Lincoln gives the green light for the Burnside Expedition

On December 29, 1861, Ambrose Burnside met with General McClellan and President Lincoln in Washington for a final review of the plan for his expeditionary force’s North Carolina operation. The idea for what Burnside originally termed the “Coast Division” was first pitched to McClellan in October 1861 with the purpose as recounted by General Burnside in an 1882 publication:

To organize a division of from twelve to fifteen thousand men, mainly from states bordering on the northern seacoast, many of whom would be familiar with the coasting trade, and among whom would be found a goodly number of mechanics, to fit out a fleet of light-draught steamers, sailing vessels and barges, large enough to transport the division, its armament and supplies, so that it could be rapidly thrown from point to point on the coast with a view to establishing lodgments on the southern coast, landing troops, and penetrating into the interior, thereby threatening the lines of transportation in the rear of the main army then concentrating in Virginia, and hold possession of the inland waters on the Atlantic coast.[1]

When first briefed on the plan, President Lincoln expressed substantial reservations with both the objective and the worthiness of the vessels procured for the operation. The objective of the briefing on December 29th of 1861 was to obtain Lincoln’s final approval.

Much discouragement was expressed by nautical men and by men high in military authority as to the success of the expedition. The President and General McClellan were both approached, and the President was frequently warned that the vessels were unfit for sea, and that the expedition would be a total failure. Great anxiety was manifested to know its destination, but the secret had been well kept in Washington and at our headquarters.[2]

The generals understand that operational security is the key to the success of the invasion of the North Carolina coast and even the president is keenly attuned to the need to keep it secret.

As Mr. Lincoln afterwards told me, a public man was very importunate, and, in fact, almost demanded that the President should tell him where we were going. Finally, the President said to him, “Now I will tell you in great confidence where they are going, if you will promise not to speak of it to any one.” The promise was given, and Mr. Lincoln said, “Well, now, my friend, the expedition is going to sea.” The inquirer left him without receiving any further information.[3]

After being assured of the great potential for success by McClellan and Burnside, the president finally gives his approval to commence operations as soon as practical.

 

McClellan_Lincoln_Burnside

Generals McClellan and Burnside convinced Lincoln to approve the operations against the Confederates in coastal North Carolina

 

In preparation for pending movement of the expeditionary force, General Burnside orders all sick soldiers to be moved from the camp to a general hospital or loaded abroad a hospital transport.

Although Oliver Case claims to feel “as well as I ever did in my life,” the surgeon excuses him from duty the night before and he is ordered to report to the hospital ship “Recruit” the next morning. Oliver describes the ship as “fitted up full of good berths and is a very different affair from those steamers we came in on.” He also mentions in his letter on December 30th that about 30 soldiers of the 8th Connecticut have contracted measles.[4]


[1] The Burnside Expedition, Ambrose E. Burnside, N. Bangs Williams and Company, Providence, 1882.

[2] IBID

[3] IBID

[4] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (30 December 1861)

 

Advertisements

We had good accommodations and set down to a table and ate like folks instead of hogs.

CW Flag at Pry House (2)

Christmas Eve 1861 brought a real treat for Oliver Case who needed an uplifting of his spirits after battles with a feverous condition known as Ague. He is assigned to a work detail, but he will first partake of a Christmas Eve meal at the headquarters of Major General Ambrose Burnside in Annapolis. Notice the seemingly trivial things like eating at a table are now significant events in the life of a soldier.

The entire letter is republished below…Merry Christmas from Oliver Cromwell Case!

Annapolis

Dec. 25th, 1861

Dear Sister,

Yours of the 22nd came at hand today and was very welcome as I had received no letters from you since L.G. Goodrich was here. Monday was a very stormy day, although the storm abated somewhat in the afternoon.

Lieut. Marsh detailed me to go downtown and report to Gen. Burnside’s headquarters with five others from our Regt. I was the only one from our Company. We went down and stayed at Gen. Burnside’s until early dark when we were conveyed aboard the Arneal, a large transport, and took supper and spent the night. We had good accommodations and set down to a table and ate like folks instead of hogs.

