1864 March 26: The Dahlgren Affair
The following is from the March 26, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.
On February 28, 1864, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s division conducted a raid toward Richmond and through the Virginia Peninsula. He hoped to rescue Union prisoners of war held at Belle Isle and in Libby prisons in Richmond. But the defenses around Richmond were too strong. Kilpatrick decided to escape down the Virginia Peninsula toward General Butler’s Army of the James. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren’s brigade, which was detached from the main force, had not made it across the James River when Kilpatrick bolted. Dahlgren and 200 of his troopers were either shot or taken prisoner; Dahlgren was killed.
Ulric Dahlgren (1842-1864) was the son of Union Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, and the nephew of Confederate brigadier general Charles G. Dahlgren. He and his men were subsequently accused of trying to carry out an alleged assassination plot against Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Cabinet. The plot is known as the Dahlgren Affair.
The following small articles are all that appeared in the Press about the Dahlgren Affair. For more details on the raid, see Chapter V (“The Ride into Fredericksburg, November 9, 1862″ starting on page 92) in the Memoir of Ulric Dahlgren, available on Google Books. The image of Dahlgren used here is the frontispiece from the Memoir.
COL. DAHLGREN.—Col. Dahlgren, who lost his life in the recent cavalry raid upon Richmond, was but 22 years of age. He was a son of Admiral Dalhgren [sic], and had distinguished himself by his courage and enterprise during Pope’s and Hooker’s campaign [John Pope and Joseph Hooker]. On several occasions he performed actions requiring great military skill and the most unflinching heroism. In a cavalry fight in July last near Hagerstown, he was wounded severely in the ankle, and subsequently had his leg amputated.
He lost his life according to the Richmond papers while leading a charge to force his way through the rebel forces that had surround his small command. The Richmond Sentinel adds, that has been buried like a dog, without priest or coffin, in the swamps of Virgina.”
— An officer who served with Col. Dahlgren asserts that the order alleged to have been found on his body, for the sacking of Richmond and the killing of Jeff. Davis and his Cabinet, is a forgery.