1863 April 25: The Siege of Suffolk, and Other News of the Week
“The News” column from The Polk County Press of April 25, 1863. The brief report about General Peck refers to a portion of the Siege of Suffolk, which was fought around Suffolk, Virginia, from April 11 to May 4, 1863. General John J. Peck¹ commanded the Union garrison at Suffolk and General James Longstreet led the Confederates trying to capture it.
Six gunboats and two transports ran by the batteries at Vicksburg, on Thursday night, only one of them being struck by the rebel shot. Another transport caught fire during the passage, and was burned. There were no troops on the transports.
Gen. Dodge [Grenville Dodge], commanding at Corinth, Miss., drove a rebel force recently, from Bear to Cavey Creek. The fight was of considerable magnitude, as the Federal loss is stated at 100, while that of the rebels is said to be heavy.
Gen. Stoneman [George Stoneman], last week, occupied Kelly’s Ford, on the Rappahannock. There is a doubtful rumor that he has captured 3,000 rebels at Culpepper [sic]. A severe storm raged on the Rappahannock yesterday, preventing active operations.
There is a report from Fortress Monroe that all the Monitors are lying near Charleston Bar, not having left there. Advices from Port Royal, however state that they are at that point.
On Saturday, Gen. Peck¹ captured, on the Nansemond River, 200 rebel troops, and a battery of six guns.
Skirmishes occurred at Celina, Tenn., on Saturday and Sunday, in which the rebels were defeated.
The rebels attacked Fayettville [sic], Ark., on Saturday, and were repulsed. The Federal loss was 22 ; the rebel loss is not known, but is supposed to have been considerable.
The administration announces, through one of its organs at Washington, that it is satisfied that had the programme agreed upon been carried out, Charleston would have been captured. Admiral Dupont [Samuel F. Du Pont]—a naval officer of long experience, great skill, and undoubted courage—entertained, it appears, a different opinion.
Gen. Foster [John G. Foster] ran the rebel blockade of Tar River [in northeast North Carolina] in broad daylight. Sixteen cannon-shot struck the [_] ; but the casualties suffered were few.
There have been some political difficulties in Indiana, in which several persons suffered bodily injury. Gen. Carrington [Henry B. Carrington], commanding that district, has declared “K. G. C.’s”² to be public enemies, and has cautioned the people against wearing “butternut” and “copperhead” emblems. Gen. Burnside [Ambrose E. Burnside] endorses this procedure, and arrests are being made in Ohio of persons wearing the proscribed insignia.
Twenty-five thousand men are to be raised by Gov. Johnson [Andrew Johnson] for special service in East Tennessee.
1. John James Peck (1821-1878) graduated from West Point—in the same class as Ulysses S. Grant—and served in the Mexican War and on the western frontier fighting Apache Indians. In August 1861 he accepted a commission as a brigadier general of volunteers and served in George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, fighting in the siege of Yorktown and the battles of Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, the Seven Days battles, and Malvern Hill. When McClellan’s forces evacuated the peninsula, Peck was left in command of the Union garrison at Yorktown and in September 1862 he was given command of all Union troops in Virginia south of the James River. In 1863 Peck took command of the garrison at Suffolk.
2. The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society active in the southern parts of several Union states, like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. It was strongest among Copperheads (anti-war Democrats), some of whom felt that the Civil War was a mistake, some who supported slavery, and others who were worried about the power of the federal government.
Butternut was a slang term for a Confederate soldier. A butternut Democrat was one who at least was anti-war, if not actually a supporter of the Southern cause during the Civil War. It was also a way to smear any Democratic politician.