Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Excursion to Ft. Ward for the 150th of Early's Raid on Washington

Last week marked the 150th anniversary of the Confederate raid on Washington. The National Park Service and local governments hosted a multitude of events to commemorate Gen. Jubal Early's daring advance into Maryland, his victory at Monocacy, and his failed attack on Ft. Stevens. I have been pretty busy recently, so I wasn't sure what, if anything, I could attend.  That said, I managed to find some time this past Sunday to go with my twin boys to the Ft. Ward Museum and Historic Site in Alexandria, which was holding a living history weekend to observe the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Ft. Stevens. The fort is one of my all time favorite Civil War sites in the Washington area. I've seen a lot of living history events these past few years, but this one promised some great photo-ops and featured a concert by the renowned Federal City Brass Band. My boys also like the place as much as I do, and I thought they'd enjoy seeing and learning a few things about the Civil War while Mom was away at a meeting.

The camp of Co. K, 3rd U.S. Infantry, just outside the reconstructed gate of Ft. Ward.
The boys meet President Lincoln and Mary Todd.  Given that Old Abe personally observed the Battle of Ft. Stevens, I suppose you could say that his attendance at the event was a prerequisite!
Stacked rifles of Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry.
A view of the camp of Thompson's Independent Battery C near Ft. Ward's reconstructed northwest bastion. The howitzer seen here is usually positioned on an emplacement inside the bastion, but was moved to make way for a firing replica used in Saturday's reenactment of the Battle of Ft. Stevens.
Thompson's Battery's very own Parrott gun and limber inside the fort's northwest bastion.
Looking at the interior of the reconstructed northwest bastion. I never get tired of this site -- no other place related to the Defenses of Washington can compare!

Union reenactors from the 3rd U.S. Infantry held a skirmish drill on the museum's lawn.  Here, an officer explains the maneuvers to the crowd.
The reconstructed officers' hut at the fort was open for viewing. 
One of the exhibits at the event featured Civil War railroads. The living historian is pictured here with his collection of Civil War-era railroad relics such as spikes and link and pin coupling.
Jack enjoys the assortment of 19th century toys, including a cup-and-ball and Jacob's ladder.
The Federal City Brass Band plays on the lawn in front of the Ft. Ward Museum building. At the start of the concert, the group struck up Hail to the Chief  as Lincoln and the First Lady took their seats at the front of the audience. The group performed a wide array of patriotic tunes, including Battle Cry of Freedom and Yankee Doodle. The sound of period brass instruments on a hot summer day carried me right back to 19th century America.

All told, the commemorative event at Ft. Ward was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon in a picture-perfect, family-friendly setting. The museum did a commendable job of putting together an informative living history program, and I am sure that Saturday's reenactment of the attack on Ft. Stevens brought the battle alive for many. Such events go a long way to helping the public connect to and understand the Civil War, including my own very curious preschoolers!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Putting a Face to a Name

This past March I confirmed my own family connection to the Civil War when I was contacted by one Katie Baumgarten, who had come across my blog while doing her own genealogical research. Thanks to Katie, I learned that I was related to Pvt. William Baumgarten of Co. K, 102nd Pennsylvania. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you may have seen my earlier posts about William. I've also started using Facebook and Twitter to retrace William's steps 150 years ago to the day. As I've said before, I am not sure of William's exact relationship to my part of the family line, but I think that he was either a cousin or brother of my Great Great Grandfather John Baumgarten.

Katie had earlier sent me a photo of William later in life. In that picture, he is seated with his brother, Reinhard. I still had no clue as to what young William looked like during the Civil War. I could only squint at that one photograph and imagine William many years before.  However, when doing some research on Ancestry.com, I checked out Katie's family tree. I was excited to discover the following photograph of William in uniform!:
(Courtesy of Katie Baumgarten)

The photograph contains one oddity -- the label about William's wounding appears incorrect. According to my research, William was wounded at Snicker's Gap (July 18, 1864), Third Winchester (September 19, 1864), and Fisher's Hill (September 22, 1864). At some point in the fall of 1864 he was sent to Satterlee General Hospital in Philadelphia to recover for several months prior to discharge from service in June 1865.

