Wilson Born Collection of Military Telegraphs
Table of Contents
Signed by Generals, Admirals, Commodores, etc.
1. 1864 U.S. Military Telegraph message signed by Admiral C. H. Davis, Chief Navy Bureau of Navigation, concerns Ironclads
2. 1864 U.S. Military Telegram signed by Admiral B. F. Isherwood
3. 1869 ledger sheet, Military Division of the Missouri, St. Louis, listing telegrams via Western Union Telegraph Co., to/from Generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan!
Signed by Col. (later Bvt. Major General) W. A. Nichols
4. 1862 U.S. Military Telegram signed by Commodore Horatio Bridge
5. 1864 War Dept. Military Telegraph message signed by Col. N. P. Chipman, Prosecutor of Andersonville Commander Wirz in 1865, later first and only Congressional
Representative from Washington D.C.
To/from Generals, Admirals, Commodores, etc.
6. May 1864 U.S. Military Telegram, Admiral S. P. Lee to General Ben. Butler/Iron Clads/Spotsylvania
7. July 1863 U.S. Military Telegram & cover, Port Hudson, General Geo. Andrews to Col. T. E. Chickering
8. 1862 U.S. Military Telegram, Commodore A. A. Harwood to Secretary of Navy
9. 1863ca telegraph message to Maj. (later Bvt. Maj. Gen.) J. G. Barnard, officer in charge of fortification of Washington D.C.
10. 1864 U.S. Military Telegram, Bermuda Hundred to Chief Quartermaster P. P. Pitkin at City Point
U.S. Colored Troops
11. U.S. Colored Cavalry, four 1864 telegrams/New Orleans/Port Hudson/Crickmore
12. 1864ca U.S. Military Telegraph covers, Colored Pioneer Regt.
13. 1867 Rio Grande Telegraph Co. telegram, Brownsville TX, 117th U.S. Colored Troops
Rare U.S. Military Units
14. 1864 U. S. Military Telegram, 4th WVa Cavalry, West Virginia Telegraph Repair
15. 1867ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, New Mexico Division
Civilian Use of U.S. Military Telegraphs
16. 13. Feb 1865, Four U. S. Military Telegrams to Washington regarding Soldiers to Fill NY Quotas
17. Sep-Dec 1865, Forty-two U. S. Military Telegrams regarding cotton sales by Jno. A Winston & Co., Mobile/Selma/Demopolis/Uniontown, Alabama, much
interesting detail from tumultous immediate postwar period
18. 12. 1866 U. S. Military Telegram, Aberdeen to Jackson, Mississippi, to State Auditor regarding State Tax on Cotton
19. 1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, Washington D.C. to P.&E.R.R. [Philadelphia & Erie Rail Road], Williamsport, bearing 1861 3¢
20. 1870ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, NY City to Lockport, N.Y., bearing 3¢ Banknote
21. 1862–1865ca, three U.S. Military Telegraph covers bearing 1861 3¢ /St. Louis/Norwich N.Y.
22. 1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, St. Louis to Norwich N.Y., bearing 1861 3¢ -1
23. 1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, St. Louis to Norwich N.Y., bearing 1861 3¢ -2
1864 U.S. Military Telegraph message signed by Admiral C. H. Davis,
Chief Navy Bureau of Navigation, concerns Ironclads
Letterhead of Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Washington,
D.C., at top handwritten “For U.S. Mil. Telegraph.”
April 11, 1864, message to Mrs. A. D. Frye, New York:
Please inform the Bureau when Mr. Frye is at home.
[signed Rear Admiral] C. H. Davis
Chief of Bureau
Red oval datestamp “U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH O.K.”
A. D. Frye was appointed by the Committee on the Coating of Iron
Ships to supervise correction of “the inconvenience and even danger
resulting from the derangement of the compasses on board of many of
our iron vessels ...” (Annual Report of the National Academy of Sciences
Good signature piece with excellent context, ex-Wilson Born
Charles Henry Davis (1807–1877) was a Rear Admiral in the United
In the American Civil War, Davis
was appointed to the Blockade
Strategy Board in June 1861. On 15
November 1861, he was promoted
to Captain. He was made Acting Flag
Officer, in command of the Western
Gunboat Flotilla. A day after he
took command, the flotilla fought a
short battle with Confederate ships
on the Mississippi River at Plum
Point Bend on May 10, 1862. Caught
unready for battle, two of the Union
ships were badly damaged and had
to be run into shoal water to keepAdmiral Charles Henry Davis
from sinking. The Confederate vessels escaped with only
minor damage. On June 6, his ships fought in the Battle
of Memphis, which resulted in the sinking or capture
of seven of the eight Confederate ships, compared
with damage to only one of the Union vessels. In July,
he cooperated with Flag Officer David G. Farragut in an
attack on Vicksburg, Mississippi, but they were forced
to withdraw. In August, he proceeded up the Yazoo
River and successfully seized Confederate supplies and
munitions there. After this excursion, he was made Chief
of the Bureau of Navigation and returned to Washington,
On February 7, 1863, he was promoted to Rear Admiral.
[Prewar] From 1846 to 1849, he worked in the United
States Coast Survey on board the Nantucket, where he
discovered a previously unknown shoal that had caused
shipwrecks off the coast of New York. During his service
to the Survey, he was also responsible for researching
tides and currents and acted as an inspector on a number
of naval shipyards. From 1849 to 1855 he was the first
superintendent of American Nautical Almanac Office and
produced the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac.
In 1854, he was promoted to Commander and given the
command of the St. Mary’s. On April 30, 1857, he mediated with the Central American forces at San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, the capitulation of filibuster William
Walker and some 300 men, who departed in the St. Mary’s for Panama the next day. In 1859, while commanding the St. Mary’s, Davis was ordered to go to
Baker Island to obtain samples of guano, becoming perhaps the first American to set foot there since it was annexed by the United States in 1857. The guano was
necessary as fertilizer. Commodore William Mervine had previously been sent, but he did not land and believed the island to be inaccessible. (From evidence that
was later found on the island, it had been visited prior to 1857 by whalers.)
[Postwar] From 1865 to 1867 he was the Superintendent of the United States Naval Observatory. In 1867, he was given command of the South Atlantic Squadron
and was given the Guerriere as his flagship. In 1869, he returned home and served both on the Lighthouse Board as well as in the Naval Observatory. Davis died in
Washington, D.C., and is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1864 U.S. Military Telegram signed by Admiral B. F. Isherwood
Navy Department Bureau of Steam Engineering letterhead with
message for telegraphic communication:
Bureau of Steam Engineering,
April 26, 1864.
G. W. Quintard
Morgan Iron Works
I leave for New York tomorrow morning. See me Thursday
morning at home. Eight and a half, without fail.
(signed) [Rear Admiral] B. F. Isherwood
Red oval datestamp “U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH O.K.”
Ms. notations “18 Chg Eng Bu N D” [18 words, fee charged to
Engineering Bureau], “No 10 NY,” etc.
Good signature piece with excellent context, ex-Wilson Born
Benjamin Franklin Isherwood (1822 –1915) was an engineering officer
in the United States Navy during the early
days of steam-powered warships. He served
as a ship’s engineer during the Mexican–
American War, and after the war did
experimental work with steam propulsion.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War,
Isherwood was appointed Engineer-in-
Chief of the Navy, and so important were
his services considered that the Bureau of
Steam Engineering was created under his
When the Civil War began, the Navy had
28 steam vessels, and during the war, the
number grew to 600. Isherwood conducted
Admiral B. F. Isherwood
the design and construction of the machinery necessary to accomplish this. He designed ships that were fast enough to pursue the blockade runners.
In 1863 and 1865, Isherwood published the first and second volumes of Experimental Researches in Steam Engineering, which were translated into six languages
and became a standard engineering text upon which future steam experimentation was based.
Immediately upon the conclusion of the war, Isherwood was principally involved with organizing a new scientific curriculum for steam engineering at the United
States Naval Academy at Annapolis. By 1874, naval engineers refined this curriculum to the point that it served as the model for mechanical engineering education
at most American universities.
In 1869 Isherwood ran afoul of former Spitfire shipmate Admiral David Dixon Porter. During the war years Isherwood led a campaign to increase the rank and
influence of engineering officers in the navy. Porter opposed this change in the service’s class structure. After the presidential inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant,
Isherwood’s longtime patron, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, could no longer protect him. Admiral Porter banished Isherwood to the Mare Island Navy Yard
in San Francisco.
Despite his diminished stature, Isherwood continued to produce technical innovations. In 1870 and 1871, Isherwood conducted experiments that resulted in a
propeller that was used by the Navy for the next 27 years.