It is the first time that I have sat down to a table to eat since I left H(artford). After breakfast we were conveyed ashore and Gen. Burnside made the detail from all the regiments but one commencing with the largest men. When he found that he had four from the 8th Conn. and only one or two from each of the other Regts, he said that it (the 8th) had not ought to furnish any more but her men were the right size. He considered for some time and then picked out the largest from the other regiments and sent us back subject to a detail whenever we shall be wanted. There was ten sent back in all, only two from our Regt. They are detailed one for a ship to be placed in the Magazine and stow away the different size balls in the proper places and keep a memorandum of where and how many of a kind so that when they are wanted they can put their hands on them without any trouble. I should think that they were to deliver out the ammunition in case of an attack. The Gen. said that it needed strong men to handle the large balls etc, etc. Of course I felt somewhat disappointed by being sent back but I had the assurance that it was not because I was not strong enough but because they didn’t want so many from a regiment. The harbor is full of transports and gunboats, all with the exception of 3 or 4 painted black. I should think that there is 30 or more besides some that have not yet arrived. I think I may have a chance upon one yet but do not know.

Our orderly has gone into the Cavalry and W.J. Braddock (?) has taken his place. Our Capt. has also resigned and our 1st Lieut. has taken his place. I do not know who will be 2nd Lieut. yet but guess someone out of the Co.

We shall probably start in the course of a couple of weeks for “way down in Dixie” and I presume wherever we go we shall be warmly received.

As to studies, I should think that you had as many as you can attend to at present. Zonachenhof’s(?) composition I think is a very study. Hope Father is not going to be sick; he must be very careful of himself or he will get down. The boys are out target shooting this afternoon, but as I have a little touch of Ague there would be no use of my going, so I thought I would try to answer your letter. There was a young man from Bridgeport died here yesterday from our Company. His mother came a day or two before he died. His disease was camp fever. He hurt himself while upon drill, getting over a fence double quick. The doctors thought that there was nothing the matter with him and I suppose that he took a hard cold. He was conscious to the last; he was much liked by the Company.

The Rhode Island battery is here. I have just received a letter from Ariel. Excuse writing as “the shakes” are not pleasant to write with. Respects to all inquiring friends, especially to Cousin Mary and Grandmother.

Oliver

 

The Annapolis Harbor Abuzz, January 1862

This is the seventh and final in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

By the time Christmas Day had come and gone for the sickly Private Oliver Case of the 8th Connecticut, his time in the capital city of Maryland was quickly coming to a close. After the parades and reviews of the previous week, Burnside traveled to Washington to meet with General McClellan and President Lincoln for a final review of the plan for the expeditionary force on December 29, 1861. He is given the approval to commence operations as soon as practical although the President and Commanding General will hold one more meeting with General Burnside the following week.

In preparation for the imminent movement of the expeditionary force, General Burnside orders all sick soldiers to be moved from the camp to a general hospital or loaded abroad a hospital transport. Although Oliver claims to feel “as well as I ever did in my life,” the surgeon excuses him from duty the night before and he is ordered to report to the hospital ship “Recruit” the next morning. Oliver describes the ship as “fitted up full of good berths and is a very different affair from those steamers we came in on.”

A reporter from Harper’s Weekly also offered a description of the ships that would transportation 15,000 Union soldiers to the south:

The transports have been thoroughly overhauled and completely fitted out with every thing necessary for the expedition. The steamers are of light draught, and are capable of carrying from four hundred to six hundred men each, besides stores and ordnance, and when loaded will draw but from six to eight feet of water. There is no particular difference in these vessels, and every captain thinks his own, of course, the best. Every inch of space is devoted to use. Bunks have been erected and “standees” put up, which can be taken down at short notice, if necessary to clear the ship for action, or (an unpleasant thought) to afford room for a cock-pit.[1]

The ships of the fleet crowded the Annapolis harbor and created a buzz of activity that would go almost unnoticed by the Confederate-leaning citizens of the fair city.

The harbor of Annapolis for several days has presented a spectacle of activity, which, combined with the enthusiasm of the troops as one regiment after another went on board, is seldom exhibited in the history of any nation, and in any other city would have attracted the notice of thousands to witness it. Here, however, there has been no admiring crowds, no bright approving smile from lovely and patriotic ladies, no responsive cheers from Union-loving citizens, to bid God-speed to the army of the Union as they leave, perhaps forever, the State which their self-sacrificing devotion, to use the expressive words of one of their own Senators, “saved from becoming a slaughter house.”[2]

 

     Annapolis Harbor ships Jan 12                  

A few of the ships of Burnside’s expeditionary force including the “Scout” that once housed Oliver Case.

