160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Mathias Point

At the end of May, the Union Potomac Flotilla failed to silence a Confederate shore battery near Aquia Landing on the Potomac River. Nearly a month later, Flotilla Commander James H. Ward sought to clear Mathias Point of Confederate skirmishers, who were using the woods as cover to harass passing ships with small arms fire.…

160 Years Ago Today: Skirmish at Frankfort and Patterson’s Creek

In mid-June, Col. Lewis “Lew” Wallace, commanding the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment, arrived in Cumberland, Maryland across the Potomac River from Virginia with a mission to guard the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. His 11th Indiana routed a Confederate force out of Romney, Virginia on June 11, then withdrew. Confederate reinforcements under Col. Ambrose Powell Hill…

160 Years Ago Today: Action at Righter’s House

In late June 1861, the 20th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment (3 Months) led by Col. Thomas Morton was headquartered at Fairmont, Virginia along the Tygart River and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Marion County. Its mission was to protect that strategically important railway connecting Washington, DC with the Midwestern states. Company I of the 20th…

160 Years Ago Today: Skirmish at New Creek

On June 11, 1861, Union Col. Lewis “Lew” Wallace, commanding the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment at Cumberland, Maryland, attacked several companies of ill-trained militia at Romney, Virginia (today West Virginia) along the South Branch of the Potomac River. The Confederates fled in disorder. This, and the threat of McClellan's army coming over the mountains from…

160 Years Ago Today: The Engagement at Vienna

On May 24, 1861, Union troops crossed the Potomac River into northern Virginia and brushed aside a token defense at Arlington Heights and Alexandria. A few days later, on June 1st, a Union cavalry patrol was chased out of Fairfax Courthouse and a small skirmish erupted at Arlington Mills. Though minor, these incidents convinced Union…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Romney

Col. Lewis "Lew" Wallace, commanding the 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment, was a bit of an aberration. He was a lawyer and friend of Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, and would go on to write the novel Ben Hur (1880). Wallace used his political connections to get his regiment, styled in French-inspired "zouave" jackets, transferred closer…

160 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Big Bethel

Fought on June 10, 1861, Big Bethel was among the American Civil War's first pitched battles. Since the Virginia Secession Convention passed an ordinance of secession in May, Union forces had steadily reinforced Fort Monroe, a federal fort at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula between the James and York rivers. It was the only…

Illustration of Milledge Luke Bonham

Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham (1813-1890) was a South Carolinian by birth and came from a military family. He fought in the Seminole War and as an officer in the Mexican War, then commanded the South Carolina Militia as a major general. He was a U.S. Congressman from 1857 to 1860 and governor of South…

160 Years Ago Today: Engagement at Pig Point

Since April 27, 1861, the U.S. Navy had been enforcing an economic and military blockade on Virginia ports, and several small fleets of U.S. Navy ships and converted civilian vessels had exchanged fire with Confederate shore batteries in the Potomac and James rivers. U.S. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, commanding Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort…

160 Years Ago Today: Action at Philippi

The “Battle” of Philippi was fought on Monday, June 3, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Morris and Confederate forces commanded by Col. George A. Porterfield in Philippi, Virginia during the American Civil War. The engagement, which was the first land action of the Civil War in Virginia, was a Union…