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)


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