 

On the morning of the fleet’s departure, the weather plays havoc with Burnside’s plans for a midnight departure. Even as morning breaks, the weather continues to be a significant factor in complicating the movement of dozens of ships carrying troops, ammunition, horses and supplies. Although the citizens of Annapolis do not turn out for the departure of Burnside and his troops, the regiments chose to celebration the event from the deck of their ships.

The morning was not propitious — heavy clouds being overhead, and a dense fog settled upon the bay. In a few moments, however, every deck was alive with officers and soldiers; half a dozen regimental bands struck up their liveliest strains — the “Star-Spangled Banner,” mingled with “Hail Columbia;” while the lively, heel-stirring notes of “Dixie’s Land” and “Yankee Doodle” furnished the variations, until the whole, blending in harmonious chorus, swept over the still waters of the bay and reechoed from its shores. Thus the Burnside Expedition steamed out of the harbor of Annapolis, and proceeded on its patriotic mission on the 9th of January, l862 — a day, may we hope, that will be consecrated in the calendar in more than one sense next to the anniversary of the victory of New-Orleans.[3]

Aboard the Schooner turned hospital ship “Recruit,” Oliver Case and his fellow soldier will have to wait for two additional days before following the fleet down the Chesapeake Bay. Oliver is physically in a better condition, but he is still reeling from the loss of two of his close friends to disease.

A simple entry marks the departure from the city that he has called home for over two months:

Saturday, Jan. 11th  – Weighed anchor about 9 o’clock A.M. Was tugged out of the harbor into the (Chesapeake) bay. There was a light breeze and she started off finely but the breeze soon died down and we hardly moved.[4]

Annapolis Harbor 1 2012

The harbor of Annapolis, 2012


[3] IBID

[4] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (9 January 1862)

Annapolis Cityscape, November 1861

This is the sixth in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

 

Throughout his letters, Oliver Case proved over and over again that he was an astute observer of people and places. In particular, he enjoyed describing the homes, churches and other buildings in areas he visited during his service with the 8th Connecticut. Annapolis was a city ripe for his critical eye. Soon after his arrival in early November 1861, Oliver began to write to his sister Abbie about the buildings in the capital city of Maryland.

He began the evaluation in his first letter from the city written on November 11, 1861 where he described the Old Ballroom.

In the next paragraph, Oliver gives a scathing assessment of the capital city:

This city in the north would hardly get the attention of a village; there is not a name to a street or number on a door in the city; the streets are overgrown with grass and overrun with rubbish except the ones that lead to the camp, those are traveled by army wagons.[1]

As he begins to turn his attention away from the streets and to the structures, the evaluation doesn’t seem to improve.

The houses are one and two stories high but are all old, some were very good ones in their day but that was long ago. I do not think there is twenty signs in the city and doubt whether there is a store that does as much business as Mr. Wilcox’s in the place. There are no three houses in a row in the streets and many look like hogpens. I do not believe there has been ten houses built in as many years, in fact, it looks like a city one hundred years old without any improvements having been made.[2]

This stands in stark contrast to the official Annapolis city government website that touts, “From its earliest days as a colonial capital city, Annapolis was known as the ‘Athens of America.’”[3] In the middle 1600s, settlers from the colony of Virginia founded a new settlement on the northern shore of the Severn River across from the site of present-day Annapolis. They later decided to relocate to the southern shore which offered better protection for the harbor and gave their settlement the name “Town at Proctor’s.” The name would later change to “Town at the Severn” followed by Anne Arundel’s Town” in honor of Lord Baltimore’s wife. In 1694, the town became the capital of the colony of Maryland and was renamed Annapolis for the future Queen of England, Princess Anne of Denmark and Norway.

The designation as the “Athens of America” came during a period of growth and culture prior to the American Revolution. The city was known for entertainment, literature and commerce but began to enter a period of decline after Baltimore was designated a primary port of entry in 1780. Most of the business activity became blue collar in nature related to the industries of the ocean. Building of homes and businesses slowed to a halt. This is consistent with Oliver Case’s description as “it looks like a city one hundred years old without any improvements…”[4]

Oliver gives his first comments on the houses of worship in Annapolis beginning in his letter of November 11, 1861.

There are a few churches that are nice in the inside and they are the only nice looking buildings there are here, except the Capital, but more of this another time.[5]

He continues with a more detailed description of the churches and other building in his November 13th letter. After describing his memorable visit to a black church in the city, Oliver precedes to evaluate the other churches of the city.

There are four churches besides the colored one in the place, one Catholic, one Methodist, and one Presbyterian.[6]

Oliver is a bit confusing on the numbers and dominations, but his descriptions are clear enough to determine the actual church he is describing. There are five Annapolis churches mentioned in Oliver’s letter.

