The Fighting Ellets: Ingenuity, Courage, Nepotism and Corruption?

 

The Ellets Go to War. In early 1862, the Union forces operating along the Mississippi River faced a potentially grave new threat from Confederate ironclads. Major General Charles Halleck, in command of the Department of Missouri in St. Louis, sent an urgent request to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton requesting assistance.1 Stanton had just the man to solve Halleck’s problem.

What neither Stanton nor Halleck recognized was all the determination and energy that a single man and his family would bring to the war effort. A project initially aimed at meeting a threat which challenged Union gunboats on the Mississippi River would result in: a new class of naval ships; the first riverine force in American history; a unit with Army ranks commanding boats and reporting to a Naval commander; a prominent Naval commander wanting to rid himself of this unit; a prominent Army commander wanted take control of the unit or disband it in order to get its naval assets; and, most interesting, one the biggest examples of nepotism in the entire war - nepotism which worked to the Union’s advantage! Finally, there were allegations of cotton speculation and war profiteering.

Charles Ellet, Jr. was a very learned engineer of high reputation as a bridge builder for railroads. At one time, his suspension bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia, was the longest and highest of its kind ever built in the world. He was renowned among builders of railroads, but his plan to improve navigation and control floods along the Mississippi River was his great work. While traveling in the Crimea during the war between England and France against Russia, he theorized that an effective way to break the naval blockade was by using ships specially designed to "ram" the opposing forces. Not successful convincing the Russians to adopt his suggestion, he tried to sell it to the Allies. A devote Union man, he returned to the United States in 1861 and repeatedly wrote to the Department of the Navy warning of the ironclad threat to conventional ships. However, professional military and naval officers already knew Ellet for another reason; by early 1862 he had published two articles attacking Union generalship.2 When the ironclad threat materialized, Charles Ellet was invited to Washington to brief Lincoln and Stanton. They saw a solution to a problem, even if the United States Navy did not!

In late March, 1862, Ellet was ordered to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to build his "rams." Within a month, Ellet was on his way to Halleck in St. Louis to meet the rebel threat.The Navy’s initial reaction was not favorable, and probably solidified Ellet’s view that the Navy was simply not flexible enough to use new ideas, a view which aggravated the future relations between Ellet’s force and his Navy counterparts. His articles against poor Union generalship already caused that service to have a skeptical view of Ellet. But, given a position reporting directly to Stanton, Ellet had great latitude and freedom of action.

No one could ever say that Charles Ellet, Jr. was not a man of action! In early June, less than three months after starting his project and only three weeks after arriving on the great river, his rams, operating with minimal Navy support, won the Battle of Memphis and ended the major Confederate Navy threat on the river. Though Charles Ellet, Jr. received a mortal wound,4 his "ram fleet" proved its value and his men proved their merit under fire. And exactly who were his men? A surprising number, especially those in responsible positions, were Ellets!

Stanton appointed Charles Ellet, Jr. a colonel in the United States Volunteers, the highest rank available without Congressional approval, in order to give him legal standing. Stanton granted a request that his brother, A.W. Ellet, then a Captain in the 59th Illinois Infantry, be appointed second-in-command. Charles Ellet, Jr.’s son, Charles Rivers Ellet, was a Medical Cadet (and at that rank he rowed ashore to accept the surrender of the City of Memphis.) Another brother of Charles and A.W., John A., commanded one of the rams, while A.W.’s son, Edward C., also served in the fleet. All the Ellet’s shared two qualities: courage and energy. The two senior Ellet’s also shared a distrust of military and naval professionals and a love for independent command,5 which A.W. Ellet may have also turned into profiteering from time to time.

Assuming command of the Ram Fleet after Charles Ellet’s death, then Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Ellet proved to be just as aggressive, bold and resourceful as his sibling. Within three weeks, on June 25, 1862, serving under a naval officer, his small fleet combined with Navy gunboats, Army infantry and cavalry forces, went up the Yazoo River in order to cut rebel communications with Vicksburg and search for rebel gunboats. The rebels saw them coming and burned their three boats. But the expedition and the Ellets’ previous actions reflected so well that, at Stanton’s initiative, A.W. Ellet was promoted to Brigadier General.6 At the same time, Union leaders had ample reason to fear the threat to transports and other ships from rebel guerrilla forces and irregulars.7 Brigadier General Ellet was aware of this threat and took action against it, showing excellent initiative and resourcefulness.8