He was a pioneer in the production of fast cruisers, producing this class against strong opposition. Following a tour of European dockyards, he became president
of the Experimental Board under the Bureau of Steam Engineering until his retirement on October 6, 1884.
Isherwood died in New York City at the age of 92.
The Navy has recognized Isherwood’s contributions in various ways. Isherwood Hall, built in 1905 on the campus of the United States Naval Academy, was the
home of the Department of Marine Engineering. It was razed in 1982 to make space for the Academy’s new Alumni Hall. Isherwood’s name lives on as the new
hall’s Isherwood Entrance.
The Rear Admiral Benjamin F. Isherwood Award is awarded by the Navy to recognize “innovation and expertise in the effective assessment, development, execution,
or deployment of technological solutions for operational Fleet needs.”
Three U.S. Navy ships have been named for him – two destroyers named USS Isherwood and the never-finished fleet replenishment oiler USNS Benjamin
1869 ledger sheet, Military Division of the Missouri, St. Louis,
listing telegrams via Western Union Telegraph Co.,
to/from Generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan! Signed Gen. W.
A. Nichols, Asst. Adjutant Genera
The ledger sheet represents the account of all telegrams sent
by the Military Division of the Missouri through the Western
Union Telegraph Co. during the month of February 1869.
Note the names of senders and receivers: Grant, Sheridan,
Sherman, etc. Also note R. C. Clowry, who later became
President of the Western Union Telegraph Co.
Date Sender Location Recipient
Feby 3 Nichols Lawrence Sheridan
“ 18 Grant Washington D.C. Sherman
“ 24 McKaever Ft. Hays Sherman
“ 24 Grant Washington D.C. Sherman
“ 27 Sherman Washington D.C. Nichols
(Grant was inaugurated President March 4, 1869.)
The cipher marks represent two telegrams sent in code from
General Sherman to General Townsend.
Signed by Bvt. Major General W. A. Nichols.
Exciting piece linking three supremely important Union generals
W. A. Nichols (1818-1869) was Assistant Adjutant-General and
Chief of Staff first to General Sherman, Commander of the
Missouri Division, then to General Sheridan after the latter
succeeded Sherman as Commander (on March 4, 1869, the day
this document was executed.) On April 8, a little over a month
after signing this account, Nichols died at age 51. Sheridan
issued the following obituary:
It becomes the painful duty of the Lieutenant-
General Commanding to announce the death, at St.
Louis, Mo., on the 8th inst., of Bvt. Major Gen. W.
A. Nichols, Adjutant-General of the Military Division.
General Nichols entered the service in 1838, and served with distinction on the Northern Frontier until the outbreak of the Mexican War.
In the War with Mexico he was made Captain and Major by Brevet for gallant and meritorious services at the Battles of Monterey and Molino del Rey,
and took a prominent part in nearly all the battles in the Valley of Mexico.
Appointed an Assistant Adjutant-General in 1852, he served in that capacity in Washington City, in New Mexico, and in Texas, where he was made prisoner,
and paroled by the Texan rebels [in 1861]. He served during the Rebellion as Adjutant-General of the Department of the East, and as an Assistant in
the Adjutant-General’s Office at Washington, during which time he received the promotion of Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel in the Adjutant-General’s
Department, and was made Bvt. Brigadier and Bvt. Major General for faithful and meritorious services during the Rebellion. [A brevet was a warrant
giving an officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct, but without receiving the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank.]
In 1866 General Nichols was appointed Adjutant-General of the Military Division of the Missouri, and Chief of Staff to Lieut.-Gen. W. T. Sherman, and
served in the former capacity until transferred to the same position on the Staff of the Lieutenant-General [Sheridan]. In all the various and important
positions in which, by his merit, he was called on to serve his country, General Nichols brought high soldierly capacity and honor. By his death the army
has lost one of its brightest ornaments. To the private soldier he was a considerate friend, and to the officer a comrade whose army life was without
As appropriate to the memory of the deceased, the prescribed badge of mourning will be worn by the officers at Division and Department Headquarters
for thirty days.
Grant, Sherman and Sheridan, the three iconic generals whose telegrams are listed in the account described here
1862 U.S. Military Telegram signed by Commodore Horatio Bridge
Handwritten message for telegraphic communication:
Washington July 5, 1862
W. H. Weldon
Howard Hotel New York
Probably you will not be detached from the Bainbridge
(signed) [Commodore] H. Bridge
Pencilled “9/Chg Bu Pro & Clo” [Nine words, cost to be charged to
Bureau of Provisions and Clothing]
Fancy ms. notation “H 440 PM” indicates time of sending
Good signature, ex-Wilson Born
Commodore Horatio Bridge (1806—1893) served for many years
as head of the Navy’s supply organization as Chief of the Navy
Bureau of Provisions and Clothing. Appointed by his former college
mate, President Franklin Pierce, Bridge held this post under various
administrations, including the whole period of the Civil War.
He also had the distinction of being
the first man in the Navy to employ
the idea of comprehensive fleet
supply. Under his direction, the
systematic supply of Navy vessels on
the Atlantic and Gulf coasts during
the Civil War was established and
He handled with great skill the
responsible duties of this office. Of
the skill and ability which he showed
in its management, Senator JamesCommodore Horatio Bridge
Grimes testified in a debate in 1865: “No Bureau of this government has been more admirably and accurately managed then the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing.”
To this, Senator John P. Hale, added; “I think a great reason, and a very important one, is because there is at the head of that Bureau an honest, vigilant, and faithful
During Bridge’s tenure as head of the Bureau, he made many significant innovations in the Navy’s supply system. Some of the more important ones were:
• Advertising for competitive bids became mandatory except for personal services, and except in the case of emergency.
• Preserved meats, pickles, butter, cheese, and desiccated vegetables could be bought without formal advertising and sealed bids.
• A requirement was written into the statutes which specified that “the Chief of the Bureau, also known as the Paymaster General, be appointed from the
list of Paymasters of the Navy of not less than ten years standing”. This meant that for the first time it was legally impossible for the Paymaster General to
be a civilian.
In 1862, the agitation against the rum ration became so pronounced that on September 1 of that year, it was finally eliminated and as a compensation, men’s
pay was raised five cents a day. It has been said that the Act was responsible for the origin of the old Navy song: “They raised our pay five cents a day, and took
away our grog forever.”
According to a Navy press notice, Bridge resigned his position as Chief of the Bureau in 1869. However, shortly thereafter he accepted the position as the first
Chief Inspector of Clothing, which he held until the passage of the law debarring all Navy officers from active duty after reaching the age of sixty-two. He was
detached from duty after serving afloat and ashore for fifty-five years.
Two US Navy ships have been named in his honor: USS Bridge (AF-1) and USS Bridge (AOE-10)
The U.S.S. Bainbridge on June 12, 1862, had captured the schooner Baigorry with cargo of cotton in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bainbridge was launched on April 26, 1842 by Boston Navy Yard and commissioned on December 16, 1842.
Recommissioned on May 1, 1861, Bainbridge sailed for the Gulf of Mexico on 21 May and cruised there until June 1862. While in the area she captured two
schooners and assisted in the capture of one steamer. On August 3, 1862, she sailed from New York to join the East Gulf Blockading Squadron at Key West,
In September 1862, she was ordered to Aspinwall, Panama, where — from November 22–24 — a severe storm forced her to jettison all spars, sails, gun carriages,
howitzers, shot, powder, provisions, and water. After extensive repairs she sailed for New York, arriving in May 1863. On August 21, 1863, while proceeding to her
station with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she capsized off Cape Hatteras with the loss of all but one of her crew.
1864 War Dept. Military Telegraph message signed Col. N. P. Chipman,
Prosecutor of Andersonville Commander Wirz in 1865,
first and only Congressional Representative from Washington D.C.
War Department letterhead with message to be transmitted by
July 29, 1864
D. E. Montgomery
Navy Yard Washington
Sorry to disappoint you – cannot possibly go Mdy
[signed] N.P. Chipman
Red oval datestamp “U.S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH O.K.”
Norton Parker Chipman (1834–1924) was an American Civil War
army officer, military prosecutor, politician, author, and judge. At the
time of this message he was a Colonel serving as Aide de Camp to
Secretary of War Stanton. In 1865 Chipman won fame as prosecutor
in the war crimes trial of Henry Wirz, commander of the infamous
Andersonville prisoner of war camp. In 1871–5 he was the first and
only Congressional Representative from Washington D.C.
Civil War Service
Having enlisted in the Second
Iowa Infantry, Lt. Colonel
Chipman was nearly mortally
wounded and reported as dead
at the Battle of Fort Donelson.