Asbury United Methodist Church (aka “colored church”)

This is the church Oliver describes attending on November 10, 1862. At the time, it was Annapolis’ oldest African-American congregation dating back to the original meeting house built in 1804 when it operated as the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. The congregation would later change the name of the church to the Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838 as a new building replaced the previous meeting house. It is likely that this is the church Oliver attended since he describes the churches in the city in the paragraph following his description of the church service.

During the time period Oliver would have attended the service, the Presiding Elder and possible preacher that day would have been the Reverend Henry Price. The Rev. Price was obviously a highly respected man in the city of Annapolis as evidenced by his 1863 obituary.

In the city of Annapolis, on the 20th instant, the Rev. Henry Price, in the 71st year of his age. He departed this life in great peace and joy; he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church at the early age of seventeen years, and for forty-five years has been an acceptable minister in this place, and has borne the greatest and best character. On Sunday afternoon, the 22d instant, his remains were moved from his late residence on Main street to the Church, where his funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. J. H. Brice, (from the 14th chapter of Job, 14th verse: “If a man die shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait tiil my change come;”) assisted by the Rev. J. F. Gane and G. Pinkney, and at 5 o’clock he was moved to his grave, where he now sleeps and rests in peace. Not withstanding the inclemency of the weather, and the snow falling fast, the Church was utterly crowded with both white and colored to witness the last of our beloved brother in the Gospel of Christ.[7]

Asbury AMC Annapolis

Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis. Built in 1888, this building replaced the church Oliver would have attended on November 10, 1861.

 

St. Mary’s Catholic Church

The Catholic is a new church commenced two years since. It is splendid upon the inside, the roof being composed of three arches each one being supported by many pillars. Around the altar it is furnished in extravagant style, but the body of the church is not yet finished. It has a chime of bells, the first I ever heard.[8]

St. Mary’s was a relatively new structure in 1861 when Oliver laid eyes on it. The Parish was established in 1853 on property donated by the granddaughters of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. Interestingly, Carroll’s birthplace and home are also located on the church grounds. Work on the church began in 1858 with the dedication coming two years later although, as noted by Oliver, worked continued on the interior for many years afterward.[9]

St Marys Church Annapolis street view

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Annapolis.

St Marys Church Annapolis inside

Inside view of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Annapolis.

First Church (Methodist)

The Methodist is a nice church commenced two years since but is not done off upon the inside.[10]

The Methodist church in Annapolis began as a missionary effort during the time of the American Revolution. After the war, the Methodists began to meet for services in a building near the area of the present-day Naval Academy. In 1818, the congregation bought a parcel of land on State Circle and built what was described as a “neat brick church.” Just prior to the Civil War in 1859, the Methodists erected a larger structure that included an organ, choir loft and bell tower. This is the church that Oliver writes about in his letter to his sister.

First Methodist Church Annapolis 1859 (2)

Historical photo of the First Methodist Church on State Circle in Annapolis.[11]

 

St. Anne’s Church (Episcopal)

The Episcopal looks like an old one with a new wing, but looks very neat and pretty upon the inside.[12]

The Episcopal church that Oliver Case viewed on Church Circle in Annapolis may have appeared old, but in fact it was completed just three years earlier and the steeple construction had been interrupted by the war. The original St. Anne’s Church was completed in the same location about 1704 and served a growing congregation through the onset of the American Revolution when it was demolished to make room for a larger building. The war prohibited the completion of the construction of the new church until 1792. This second St. Anne’s church building had the interior gutted by a furnace fire on Valentine’s Day in 1858. This could explain the reason Oliver thought the building to be “old” with a new addition.

Today, St. Anne’s Church parishioners continue to worship in the same building that Oliver Case described in his 1861 letter. The long and interesting history of the church includes the attendance of Francis Scott Key during his matriculation at nearby St. John’s College. There are also six veterans on the War of 1812 buried in the small adjacent cemetery.[13]

 

St Annes Church Annapolis

 St. Anne’s Church (Episcopal) in Annapolis

 

First Presbyterian Church

The fifth church mentioned but not described in detail by Oliver Case is the First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis. The Presbyterians had the earliest presence in Annapolis of all the dominations with services beginning in the 1650’s. The formal founding of the church took place in 1846 with the congregation moving into the former Hallam Theater the following year. This is the location and building that Oliver observed during his stay in the capital city. Remarkably, the Presbyterians were considered to hold strong Union sympathies in a city that was pro-Confederacy during the war.[14]

 

 First Presbyterian Church Annapolis

 First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis

 

In addition to the churches of the city, Oliver also writes to Abbie about some of the government buildings, chiefly the imposing Maryland State House.