The older Ellets were not the only ones who demonstrated courage and energy. No less a warrior than Major General William T. Sherman described Charles R. Ellet in glowing terms, "... full of energy and resources..."9 when, in January, 1863, the nineteen year old colonel prepared to run two of his rams past Vicksburg to support Admiral Farragut below the city. During the same month, Porter also specifically commended C. R. Ellet in a report to Secretary of the Navy Welles.10Unfortunately, the young Ellet also fell victim to the war before the end of 1863, dying of a self-administered morphine overdose while recuperating from disease at his aunt’s home (at his death, command of the Ram Fleet went to his uncle, John A., the fourth Ellet colonel to serve in that position!) 11

Building the Mississippi Marine Brigade. Ordered to organize the Mississippi Marine Brigade in November, 1862, Brigadier General Ellet moved with characteristic swiftness, if not effectiveness.12 He appointed his nephew, Charles R. Ellet, Colonel and Commanding Officer of the Ram Fleet. The Marine Brigade was to include a regiment of infantry, two squadrons of cavalry and a battery of artillery in addition to the Ram Fleet. Despite the fact that Major General U.S. Grant had been ordered to reinforce Ellet by assigning a company from the 18th Illinois,13 by November, Ellet had to report to Halleck that he needed assistance in recruiting and appealed to Stanton to permit him to recruit convalescing veterans of other units.14 Given permission in December, Ellet was not shy in his efforts. By February, he was recruiting in Cincinnati. That same month the Department of Missouri listed a detachment of the Mississippi Marine Brigade under its Benton Barracks, "Garrisons" organization.15 By spring, the Brigade was in action and showing results.

Comparing the organizational returns for the Mississippi Marine Brigade showed that as a percentage of the Aggregate Present and Absent, the number of men present rose from December, 1863, to May, 1864. This appears to indicate good morale within the unit compared to other units in the same commands:

December, 186316

 

 

Unit

 

 

Officers

 

 

Men

 

AggregatePresent

Agg.

Present &Absent

Percent Present toAbsent

Miss. Mar. Brg (Ellet)

41

719

958

1282

 

4th Division (Crocker)

251

5116

6097

7818

 

XVIIth Corps (McPherson)

1208

23083

29297

37326

 

      

May, 186417

 

 

Unit

 

 

Officers

 

 

Men

 

AggregatePresent

Agg.

Present &Absent

Percent Present toAbsent

Miss. Mar. Brg (Ellet)

39

851

1116

1391

 

District of Vicksburg (Slocum)

626

13408

17799

26790

 

Department of Tenn (McPherson)

3773

78186

98419

135658

 

      

The return for April, 1864, gave this Table of Organization18 for the Brigade:

Mississippi Marine Brigade: Brigadier General A.W. Ellet

1st Mounted Infantry: Colonel George E. Currie19

1st Bn Cavalry: Captain John R. Crandall

Pa Artillery, Battery C: Captain Daniel P. Walling

Ram Fleet: LtCol J.A. Ellet

 

The figures are interesting, since they show that the size of the Marine Brigade was not very large, despite the Ellet’s efforts. Further, the figures tend to disprove any inference that morale in the Brigade was poor, as alleged in March, 1863, by Porter.20 Indeed, the relative small size of the Marine Brigade and the fact that its transports were capable of carrying up to 8,000 men at a time proved the unit’s Achilles Heel. Grant, Assistant Secretary of War Dana, and Porter complained at various times of the large expense and implied waste of having hundreds living on boats capable of lifting thousands at a time.21 In fact, Grant moved the Marine Brigade ashore in May, 1863, in order to use the boats to convey the Army across the river. Interestingly enough, after Vicksburg fell, the need for lifting large numbers of troops along the river also fell, but the need to fight guerrillas, a role well suited to the Marine Brigade, continued.

Many thought the Marine Brigade was doing a creditable job given its unusual assignment. The Fleet Captain at Cairo, Illinois, reported the Marine Brigade had "...river boats which are musket proof....consists of one regiment infantry, one squadron cavalry, one battery light artillery (four guns) and is intended to act promptly against small bands operating near rivers."22 In mid-June, 1863, Union Brigadier General Asboth reported the Marine Brigade "well engaged between Columbus, Miss and Memphis."23

The Marine Brigade in Action. Reconstructing the extent of the Marine Brigade actions is difficult, though the period between April 3 and May 25, 1863, is covered in some detail by one of A.W. Ellet’s reports to Stanton. "...under orders of Porter went up Tennessee River... made raids and destroyed mills and other Confederate supplies...." 24

From that report and others, their itinerary can be recontrcuted as follows:

 

4/3, left Milliken’s Bend to cruise by Greenville, Miss.