In fact he survived and upon
recovery was promoted to the
rank of colonel in 1862. He later
served as a member of General
Henry W. Halleck‘s staff, then
that of Gen. Samuel R. Curtis.
He next became a member of
the Judge Advocate General’s
staff. By 1864, Chipman had
moved to the War Department
in Washington, D.C., as aide de
camp to Stanton.Colonel N. P. Chipman
In 1865 Chipman successfully prosecuted Captain Henry Wirz, commander of the Confederacy’s infamous Andersonville prison camp, where some 13,000
Union soldiers lost their lives. For his cruelties to prisoners of war and eleven homicides, Wirz was hanged in 1865. Chipman published his recollections of the
famous Andersonville Trial in his 1911 book, The Tragedy of Andersonville.
Chipman was one of the founders of the Grand Army of the Republic, and served as its adjutant general. In 1868 he issued the order establishing Decoration
Day, which later became Memorial Day.
After Congress passed the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871, Chipman served briefly as Secretary of the District of Columbia, effectively the second
highest local official after the District Governor. Due to his friendship with Grant, name recognition, longer residency in the District, and his connection to the
District’s government, Republicans selected Chipman over Frederick Douglass to be their nominee for the District of Columbia’s first delegate to Congress, and
he handily won the election. He was re-elected in 1873, but in 1875, Congress disestablished the District’s territorial government including Chipman’s position
In 1876 Chipman moved to Red Bluff, California, and had a long and distinguished career in California’s politics and judiciary.
I confess, I weary of this contest year after year to obtain simple justice for the District of Columbia. I weary of the indifference of Congress. ... I weary of the
abject dependence of this community and the position of obsequiousness which their agent must submit to lest he offend some congressional propriety or step
upon some congressional toe. ... [speech to Congress, 1875]
The story of the Andersonville trial and Chipman’s role in bringing Wirz to justice inspired the Emmy Award-winning film The Andersonville Trial (1970), directed
by George C. Scott. In the film, a post-Star Trek William Shatner played Chipman, Richard Basehart played Wirz, and Martin Sheen played a minor supporting
May 1864 U.S. Military Telegram, Admiral S. P. Lee to Gen. Ben.
United States Military Telegraph reception form, from “Agawam Deep
Bottom” [Steamer Agawam, at Deep Bottom, Virginia] May 15th 1864,
10 am, S. P. Lee to Genl. [Benjamin] Butler. Long message occupying
front and back of one form, continued on a second:
told Lieutenant Lawson navy their Iron Clads will be down in a few
days with Great Ramming power. Shall be ready for them. We find
many torpedoes here. We want to follow up the torpedoes by the
mines so don’t break them, if you can Explode them. Richmond
E [“Examiner”] of 240 Saturday Genl Grant fought them a great
battle on Thursday last never before such vim & bravery on our
part. We captured Prisoners and artillery from them & had the
most Killed and Wounded as they were behind breast works & we
fought in the open field this is their account. They only claim two
thousand of our wounded captured at the Wilderness no other
prisoners & artillery. They say our men bayonnetted them behind
their Breast works. I think they have lost largely in prisoners. It
was great fighting on the part of our army. They say Gen Grant
is entrenched before them & will not fall back. No fighting Friday.
We are working up the river hard.
S. P. Lee
Here is the context. The message was sent in the midst of the Battle of
Spotsylvania Court House, May 8–21, 1864.
The Agawam was Admiral S.P Lee’s flagship. Deep Bottom is the
colloquial name for an area of the James River in Henrico County eleven
miles southeast of Richmond, at a horseshoe-shaped bend in the river
known as Jones Neck. It was a convenient crossing point from the
Bermuda Hundred area on the south side of the river.
On May 5, 1864, the Union Army of the James under Gen. Benjamin
Butler had disembarked at Bermuda Hundred at the confluence of the
James and Appomattox Rivers, its objective to sever the Richmond and
Shortly after this telegram was sent, Butler would commit a famous tactical blunder. After a
series of inconclusive battles, on May 20 he withdrew behind entrenchments across the neck of
the peninsula bounded by the two rivers. Confederate Gen. P. T. Beauregard quickly constructed
the opposing Howlett Line which kept Butler’s 30,000-man force bottled up until April 1865.
U.S. Grant had engaged Robert E. Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness May 5–7, 1864, taking
heavy losses [USA 17,666, CSA 7,750]. Rather than retreat, Grant advanced to Spotsylvania
Court House. In an inconclusive battle, the forces of Grant and Lee battled for days southwest
of Fredericksburg, May 8–21, with the Union forces again sustaining disproportionate losses
[USA 18,399, CSA 9,000]. This strategy of attrition, though, ultimately sealed the fate of the
(This message was considered suffiently important to be included in the Official Records of the
Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Series I—Volume 10. North Atlantic
Blockading Squadron From May 6, 1864, to October 27, 1864.)
Fantastic “behind the scenes” communication involving two key Union commanders!
Ex-Wilson Born (acquired by him in 1938)
Samuel Phillips Lee (1812—1897) was a Rear Admiral of the United States Navy. In the American
Civil War, he took part in the New Orleans campaign, before commanding the North Atlantic
Blockading Squadron, covering the coastlines and inland waters of Virginia and North Carolina,
and finally the Mississippi River Squadron. As a cousin of Robert E. Lee, his refusal to join the
Confederates demonstrated the extent to which the war had divided families. Lee married the
daughter of Francis P. Blair, Sr., and their house in Washington is now the president’s official
Lee was born at “Sully” in Fairfax County,
Virginia to Francis Lightfoot Lee II and
Jane Fitzgerald. He was the grandson
of Richard Henry Lee, great-nephew of
Francis Lightfoot Lee I, brother-in-law of
Francis Preston Blair, Jr., and of Montgomery Blair, and was third cousin of Robert E. Lee. He was appointed
a midshipman in the U.S. Navy in November 1825 and subsequently saw extensive service at sea, including
combat action during the Mexican–American War and exploration, surveying and oceanographic duty.
At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, he held the rank of commander and was captain of
the sloop of war Vandalia in the East Indies, sailing her home on his own initiative to join the blockade of
the Southern coast. Commander Lee commanded the new steam sloop Oneida during the New Orleans
campaign and subsequent operations on the Mississippi River in the first half of 1862. Lee became well
known in Washington society due to the influence of his wife, the former Elizabeth Blair, of Maryland.Admiral S. P. Lee in 1845 and circa 1870
When asked about his loyalty, Lee famously replied “When I find the
word Virginia in my commission I will join the Confederacy.” This
quote is often referenced by historians in contrast to the actions of his
cousin Robert E. Lee, to show how the war divided families.
In September 1862, Lee was placed in command of the North Atlantic
Blockading Squadron with the rank of Acting Rear Admiral. His flagship
at this point was the Philadelphia. He led this force for over two years,
during which it was responsible for the blockade of the North Carolina
coast and operations on North Carolina and Virginia inland waters, all
areas of very active combat between Union and Confederate forces.
Acting Rear Admiral Lee transferred to the command of the Mississippi
River Squadron in October 1864 and led it to the end of the Civil War
in 1865. His flagship during his time as commander of the Mississippi
River Squadron was the Black Hawk.
Reverting to his permanent rank of captain after the Civil War, Lee
extensively served in the Washington, D.C. area. He was promoted to
rear admiral in 1870 and retired from active service in February 1873.
Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818–1893), American lawyer, politician
and soldier, was one of the most colorful and controversial figures of
the Civil War. Only the briefest summary of his career is possible here.
Born in New Hampshire and raised in
Massachusetts, Butler served in the
Massachusetts legislature and as an
officer in the state militia. During the
American Civil War, Butler served as
a major general in the Union Army,
and became a despised figure in the
South during the Union occupation
of New Orleans. After the war, he was
elected to the United States House of
Representatives from Massachusetts,
and later served as the 33rd Governor
of Massachusetts from 1883 to 1884.
In 1868, while serving in Congress,
Butler had a prominent role in theGeneral Benjamin Butler
impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. As Chairman of the House Committee on Reconstruction, Butler authored the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, signed
into law by President Grant, that gave federal authority to prosecute and destroy the Klan in the South.
Butler authored, along with Sen. Charles Sumner, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, signed into law by President Grant. This law, a final act of Reconstruction, gave
African American US citizens the right to public accommodation such as hotels, restaurants, lodging, and public entertainment establishments.
