Friday, May 2, 2014

April 26, 1864

April 26, 1864

---Gen. Frederick Steele’s Federal Army of Arkansas quietly evacuates Camden, Arkansas in the evening hours, taking with them their pontoon bridges.  The Rebels, having left their pontoons behind, are unable to give immediate chase.  Steele’s plan is to retreat directly northwards to Princeton, on to the Saline River, crossing it at Jenkins’ Ferry, and on to Little Rock and safety.

---Walt Whitman, the poet and sometime army hospital nurse, writes home to his mother in New Jersey, reporting that he had seen his brother George as the troops of the IX Corps (Burnside) marched through Washington, under review from the President and General Burnside.  Whitman describes the passing of the troops and the impressive march of veterans:

The 9th Corps made a very fine show indeed. There were, I should think, five very full regiments of new black troops, under Gen. Ferrero. They looked and marched very well. It looked funny to see the President standing with his hat off to them just the same as the rest as they passed by. Then there [were the] Michigan regiments; one of them was a regiment of sharpshooters, partly composed of Indians. Then there was a pretty strong force of artillery and a middling force of cavalry—many New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, R. I., etc., reg’ts. All except the blacks were veterans [that had] seen plenty of fighting. Mother, it is very different to see a real army of fighting men, from one of those shows in Brooklyn, or New York, or on Fort Greene. Mother, it was a curious sight to see these ranks after rank of our own dearest blood of men, mostly young, march by, worn and sunburnt and sweaty, with well-worn clothes and thin bundles, and knapsacks, tin cups, and some with frying pans strapt over their backs, all dirty and sweaty, nothing real neat about them except their muskets; but they were all as clean and bright as silver. They were four or five hours passing along, marching with wide ranks pretty quickly, too. It is a great sight to see an army 25 or 30,000 on the march.

Walt Whitman

---As Porter’s river flotilla faces ever-dropping river depths, it encounters stiff Confederate resistance, taking heavy damage.  The Eastport again runs aground, and finally the crew abandons the ship and blows it up.  The Federal vessels run into a strong Rebel artillery position, and their guns pepper several vessels, including the USS Cricket, which takes 19 hits in a short period of time, killing 31 or her 50-man crew before escaping.  The Champion 3 is hit in the boiler by a direct shot, and 200 of her black crewmen are scalded to death.


---David L Day, a soldier in the 25th Massachusetts Infantry, writes in his journal when his regiment is taken from Fort Monroe to proceed by water down to Roanoke Island, to reinforce in case the CSS Albemarle steams downriver to attack.  He describes the eerie night voyage from Norfolk down through the Dismal Swamp on the canal to the Albemarle Sound:

We now enter the eastern edge of the great dismal swamp. I have sometime read a legend of the phantom or witch of the lake of the dismal swamp, who all night long, by the light of the firefly lamp, would paddle her light canoe. On each side of the canal is a cypress swamp, and as the officers were about retiring for the night in the house on deck, the colonel charged the boys to keep a sharp lookout for guerrillas and bushwhackers who might be lurking there. About midnight all was still, not a sound was heard save the dull, heavy wheezing of the engines. Stripped of their bark, the dead trunks of the cypress trees looked in the dim light of the sweet German silver-plated moon, weird and ghostlike. Now it required no great stretch of the imagination to see almost anything in this swamp, and it began to be whispered around that bushwhackers could be seen behind the trees. Presently the sharp crack of a rifle rang out on the still night air, followed by a general fusillade and a cry that the woods are full of them. The officers came rushing out of the house and the colonel strained his eyes peering into the swamp, but seeing nothing and hearing no return fire, he naturally concluded that the boys were drawing on their imaginations, and gave the order to cease firing. But in such a racket it was difficult to hear orders, especially if they didn’t care to, and before he got them stopped, he was giving his orders in very emphatic language. It was rare sport to see the firing go on and to hear the colonel trying to stop it.

About morning we entered the North river, coming out into Currituck sound and sailing around the head of the island, landed at old Fort Huger. The garrison consisted of only the 99th New York, who felt a little nervous about being caught here alone in case the Albemarle should make them a visit. On landing we learned the scare was all over. . . . Finding we were not needed here, after a few hours’ rest we re-embarked and started back.

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