4/4, landed a scout party at Lake City, but ordered to proceed directly to the Tennessee River.

4/15, arrived Ft. Henry, having been detained at Cairo for repairs, and awaiting arrival of Col. Streight’s command.

4/17, left Ft. Henry with Streight under convoy.

4/19, reached Eastport without casualty. Sent cavalry under Maj. Hubbard from Cerro Gordo Landing to destroy mill and large amount of lumber used in shipbuilding.

4/21, forced to leave since river was falling rapidly, landed at Savannah and sent scouts to burn mills, captured three pickets without loss.

4/26, at mouth of Duck River, attacked by 700 men of 6th Texas Rangers under Major R.M. White, landed and pursued Confederates for 12 miles, killing White and 9 others, enemy escaped because impossible to land at point of attack, loss 2 killed, 1 wounded.

4/28, arrived Ft. Henry, Ram Monarch with brigade in Tennessee River. Ram Switzerland blockading mouth of Red River.

5/7 put into Cairo for repairs. Porter orders Ellet to stay in Tennessee River for lack of water in smaller rivers. Ellet has difficulty communicating with Porter and asks Stanton for orders. 25

5/20 Halleck orders Ellet to Vicksburg with all boats. 26

5/25 Ellet reports skirmish on 5/23, 6 miles above Austin on Mississippi River. "Returned to Austin on 5/24 and landed troops. Marine Brigade cavalry under Maj. Hubbard, 200 strong, encountered 1000 Confederate cavalry. Fight lasted 2 hours. Marine Brigade lost 2 killed, 19 wounded. Confederates had 5 killed, 3 captured and 22 stands of arms captured. Marine Brigade burned Austin, exploding many munitions hidden in buildings there." 27

 

This seems a rather ambitious schedule and shows the extent to which the Marine Brigade was involved in the preliminaries to the Vicksburg campaign. Of interest, there is a Confederate report which gives great credibility to Ellet’s report of the skirmish near Austin. Confederate Brigadier General James R. Chambers’ reported to General Joseph Johnston, "...2nd Arkansas and 2d Miss Partisans fired on transports near Austin. Ellet’s force landed and were repulsed, leaving 18 dead horses. Confederate loss 3 killed, 12 wounded and 3 missing."28 The characterizations of the action were different, of course, but the facts surprising close! Moreover, in the action at Duck River, in May, the Marine Brigade was not only well led and well trained, but also had excellent morale and esprit. There, Ellet’s signal officer reported using semaphore among the boats to signal commands and permit the rapid deployment which led to the victory in the ensuing skirmish.29

There is significant evidence from the Confederates that the Marine Brigade was effective as a riverine force. In April, 1863, one report mentions "...that infernal expedition under Ellet who burns and destroys everything on the River, has lately been on River near here. He might land and destroy what is left."30 Later, as the culmination to the Vicksburg campaign neared, even Lieutenant General Pemberton was concerned. In one late May, 1863, directive, Pemberton wrote, "...move a brigade to a point to protect Sterling’s Battery upon the river front, which is now threatened by attack from Ellet’s Marine Brigade. You will direct the movement yourself."31 At the same time, to another general officer, Pemberton’s staff officer wrote, "... it is probable that Ellet’s Marine Brigade, just down....may endeavor to assault Headley’s Battery on your left. He (Pemberton) desires you have a regiment in readiness...in case such assault should be made."32 Certainly the Marine Brigade had the attention of the Confederates; each of the messages indicates they understood the value of the Union’s riverine force. But despite the respect shown by the enemy, the Marine Brigade faced powerful antagonists within the Federal force.