Although he sympathized with the South, Butler stated that “I was always a friend of southern rights but an enemy of southern wrongs,” and sought to serve
in the Union army. His military career prior to the Civil War began as a private in the Lowell militia in 1840. Butler eventually rose to become colonel of a
regiment of primarily Irish American men. In 1855, the nativist Know Nothing Governor Henry J. Gardner disbanded Butler’s militia, but Butler was elected
brigadier general after the militia was reorganized. In 1857 Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appointed him to the Board of Visitors of West Point. These
positions did not give him any significant military experience.
During the American Civil War, Butler served as a major general in the Union Army. His policies regarding slaves as contraband so they could be treated as
free men, his administration of occupied New Orleans, his ineffectual leadership in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, and the fiasco of Fort Fisher rank him
as one of the most controversial political generals of the war. Butler was the first Eastern Union General to declare runaway Virginia slaves “contraband of
war”; refusing to return them to their masters. He was widely reviled for years after the war by Southern whites, who gave him the nickname “Beast Butler.”
Although considered a hostile Union Army general while commanding New Orleans, Butler, through his Christian charity, made efforts to care for the poor
and needy, giving $1,000 of his personal money to purchase food for those who were starving. As all business activity was shut down, Butler gave railroad and
steam loading permits to operators, relieving the city of starvation. Butler received permission from the city to employ the poor to clean up the streets and
under the supervision of Col. T. B. Thorpe, a million dollars of land was added to the state from the Mississippi River deposits. At the request of Lieutenant
General Ulysses S. Grant, Butler was relieved of duty on January 8, 1865, having failed to capture Fort Fisher.
Fort Fisher and Butler’s Recall [Too juicy to omit!]
Butler’s status as a key political ally of President Abraham Lincoln prevented General Grant from removing him from military service prior to the presidential
election of November 1864. As a prominent Radical Republican, Butler was also under consideration as a possible opponent of Lincoln in that year’s election,
and Lincoln had asked Butler to serve as his Vice President in early 1864. After the election, however, Grant wrote to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in
early 1865 asking free rein to relieve Butler from military service. Since Stanton was traveling outside Washington, D.C., at the time, Grant appealed directly to
Lincoln for permission to terminate Butler, noting “there is a lack of confidence felt in [Butler’s] military ability.” In General Order Number 1, Lincoln relieved
Butler from command of the Department of North Carolina and Virginia and ordered him to report to Lowell, Massachusetts.
Grant informed Butler of his recall on January 8, 1865, and named Major General Edward O. C. Ord to replace him as commander of the Army of the
James. Rather than report to Lowell, Butler went to Washington, where he used his considerable political connections to get a hearing before the Joint
Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War in mid-January. At his hearing Butler focused his defense on his actions at Fort Fisher. He produced
charts and duplicates of reports by subordinates to prove he had been right to call off his attack of Fort Fisher, despite orders from General Grant to the
contrary. Butler claimed the fort was impregnable. To his embarrassment, a follow-up expedition led by Maj. Gen. Alfred H. Terry captured the fort on
January 15, and news of this victory arrived during the committee hearing; Butler’s military career was over. He was formally retained until November 1865
with the idea that he might act as military prosecutor of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
July 1863 U.S. Military Telegram & cover, Port Hudson, Gen. Geo. Andrews
to Col. T. E. Chickering
United States Military Telegraph Office reception form, Department of the
Gulf, July 25, 1863, from “G. L. Andrews/Brig. Gen Vols/ Comdg Post” to Col.
T. E. Chickering :
You are relieved from duty at this post as provost marshall at the request of
Genl Banks. The order will be sent to you.
Context: Battle of Port Hudson. In cooperation with Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s
offensive against Vicksburg, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’s army moved
against the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River.
On May 27, after their frontal assaults were repulsed, the Federals settled into
a siege which lasted for 48 days. Banks renewed his assaults on June 14 but the
defenders successfully repelled them. On July 9, 1863, after hearing of the fall
of Vicksburg, the Confederate garrison of Port Hudson surrendered, opening
the Mississippi River to Union navigation from its source to New Orleans. This
telegram was sent from Port Hudson two weeks later. Ex-Wilson Born.
George Leonard Andrews (1828–1899)
was an American professor, civil engineer,
and soldier. He was a Brigadier General in
the Union Army during the American Civil
War and was awarded the honorary grade
of brevet Major General.
During the Civil War, Andrews served in a
number of important commands, first as
the Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts, a
regiment which saw heavy action in the
Battles of Cedar Mountain and Antietam,
among other actions. Mentored by Maj.
Gen. Nathaniel Prentice Banks, Andrews
became part of Banks’s staff and was
assigned several command roles in the
Army Department of the Gulf during the
later years of the war.General George Leonard Andrews
After the war, Andrews pursued a variety of vocations, including service as a United States Marshal, before returning to the United States Military Academy at West
Point as a professor until his retirement.
District of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson
The day after the fall of Port Hudson, Andrews was assigned to organize the African-American troops in the Army of the Gulf, forming the Corps d’Afrique. Andrews
was also placed in command of the Army District of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson. He retained command of the district and the Corps d’Afrique until February 1865.
To recruit African-Americans, Andrews dispatched soldiers to plantations throughout his district to enlist freed slaves.
On February 27, Andrews was relieved from command of the District of Baton Rouge and Port Hudson and reported to New Orleans where he was appointed
provost marshal general for the Department of the Gulf. He served as an aide to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby during the Siege of Mobile Campaign which forced the
surrender of the last Confederate stronghold on the Gulf coast. For his service during this campaign, Andrews was given a commendation by Canby.
After the Confederacy’s surrender in April 1865, Andrews spent a portion of the summer as Maj. Gen. Canby’s chief of staff, then resigned his commission on August
24, 1865. On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Andrews to the honorary grade of brevet major general, United States Volunteers, to rank
from March 26, 1865 and the United States Senate confirmed the award on March 12, 1866.
After the Civil War, Andrews spent two years as a planter in Mississippi. He then moved back to Massachusetts and was a United States marshal from 1867 to 1871.
He was a professor of French at West Point from 1871 to 1882, and of modern languages from 1882 until his retirement in 1892.
Fort Andrews, a fortification on Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor, was named after him. Constructed in 1897, the fort held the largest garrison of any fortification
in Boston Harbor in the early 20th century (two thousand troops). It was abandoned by the U.S. Army in 1946 and is currently in ruins.
Col. T. E. Chickering commanded the
41st Massachusetts. “Col. Chickering’s
Battle March” was dedicated to him.
1863ca telegraph message to Maj. J. G. Barnard, officer in charge of fortification of Washington D.C.
Major J. G. Barnard
Corps of Engineers
Your Orderly left to join you before your Telegram was received.
Soon after the disastrous Union defeat at the first battle of Bull Run at the outset
of the Civil War, Union commander Gen. George McClellan placed Major (later
Bvt. Major General) John Gross Barnard of the Corps of Engineers in charge of
constructing an extensive network of fortifications surrounding Washington, D.C.
Under Barnard’s direction, Washington became the most heavily fortified city
in North America. As President Abraham Lincoln’s capital, the city became
the symbol of Union determination, as well as a target for Robert E. Lee’s
Confederates. As a Union army and navy logistical base, it contained a complex
of hospitals, storehouses, equipment repair
facilities, and animal corrals. These were in addition to other public buildings, small urban areas, and vast open space that
constituted the capital on the Potomac. To protect Washington with all it contained and symbolized, the Army constructed a
shield of fortifications: 68 enclosed earthen forts, 93 supplemental batteries, miles of military roads, and support structures
for commissary, quartermaster, engineer, and civilian labor forces, some
of which still exist today. Thousands of troops were held back from active
operations to garrison this complex. And the Commanders of the Army of
the Potomac from Irvin McDowell to George Meade, and informally U.S.
Grant himself, always had to keep in mind their responsibility of protecting
this city, at the same time that they were moving against the Confederate
forces arrayed against them.
In 1871 Barnard’s extensive report on this work was published as: Bvt. Major
General J. G. Barnard. A Report on the Defenses of Washington to the Corps
of Engineers, U.S. Army. Professional Papers of the Corps of Engineers,
The Chain Bridge across the Potomac was a main thoroughfare connecting
Washington with Virginia. Chain Bridge across the PotomacBvt. Major Gen. John G. Barnard
James Eveleth, Clerk in the Bureau of the Chief Engineer United States Army, was the disbursement agent for all payments related to this monumental task. This
message is probably in Eveleth’s hand.
From Mr. Lincoln’s Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Benjamin Franklin Cooling III and Walton H. Owen II, 2009:
Chaos enveloped Washington during the weeks following the rout of Union forces at the first battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) on July 21, 1861. It became apparent
to military authorities that in addition to rebuilding the army, a more elaborate system of formal protection have to be constructed for Washington. Concentration
on fort construction began after Major General George B. McClellan succeeded Brigadier General Irvin McDowell as the Union army commander on the Potomac.