The Court House is furnished in fine style upon the inside but is rather of an ancient looking building upon the outside. Every principal street (if any call be called principal) centers at the state house and it is nothing uncommon for a soldier or officer to inquire the way of the patrols saying wherever the[y] go they always come to the state house.[15]

 Annapolis courthouse

The Anne Arundel County Courthouse in Annapolis[16]

Today, the courthouse that Oliver observed is the third oldest courthouse building in the state of Maryland. Construction was started in 1821 with the building being completed and ready to occupy in 1824.

 

Historical view of Maryland State House

The Maryland State House in Annapolis as it would have appeared to Oliver Case.[17]

 

The State House of Maryland is the oldest state capital in the United States in continuous use for a legislative body dating back to 1772. Its architecture is noted by having the largest wooden dome in the country constructed without the use of nails. From November 26, 1783 to August 13, 1784, the State House took on an additional role as the national legislative meeting place while Annapolis was serving as the temporary capital of the United States.[18]

 Statehouse Annapolis

A modern view of the Maryland State House in Annapolis


[1] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[2] IBID

[3] The City of Annapolis, Maryland website, http://www.annapolis.gov/Visitors/History.aspx

[4] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[5] IBID

[6] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[8] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[9] St. Mary’s Parish of Annapolis website, http://www.stmarysannapolis.org

[10] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[11] Image from Calvary United Methodist Church history site,  http://calumc.org

[12] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[13] St. Anne’s Church of Annapolis website, http://www.stannes-annapolis.org

[14] First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis website, http://www.annapolis-presbyterian.com/history.htm

[15] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[16] The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court website, http://www.circuitcourt.org

[17] Maryland State Archives, Special Collections MSA SC 985-012, accessed from http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1259/131/html/hisimages.html

Life at Camp Hicks – Hospitals, Inspections and Court Martials

This is the fifth in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

 

In the 18 months since I obtained copies of Oliver’s transcribed letters from the Simsbury Historical Society, I have primarily addressed the people and events of his letters in a chronological manner. However, recently I’ve been to weave together some common threads throughout the letters centered on themes or aspects of his life as a soldier in the 8th Connecticut. So it is with this series of posts on the two months the regiment spent in Annapolis. In researching this post and the previous one, I sought to create a mental picture of life at Camp Hicks for Oliver and his fellow soldiers minus the time Oliver was assigned as a provost guard in downtown Annapolis.

 

Disease and illness were hard facts of life in Civil War camps. For thousands of soldiers, sickness was a pathway to death often longer and more painful than mortal wounds sustained in combat. Oliver experienced sickness himself and death in the case of two of his friends.

After the battle of Bull Run in July of 1861, a hospital was established in Humphreys Hall on the campus of St. John’s College. The building was designed by the famous Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. and opened in 1837 making it one of the oldest existing buildings on campus. I was informed by the college staff during my visit that the basement of Humphreys Hall, currently housing the college bookstore, was used as a morgue during the time the building was being utilized as a hospital.

Soon after establishing Camp Hicks to receive and train the soldiers of Burnside’s expedition, an Army hospital was established presumably in the same location used by the Union Army after the Battle of Bull Run, Humphreys Hall. Oliver’s letter of November 28, 1861 seems to confirm that it was located in a building:

…Duane Brown and H.D. Sexton were sick at the hospital. I went to see them as soon as I heard of it, but could not get in where they were, but I looked in and saw their hall. (28 Nov 61)

 

Humphreys Hall2 St Johns College                       Humphreys Hall at St. John’s College in Annapolis – it housed the Union Army hospital after the First Battle of Bull Run through the occupation of Burnside’s Expeditionary Force

 

Oliver had more than his share of time in the hospital at Camp Hicks from recurring bouts of a condition known as Ague. This illness is defined as “malarial or intermittent fever; characterized by paroxysms consisting of chill, fever, and sweating, at regularly recurring times…” and can also be accompanied by “trembling or shuddering.”[1] The condition was also known as “chill fever” or “the shakes” in the popular vernacular. One surgeon of another regiment described effects of this condition for which he had no medicine by saying that his soldiers “have to shake it out for all the good we can do them.”[2] This description is fully consistent with information gleaned from the letters of Oliver around this time where he apologizes for his trembling hand.

