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1863 March 28: The Helena (Arkansas) Expedition and Other News

March 28, 2013

Following is the “news” column from the front page of the March 28, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press, which is mostly war news.

The News of the Week.

It is stated that A. T. Stewart¹ has chartered a ship to be filled with provisions for the destitute in Ireland.

The result of the election for Congressman in the 1st New Hampshire District is not determined.  Marcy,² Democrat candidate, now has only ten majority.

It is stated that a draft of 500,000 will soon be ordered, and also that arrangements have been entered into to enforce conscription without difficulty.

Gen. Grant’s [Ulysses S. Grant] medical director says that the reporters have greatly exaggerated the sickness in the Vicksburg army.

A treaty has been made with the Chippewa chiefs in Washington by which they cede five reservations to the Government.  The dispatch does not state the reservations to which they are to be removed.

Col. Jas. B. Fry,³ the man who shot Zollicoffer [Felix K. Zollicoffer] at the battle of Mill Spring[s] has been appointed Provost Marshal General under the conscription law.

The Harriet Lane is being converted into an iron-clad by the rebels at Galveston.

Preparations have been made that will enable Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans] to repel any attack that may be made upon him, and also to prevent the invasion of Kentucky.

We have partial detail of an engagement near the Blackwater,4 which was undecided at last accounts.—Brilliant and desperate cavalry charges were made by our forces, but the enemy were too strongly fortified to be driven from their position.

Rebel deserters report that an attack was atempted [sic] upon our blockading squadron off Mobile, about four weeks ago but failed, owing to one of the rebel boats being snagged.  They say that the attack will soon be renewed.

In the late cavalry fight on the Rappahannock, seven of the 6th Ohio were wounded, whose names are not given.

A Newbern [sic] letter gives an account of a reconnoissance [sic] by Generals Prince5 and Davidson [John W. Davidson].

The rebel cavalry force in Onslow county [North Carolina] was completely broken up.—The expedition returned to Newbern [sic], the enemy failing to make a stand.

Another force destroyed a rebel encampment on the north side of Trent river [near New Bern, North Carolina], dispersing the rebels.

The rebels made an attack upon Fort Anderson, an unfinished earthwork near Newbern [sic], N. C., on the 14th inst., but were repulsed with heavy loss.  They demanded its surrender twice, and in the meantime the Fort was reinforced so that upon an assault they suffered severely.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, not very reliable authority, says that six or eight gunboats passed Fort Sumter on Monday and Tuesday and that Charleston is being bombarded.—“This needs confirmation.”

Our advices from Port Hudson [Louisiana] are indefinite, but indicate that a combined attack by land and water, has been or is being made.  The Richmond Whig lamented reverses in the southwest on the 18th, and the same day a despatch was read in the Rebel Congress from Port Hudson, which created a great sensation.

A diabolical attempt was made to destroy the city of Columbus, Ohio, by fire on Wednesday morning.—The city was fired in eight places, but fortunately the attempt was discovered in time to prevent serious consequences.

There seems to be a prospect of a collision and perhaps bloodshed in Ohio.  The United States Marshal from Cincinnati has taken two companies of soldiers and gone to Warren county to arrest a deserter, and a Copperhead who induced him to desert.  The Copperheads have rallied several hundered [sic] strong to resist the arrest, and serious difficulty is apprehended.

Col. Clayton’s6 expedition up the St. Francis was entirely successful, and captured forty six prisoners, three smugglers, thirteen barrels of salt, two of flour, eighty boxes of quinine, a large amount of ammunition, and five hogsheads of sugar.

The rebels at Wittesbury [sic] sunk the steamer Miller on their approach.—The expedition returned without loss.7

1.  Alexander Turney Stewart (1803-1876) was a successful Irish entrepreneur. He was a business genius and made his multi-million-dollar fortune in what was at the time the most extensive dry goods business (department store and mail order) in the world. In 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant will offer Stewart the position of Secretary of the Treasury, but the U.S. Senate did not confirm the appointment.
2. Daniel Marcy (1809-1893) was a United States Representative from New Hampshire from March 4, 1863 to 1865.
3.  In 1861 he was General Irvin McDowell’s chief of staff and in 1862 held a similar position under General Don Carlos Buell. Fry was the last provost marshal general of the United States from 1863 to 1866. That office was abolished at the end of the Civil War. After the War he served as adjutant general. Fry was a prolific author of historical books, including several on the Civil War.
4.  There is a Blackwater River in Virginia and a Blackwater Creek in Missouri, both of which saw numerous skirmishes, but none in March of 1863 according to The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (available in the UWRF Archives (E 464 .U6).
5.  Henry Prince (1811-1892) graduated from West Point, was seriously wounded fighting Seminole Indians, and served in the Mexican War. In the Civil War, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers in 1862 and commanded the 2nd Division , II Corps, Army of Virginia at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, where he was captured. Following his release he commanded the 2nd Division, III Corps, Army of the Potomac in a number of engagements. His last active combat service came in the autumn of 1863 in the unproductive Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns. After the Civil War Prince resumed his paymaster duties in the regular army and retired December 31, 1879. Despondent over his health, he committed suicide in his hotel room in London, England, in 1892.
6.  Powell Clayton (1833-1914) was the colonel of the 5th Kansas Infantry. At this time the 5th Kansas was stationed at Helena, Arkansas. It fought guerrillas outside of Helena and carried out at least one significant raid up the Saint Francis River in March 1863. This raid is officially known as the Helena Expedition (March 5-12, 1863), and is also known as the Saint Francis River Expedition and the Little River Expedition. After the War, Clayton will be the 9th governor of Arkansas, serving from 1868-1871.
7.  This is part of part of Clayton’s expedition up the Saint Francis. The CSS Miller was already sunk by the time he found it. His report on the expedition, written March 13, 1863, appears in Series I, Volume XXII, Part I, Chapter XXXIV, pages 236-37 of The War of the Rebellion, and includes a detailed list of “captured property (contraband) and property seized for military purposed.”

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