After Vicksburg fell, the Brigade remained well employed. In June, 1863, alone, there was lots of activity for the Marine Brigade. On the 16th, Porter used it to destroy houses used by the Confederate for signalling.33 On the 18th, Brigadier General Mower, with assistance from the Marine Brigade, destroyed Richmond, Louisiana,34 and on the 24th, Major General Grant asked Porter, "...to send Marine Brigade after the rebel Bledsoe who has gone from Yazoo City to a point on Mississippi shore about 6 miles above Greenville. He has 15 cavalry and a battery. Hopefully, the Marine Brigade can at least grab the battery...."35 Finally, at the end of the month, Assistant Secretary Dana reported to Stanton that "Marine Brigade has gone on expedition or reconnaissance to Delhi. Enemy is trying to block navigation of Mississippi River. Confederates have battery of 6 guns at Catfish Point opposite Greenville, and have annoyed several boats on way down river. Marine Brigade to clean them out." 36 For a unit that Porter, Grant and even Dana expressed doubts about, it was surely well and quite gainfully employed.

Into 1864 the employment of the Brigade continued to be effective. There was a lowlight, however, in early in that year when Ellet was ordered to support Major General Nathaniel Banks’ operations along the Red River. The Brigade’s boats were not effective in the shallow waters, and the men suffered desperately from the ravages of illness and disease.37 Ordered to return to the Mississippi River to patrol in the area of leased cotton plantations between Vicksburg and Greenville, the Brigade’s exit from the Red River received criticism in one of Banks’ staff’s report to Major General James McPherson, to whom Ellet was to report for duty, "...duty to inform you that the Marine Brigade is reported...to have stopped at every landing thus far on its way out of the Red River, solely for the purpose of pillaging and the destruction of private property." 38 But there may be another explanation of Ellet’s conduct. Corporal Newton Scott of the 36th Iowa Volunteer Infantry39, writing from "Helena, Arks on April the 9th /63" reported to his future wife,

"...We left Ft Greenwood on the 4th & arrived Here on yesterday We Will go into camp Here But I know not How long we will Remain Here I think it Doubtful Whether we stay Here verry long I Have not Room to tell you any thing about our Expedition for it Would take about 20 Sheets of Paper to tell all But Suffice it to say that we Had apretty Hard time & Sufferd considerable with Sickness & Done But little Damage only in the Destruction of Cotton & Property I Have See a great many large Buildings & Fencing Burned and any Amount of other Property taken We got Several messes of Good chicken While we was gone we Respected Rebel Property But little & where Ever they Fired on our Boats We landed & Burnt Every thing that would Burn" 40

 

Almost a year passed between Corporal Scott’s letter and Ellet’s journey out of the Red River. But attitudes of those subjected to enemy fire probably were not much changed. Clearly, Corporal Scott thought the destruction of Confederate property justified in view of gunfire attacks against the transports on the river, even if General Banks staff did not and others did not! Perhaps war takes a different perspective to those on the line; the primary threat to the staff officer was writing cramps! And surely the Civil War, perhaps more than any American war since, was full of politics on both sides. The Ellets and their men were right in the middle, between the Navy establishment on one hand and Grant on the other. The Confederate notes from as late as June, 1864, indicate the Marine Brigade was quite successful in carrying out its assignments related to the cotton trade.41 Major General James McPherson, Commanding the Department of Tennessee also reported using the Marine Brigade successfully on a number of occasions when fast action was needed to stem potential Confederate attacks.42 Ellet also had other Union admirers during 1864, carrying out his riverine mission and assisting regular infantry and cavalry.43 If not the Marine Brigade, what single unit could have accomplished the riverine mission? But for those actions which reflected the personal relations among Grant, Sherman and Porter, the Civil War was not noted for successful joint operations. Evidently, Grant, Porter and Charles Dana never thought of the Brigade’s successes, however, only its expense. But even there, given the amount of cotton it seized, to say nothing of the forage it carried off, and the $2,200,000 in pay captured from Confederate paymasters, the Brigade actually may have been paying its way!44

Relations with Porter and Grant. Thoughout 1862, Ellet was winning skirmishes and building his reputation with Stanton, but he was losing his independence and having trouble building his Marine Brigade. In October, President Lincoln issued an executive order directing Ellet to "report to RADM Porter for instruction, and act under his direction until otherwise ordered by the War Department."45

The relationship between the Navy and the Ellets reached its high tide in February, 1863, when the expedition under Charles R. Ellet captured three rebel steamers and a large quantity of supplies near the mouth of the Red River. Even Admiral Porter took note of the younger Ellet’s excellent service.46 Previously, a string of Ellet successes and their obvious energy and courage meant their detractors, even Porter and Grant, did not have much leverage, especially since much of the success anywhere along the Mississippi River could be traced to the Ellets - the victory at Memphis, the rams running past Vicksburg of to assist Flag Officer Farragut, the destruction of the rebel vessels during the Yazoo expedition. After all these, the Ellet’s were quick to point out their successes, but also they pointed to the Navy’s non-approval of their plans and lack of active cooperation.47

