Missed-cellany #1: Got Pass?

Washington, D.C. View across Chain Bridge over the Potomac (1865; LOC: LC-DIG-cwpb-04113)

Chain Bridge - 1865

I’ve mentioned that the Seneca Falls, New York public library contains a couple three-ring binders full of local newspaper clippings from the Civil War era, divided by year. At first, I did not see a specific date associated with the following article. Come to find out, I’m a couple months late.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper October 3, 1861:


– If what we hear of Dick – who belongs to Capt. Guion’s Company – be true, he has proved himself a trump, as a soldier. It is said that he was guarding the approach to the Chain bridge, on the Virginia side, when President Lincoln’s carriage, containing himself, Gov. Curtin and one or two other notables, approached to cross the bridge. Dick brought the carriage to a halt and demanded General McClellan’s pass, when he was told that the President was one of the party. “I don’t know the President,” said Dick, “but if he has a pass from Gen. McClellan he can cross the bridge – if not, he can’t – so there’s no use of talking.” Dick put himself in a position to charge bayonet, and “Old Abe” turned back and procured the required document, when the faithful sentinel said, “All right,” and the magnates went on their way rejoicing. One of Gen. McClellan’s Aids soon after rode up to Dick and inquired his name; when he replied in the most emphatic style: “My name is Richard Van Dusen, by J–, of Seneca Falls, State of New York. I belong to Company A, 33d Regiment of New York Volunteers.” We should not be surprised to learn that he had been promoted for his fidelity.

– especially given the antagonism General McClellan felt toward President Lincoln, that meddling civilian, that “rare bird” [1].

The war in America: the chain bridge across the Potomac above Georgetown, looking towards the Virginian shore (1861; LOC: C-USZ62-73343 )

Chain Bridge looking toward Virginia

33d New York Infantry (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-USZ62-99872)

soldier of 33rd New York with bayonet at the ready

Companies A and K of the 33rd New York Infantry Regiment were recruited at Seneca Falls. On August 6, 1861 the 33rd “moved to Camp Lyon near Chain bridge on the Potomac; was there assigned to Smith’s brigade and was employed in construction work on Forts Ethan Allen and Marcy during September.” During the time this story took place the regiment was quartered at Camp Ethan Allen. The following is from a report by the New York Adjutant-General in 1900 providing registers of various regiments:

Dick Van Dusen 33rd NY Infantry

Dick was one of many older volunteers

I like this story, although I have a very vague memory that I may have heard something similar before. I’m not sure; it might even have been in a different war. That reminds of something else I wanted to mention. Back in April Seven Score and Ten published an account of of Confederate troops making lemonade out of lemons by staging an official funeral procession to bury a lot of bad pickled beef. The Seneca County newspaper published a similar story from the training camp in Elmira, New York sometime after April. It doesn’t surprise me that there was bad food in both Pensacola and Elmira. Maybe the Elmira troops appropriated the funeral idea from the Confederate troops.

  1. [1] see Oates, With Malice Toward None p287-288 paperback edition
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