McClellan realized that one of his most pressing demands involve the city’s immediate safety and redeployment of troops for defense and but at the same time he
wanted to free his growing army for offensive field service.
Undaunted by the sizable circumference of the city, the “Little Napoleon” (as McClellan was called) enthusiastically endorsed proposals for a system of 48 forts,
lunettes, redoubts, and batteries, mounting 300 guns. In August 1861 Mcclellan placed Major (later Brevet Major General) John Gross Barnard of the Corps of
Engineers in charge of the construction project. Thus to this capable officer passed a task that would become increasingly costly, frustrating and too in large extent
underappreciated over the course of the war. ...
The actual disbursements, both for the purchase of materials and for monthly payment of laborers and employees, were made by Mr. James Eveleth, clerk in
the Bureau of the Chief Engineer United States Army, who in addition to his office as clerk, was, as long ago as June, 1837, specially appointed disbursing agent
of the Engineer Department, and in that capacity has, continuously to the present time, rendered valuable services, and disbursed large sums of public money,
including more than a million of dollars for the Defenses of Washington, on his personal responsibility, without having received any compensation for that, at times
laborious, and highly responsible service. His own statement in reference to service relating to the Defenses of Washington may properly be quoted here:
The onerous and responsible duty of paying for all purchases, together with the monthly payments of all the mechanics and laborers and other
employees, demanded every moment of my time after regular office hours not indispensable to sleep, including Sundays and nights. ... it is not
to be supposed that in disbursing the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by me in small sums to large numbers of workmen at a time, and
generally at night, occasional losses did not occur. ... It is a source of great pleasure for me to be able to add that every cent of the large amount
(over a million of dollars) advanced to me from the Treasury has been accounted for, to the satisfaction of the accounting officers.
Eveleth was one of innumerable unsung heroes of the war.
1864 U.S. Military Telegram, Bermuda Hundred to Chief
Quartermaster P. P. Pitkin at City Point
United States Military Telegraph reception form, October 2, 1864,
from “Bermuda 100” to “Col. Pitkin”:
Please send me a cargo of cool as soon as possible
Capt & AQM
Longtime Union Army quartermaster Perley P. Pitkin was depot
commander of City Point, the vast staging area for Grant’s assault on
Richmond in 1864–5.
Creation of City Point. On June18, 1864, U. S. Grant ordered his Chief
Quartermaster General, Brevet Major General Ingalls, to create a supply
depot at City Point capable of supporting the forces participating in the
siege of Petersburg. Ingalls created a depot previously unparalleled in
military history, capable of supporting an army of 500,000 men.
City Point grew into an extremely efficient and diverse mini-city of over
280 buildings, providing all the support services needed to keep a world-
class army combat effective. The port facilities consisted of eight wharves
covering over eight acres, with warehouses totaling over 100,000 square
22 miles spanned from the wharves
to directly behind the Union lines.
During the campaign, the track grew
together with the Union siege lines,
transporting over a half million tons
of supplies directly to the combat
units. City Point provided unequaled
rations such as fresh meat and over
100,000 loaves of fresh bread daily.
Its massive repair shop maintained
over 5,000 wagons, and facilities
maintained the 60,000 animals
necessary to support Grant’s army.
The first-class hospitals built at City
Brevet General P. P. Pitkin
Point became capable
of treating 15,000
care unsurpassed in
a field environment.
For Grant to control
the entire Union
a highly efficient
c o m m u n i c a t i o n
system was created
at City Point that
not only Washington,
but all of the Union forces throughout the country.
The creation of City Point with its impressive support capabilities in
less than 30 days represents an achievement second to none in prior
military history. City Point was a credit to all who built it and made it
run so effectively. A vast amount of the praise should be levied upon
Brevet Major General Ingalls, the Chief Quartermaster of the armies
operating against Richmond. However, the City Point depot was actually
under the command of Col. P. P. Pitkin until November 7, 1864, when he
accepted the position as Quartermaster General of the state of Vermont.
Pitkin’s successor, Col. George W. Bradley, ably held the position of depot
commander until the end of the war and the subsequent demilitarization
and closing of City Point in the summer of 1865.
Bermuda Hundred. On May 5, 1864, the Union Army of the James
under Gen. Benjamin Butler had disembarked at Bermuda Hundred
at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, its objective to
sever the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. On May 20 Butler would
commit a famous tactical blunder. After a series of inconclusive battles,
he withdrew behind entrenchments across the neck of the peninsula
bounded by the two rivers. Confederate Gen. P. T. Beauregard quickly
constructed the opposing Howlett Line which kept Butler’s 30,000-
man force bottled up until April 1865. The request for supplies in the
telegram at hand came from this bottled-up force.
Sender A. P. Blunt became by 1867 Brevet-Colonel and Assistant
Quartermaster of the Army.
Lincoln visits City Point, March 1865
Also offered is a second, earlier telegram to Pitkin, January 19, 1864, from “Hd Qrs A.P. [Army of the Potomac], to Capt. P. P. Pitkin:
Send package of stationery to Lt A F Keene AAQM 3d
James H. Platt
In January, 1864 the Headquarters Army of Potomac was at Brandy Station, Virginia. Pitkin had long experience as quartermaster before taking charge at City Point.
Perley Peabody Pitkin (1826–1891), at the breaking out of the Civil War, at once offering his services to the government, was commissioned regimental
quartermaster of the Second Vermont Volunteers, later appointed brigade quartermaster of the First Vermont Brigade. In April, 1862, he was promoted to
Assistant Quartermaster of Volunteers with the rank of captain, and reported to General Rufus Ingalls, chief quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, at
White House, Virginia. The work assigned to Captain Pitkin was the receiving of supplies at the army base from the fleet of army vessels and distributing them
to the several army corps. In this labor Captain Pitkin had under him over twelve hundred civilian employees at a time.
When the army was withdrawn from the peninsula he was ordered to Washington with his brigade of subordinates and thence (during the Antietam campaign)
to Harper’s Ferry, where he was chief depot quartermaster in charge of all supplies for the army. This most responsible position he held at the bases of supply
of the army established successively at Warrenton Junction, Falmouth, Belle Plain, and Aquia Creek, Washington, Frederick, Maryland (during the Gettysburg
campaign), and Alexandria, from which point the army was supplied during the winter of 1863–4, its principal supply station being at Brandy Station, fifty-seven
miles from the base, with branch depots at Bealton and Culpepper.
When General Grant’s overland campaign began in May 1864, the surplus supplies having been sent back to Alexandria, Captain Pitkin was placed in chief
charge of the immense train of four thousand wagons, which carried ten days’ rations for the army, with ammunition and other supplies. While at Spottsylvania,
Captain Pitkin was selected to be the bearer of despatches from General Grant to the war department, which could be entrusted only to a most responsible
messenger. With an escort of regular cavalry he made the journey to Washington and back in four days, then resumed his duties as chief depot quartermaster
at Belle Plain. Here, to the care of the enormous quantities of supplies provided for the further overland march of the army, were added the duties attending
the arrival of thousands of recruits and reinforcements; the receipt of many thousands of prisoners, arriving from the front to be forwarded to Alexandria and
Annapolis; and the care of the army of wounded and sick soldiers, on their way to the general hospitals.
Captain Pitkin moved with the supply depot, successively to Port Royal on the Rappahannock, White House on the Pamunkey, and City Point on the James, where
he remained as chief depot quartermaster during the summer of 1864. July 8, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of colonel and assistant quartermaster. During
this period the army numbered upwards of 100,000 men, with 50,000 horses and mules. For the subsistence of the former 100,000 pounds of bread, 125,000
pounds of meat, 10,000 pounds of coffee, 10,000 pounds of sugar, and, when obtainable, large quantities of vegetables, were furnished each day; while the
latter consumed over 600,000 pounds of grain and an equal quantity of forage daily. Once in three or four months 100,000 pairs of shoes, and 200,000 pairs of
stockings, and at a little longer period of time as many coats and pantaloons, and twice as many changes of under-clothing were distributed. For each periodical
shoeing of the animals, Colonel Pitkin received and distributed 200,000 pounds of horse shoes.
Add to all this the care and transportation of the enormous quantities of ordnance and surgical supplies required, and it may be realized that the duties of the
chief quartermaster in charge of the army base were such as could be borne only by a man of great physical vigor, as well as superior executive ability and untiring
industry. They were performed by Colonel Pitkin with an ability and fidelity which won for him the unvarying commendation of his superiors. The successive
commanders of the army all recognized his value, and relied on him with a confidence which was never disappointed.