In March, 1863, Ellet had needed advice regarding how to handle discipline problems within his fleet.48 Porter had investigated, but reported the men did not fall within the Navy’s law; further, Porter described morale in Ellet’s force as low.49 Obviously Ellet, not being a military professional, was not familiar with the intricacies of military law; Porter, smarting from the independence of the Ellets, probably did not want to give them any advantage. Stanton assisted Ellet, but the incident undoubtedly generated additional ill will between Ellet and the Navy. While the Ellets always enjoyed the support of the Secretary of War, their love of independent command had to be a thorn in the side of men like Grant and Porter, who understood better than any other combination of officers the value of joint Army-Navy cooperation and singleness of purpose.50 During the time Grant and Porter were struggling in the Vicksburg campaign, they did not have the full support of Stanton; consequently, it was hard for them to apply pressure to bring the Ellets to heel. However, after Vicksburg fell and the whole country joined in the praise of both great officers, their desire to incorporate the Marine Brigade into Grant’s command became irresistible to even Ellet’s strongest supporter, Stanton. By August, 1863, Stanton, through Halleck, placed Ellet under Grant, though telling him "...to reduce it to discipline, trying and punishing guilty parties..." Halleck added that "... it was not deemed advisable to break up, but you can detach and place on shore such portion...." 51

Allegations of profiteering against A.W. Ellet had arisen from time to time. As early as July, 1863, LtCol Samuel J. Naismith, 25th Wis Infantry, was very outspoken in his condemnation of Ellet’s activities in cotton speculation. 52 In February, 1864, Halleck ordered Grant to assign the Marine Brigade the full-time duty of guarding the plantations between Greenville and Vicksburg, which loyal Unionists were leasing, which were subject to guerrilla raids.53 Of course, such duty would necessarily bring the Brigade into contact with cotton, and seizing (or burning) cotton belonging to the Confederate States of America was part of any Union commander’s orders. In August, 1864, an Inspector General, reporting from a visit to the Marine Brigade, pointed out that irregularities in accounting had to be noted. 54 Soon thereafter, with his independence severely curtailed and charges against his conduct mounting, Ellet put up no resistance when the Secretary of War decided to disband the Marine Brigade and disperse its boats to wherever needed along the river. 55

Until that time, however, Stanton remained a loyal supporter. Given Stanton’s slightly colored reputation for business, the possibility of a side business relationship in cotton speculation between Ellet and the Secretary of War seems probable. As soon as the Marine Brigade was disbanded, General Ellet resigned from the service and returned to the railroad business in Illinois.

Conclusion. While they may not have been model soldiers, the energy and enthusiasm the entire Ellet clan brought to their assignments must place them in the first rank of Union soldiers. Whether A.W. and his family benefited from the cotton trade or not, the country certainly benefited from their service. Despite the feelings of Grant and Porter, Ellet’s ideas for using a mobile, riverine force to counter guerrillas were exactly right. The coordinated actions of boats, cavalry, infantry and artillery, despite Dana’s characterization,56 were precisely what was needed. And, arguably, by never letting the Confederates effectively employ their ironclads, Charles Ellet’s rams changed the entire course of the war on the West. To a President and a Secretary of War starved for generals who would take action to meet the enemy, both Charles and A.W. Ellet must have seemed a breathe of fresh air.

 

Endnotes

1. Halleck to Stanton, 25 Mar. 1862. (War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies [hereafter OR], Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1890-1901), Series I, Volume 8, Part 1, p. 643. See also Stanton to Halleck, 25 Mar. 1862.

2. Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI, Edited by Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone. (NY: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1931). In 1861, Ellet published "Army of the Potomac and Its Mismanagement" and in 1862, "Military Incapacity and What It Costs the Country." The titles give a candid view of Ellet’s attitude toward the "military brass" and undoubtedly point to tension that existed between the Ellet brothers and their commanders in the field.