I informed Katie about the apparent discrepancy. She told me that her grandfather maintained the old photo album containing this picture and that he may have gotten his facts wrong. In any event, I hope to figure out why the photograph states a wounding date of November 24, 1864.

Until earlier this year, I had no confirmation of my personal tie to the Civil War. And now, after only a few months, I am fortunate enough to have a wartime portrait of my ancestor. I can actually see William as I read about the movements of the 102nd Pennsylvania. Needless to say, a copy of the photograph will soon occupy a cherished place on my office wall.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Odds and Ends, June 2014

That time of the year has arrived once again. I am soon off to the Bay State for my family's annual pilgrimage, meaning that I will be on vacation from the blog for a little while. I plan to fit in some antebellum and Civil War-related sightseeing while I am away and promise to report back upon my return. As always, I will remain active on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can. In the meantime, here are a few odds and ends:

*The Sesquicentennial of Jubal Early's raid on Washington is fast approaching. In that vein, there are a myriad of activities being planned at the federal and local level:
The Monocacy National Battlefield will mark the 150th of the  "Battle that saved Washington" from July 5-13. Activities include "real time" walking tours, living history demonstrations, and a "Remembrance of the Fallen" program. Additional information can be found here
The Civil War Defenses of Washington unit of the National Park Service (NPS) will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. Stevens, where President Lincoln himself came under fire. Highlights include walks and lectures, a hike in the nation's capital from Battery Kemble to Ft. Stevens, living history encampments, and a memorial program at Battlefield National Cemetery. See here for a full schedule. This flyer from the NPS lists numerous other commemorative activities in the Washington, DC area.  
One of my favorite local Civil War parks, Ft. Ward Museum & Historic Site, is hosting a "Battle of Fort Stevens Reenactment Weekend." Groups representing Union and Confederate regiments will recreate the engagement at the reconstructed northwest bastion of Ft. Ward, which will serve as a stand-in for Ft. Stevens. More details can be found here, on the museum website.
Modern view of restored portion of Ft. Stevens (courtesy of Wikipedia). The marker in front of the guns commemorates Lincoln's visit to the fort. 

*Readers may recall that I have recently written about the appointment of Lydia T. Atkinson to serve as a teacher at the contraband camp in Langley. (See here and here.) The Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen decided to send her to Camp Wadsworth upon finding egregious violations of rules governing labor by school-age children. Last month I discovered that the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College has Atkinson's diary from her time in Northern Virginia. I wrote to obtain copies and just received excepts on Monday. Needless to say, I am ecstatic. Atkinson's words shed some light into life at Camp Wadsworth from summer 1864 through the end of the war. I will be featuring a future post of two on the diary once I have had the opportunity to study and analyze this precious primary resource.

*And last but not least, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

An Afternoon at the Langley Ordinary

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting the Langley Ordinary and participating in a living history event on the lawn outside of the historic home. Since starting All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac, I've featured the Langley Ordinary in several posts. The dwelling sits not more than a mile and a half from my home in McLean.

George F.M. Walters built the Ordinary in 1850, or at some point between 1856-61, depending on the source. Gen. George A. McCall, head of the Pennsylvania Reserves, established his divisional headquarters there in October 1861. After McCall left Langley with the Reserves in March 1862, the Union Army took over the building for use as a hospital.

Owner Doug DeLuca of Federal Home Co., and his business partner, Matt Bronczek, helped to save the Langley Ordinary from almost certain destruction. At the time that Doug bought the property, the structure was riddled with mold and water damage. Three days before closing in 2011, two large trees fell on the house and crashed through the attic and second floor ceiling. (See here.) Doug and Matt worked tirelessly to restore and renovate the house. Thanks to their efforts, the Langley Ordinary survives.