In November 1864 Colonel Pitkin resigned his position in the army, to enter upon his duties as Quartermaster General of the state of Vermont. Late in November,
1864, the governor of Vermont insisted that Colonel Pitkin must return to take the important office of Quartermaster General of the state, to which he had been
unanimously elected by the legislature. Greatly to General Grant’s regret, Colonel Pitkin obeyed his governor and resigned his office. He held the new office, with
the rank of Brigadier General, for the six following years, and then declined a re-election.
1862 U.S. Military Telegram, Commodore A. A. Harwood to
Secretary of Navy
Blank sheet with written message:
Navy Yd. Washington
Augt 11 ‘62
Secry. of the Navy
The Quarter Master U.S. Army has sent the steamer here for some
temporary repairs & new rudder. Shall they be made?
A A Harwood
Pencilled “11am” appears to indicate time of transmission.
A. A. Harwood was promoted to Commodore in mid-1862, in
charge of Washington Navy Yard and Commander of the Potomac
Flotilla until December 1863.
Secretary of the Navy was Gideon Welles.
The North America would be destroyed by the Confederate raider
Tallahassee August 17, 1864. The Tallahassee went through the
blockade on August 6, 1864 from her home port of Wilmington,
North Carolina, and made a spectacular 19-day raid off the Atlantic
coast as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia, destroying 26 vessels and
capturing seven others that were bonded or released.
U.S. Colored Cavalry, four 1864 telegrams/New Orleans/Port
Four telegraph reception forms of United States Military Telegraph
Office, Department of the Gulf, to Major H. G. Crickmore, 4th
Regiment, U.S. Colored Cavalry
The mere existence of black cavalry in the Civil War comes as a
revelation. Black soldiers were often assigned non-combat tasks, such
as erecting fortifications, guard or picket duties, etc. Eventually of
necessity they fought as infantry, often with distinction. But cavalry?!
Here are rare artifacts of what appears to have been the only black
cavalry unit of the war.
1. Sept 7 1864, Baton Rouge to Port Hudson, Lt. Col. J. H. Alexander to
“Maj Cirkmore (sic!) 4 Regt NY Col Cavy”:
I am on steamboat Hannibal have a wagon on the landing
Also Sept 20, 1864, receipt from E. H. Johnson, Operator, Port Hudson,
for payment of $4.75 by Crickmore for two telegrams
2. Oct 22, 1864, New Orleans, from Nathaniel C. Mitchell, Maj &
AAPMG, to “Maj H. G. Crickmore Comdg 4th USCC” [this is incorrect,
commander was J. H. Alexander]:
Send down Col Alexander’s horses at once to me
3. Oct 26, 1864, New Orleans, C. H. Robertson, Lt. & AAQM [Assistant
Quarter Master] to “Maj Brickmore (sic!!) 4th USCC”:
I have not heard if you received the documents you wrote to me for,
I sent in by mail on the 10th inst directed two your Regiment let me
know as soon as you possibly can if you received it
4. Nov 21, 1864, New Orleans, J. H. Alexander Lt. Col. 4th USCC to
“Maj H. G. Cockmore (sic!!!) 4th USCC”:
Send ordnance papers & invoices for my signature immediately
All ex-Wilson Born
Telegram 1 here reveals key information, the New York involvement
in the 4th USCC: note it is here referred to as “4th Regt NY Col Cavy.”
After the war H.G. Crickmore (1839-1908) became one of the most
influential members of the New York horseracing world, authoring the
esteemed “Krik’s Guide to the Turf,” published annually from 1876 to
The 4th USCC had previously been the 1st Corps d’Afrique Cavalry.
The Corps d’Afrique, one of many
Louisiana Union Civil War units, was
formed in New Orleans after the city was
taken and occupied by Union forces. It
was formed in part from the Louisiana
Native Guards. The Native Guards were
former militia units raised in New Orleans.
They were property-owning free people
of color (gens du couleur libres).
Free mixed-race people had developed
as a third class in New Orleans since
the colonial years. Although the men
had wanted to prove their bravery and
loyalty to the Confederacy like other Southern property owners, the
Confederates did not allow these men to serve and confiscated their
arms. The Confederates said that enlisting black soldiers would hurt
agriculture. Since the units were composed of freeborn creoles and
black freemen, it was clear that the underlying objection was to having
black men serve at all.
For later units of the Corps d’Afrique, the Union recruited freedmen
from the refugee camps. Liberated from nearby plantations, they and
their families had no means to earn a living and no place to go. Local
commanders, starved for replacements, started equipping volunteer
units with cast-off uniforms and obsolete or captured firearms. The
men were treated and paid as auxiliaries, performing guard or picket
duties to free up white soldiers for maneuver units. In exchange their
families were fed, clothed and housed for free at the Army camps;
often schools were set up for them and their children.
Gordon, or Whipped Peter,
Despite class differences between freeborn and freedmen the troops
of the Corps d’Afrique served with distinction, including at the Battle
of Port Hudson and throughout the South. Its units included:
• 4 Regiments of Louisiana Native Guards (renamed the 1st-4th
Corps d’Afrique Infantry, later made into the 73rd-76th US Colored
Infantry on April 4, 1864).
• 1st and 2nd Brigade Marching Bands, Corps d’Afrique (later made
into Nos. 1 and 2 Bands, USCT).
• 1 Regiment of Cavalry (1st Corps d’Afrique Cavalry, later made
into the 4th US Colored Cavalry).
• 22 Regiments of Infantry (1st-20th, 22nd, and 26th Corps
d’Afrique Infantry, later converted into the 77th-79th, 80th-83rd,
84th-88th, and 89th-93rd US Colored Infantry on April 4, 1864).
• 5 Regiments of Engineers (1st-5th Corps d’Afrique Engineers, later
converted into the 95th-99th US Colored Infantry regiments on
April 4, 1864).
• 1 Regiment of Heavy Artillery (later converted into the 10th US
Colored (Heavy) Artillery on May 21, 1864).
1864ca U.S. Military Telegraph covers, Colored Pioneer Regt.
Two covers of U.S. Military Telegraph, Head Quarters Military
Division of West Mississippi:
1. Addressed to “Lt. Henry Colman, Colored Pioneer Regt. Mobile
2. Addressed to “Lieut. Henry Colman, Present” [i.e., “local” or “city”]
The Pioneer Corps were among the predecessors to the U.S. Colored
Exceedingly rare Black History items from this short-lived unit
[Pre-USCT] Volunteer regiments
Before the USCT was formed, several volunteer regiments were
raised from free black men, including freedmen in the South. ...
Right Wing, XVI Corps (1864)
Colored troops served as laborers in the 16th Army Corps’
Quartermaster’s Department and Pioneer Corps.
• Detachment, Quartermaster’s Department.
• Pioneer Corps, 1st Division (Mower), 16th Army Corps.
• Pioneer Corps, Cavalry Division (Grierson), 16th Army Corps.
[A pioneer is a soldier employed to perform engineering and
construction tasks. The term is in principle similar to sapper.]
[Little appears to be known about these Pioneer Corps. The Wikipedia
listings are unattributed and other websites concerning the USCT
note that Compendium of the War of the Rebellion by Frederick H.
Dyer contains no history for this unit. However the cover imprint
here―“Head Quarters Military Division of West Mississippi”―is
consistent with the information furnished by Wikipedia, see below.]
The remaining division [of the 16th Corps] which did not join
Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign was left to guard the Mississippi River
valley. Kimball’s, Lauman’s and William Sooy Smith’s divisions were
permanently removed to other corps while James Tuttle‘s division of
the XV Corps and Andrew Jackson Smith‘s division of the XIII Corps
were both transferred to the XVI Corps. Maj. Gen. Hurlbut assumed
direct command over these divisions known as the Right Wing and
participated in the Meridian Expedition in February 1864. During
the Red River Campaign the Right Wing was attached to Maj. Gen.
Tuttle’s 1st Division was now commanded by Joseph A. Mower and
A. J. Smith’s division was also attached to Mower’s command. One
division from the XVII Corps was attached to the Right Wing. This
division was dubbed the “Red River Division” and was commanded by
Thomas Kilby Smith.
The Red River Division remained in Louisiana while A. J. Smith took the
rest of the Right Wing into Mississippi to protect Sherman’s supply
lines during the Atlanta Campaign, defeating the Confederates at the
Battle of Tupelo. Here the two divisions were commanded by Mower
(1st Division) and Colonel David Moore (2nd Division) with a division
of cavalry temporarily attached under Brig. Gen. Benjamin Grierson.
This unit was sometimes called “General A. J. Smith’s Guerrillas”.