An interesting, but somewhat ineffective, array of treatments were used to fight this condition. Oliver writes:

I received a letter from Ariel today trying to cheer me up. Lieutenant Marsh wrote to him that I had gone to the hospital with an attack of fever and ague. I had only two good shakes and they gave me spirits of turpentine and broke it up. I had to take quinine for three or four days and then was discharged as well as ever. That was all that my sickness amounted to.[3]

When not combating the effects of fever, Oliver was subjected to numerous inspections and reviews along with his fellow soldiers in the 8th Connecticut. General Ambrose Burnside used the time in camp at Annapolis to train his green regiments for future combat operations. Inspections of quarters, personal equipment and weapons were a key ingredient of this training regimen.  For example, on December 14, 1861, the 8th Connecticut participated in a division-level inspection along with ten other regiments. On the day prior to the inspection, the 8th had stood for a lower level brigade review as a preparation for the division inspection.

Drills were conducted on an almost daily basis, but Oliver’s bouts of fever often prevented him from participating.

I was not feeling very well at the time and had just finished writing three letters in the Lieut’s tent. The next day I was excused from drill by the surgeon…[4]

Apparently, other soldiers were not always fond of participating in drill. Benejah Holcomb, Oliver’s cousin and companion during his time in the 8th Connecticut was one of those soldiers

Benejah is here in the tent while I am writing. He has been over here to shirk drill this morning.[5]

Unknown to the rank and file soldiers of his expeditionary force, General Burnside was operating on an intended deployment timeline that required the units to be ready by the New Year. As Christmas Day approached, the reviews and inspections grew to a crescendo with Burnside appearing to make his own assessment.

The boys are nearly all gone gathering evergreens to trim the streets as Gen. Burnside is going to inspect the camp today. Gen. Burnside reviewed the whole division yesterday consisting of 12,000 men. We were reviewed the day before by the Brigadiers so that by all appearances we shall leave for “Dixie” before many weeks.[6]

The discipline of the troops was also a primary concern for Burnside and his commanders. Having men form into close order formations and marching them straight into artillery and rifle fire required a high level of discipline. Commanding officers used various forms of punishment to dealt with offenses that while petty, where also indicators of discipline. At Camp Hicks, Oliver Case observed the workings of military discipline and the associated punishment for many crimes.

There has been several court martials held since we have been here and the sentences are very severe for running the guard, insulting officers, committing nuisances, etc. One man has to forfeit ½ months pay and be in the guard tent for fifteen days, another has had 30 lbs. of dirt put in his knapsack and made to do regular duty. The punishment of being in the guard tent is more severe than you might think this season of the year, for they have no fire nor any chance to exercise and their food and drink consists of bread and water. A man is very foolish to think of breaking the rules for they are not any more galling than the civil law, but the penalties are much more severe. There is a fellow in our company close to our tent standing upon a barrel with a guard around him for insulting his corporal. If I had been in his place I would not have borne half as much from him for he insulted him every way possible before the corporal reported.[7]

Punishment

Three of the types of punishment used by commanders at Camp Hicks as mentioned by Oliver Case[8]

 


[1] “Rudy’s List of Archaic Medical Terms: A Glossary of Archaic Medical Terms, Diseases and Causes of Death,” accessed from http://www.antiquusmorbus.com/Index.htm

[2] A Surgeon’s Civil War: The Letters and Diary of Daniel M. Holt, M.D., Daniel M. Holt, Kent State University Press, 1994.

[3] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 December 1861)

[4] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (10 December 1861)

[5] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 December 1861)

[6] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (21 December 1861)

[7] IBID

[8] Hardtack and Coffee, John D. Billings, George M. Smith and Company, Boston, 1888.

Life at Camp Hicks – Tents, Wives and Goodie Boxes

This is the fourth in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

 

In the 18 months since I obtained copies of Oliver’s transcribed letters from the Simsbury Historical Society, I have primarily addressed the people and events of his letters in a chronological manner. However, recently I’ve been able to weave together some common threads throughout the letters centered on themes or aspects of his life as a soldier in the 8th Connecticut. So it is with this series of posts on the two months the regiment spent in Annapolis. In researching this post, I sought to create a mental picture of life at Camp Hicks for Oliver and his fellow soldiers minus the time Oliver was assigned as a provost guard in downtown Annapolis.