The restored Langley Ordinary sits along Georgetown Pike (VA-193) near the intersection with Chain Bridge Rd. The property, along with a few others, forms part of the Langley Fork Historic District in McLean, Virginia.
This past Saturday Doug hosted a book signing for Mary Randolph Carter's Never Stop to Think...Do I Have a Place for This? The lavishly illustrated book, which focuses on home decorating with antiques and heirlooms, features the Langley Ordinary. Doug invited my friend Keith Foote and other reenactors from Cooper's Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery to provide a living history demonstration on the grounds of the Ordinary. The choice of the unit made a lot of sense. Attached to McCall's division as part of the 14th Pennsylvania Reserves, the battery was quartered at Camp Pierpont in Langley during the first winter of the war along with the rest of the Reserves. Their camp site sat along the Leesburg-Georgetown Turnpike, not far from the Ordinary.

Keith asked if I would like to attend the event at the Ordinary with his reenactment group. I gladly accepted his invitation, and on Saturday afternoon Keith dropped off a uniform for me. Dressed as an artillery corporal (a promotion already?), I headed off to the Langley Ordinary to help with the living history side of the event. This was my first time doing any type of reenacting, unless you count those summer days as a kid when I ran around with plastic guns playing war.

A view from the front porch of the Ordinary. As I stood here, I imagined the Union officers and enlisted men who once walked across this very spot over 150 years ago.

I had a chance to walk through the Langley Ordinary during my time there on Saturday. The above picture is a view of the library. Doug has decorated his home with numerous pieces of Americana, including the portraits of Lincoln and Washington seen here.

The stairwell at the Langley Ordinary. Doug preserved much of the original flooring throughout the house.
A view of the attic, which likely served as sick ward for Union soldiers from nearby posts. 
The walls and ceilings of the Langley Ordinary are dotted with graffiti from occupants, Union soldiers, and other visitors. Most of the inscriptions in the attic (seen here) date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other graffiti was lost when trees fell on the roof of the Ordinary. 
Acting as the No. 5 man on the gun crew, I advance the round to the No. 2 man in preparation for firing.
The crew fires the replica 10-pounder Parrott. Langley had not heard such sounds for well over 150 years. All told, the crew fired four blank rounds for the benefit of the guests at Doug's event.
The gun crew poses in front of Langley Ordinary. I am standing to the far left in the first row. Keith Foote is just to my left.
All told, I had a great time at the Langley Ordinary on Saturday. Thanks to the owner's hospitality, I was finally able to walk around a historic residence that I have written so much about. Participating in a living history demonstration with Keith and the other members of Cooper's Battery was an added bonus. I also enjoyed chatting with the reenactors and local residents about the Civil War history of McLean. It just goes to show that you don't always need to go more than a few miles from home to have a rewarding historical experience.

Sources & Notes

Harry English, "The Langley Ordinary," Echoes of History, Vol. 1-5, 1970 (on file with author); Scott Sowers, "Restoring ‘Langley Ordinary’ a project of passion for builder Doug DeLuca," Washington Post, June 27, 2013; Scott Trompeter, "Local Builders Restore, Modernize Antebellum Langley Ordinary," Inside NOVA, May 1, 2013.

Doug has put the Langley Ordinary up for sale. Information about purchasing the property can be found here.

Keith has written a history of Cooper's Battery entitled "Mark the Lines of Your Weary Marches." A signed copy can be purchased for $30 plus shipping. Contact Keith at parafeet@hotmail.com or at 570-975-5034.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Friends' Association Reports on the State of the Contraband Camps, June 1864

During late spring 1863, the Union Army resettled nearly nine hundred former slaves on abandoned secessionist properties across Northern Virginia. Lt. Col. Elias Greene, the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of Washington, wanted to put the contrabands to work raising crops for the Union war effort and viewed the government farms as a way to improve the condition of the freedmen and women who had fled to the nation's capital in search of freedom and opportunity. The Friends' Association for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen and other charitable organizations supplemented the government's efforts to assist the contrabands who lived in the camps. As summer 1864 fast approached, the farms were already a year old. Just how had conditions evolved since Greene launched his ambitious program to manage the contraband situation and improve the lot of the former slaves?