1867 Rio Grande Telegraph Co. telegram, Brownsville TX, 117th U.S.
Telegraph reception form of Rio Grande Telegraph Co. (“KENEDY &KING.
Proprietors.”) from Brownsville [Texas], March 10, 1867, to Asst Surg
Permission is granted you to go to Ringold. Come up today. I will go
down in your ambulance tomorrow.
O. F. Rogers
Delivered to Dr. Norris in U.S. Military Telegraph yellow cover
On reverse of cover, penciled:
Dr. O F Rogers 117 U.S.C.T. Thanks!! But I cannot go up today will be up
after being relieved by yourself or any one that is ordered to take my
Presumably this was a return message sent by Norris via telegraph.
On the telegram, ms. notation of payment that appears to read “22 < 22
(ditto) pd” perhaps indicating payment for 44 words? (We count 19 in the
original message, 26 in return.)
Orville F Rogers of Dorchester, Mass., was Assistant Surgeon with 117th
Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops.
The 117th USCT was organized in Covington, Kentucky, from freed slaves
beginning in July 1864. As the following timeline shows, at the time this
telegram was sent, March 10, 1867, it was indeed posted to Brownsville,
Texas, for duty along the Rio Grande.
Timeline for 117th Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops.
July 18 – Sep 27 Organized at Covington, Ky. Duty at Camp Nelson,
Ky. Attached to Military District of Kentucky,
Dept. of the Ohio
October Ordered to Baltimore, Md., then to City Point,
Va. Siege operations against Petersburg and
Richmond attached to Provisional Brigade, 18th
Corps, Army of the James
December Attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 25th Corps
March 28 – April 9 Appomattox Campaign
March 29 – 31 Hatcher’s Run
April 2 Fall of Petersburg
April 3-9 Pursuit of Lee
April 9 Appomattox Court House. Surrender of Lee and
April – June Duty at Petersburg and City Point
June and July Moved to Brazos Santiago, Texas
July Duty at Brownsville and on the Rio Grande, Texas
August 10 Mustered out
The “Ringold” referenced in the telegram was Ringgold Barracks, upriver
from Brownsville, on a high bank of the Rio Grande. The main post at
Brownsville was Fort Brown.
“Asst Surg Norris” was Albert Lane Norris, Assistant Surgeon, 114th
Regt. USCT. The 114th had a rather similar history to the 117th:
Timeline for 114th Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops
July 4 Organized at Camp Nelson, Ky. Duty at Camp
Nelson and Louisa, Ky. attached to Military
District of Kentucky, Dept. of the Ohio
January 3 Ordered to Dept. of Virginia
January – March Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond
on the Bermuda Hundred Front attached to
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 25th Corps, Dept. of
March 28 – April 9 Appomattox Campaign
March 29 – 31 Hatcher’s Run
April 2 Fall of Petersburg
April 3 – 9 Pursuit of Lee
April 9 Appomattox Court House Surrender of Lee and his
April – June Duty at Petersburg and City Point attached to 2nd
Brigade, 1st Division, 25th Corps
June and July Moved to Texas
July Duty at Brownsville and other points
on the Rio Grande, Texas until April,
April 2 Mustered out
Rio Grande Telegraph Co.
Material of the Rio Grande Telegraph Co. appears to be
exceedingly rare. We find no mention of it in the catalog for the
Robert A. Siegel Galleries auction of the extensive Wilson Born
collection, June 23, 2015, or indeed anywhere on the internet.
“Kenedy & King Proprietors” were certainly well known: the
prominent Rio Grande shippers and ranchers Mifflin Kenedy
and Richard King.
Mifflin Kenedy (1818–1895) was a South Texas businessman
who was a partner in ranching and steamboating of Richard
King of the large King Ranch. Kenedy County between Corpus
Christi and Brownsville and the city of Kenedy in Karnes County,
Texas, are named in his honor.
How did their message form come to be transmitted in a U.S.
Military Telegraph cover? Hopefully a future owner will have
the pleasure of ferreting out the answer.
USCT trooper standing guard at pontoon bridge across the Rio Grande, Brownsville, Texas, 1866.
(The bridge was reserved for military use; civilians had to rely on ferries)
1864 U. S. Military Telegram, 4th WVa Cavalry,
West Virginia Telegraph Repair
U. S. Military Telegraph generic reception form, message from Weston
[West Virginia], January 5, 186, to Lt. Thos. Bonsall PQM [Post
4th WVa C [4th Regt. West Virginia Cavalry] I cannot give forage to
the telegraph Repairers. My forage was two thousand five hundred &
five 2505 pounds short this must be made up to us before the 10 days
expires―Send accounts of teams hired in the month of November―
Please regulate the hay matter, no more should be taken from the
C. F. Howes
The4thWestVirginiaCavalrywasenlistedin Parkersburgand Wheeling
Charles F. Howes was one of three majors. The regiment was mustered
out on June 23, 1864. This dates this telegram to January 1864. On
January 30, 1864, the 4th would fight an engagement at Moorefield.
Thomas Bonsall was made a recruiting officer in Hancock County, West
Virginia by an order dated August 17, 1864.
Interesting content from a short-lived unit, ex-Wilson Born
1867ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, New Mexico Division
To Mrs. S. C. Paxton, “Paid,” low number 249.
Beginning in 1853 New Mexico had been militarily administered
as part of Department of New Mexico, encompassing New Mexico
As part of a reorganization of the Department of the Pacific into
the Division of the Pacific in July 1865, the New Mexico Division
and Arizona Division were created, administering these Territories
Ultrarare and pretty in yellow, ex-Wilson Born
Feb 1865, Four U. S. Military Telegrams to Washington Regarding
Soldiers to Fill NY Quotas
1. Albany [N.Y.], February 8, 1865, to H L Brown:
Telegraph me at Ballston your lowest price for five or six three year men
George G. Scott
Ms. “14 W Pd”
Pencilled “This is by Independent Line―to Washington.” At top, “US
Line” written in.
George G. Scott of Ballston was a member of the Board of Supervisors
of Saratoga County, N.Y., from 1860 until 1880.
H L Brown was presumably a recruiting agent.
The federal government imposed troop quotas on the states, which
were apportioned to counties and towns. To induce enlistment,
municipalities offered bounties, typically $300 for a three-year
enlistment. By early 1865, when these telegrams were sent, the
most likely candidates for enlistment were soldiers whose original
enlistments circa 1862 were now ending. A likely place to find them
was Washington D.C. and environs, including occupied Virginia.
Saratoga County, N.Y., evidently was falling short in meeting their
quota, and here Supervisor Scott solicits Brown’s help in filling it.
2. Schenectady [New York], February 3, 1865, to Brown & Roe, City
Hotel [Washington D.C.]
Expect quota reduced quarter than Galway wants one Charlton three
[“than Galway wants one Charleton three” appears to be in code]
With United States Military Telegraph cover to “H L Brown City
Hotel,” marked “5”
Duplicate messages sent the same day (see text)
3. Identical message, same day, except “Charlton” now spelled
“Charleton.” Marked “15.” Both messages have notation “10”
indicating number of words.
Again with United States Military Telegraph cover, now to “Brown &
Roe City Hotel,” marked “15”
Was the duplicate message sent because of an inexact original
addressee, a misspelling of “Charlton,” or simply in error?
4. Washington, February 3, 1865, to H L Brown City Hotel:
Meet me tomorrow at half past nine at National
This pinpoints Brown’s location as Washington.
Interesting use of military telegraph by the public, ex-Wilson Born
Sep-Dec 1865, 41 U. S. Military Telegrams regarding cotton sales by J. A
Winston & Co., Mobile/Selma/Demopolis/Uniontown Alabama, much
interesting detail from tumultous immediate postwar period
John Anthony Winston (1812-1871) had been Governor of Alabama
1853–5 and 1855–7. In 1844 he founded John A. Winston & Co., a
cotton trading business, and eventually owned extensive property
throughout the South, farmed by slave labor.
Unless otherwise noted, the messages are from Selma to Winston’s
brother in law, Joel W. Jones of Mobile.