After spending a couple of days sleeping in the buildings of St. John’s College, the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut were marched to an open field on the campus near College Creek and established their tent city. Several other contemporary accounts confirm Oliver’s description of the camp as being “situated one and one half miles from the city, upon an elevated piece of ground, near the camp of the 10th Conn, 25th and 27th Mass, 51st N.Y. and a N.H. regiment.”[1]

The weather on the eastern shore of Maryland was beginning to turn cold quickly and the encampment was filling up fast. With thousands of relatively green recruits flowing into Annapolis pitching their tents on the grounds of St. John’s College and the nearby Naval Academy which had relocated its operations to Rhode Island, things were busy for Oliver and his fellow soldiers. There was a great concern on his part about the rumors being circulated back home about activities in Annapolis.

I am particular in writing this because you hear such exaggerated accounts and reports about everything that happens here. We are fast filling up here with soldiers, 1200 cavalry and 800 zouaves having arrived within the last week…weather is quite cold so that it froze a little last night. We have much wet weather but thanks to our rubber blankets we keep dry.[2]

 

St Johns College grounds photos

                       The grounds of St. John’s College in Annapolis home to the camp of Burnside’s Expeditionary Force November 1861 to January 1862

 

However, Oliver was soon assigned to provost guard duty in downtown Annapolis where he lived in a brick building, but returned to the camp in less than one month. The soldiers worked hard to make life in the camp as close to home as possible and were constantly attempting to improve their living quarters. In December 1861, Oliver describes for his sister Abbie some of the “improvements” to the tent which have elevated these lowly foot soldiers to ranks of royalty:

We have been flooring over part of our tent and dug the dirt away in front of it so as to make a good place to sit upon. Our tent at present is as convenient as any house. I tell you we live like kings.[3]

Some of the officers even brought their wives to live with them in the camp. Lieutenant Walcott P. Marsh, often mentioned in Oliver’s letters and possibly a friend of his two older brothers, Ariel and Alonzo, decided that he could not stand to be apart from his wife.

Lieut. Hoyt is down town upon patrol and Lieut. Marsh, with the assistance of Corp. Porter’s brother, has floored the tent and made it quite comfortable to receive his wife.[4]

After the arrival of Mrs. Marsh, she quickly joined in the efforts to make life more tolerable for the soldiers under her husband’s command.

Mrs. Lieut. Marsh offers to mend any clothes for the soldiers that they wish. I think she may have some sewing for a day or two.[5]

From Oliver’s many accounts of Lieutenant Marsh and his wife, they played a large role in his life as a soldier and even provided a link to the Case family back in Simsbury. Ironically, it would be Captain Marsh, then commanding officer of Company F, 8th CVI who would first discover the body of Oliver Case among the other dead soldiers of Company A on the field at Sharpsburg on September 19, 1862.

Another favorite activity of the soldiers at Camp Hicks was to receive and share packages from home. Sometimes these packages came through the mail and others were personally delivered by official visitors from Connecticut. The food inside was a welcomed change of pace from the salt pork and hardtack served in the camp. One of those visitors came bearing a wonderful load of treats from home just over one week before Christmas.

I have just received a carpet bag of goodies per L.G. Goodrich and I can assure your if ever anything was welcome, that was. The things were good, better, best. Those nutcakes tasted like home and were better [?]. The cranberries, cider and wine were just what I wanted at the present time. In fact, everything hit just the spot. A man that would not be a soldier and have such a living must be beside himself.[6]

On other occasions, packages delivered through the mail could be delayed by the movement of troops or other important supplies causing some of the once delightful contents to become somewhat less than desirable.

I received the long expected Thanksgiving dinner Saturday. The chicken looked rather old although I tasted a few pieces near the inside that were good. The walnuts, chestnuts and some of the apples were nice and we have been having quite a feast. A.H. Thomas, a tent mate that opened the box, says “tell your folks that I tasted of everything that there was in the box and found it very nice only getting rather old.” The pudding and Chickenpie looked as if they were good in their day but their flavor was rather strong when they opened the box.[7]

And so was life at Camp Hicks in Annapolis for Oliver and the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut.

Next time, more on camp life…hospitals, inspections and Court Martials.

 


[1] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[2] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (28 November 1861)

[3] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (21 December 1861)

[4] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 December 1861)

[5] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (17 December 1861)

[6] IBID

[7] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 December 1861)

Washington danced here (and Oliver Case slept here)

This is the third in a series of posts about Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut during their time in Annapolis, Maryland during the period November 1861 to January 1862.  A recent visit to Annapolis revealed some details along with some photos of the places mentioned by Oliver in his letters.