In June 1864, Harriet E. Stockly of the Friends' Association made a "visit of examination to the camps near Washington." (First Annual Rpt. 4.) Her final report, which was published in the Friends' Intelligencer of June 25, 1864, provides useful insights into the condition of the government farms in Northern Virginia at the time.

Camp Todd

Camp Todd sat across the Potomac from Washington in Alexandria (now Arlington) County. When the government established the camp in June 1863, Greene chose to house the freedmen and women in former army barracks near Ft. Albany. Stockly counted 280 persons a year later. [n1] Two-thirds were "adult women" because "most of the men belonging to these families [were] in 2d District regiment, stationed at Key West, Fa." (Friends' Intelligencer 249.) [n2] The noted abolitionist Emily Howland served as superintendent and teacher. Stockly described the economic activity at Camp Todd:
Those in camp are working industriously on the Hunter farm, in which there are 200 acres under cultivation. Many of the women are also working on the farm. The men receive from $8 to $10 , and the women from $6 to $8 per month. The vegetable garden belonging to government contains twenty acres. 
Here, as at all the camps, Stockly found that "[t]here seems a prevalent want . . . of a spot of ground to
belong to each family where they can raise vegetables for themselves, and also to give their homes a more attractive appearance."

Detail from 1862 Union Army map of N.E. Virginia showing properties associated with Camp Todd (courtesy of Library of Congress). Ft. Albany sat on land belonging to James Roach, a wealthy contractor with secessionist sympathies. The abandoned army huts used by the former slaves were located close to Ft. Albany, possibly on Roach's property. Today the area is bisected by I-395 near the Pentagon. According to Stockly's report, the contrabands farmed land belonging to the Hunter family, likely the property marked "Genl Hunter" on the map above. The Hunter plantation was known as Abingdon. Gen. Alexander Hunter had died by the time of the Civil War, but the plantation remained in his family through his brother and nephew, who entered the Confederate service in 1861. Today the grounds of Ronald Reagan National Airport occupy the site of Abingdon. Another possibility for the Hunter farm is the land belonging to a Mrs. Hunter situated to the west of Ft. Albany along Columbia Turnpike.
Camp Wadsworth

Stockly also visited Camp Wadsworth in Langley, where she counted "[o]ne hundred and seventy Freedmen" in the care of superintendent Philip Fowler and farmer Ephrafm Plowman. [n3] Five hundred acres were "under cultivation, worked by about 60 persons" for "10 hours a day." According to Stockly,"[t]he farm looks well, and it is supposed 30 bushels of wheat and 50 bushels of rye will be raised to the acre." On the downside, Stockly was shocked to find that "some children of only eleven years of age are put to daily labor in direct violation of Government regulations, which require that they be sent to school till they are 14." Her findings helped to spur the appointment of teacher Lydia T. Atkinson.

Stockly took stock of living situation at Camp Wadsworth, reporting that "[t]he Freedmen occupy two houses three-quarters of a mile apart." [n4] As for alternatives, Stockly observed that "[t]here are only three or four cabins and six acres appropriated to them, but the farmer promises to make a different arrangement." [n5]

Camp Rucker

At Camp Rucker near Falls Church, Stockly found "[e]ighty-six men, women and children -- 20 men, 32 women, and 34 children" under superintendent Fowler and farmer Oliver Beesley. [n6] Sarah Ann Cadwallader were serving as a teacher at the camp. All told, "there [were] at this time, on this farm, 90 acres in winter grain, 85 in corn, 50 in grass, 7 in garden, 2 1/2 in black-eyed peas, 25 of white beans, 2 1/2 of corn for horses, and 1 acre in potatoes."