3. See Alfred W. Ellet, "Ellet and His Steam-Rams at Memphis." R.U. Johnson and Clarence Buel, ed. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, (NY: The De Vinne Press, 1887), Vol. 1, p. 453. The initial "Ram Fleet" consisted of nine vessels named: Switzerland, Queen of the West, Monarch, Mingo, Lancaster, Lioness, Samson, Dick Fulton, T.D. Horner

4. Henry Walke, "The Western Flotilla at Ft. Donelson, Island #10, and Memphis," R.U. Johnson and Clarence Buel, ed.Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, (NY: The De Vinne Press, 1887), Vol. 1, p. 449. Perhaps the sole Union casualty of the battle, Ellet was never a healthy man. The burden of his work and working conditions had taken such a toll that he never recovered from a minor wound, a pistol shot to the knee, dying eight days later. Even by the standards of Civil War medicine, such a wound was usually non-life threatening.

5. Charles Ellet to Stanton, 15 Jun. 1862. OR, I, 17, 2, p. 9. Ellet points out to Stanton that his independence of the Navy was a key to success at Memphis. For insights into Ellet’s displeasure with the Navy, also see Ellet to Stanton, 25 Apr., 25 and 30 May 1862. OR, I, 10, 2, p. 127, 215, 231.

6. Stanton to A.W. Ellet, 31 Jul. 1862. OR, I, 15, 1, p. 39.

7. Gen. Samuel Curtis to Halleck, 31 Aug. 1862. OR, I, 13, p. 240. Curtis summarizes A.W. Ellet’s operation; proposes amphibious operations along river by establishing a base and quickly attacking inland.

8. Farragut to Halleck, 28 Jun. 1862. OR, I, 15, 1, p. 515.

9. Sherman to Porter, 5 Feb. 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 37.

10. Porter to Welles, 3 Jan. 1863. OR, I, 17, 2, p. 887. Porter summarizing a Sherman-Porter operational plan to attack the Yazoo forts at Drumgould’s Bluff near Vicksburg as follows: "The ram Lioness, under Col. (Charles R. ) Ellet, was fitted with an apparatus for breaking torpedo wires, and was to go ahead and clear the way... This desperate duty he took upon himself cheerfully."

11. Army Returns, 31 October, 1863. OR, I, 31, 1, p. 817.

12., Sec War to A.W. Ellet OR, 11 Nov., 1862. OR, III, 2, p. 761 "Authorized to proceed to organize a marine brigade for service on the Mississippi River, to consist of one regiment of infantry, two squadrons of cavalry, and one battery of light artillery. These will be called Mississippi volunteers, and the officers will be commissioned by the President...will act, under your command, in connection with the ram fleet and in cooperation with the western gunboats...From your known capacity and energy much will be expected of you in raising the brigade... and its employment on the Western waters." See also A.W. Ellet to Halleck, 13 Dec. 1862. OR, I, 17, 2, p. 398.

13. Halleck to A.W. Ellet, 11 Dec. 1863. OR, I, 17, 2, p. 406.

14. Stanton to Major General Horatio G. Wright, 9 Feb., 1863. OR, I , 23, 2, p. 52. Halleck directs that "...Ellet be permitted to recruit among the convalescents in your department. The recruited will be discharged from their regiments." For a reproduction of the recruiting poster Ellet used, see Harry E. Day, "Ellet’s Horse Marines" Marine Corps Gazette, XXIII (1939), No. 1, p. 30-3, 57.

15. Army Returns for 28 Feb., 1863. OR, I, 22, 2, p. 128. Mississippi Marine Brigade mentioned as detachment under Department of Missouri, "Garrisons," Benton Barracks. Marine Brigade detachment under LtCol George E. Currie (formerly Lt Currie of 59th Ill). Department of Missouri under Brigadier General J. W. Davidson.

16. Army Returns for 31 Dec., 1863. OR, I, 31, 3, p. 571.

17. Army Returns for 31 May, 1864. OR, I, 38, 4, p. 376.

18. Army Returns, 30 Apr., 1864. OR, I, 32, 3, p. 567

19. Army Returns, 31 Dec., 1863. OR, I, 31, 3, p. 564. At this date, the Table of Organization for the Mississippi Marine Brigade showed the infantry unit as "1st Infantry." However, A.W. Ellet was well known for adding comforts (horses) to his unit.

20. Porter Report, 28 Mar., 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 161.

21. Dana to Stanton, 11 Jun., 1863. OR, I, 24, 1, p. 96. "It is my duty to report that the Marine Brigade, with its 7 large steamers, and its varied apparatus of artillery, infantry and cavalry is a very useless as well as a very costly institution."