The number of places that George Washington slept, drank and ate is enormous. Therefore, I’m always skeptical when I hear Washington associated with a particular building.  But, this one is somewhat unique. It is reported by Annapolis historians that George Washington danced at the City Hall on several occasions. As it turns out, the building that currently contains the chambers of the Annapolis city council on Duke of Gloucester Street once contained a ballroom and was one of the first president’s stops on his visits to Annapolis.[1] The capital city is closely tied with Washington as it was in Annapolis that he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783 and he records in his diary a lament over losing money at the local race track.

george washington dancing

 

So, what does this have to do with Oliver Case? Nothing until a recent visit to Annapolis and a little research presented me with fairly conclusive evidence of the connection. Let’s start with an excerpt of Oliver’s letter to Abbie dated November 11, 1861.

We marched to the city, halted before an old brick building and were marched in and told that those were to be our quarters. The duty assigned to us was to patrol the city in squads of ten, arresting all soldiers without a pass or any drunken or disorderly ones. Our quarters are a large room with a large old fashioned fireplace, with benches all round the outside and gas [light?]. In the room where the officers stay there are some old revolutionary relics consisting of bayonets, long hooked swords and other things. In the room where we are quartered are some portraits of the first settlers.[2]

This building is the same one that hosted George Washington for dancing in the 18th century and is known as the “new” City Hall or the “old” ballroom.

The new City Hall or Old Ball room dates back to 1764. It was on this date that a Ball Room was built to accommodate visitors, balls, lectures and public entertainments. The Ball Room has served for various purposes other than that for which it was intended. It has been the meeting place of the Maryland Assembly, the headquarters of the Union troops in that section during the Civil War, a guard house, and a prison camp. [emphasis added][3]

Annapolis City Hall

Annapolis City Hall built 1764 and home to Oliver Case in November 1861

 

Inside of Annapolis City Hall

The City Council chamber of the Annapolis City Hall where George Washington danced and Oliver Case slept while serving as a provost guard

 

When General George Washington arrived in Annapolis on December 23, 1783, he presented his resignation from the Army and delivered a farewell speech in the Maryland State House. The city turned out a celebration befitting the man who led the American Army to victory and ensured independence from Great Britain. To cap off the festivities, a ball was given in Washington’s honor in the Annapolis Ball Room.  It is reported that “General Washington opened the dancing with Mistress James Maccubbin of Annapolis, one of the most beautiful women of her day!”[4] These events are confirmed by a Daughters of the American Revolution plaque placed on the front of the building.

There is also a confirmation of the interior of the building from an 1840 account that closely matches the description given by Oliver Case.

The Ball Room is on the Duke of Gloucester street, and is a spacious edifice. The dancing room is large and of elegant construction, and when illuminated, shows to great advantage ; the walls are decorated by a full length likeness of Charles Lord Baltimore, and portraits of several of the former governors of Maryland. At the lower extremity is the supper room, which was formerly the revenue office of the province. At the upper end is a card room, for the use of the gentlemen who may choose to enjoy the ‘circulation of the party-coloured gentry,’ without having their attention diverted by the sound of the violin, and the evolutions of youthful performers.[5]

Matching the two descriptions, it appears the officers assigned to guard duty in November of 1861 were residing in the card room and the enlisted soldiers stayed in the main ballroom. Oliver’s account is also in conflict with the 1932 research paper written by Willingmyre which claims that “at the time of the Union invasion, the paintings and decorations were removed to private homes and other safer places.”[6] Oliver writes to Abbie that “the room where we are quartered are some portraits of the first settlers” and “the room where the officers stay there are some old revolutionary relics consisting of bayonets, long hooked swords and other things.”[7]

So, it appears that Oliver Cromwell Case slept where George Washington had danced.


[1] “City Hall restoration committee delves into history,” Capital Gazette, Annapolis, Maryland, May 31, 2012, accessed from http://www.capitalgazette.com

[2] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[3] “The History and Construction of the City Hall of Annapolis, Maryland,” Daniel W. Willingmyre III, January 15, 1932.

[4] The Monumental City, George W. Howard, Steam Book Printers, Baltimore, 1876.

[5] Annals of Annapolis, Edited by David Ridgely, John D. Toy, Printer, Baltimore, 1840.

[6] Willingmyre, 1932.

[7] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)