Camp Rucker had been established on property belonging to Maj. William D. Nutt, who fled to Richmond upon arrival of Union troops in September 1861. The government initially sheltered the contrabands in tents, but by the time Stockly arrived, the situation had changed. She noted:
Since last fall, all the cabins, 15 in number, have been built: with four exceptions, they are 16 feet by 14 feet, and ample in height. There are upon an average about six persons to each house. Should the Freedmen remain here, there will be more cabins erected. Government has disposed of this farm, and the people will have to be removed, but this probably may not occur for two or three years. [n7]
Camp Rucker left Stockly with am extremely positive, if not somewhat exaggerated, impression:
The condition of the Freedmen here is very satisfactory. Their cabins are whitewashed outside and in, and all neatly kept. The people are clean, tidy and highly appreciative of the improvement in their condition. Many of them escaped from severe masters, and they manifest a degree of gratitude to those who have aided them which I have never seen excelled. They are exceedingly attached to their teacher, and fear lest she should leave them. She has labored indefatigably, and in a measure successfully, for their elevation, and it is their testimony that their condition has been greatly improved since she came among them. There is a smaller number at this camp than at any other, which gives them a decided advantage. The standard of morality is high, and they are well cared for. 
Stockly concluded:
The people here will not be likely to need further supplies from us. The teacher thinks that when the present supply is exhausted they will be self-sustaining, unless an unexpected calamity shall befall them.
While at Camp Rucker, Stockly had a chance to attend a wedding ceremony:
. . . I never saw a ceremony of the kind conducted with greater dignity or propriety. They were married by a colored clergyman, who read the Episcopal service, frequently pausing to consider the words before pronouncing them. We were honored with an invitation to the supper. The order in which it was partaken by the guests was somewhat peculiar. First the bride and groom ate alone, then the first bridesmaid and groomsmen, then the second, then their white friends, then their colored friends.
Stockly also visited other contraband settlements in Washington City, Alexandria, Falls Church, Freedman's Village, and Mason's Island before returning home.

Conclusion

Thanks to Stockly's report, we have an idea about how the freedmen and women were faring in the contraband camps of Northern Virginia after a year in operation. The number of former slaves at Camps Rucker, Todd, and Wadsworth remained roughly the same. Hundreds of acres were under cultivation, providing the government with crops and the freedmen and women with an income, however modest. Conditions at Camp Rucker had progressed to a point of near self-sufficiency, and the former slaves there finally had a roof over their heads. Teachers were also holding classes for those who had never learned to read and write. Of course, the situation was far from perfect. Unlawful child labor remained prevalent at Camp Wadsworth. The former slaves also lacked opportunities to own and farm their own plots of land. And left unsaid in Stockly's report, the very existence of the camps raised questions about how long a successful transition from slavery to freedom and economic independence would take. The Friends' Association, as well as the U.S. Government, had much work left to do.

Notes

1. The Superintendent of Freemen, Rev. Danforth B. Nichols, reported 230 persons in Camp Todd on June 30, 1863.

2. This regiment was also known as the 2nd United States Colored Troops.

3. Nichols reported 178 residents in June 1863, slightly more than a year later.

4. The dwellings belonged to Lewis D. Means and Confederate Navy officer James W. Cooke, secessionists who had fled Langley at the start of the war. See my previous post for more information about the owners.

5. It is unclear who built these cabins and where they were located.

6. By contrast, there were 105 residents of Camp Rucker in June 1863.

7. According to an item in the Alexandria Gazette on March 1, 1864, Nutt's property near Falls Church was seized and sold by the U.S. Government under the Direct Tax Act.

Sources

Alexandria Gazette, Mar. 1, 1864; Assn. of Friends (ed.), Friends' Intelligencer: A Religious and Family Journal, Vol. XXI (1865); Board of Managers, Friends' Assn. for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen, First Annual Report of the Board of Managers of the Friends' Assn. for the Aid and Elevation of the Freedmen (1865); Benjamin Franklin Cooling III & Walton H. Owen II, Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington (2010 ed.); Alexander Hunter, Johnny Reb and Billy Yank (1905);  "The Hunter Family Marker: Abingdon Plantation," HMdb.org; D.B. Nichols, Official Report on Superintendent Nichols Freedman's Department, South Potomac, Quartermaster for the Department of Washington, July 10, 1863, in New York Times, Aug. 9, 1863 ("Official Report"); "Prospect Hill Marker," HMdb.org.