A clip of some video we shot at the 2011 New Market Reenactment.
When Virginia seceded, the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia was abandoned by federal troops. The buildings and ships were ordered to be destroyed, but one ship sank before being destroyed. The USS Merrimack was a steam frigate that had been built in 1855. Although she had burned to the waterline and sank, the Confederacy was in such a great need of ships they raised her to attempt to reconstruct her.
She was the only large ship with working engines available in the area and it was decided that she would be rebuilt as an ironclad. While ironclads were a new invention, this ship was not the first ironclad as many believe. Several had been built in Europe, and although it was recognized that they would become powerful forces in future wars, they had not seen much combat. Rumors were heard from the North that they were working on an iron covered ship as well, so they set to work on transforming the Merrimack into the CSS Virginia, 150 years ago today. This ship would later prove to the world exactly what ironclads were capable of.
|Mobile Inflation of the Balloons|
Another small battle happened today in Missouri as well. General Lloyn, commander of the federal troops there, had set out for Jefferson Sity, the capital, with 1,500 men. The General Sterling Price, commander of the Missouri militia, retreated along with the governor. General Lyon moved up the river with his troops in steamers, to drive them out of Boonville, where they had taken up camp. They advanced on June 17th toward the camp, with skirmishers ready to guard against any attack. Coming upon the Confederate line, he deployed his artillery, and the shells quickly drove them back. The militia conducted an orderly retreat, skirmishing with the Federals as they went. They abandoned their camp, and moved into the Southern part of the state. Lyon captured 60 prissoners, two cannons, and supplies of rifles and equipment.
150 years ago today Robert Shenck was ambushed on mission from Washington. McDowell sent him on a reconisance mission with his troops. As they reached Vienna, Virginia, the train that was carrying them was ambushed. Two Confederate cannons fired shot, shell and canister into the train. Shenck ordered his soldiers off the train, formed them into line and attacked the enemy. The engineer of the train uncoupled the cars, and ran off abandoning them to the enemy. They were greatly outnumbered, but the Confederates retreated, believing that more troops were on the way. Shenck was able to escape with just a few casualties, but this skirmish made the Union advance much more cautious the next time.
|The burned bridge with Harper’s Ferry in the background|
150 years ago yesterday Joseph E. Johnston of the Confederacy evacuated Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, retreating before Robert’s Patterson’s Army of the Shenandoah. In this theater of the war, there were four main armies. The Union had one army under Gen. McDowell stationed near Washington, and another under Gen. Patterson at the head of the Shenandoah Valley. Their plan was to invade Virginia. Gen. Johnston commanded the Confederate army facing Patterson, and Gen. Beuregard commanded the other army facing McDowell.
|The same bridge pillars today|
Harper’s Ferry was a very strategic point in the Civil War. It was at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and it is at the head of the Shenadoah Valley. It changed hands eight times during the Civil War. It was abandoned by the Union troops and occupied by Johnston, and now he was retreating in the face of Patterson’s superior forces.
|Isham Harris, governor of Tennessee|
Today Tennesse ratified its secession from the United States. They had already passed it a few weeks ago, but it was not official until there was a popular vote. The vote was 104,913 to 47,238. While that is over a 2-to-1 majority, it still shows that there were large portions of the state that were pro-union. East Tennesse was mostly anti-secession, and West Tennesse was strongly pro-secession. The eastern counties attempted to secede from the state, as West Virginia ended up doing, but the state government sent troops to occupy the area. With this offical recogniztion of Tennesse’s secession, they became the last state to join the Confederacy. Tennesse was a site of many of the war’s largest battles in the east, and it furnished large numbers of troops for the South, and some for the North as well.