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1864 January 9: A Naval Battle in South Carolina, Indians in Minnesota, Rebels in East Tennessee, and Cold Weather

January 9, 2014

Following is “The News” from the January 9, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.  The weather in early January or 1864 sounds remarkably like the weather we had in early January 150 years later!

The longest news is about the USS Marblehead.  On Christmas Day 1863, Confederate batteries, in an attempt to remove the support provided by Marblehead and Pawnee, opened fire on the two gunboats.  Marblehead suffered 20 hits, but was able to capture two of the enemy’s 8-inch seacoast howitzers before returning north for repairs and reassignment. Four of her sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during this engagement.

The News.

Last week was a week of storms.  Everywhere, both East and West, great suffering has been experienced on account of the severity of the weather.

The railroads at the west are blocked up with snow, and at the east sections have been carried away by high water.  In Boston there was a furious gale from the west, and higher water than has been known for a year.  There was a change of temperature in Buffalo of 47 degrees in twenty-four hours, the lowest record being nine degrees below zero.  Two hundred feet of Niagara Falls Railroad was washed away, so that no connection was had with the east for two days, causing an almost entire suspension of business.  There was a violent snow storm at Louisville, Kentucky, in latitude 38.  There the mercury fell 46 degrees in ten hours, and in twenty-four hours 67 degrees !  In St. Louis, on Thursday, the mercury was 24 degrees below zero—unparalleled in that region.  All the railroads leading out of the city were blocked with snow, and no trains arrived or departed for two days.—Large numbers of cattle were frozen to death, and many people frost bitten.  All the trains leading from Cincinnati have been delayed, and railroad employees have suffered severely.  Two soldiers were frozen to death at Camp Chase, and four rebel prisoners were frozen to death at Jeffersonville, Indiana—and this in the region where they raise c-a-w-n.¹

Seven or eight persons in New York have been arrested and sent to Fort Lafayette for being concerned in blockade running, and it is stated that this business in that city is almost stopped.

The duties on imports at Boston during last year amounted to $6, 963,974.  The foreign arrivals were 349—70 more that the year previous.

Marshal MURRAY,² of New York has seized Confederate bonds and notes amounting to $7,000,000, together with plates, dies, tools, and machinery.

Gen. GILMORE [sic: Quincy A. Gillmore] gave the inhabitants of Charleston his Christmas compliments in the shape of shells, which set the city on fire, doing considerable damage.  A rebel battery fired on a gunboat, killing two men and wounding five.  The battery was subsequently captured.

It is said that Secretary CHASE [Salmon P. Chase] insists on largely increased taxation of the country, in order to maintain the national credit.

A detachment of twelve men from Major HATCH’S Battalion of Minnesota Mounted Rangers, surprised a camp of Sioux on the 16th ult., near St. Joesph, forty miles from Pembina, killing two Indians, a boy and a squaw.³

The Navy Department has received official information in relation to the attack upon the gunboat Marblehead, in Stono Inlet,4 on Christmas morning, by which Robert Brown, Lorenzo D. Shaw, and Joesph Philips, were killed, and Charles Moon, Alexander Henderson, Jno. [John] Hackett and Charles Semmes were wounded.  Commander Balch of the Pawnee says that at 6:25 on the morning of the 25th of December, the enemy opened on the Marblehead, which was replied to vigorously.  At 6:45 the Pawnee opened fire on the enemy’s battery from her 100-pound rifle gun.  At 7 o’clock the C. P. Williamson hearing firing slipped cable and came down Folly river under sail, and opened fire handsomely.  The rapid fire from the three vessels soon caused the enemy to retreat.  At 7:30 the rebels had retreaded in disorder, leaving two of his guns in the battery.  The Pawnee then proceeded off Sicorsville.  Soon after this Gen. Gordon [George H. Gordon], commanding the troops on the south end of Folly Island, came up.

Scene Aboard the USS Marblehead During an Engagement with the Confederates on December 25, 1863 (see footnote x)

Scene Aboard the USS Marblehead During an Engagement with the Confederates on December 25, 1863 (see footnote 5)

WHEELER’S rebel cavalry attacked Col. GILBERT at Charleston, East Tennessee, on Monday, and succeeded in capturing a supply train.— WHEELER was subsequently badly defeated and fled in confusion.  [Joseph Wheeler]

Gen. KELLY [sic]6 reports the safe return of Gen. SULLIVAN [Jeremiah C. Sullivan] from an expedition in the Shenandoah Valley.  He captured 400 prisoners and a large quantity of property.

The rebels refuse to recognize BUTLER [Benjamin F. Butler] as an officer of the United States, and the Government has devised a plan to bring them to terms.

The Richmond “Examiner” is still bewailing the loss of East Tennessee.  It says that by this means they lost the only copper rolling mill in the Confederacy, upon which they depended for their supply of caps.

1.  Corn.
2.  Robert Murray, U.S. marshal for the Southern District of New York
3.  The Independent Battalion Cavalry, or Hatch’s Battalion of Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry, was formed by Major E. A. C. Hatch, who served as commander from September 30, 1863, to June of 1864. The battalion was originally assigned to Pembina in Dakota Territory and remained there until May 1864 when it was moved to Fort Abercrombie and other small posts until mustered out two years later.
4.  Stono Inlet is eleven nautical miles southwest of the Charleston Harbor.
5.  This image is from Deeds of Valor, vol. II (Detroit: Perrien-Keydel Co, 1907):51; this copy of the image comes from the Naval Historical Center’s website, Photo #: NH 79920. “It shows one of Marblehead‘s gun crews returning the Confederate fire. The man at left, wearing a nightshirt and holding a sword, is the ship’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Richard W. Meade, Jr., who had been suddenly awakened when the enemy opened fire.”
6.  Benjamin Franklin Kelley (1807-1891) raised the 1st Virginia Infantry when the Civil War started and served as its colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in May, 1861. He played a prominent role in several military campaigns in West Virginia and Maryland, including pursuing General Robert E. Lee during the retreat from Gettysburg. In 1864, Kelley checked the enemy at Folck’s Mill, New Creek, and Moorefield, all in West Virginia. He was brevetted as a major general of volunteers in August, 1864. Kelley was Jeremiah C. Sullivan’s father-in-law.

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