865; LOC: LC-USZ62-17671)

Friend Grant said OK

President Lincoln was trying to please his son Robert, his wife Mary, and his general Grant. He seems pretty confident that the war will soon and finally come to an end.

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:

WASHINGTON, January 19, 1865.


Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend. My son, now in his twenty-second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. I do not wish to put him in the ranks, nor yet to give him a commission, to which those who have already served long are better entitled and better qualified to hold. Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious and as deeply interested that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.

Yours truly,



Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C. (By Carol M. Highsmith, 2011 September; LOC: LC-DIG-highsm-18674)

“Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.” (Library of Congress)

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“The Rebels fought like fiends”

"Second Attack upon Fort Fisher, showing the positions of the vessels, and the lines of fire", 13-15 January 1865  Chart by Walter A. Lane, published in "The Soldier in our Civil War", Volume II. The positions of 58 ships are represented on the chart.  U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Monitor Saugus in close

John Arnett, a young man from Seneca Falls, New York serving in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, has already had some notable experiences. His ship the Westfield was blown up on New Year’s Day 1863 during the Battle of Galveston. Ten days later his new ship the Hatteras was sunk by the CSS Alabama. We haven’t heard too much from John for the past couple years, but 150 years today he wrote a letter to his father describing the Union capture of Fort Fisher. John’s ship, the monitor Saugus participated in the heavy federal bombardment of the fort from January 13th. The Saugus’s main gun exploded early in the fight, but John and most of the rest of the crew escaped serious injury. The rebels were not able to do any serious damage to the tough-skinned Saugus or its crew. The sailors, marines, and soldiers who assaulted the fort by land on January 15th were not quite as fortunate. Nevertheless, by the end of that day the fort guarding the approach to the Confederate port of Wilmington had fallen to Union forces. John was able to observe a good deal of the fierce fight.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper:



The following letter describing the capture of Fort Fisher, is from Ensign John P. Arnett, of the U.S. Navy, son of Wm. Arnett, Esq., of this village:

AT SEA, Jan. 17, 1865.


Fort_Fisher_Bombardment (Engraving by T. Shussler, after an artwork by J.O. Davidson, published in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War". U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph)

“the shot and shell rained into Fort Fisher”

I wrote you, giving a hasty account, day before yesterday, of the fight at Fort Fisher, but since then I have learned more particulars and can give a more detailed account. The expedition left Beaufort on Thursday morning, the 12th. We all sailed together in regular order and it was a splendid sight to see such a long line of men-of-war, followed by the army transports with the soldiers on board. Everything started favorably, the weather was splendid and sea smooth, and everyone was in good spirits, knowing well that the Rebs would have to do some tall fighting to resist, I think, the most formidable expedition of the war. The distance from Beaufort to Fort Fisher is about eighty miles, and we all went leisurely along, as the attack was not to be made until morning. We anchored about ten miles from New Inlet or Fort Fisher. All along the beach we could see fires springing up for miles ahead, which reminded one of the Scotish Clans, when fires would spring up from the hill tops, giving the alarm at the approach of the enemy. On the morning of the 13th., we formed (as in the last attack) in line of battle, the New Ironsides taking the lead, followed by monitors Saugus, Canonicus, Monadnoc and Mahopac; then came the Frigates Wabash, Minnesota, Powhatan, Susquehannah, Sloops-of-war Brooklyn, Tuscarora, Mohican, Juniata, and the numerous gunboats and smaller vessels. We anchored with the rest of the monitors and New Ironsides close to the Fort and commenced the fight. We fired all day, and the shot and shell rained into Fort Fisher. – The enemy returned the fire as well as they could, but the greater part of the garrison of the Fort was taking refuge in the bomb proofs. As we fired the 100 lb shot our No.1 gun burst, but wonderful to relate but one man was seriously injured. It was a miraculous escape, and one would suppose the bursting of a 15 inch gun would kill outright every person near it. Several were slightly wounded and every one in the turret was knocked down by the concussion, myself being one of the number. We continued firing all that day, and in the meantime the troops were disembarking. The next morning the fight was renewed with vigor. Shot after shot would strike us from the enemy, but these monitors were built to stand “hard knocks,” and well they answered the purpose, as the solid shot would come with a crash against our turret, but would glance off into the water or break to pieces without doing much damage. Night coming on, the grand attack was postponed until morning, but the fire from the fleet was continued all night. Sunday was the third day’s fight. The troops were all landed and ready; the vessels all commenced a terrific fire on the Fort in the morning which was kept up for several hours. About 10 o’clock signal was made for the sailors and marines to land, and immediately small boats could be seen pushing off along side every vessel except the Ironclads. I don’t know how many landed, but think about 2000. Now comes the crisis: The sailors and marines are to storm the sea-side face of the Fort and the soldiers the rear.

SeaFaceatFortFisher (The Photographic History of The Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Five, Forts and Artillery   . The Review of Reviews Co., New York. 1911. p. 265.)

mounds and mounds (The sea face of Fort Fisher)

Before I go farther I will give as good a description of Fort Fisher as I can, although I have never been inside of it. The side which we were shelling consisted of, I think, fourteen large mounds of sand. Between the mounds or hills (which I think must be 100 feet high) the guns are mounted. The earthworks were splendid and the Fort was well calculated to resist the attack as it did. The Fort is of great length and mounted in all, I believe, fifty large guns.

