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James Jubal Longstreet Early

George Pickett



ames Longstreet was born in 1821 in South Carolina. As a brigadier general, he led his soldiers in several major battles, including First Manassas, the Peninsula Campaign and Williamsburg. –– Neal E. Wixson



ubal Early was born in 1816 in Virginia. He fought in the Battle of First Manassas and was promoted to brigadier general before the Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days battles. –– Neal E. Wixson

eorge E. Pickett was born in 1825 in Richmond. As a brigadier general, he was in the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines and Gaines’s Mill before sustaining a serious wound. –– Neal E. Wixson



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George Custer


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t was during the Peninsula Campaign that George Custer, later known for his tragic mistakes fighting Indians at Little Big Horn, got early war experience. Less than a year out of West Point (he graduated at the bottom of his class), Custer was a second lieutenant in the Union Army when he arrived on the Peninsula. Custer quickly gained a reputation for brashness and braggadocio. On May 5, as the Union pursued the Confederate Army from Yorktown to Williamsburg, Custer volunteered to lead a detachment over exposed ground to explore a formidable Confederate redoubt. It was empty. At the close of the Battle of Williamsburg, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock noted Conferderate dead were strewn for 600 yards in front of his line. Custer’s take in a letter to his sister was that he had “captured a Captain and five men without any assistance.� — Rusty Carter




Telegraph sabotaged


o facilitate communications between Washington headquarters and Gen. McClellan, telegraph wire was strung in July 1862 between Jamestown and Williamsburg. Messages were relayed by telegraph to Jamestown, and then by boat upriver to McClellan at Harrison’s Landing. Since Jamestown was an outpost in Confederate territory, the telegraph line was often cut. It was a constant struggle for the Union to keep saboteurs from tampering with the wire. Two years later, 22 miles of underwater cable was strung between Jamestown and Fort Powhatan. From there it linked to City Point, General Grant’s headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg. –– Joli Huelskamp

Moving upriver from Jamestown he CSS Virginia was destroyed by her crew on May 11th 1862 when the Confederates abandoned Norfolk. The way was now clear for Union gunboats to move up the James to attack Richmond. On May 12 the ironclads Monitor, Galena and Naugatuck, and the wooden gunboats Aroostook and Port Royal anchored off Jamestown Island on their way upriver. Union crewmen noted the incongruity of Confederate earthworks adjacent to the Jamestown church tower. This formidable squadron, under Commander John Rogers, was defeated May 15th at Drewry’s Bluff and returned downriver. On May 17th, 13 crewmen from the Galena were buried on the shore at Jamestown.


USS Galena after Drewry’s Bluff 50 | CIVIL WAR SESQUICENTENNIAL

–– Joli Huelskamp



Black soldiers


scaped slaves and free black men of the North offered their services to the Union soon after the war began. However, many felt the black soldiers were incapable of fighting and that they would run away once the shooting began. Others feared black soldiers would be considered expendable and used in situations too dangerous for white soldiers. As a result many were used in noncombat roles in their first months of service. As the war progressed, the need for additional soldiers necessitated the use of black soldiers as fighters. Some 180,000 U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) fought for the Union, along with 20,000 who served as sailors. Blacks were not permitted to serve as officers even in their own units, and very few achieved a rank higher than corporal. Nonetheless, black troops fought valiantly, especially in the Mississippi Valley. In Virginia, black troops participated in the Battle of the Crater and in the final campaign in 1864-65. Black soldiers were among the first Union troops to march into Richmond in April 1865. ––Rick Calhoun


uliana Dorsey, the mother of Carter Coupland and John R. Coupland, spent most of the war as a refugee from Williamsburg living with relatives and friends in Greensboro, Columbus and Mobile. John and his family abandoned Williamsburg in late 1863 and moved to Richmond to find work and avoid starvation. Carter, a riverboatman working the river between Selma and Mobile, wrote his mother in August 1864: “I am flat broke – it takes a Government is paying nothing... [I ] small fortune to live these times... have had no money for 6 or 7 months.” I have not money enough... to John was down to 117 pounds by contribute in the slightest degree 1864 and suffered with liver disease. to my dear brother... The

Refugees escaped town

He was still working, and he and his wife and daughter all survived the war. Carter married postwar and stayed in Alabama. –– Jeff Toalson VIRTUE • VALOR • SACRIFICE | 63

Civil War Sesquicentennial Preview #4  

Sample pages from the Civil War Sesquicentennial Tab, coming in the May 4 edition of The Virginia Gazette