U. S. Military Telegraph forms are of seven types:
1.Generic Department of the Gulf (x13, three font types; two
subtypes with letters missing)
2. New Orleans form with “Mob” or “Mobile” written over (x22,
again three font types)
3. Generic form (x6)
Prewar, the price of cotton had been stable for decades at about 10¢
per lb. Restrictions on trading with the enemy caused it to skyrocket
to over $1.75 in the North in 1864. With Union occupation of cotton-
producing regions, it fell to about 40¢ by war’s end, more quickly
thereafter, but not until 1878 was it again 10¢. In late 1865, when
these messages were sent, the cotton market was booming, as mills
in the East and in England were ravenously competing for the newly-
increased supply. Below are some of the more interesting messages:
Sep 29, 1865 What is middling Cotton at Mobile―Please answer
Immediately Robt. Herstein
Sep 30, 1865 Try & get thirty two Cents for Commercial [cotton]
twenty Thousand answer immediately TK Ferguson
Oct 3, 1865 Sent proceeds of my cotton by express need it much
please answer Immediately WE Eddins
Oct 7, 1865 Will your acceptance Oliver & Nunns bill protested
number Sixty one be paid on presentation MJ Wicks
[from Memphis; cost “13 pd 350”]
Oct 9, 1865 Send todays express eight thousand currency small
bills without fail M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Oct 12, 1865 Telegraph balance due me can cash it here leave here
soon as can hear from you can buy no cotton WE
Oct 12, 1865 When can you send account sales & balance of the
ninety one bales want to leave soon as possible
answer WE Eddins
Oct 13, 1865 JH Franklin & Co wish you to attach on Cotton
Shipped by them per “Effie Dean” for amount of
draft unpaid M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Oct 14, 1865 What is gold worth have drawn Seven thousand
remit close M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Oct 14, 1865 Hardys order releasing your cotton sent by mail
Petters & and Dawson
Oct 17, 1865 Shipped you by “Tunney” twenty six bales ship to
Liverpool sent me twenty five Hundred dollars
today answer VH Bender
Oct 18, 1865 No Remittance from you today Bender says get fifty
Cents or send it to Liverpool Remit Class & small
bills Drawn ten Thousand cotton shipped M. J. A.
Oct 19, 1865 Shall I pay fifty two cents for fifty bales middlings tax
paid WA Kelly
Oct 20, 1865 I have sold Colonel Stoddard Hundred & Sixty
bales cotton will you accept his draft for that
amount MW Creagle answer immediately [from
Oct 22, 1865 Send ten thousand dollars City Bank New Orleans
answer immediately M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Nov 1, 1865 Insure for French Naborz twenty one bales cotton by
[steamer] “Nyansea” M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Nov 6, 1865 Get Bunker Insure at his office all Cotton Down River
for Moore & Aiken [Joel W. Jones in Selma to Jno A.
Nov 9, 1865 Sold fifteen thousand dollars Green Jones & Co. New
York immediately answer M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Nov 11, 1865 Get Bunker Insure at his office all Cotton Down River
for M. Smith or for L P Walker I start on first boat
[Joel W. Jones in Selma to Jno A. Winston, collect!]
Nov 14, 1865 Send fifteen thousand five days sight Green Jones &
Co. New York, five thousand City Bank New Orleans
per Express get a J Ingersoll & Co. hold funds
deposited by Herstein to Credit Barry & Co his
Drafts to us protested M. J. A. Keith &Co.
Nov 23, 1865 Gents I hereby defy you that I have attached fifty
one bales 1.411 home Cotton marked MYI on
Steamer “Clara Dunning” Consigned to you. You
will hold said cotton subject to my order Answer
immediately M Dedman
Nov 24, 1865 I shipped on [steamer] “Montana” twenty one Nov
from Selma Seventy four Bales Cotton ans M.
Smith [from Demopolis]
Nov 24, 1865 Shipped by [steamer] “Dunning” twenty six bales
diamond G class it & ship to Liverpool for my acct.
Dec 6, 1865 Get as much advance as possible on Baker Cotton &
ship to Liverpool Thos K Ferguson
Dec 26, 1865 Insure for me today seventy seven bales Cotton
averaging five hundred twenty pounds shipped to
your House Reply the rate JJ Pleasants Receiver of
WW & LAM Horton Estate [from Uniontown, “20
Notated “Entd at Citizens Mutual Ins Co. down all
rivers at $200 per bale JAW” [thus 38.5¢/lb]
For the messages from Selma the telegraph rate can be deduced: $1
for the first ten words and 8¢ per word thereafter. The messages from
Demopolis [20 words, $2.80] and Memphis [13 words, $3.50] were
Alabama. A Jacksonian Democrat, he was elected to the State House of
Representatives in 1840, then the State Senate in 1843. He represented
Alabama at the 1848 Democratic Party convention in Baltimore and at
the attempted secessionist convention in Nashville in 1850. He was
considered a strong southern rights advocate when he was elected
governor in 1853. In 1855 Winston was re-elected by a narrow margin
over a Know Nothing Party candidate. Though he was unable to
secure a U.S. Senate seat after the expiration of his governorship in
1857, Winston remained active in state and local politics, most notably
as a participant in the 1860 Democratic
National Convention. Following the
outbreak of the Civil War, Winston joined
the 8th Alabama Infantry as a colonel,
though he resigned in 1862. After the
war, he participated in the Alabama
constitutional convention in 1865, and
in 1867 was finally elected to the U.S.
Senate, but was disenfranchised when
he refused to take the oath of allegiance.
Winston was known for his fiery temper.
In 1842 he married Mary Longwood.
The marriage was a troubled one, and
in 1847 a cuckolded Winston shot and
killed Mary’s lover, Dr. Sidney S. Perry of Gainesville. Winston escaped
punishment on claims of self defense, but his marriage never healed
and the couple divorced in 1850. His speeches were short, bold, and
incisive, while he had decided powers of satire and ridicule. As governor,
Winston encouraged public education and signed a bill in 1854 creating
Alabama’s public school system. He was not so generous, however,
regarding state support for public transportation, particularly where
the railroads were concerned. Winston vetoed over thirty bills and
became known as the “veto governor.” Although he was opposed to
transportation funding in principle, Winston’s actions were also guarded
by the state’s indebtedness due to the failure of the state bank. As a
soldier he was a stern disciplinarian, and not popular with his men.
In 1858 the legislature changed the name of Hancock County to Winston
County in his honor.
Finally a U. S. Military Telegraph message from Murfreesboro,
Tennessee, to M. L. Fletcher, Nashville:
Telegraph back to Geo W. Norvell Comr that securities ample is given in
Nelson’s case about his cotton Saml. B. Nelson
It may seem puzzling that military telegraph facilities were used to
transmit a message between civilians with no military implications.
However, Alabama was under strict Federal Occupation, with military
facilities throughout the state. Evidently the army placed its telegraph
facilities at the disposal of the public. Note the service was not free!
Governor John A. Winston
1866 U. S. Military Telegram, Aberdeen to Jackson, Mississippi, to
State Auditor regarding State Tax on Cotton
U. S. Military Telegraph generic reception form, Aberdeen [Mississippi]
to Jackson, January 26, 186
To T. T. Swann, [State] Auditor:
Where merchants have paid a special tax on merchandize under act
November sixteenth (16) Eighteen Sixty five (1865) levying a special tax
on Certain persons & property are they Entitled to a credit on state tax
& what kind of an Endorsement necessary. Answer fully.
S. C. Anderson―Tax Collector
Ms. “43 pd 422” [43 words, cost $4.22]
T. T. Swann has been elected State Auditor Dec 2, 1865. Jackson was
(and is) the state capital.
The Act mentioned in the message, “An act levying a Special Tax upon
certain persons and property ...,” had been approved by the Mississippi
legislature November 16, 1865, and placed a state tax of $2 per bale
It may seem puzzling that military telegraph facilities were used to
transmit a message between civilians with no military implications.
However, Mississippi was under strict Federal Occupation, with military
facilities throughout the state. Evidently the army placed its telegraph
facilities at the disposal of the public―or at least of state officials. Note
the service was not free; $4.22 was charged!
Excellent Mississippi Reconstruction item, ex-Wilson Born
1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, Washington D.C. to
P.&E.R.R. [Philadelphia & Erie Rail Road], Williamsport,
bearing 1861 3¢
Nice use of military telegraph by the public, ex-Wilson Born
1870ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, NY City to Lockport,
N.Y., bearing 3¢ Banknote
Nice use of military telegraph by the public, ex-Wilson Born
1862–1865ca, three U.S. Military Telegraph covers
bearing 1861 3¢ St. Louis/Norwich N.Y.
1. St. Louis to Mrs Geo. H. Brown, Norwich, N.Y.
2. Norwich, N.Y. to Mrs Geo. H. Brown, St. Louis
1862 cancel date
3. St. Louis to A. C. Latham, Norwich, N.Y.
1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, St. Louis to Norwich N.Y.,
bearing 1861 3¢ -1
Scarcer use of military telegraph by the public, ex-Wilson Born
1865ca U.S. Military Telegraph cover, St. Louis to Norwich N.Y.,
bearing 1861 3¢ -2
Scarcer use of military telegraph by the public, ex-Wilson Born