"The brave troops went in with a cheer"

“The brave troops went in with a cheer”

Capture of Fort Fisher ( Boston : L. Prang & Co., c1887; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-19925)

fiendish defense

At a given signal from the Flag-Ship, the charge was made, with a cheer. The sailors being exposed to the most galling fire were repulsed with heavy loss, and the beach was strewn with dead and wounded Blue Jackets. What a sight! The Rebels, on the first charge, swarmed on the parapets with small arms, while one or two guns of the Fort sent the death dealing grape and cannister and shrapnel in the ranks of the sailors, the fleet all the time pouring the shot and shell into the Fort. Finally the sailors and marines were compelled to fall back, and then our attention was turned to that part of the Fort where the troops were assaulting. The brave troops went in with a cheer, and the commenced the most desperate hand to hand encounter which the history of this war can show. The first mound was gained a short time after the charge was made, and the good old stars and stripes were planted there amid the cheers of the fleet and the storming column. A few minutes more and the flag on the first mound was carried to the second, and so on. Our soldiers went slow but sure, the battle-flags of both sides being at times within ten feet of each other. The Rebels fought like fiends, and giving their peculiar yell would make charge after charge only to be repulsed with heavy loss; and so raged the fight, up one mound and down the other side, and up the next mound went our noble flag, moving slow but steady and sure, its folds being perforated by the enemy’s bullets, but still gaining and driving before it the Rebel standard. But to show how the Rebels fought, I must tell you what I actually saw. While our troops were fighting hard for the possession of the fifth mound , our troops being on one side and the enemy on the other, I saw a Rebel run boldly up to the top, and exposing his head and shoulders raise his gun, but before he had time to discharge his piece he was pierced through and thro’ by the fire of our troops, and he fell dead where he stood; but he had no sooner fell than another followed him and shared the same fate, and then another and yet another, until I counted five, all falling in nearly the same spot, the last having a chance to discharge his gun but falling immediately after. Our troops then made a charge and carried the mound hansomely [sic], the Rebels falling back to the next one, and so it went on. Night came on but the fight is raging, and the sun set over the most horrible scene that I ever witnessed. The fleet all the time kept firing into that part of the Fort where the enemy is taking refuge. Nine o’clock and the firing is becoming slower; our troops and some sailors in the Fort are intrenching that part of which we have already possession; 9:30, with a cheer that resounded far out over the sea, our soldiers (God bless them!) made the last desperate charge, which was decisive, driving the enemy in one corner of the Fort. Then all was still as death for a few minutes, and we knew the fight was over. The suspense was painful to us, although there was not a doubt in our minds as to who were victors. Suddenly, three times three cheers for the Union was heard from the Fort, which was echoed down the beach, and army signal lights from shore to the Flag-Ship made us doubly sure of the victory being ours. The Flag-Ship sent up rockets, which was answered by all the vessels of the fleet, and then the blue lights rockets, steam whistles, bells and cheers made a scene which is not very often witnessed, and so ended one of the hardest fought battles of the war.

surrender-fort-fisher Harper's Weekly 2-4-1865)

“The Flag-Ship sent up rockets, which was answered by all the vessels of the fleet”

NY Times 1-19-1865jpg

“desperate hand to hand encounter” (NY Times 1-19-1865)

The next morning the prisoners were marched out of the Fort to be put on board the transports and taken North. I believe there were 1800 prisoners taken by our troops. The day after the surrender a terrible accident occurred in the Fort by which over one hundred of our troops and some sailors, besides some rebel prisoners lost their lives. By the carelessness of some one, a fire was built in the Fort, and the powder being strewn around, the fire was communicated to the magazine and it blew up with a terrible explosion. We went to sea yesterday, and I did not have a chance to go into the Fort, and while I am writing we are off Hatteras, with good weather, bound for the Norfolk Navy Yard, where we are ordered for repairs. We left the rest of the fleet off Fort Fisher, and I suppose the troops will follow up their success and take Wilmington, which is several miles up Cape Fear River. We lost some valuable Naval officers when the assault was made on the Fort – several Lieutenants and, I believe, one Lieutenant Commander were reported killed before we left.

Providence has favored us in everything from the start, as we have had splendid weather ever since we left Beaufort. Had it been otherwise we could not have operated at all against the enemy. We expect to arrive at Hampton Roads to-morrow afternoon if this weather lasts. My health is good. Affectionately, your son,


Two of the images above were published in the February 4, 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly and can be viewed at Son of the South.

USS Saugus (1864-1891)  Officers pose on deck, in front of the gun turret, probably while the ship was serving on the James River, Virginia, in early 1865.  U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Ensign Arnett aboard? (Saugus’ officers, probably on James River early in 1865)

Crew on monitor "Saugus", James River, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865  (National Archives)

Saugus’s crew (circa 1864-65)

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break: cold comfort

Campaign sketches. The coffee call (by Winslow Homer, Boston, Mass. : Lith. & pub. by L. Prang & Co., [1863]; LOC:LC-DIG-pga-03007)

A Winslow Homer “Print shows Army of the Potomac soldiers waiting for coffee at a campfire in an encampment.” 1863 (Library of Congress)

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