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1865 January 7: The Second Battle of Saltville and Other Recent News

January 7, 2015

The following comes from the January 7, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.

News Summary.

— There is no important war news this week.  Our fleet have not accomplished their object at Wilmington, as yet.

— Secretary Seward has sent an apology to the Brazilian Government.  He disclaims any co-operation of the Government in the Florida‘s capture,¹ and announces that Captain Collins² will be Court Martialed.  The pirate’s crew will also be released and the American Minister, Mr. Webb, discharged.  [William H. Seward, U.S. Secretary of State]

— The number of rebel prisoners now in our hands is about 100,000.

— Hood’s loss in the campaign in Tennessee is estimated at 20,000 men, 21 general officers, and sixty-two cannon.  [John Bell Hood]

— The easy but splendid achievements of Sherman’s campaign have culminated in the capture of Savannah, of which his army took posession [sic] on the 21st inst.  30,000 bales of cotton, 150 cannon, 2,000,000 dollars worth of rice, 800 prisoners and a large amount of ammunition fell prize to his army.  [William T. Sherman]

News Items.

— Admiral Dupont’s [sic] Powder Mills, at Wilmington, Del. recently exploded, killing fifteen persons.  [Samuel F. Du Pont]

— Eleven new regiments are to be raised in Indiana—one in each Congressional district.

— Rebel dispatches say Gen. Sherman has sent an expedition towards Andersonville, to release the prisoners supposed to be there.

— It is rumored at Indianapolis that the military commission has sentenced Messrs Milligan, Bowles and Horsey to be shot, and Humphreys to be imprisoned during the war.³

— Union and rebel dispatches agree that Breckinridge has been defeated in South-western Virginia by Gen. Stoneman, and that the important salt works at Saltville were destroyed and also a number of miles of railroad.4  [John C. Breckinridge, George Stoneman]

— There is a report from Nashville, on the authority of escaped Union prisoners, that Hood has effected his escape across the Tennessee River on pontoons.  There is great indignation against Hood in the rebel army.

— The latest dispatch from Wilmington states that the bombardment of Fort Fisher is still progressing.  The negro troops carried an earthwork in front of the fort, but were driven out with great loss, and what remained of them were re-embarked.

— A gentleman who left Mobile on the 5th says that two-thirds of the people are hoping for the capture of the city.  There are about 7,000 troops at Mobile all milita [sic], except one small brigade, and two iron-clads both deficient in propelling power.

— The rifle recently presented to Mr. Lincoln by an old Western hunter, is the piece with which the British General Packenham was killed in 1815 at New Orleans.  It was subsequently carried through the Black Hawk war, in which the President himself served.  [Abraham Lincoln]

— Thirteen millions are the profits from captured blockade runners during the last year.  Half goes to the Government and half to the captors, and of the latter half, the snug little sum of $3,250,000 goes to Admirals Lee, Farragut, Dahlgren, Bailey and Porter, the three former getting the most, as they have been in the best positions.  [Samuel P. Lee, John A. Dahlgren, David G. Farragut, Theodorus Bailey, William D. Porter]

— The appointment of Mr. Chase as Chief Justice completes the organization of the Supreme Court of the United States.  The Court is now composed of the following Judges:

Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, Chief Justice; salary $6,500.
Nathan Clifford, of Maine, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
Samuel Nelson, of New York, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
James M. Wayne, of Georgia, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
David Davis, of Illinois, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
John Catron, of Tennessee, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
Noah H. Swayne, of Ohio, Associate Justice; $6,000.
Samuel F. Miller, of Iowa, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.
Stephen J. Field, of California, Associate Justice; salary $6,000.

The Court meets on the first Monday in December of each year at Washington.  It is now in session.

1.  In February 1864, the USS Wachusett sailed for the coast of Brazil to protect American commerce from the Confederacy’s “pirate” cruisers, particularly the Alabama and the Florida. Many months passed tracking down fruitless leads as to the whereabouts of the two vessels. Finally, on October 4, the crew of the Wachusett spotted the Florida entering Bahia Harbor. In the early morning of October 7th, the Wachusett steamed past the Brazilian gunboat anchored between his ship and the Florida, rammed the raider, and after a brief exchange of cannon fire the Florida surrendered. The Wachusett, towing the Florida, arrived in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on November 11.
2.  The Wachusett was commanded by Napoleon Collins (1814-1875), a career naval officer who took an active role in the Mexican War. In the Civil War, he commanded several gunboats and was promoted to Commander in 1862. By taking the Wachusett into a neutral harbor and capturing the Florida, he sparked a minor diplomatic crisis between the United States and the Empire of Brazil. Court-martialed for his illegal undertaking, Commander Collins was sentenced to be dismissed from the Navy. But his seizure of Florida was both militarily effective and popular with the general public in the North, the sentence was not carried out. Napoleon Collins remained active in the post-war Navy, reaching the ranks of Captain in July 1866 and Rear Admiral in August 1874.
3.  The co-conspirators in the H.H. Dodd trial:

  • Lambdin Purdy Milligan (1812-1899) was a lawyer and farmer (his law class included Edwin M. Stanton) in Indiana. Milligan was outspoken in political affairs and publicly protested the Civil War and Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton. By May 1864, Federal authorities were convinced that  Milligan was in touch with Confederate agents. The Supreme Court case that eventually freed the conspirators bore Milligan’s name, Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2.
  • William A. Bowles (1799-1873) was a physician in Indiana who served as colonel of the 2nd Indiana Regiment in the Mexican War. Bowles and others were court martialed over an incident at the Battle of Buena Vista. Jefferson Davis defended Bowles and they formed a life-long friendship. In the 1850s Bowles organized the Knights of the Golden Circle to counteract the Underground Railroad activity within the region where he lived in Indiana. During the Civil War, Bowles was made a Major General of one of the four military districts established by Dodd. Bowles was listed as a co-conspirator in Dodd’s 1864 trial.
  • Stephen Horsey was a resident of Shoals, Indiana, who lived close to the site of a train wreck that involved hundreds of Union soldiers. He was arrested and within the next 24 hours the other “conspirators” were also arrested on charges of treason. After the trial, imprisonment, and release, Horsey returned to Martin County, Indiana, a broken man who died in financial straits.
  • Andrew Humphreys (1821-1904) was an Indiana politician who served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives (1849-1852 and January-March 1857); was appointed Indian agent for Utah in 1857; was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1872 and 1888; served in the Indiana Senate (1874-1876, 1878-1882, 1896-1900), and served in the U.S. Congress from December 1876 to March 1877.  He should not be confused with Union General Andrew Atkinson Humphreys (1810-1883).

4.  The Second Battle of Saltville was fought December 20-21, 1864, near the town of Saltville, Virginia. With nearly double the soldiers, Union General George Stoneman accomplished his objective of destroying the saltworks.

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