22. Report of A.M. Pennock, 12 Apr., 1863. OR, I, 23, 2, p. 234. Fleet Captain Commanding (Cairo), "Marine Brigade will leave tomorrow morning. Marine Brigade has river boats which are musket proof. Consists of one regiment infantry, one squadron cavalry, one battery light artillery (four guns) and is intended to act promptly against small bands operating near rivers."

23. Asboth to Halleck, 18 Jun., 1863 OR, I, 24, 2, p. 507.

24. Report of Ellet, 30 Apr., 1863 OR, I, 23, 1, p. 278

25. A.W. Ellet to Stanton, 7 May, 1863. OR, I, 23, 2, p. 314.

26. Halleck to A.W. Ellet, 20 May, 1863. OR, I, 24, 2, p. 333.

27. A.W. Ellet to Stanton, 25 May, 1863. OR, I, 24, 2, p. 431.

28. Chalmers to Johnston, 25 May, 1863. OR, I, 24, 2, p. 431.

29. Report of Lt. W.F. Warren, 26 Apr., 1863. OR, I, 23, 1, p. 280.

30. Report of Confederate Col. S.W. Ferguson, 12 Apr., 1863. OR, I, 24, 1, p. 510.

31. Pemberton to Brown, 29 May, 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 930.

32. Pemberton to Smith, 29 May, 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 930.

33. Porter to Grant, 16 Jun., 1863 OR, I, 24, 2, p. 454.

34. Dana to Stanton, 11 Jun., 1863. OR, I, 24, 1, p. 102.

35. Grant to Porter, 24 Jun., 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 435.

36. Dana to Stanton, 28 Jun., 1863. OR, I, 24, 1, p. 108.

37. Report of Banks, 6 Apr., 1864. OR, I, 34, 1, pp. 197- 203. "...the transports of the Marine Brigade were unable to pass above Alexandria; the hospital boat Woodford had wrecked on the rapids in attempting passage up. The troops were suffering from small-pox, which pervaded all the transports, and they were reported in a condition of partial mutiny. It was not supposed at that time that a depot or garrison at Alexandria would be required, and this command, being without available land or water transportation, was permitted to return to he Mississippi River, in compliance with the demands of General McPherson."

38. Stone to McPherson, 29 Mar., 1864. OR, I, 34, 2, p. 768.

39. Scott’s unit probably was part of a force transported by A.W. Ellet. See Curtis to Halleck, 24 Mar., 1863. OR, I, 22, 2, p. 176. "Marine Brigade and 8 regiments under General Carr and three Iowa regiments, (emphasis added) await union contemplated by their orders to move if transports can be secured."

40. Newton Scott letter to Hannah Cone, April 23 1863. Online. University of California Santa Cruz Library. Internet. March 7, 1995. Available: http://www.ucsc.edu/civil-war-letters/home.html

41. The Confederate forces along the Mississippi knew Ellet well. See Report of Confederate Captain Perry Evans. 8 Jun., 1864. OR, I, 39, 1, p. 232. "...Federal cavalry, 300 to 400 strong, landed at Greenville, Ms, and marched hastily to Indian Bayou...captured and carried off a number of mules and negroes....Force consisted of 4 companies of land cavalry sent up from Vicksburg and the rest were cavalry of the marine boats, and the raid under the command of General Ellet, of the marines. My scouts fought them at every point where an opportunity offered."

Also see Polk to President Davis, 21 Mar., 1864. OR, I, 34, 2, p.1065. "...Such an arrangement would effectually prevent the raids that are now being made from the river by the cavalry, which go up and down on the "river fleet" of the enemy under Ellet, and give protection to such of our planters who might desire to return to the bottom to resume their planting...."

Finally, consider Brigadier General Wirt Adams to Maj Elliott, Assistant Adjutant, 14 Mar., 1864. OR, I, 32, 3, p. 24, "... A gentleman direct from Port Gibson informs me that Ellet’s Marine Brigade returned to Rodney on Saturday last. They have been engaged for some time past, during the absence of Gen. Lee’s command, in hauling off Government cotton from the interior, of which they have secured a large supply. They doubtless intend resuming this lucrative business...."

42. See, for example, McPherson to Slocum, 19 Apr., 1864. OR, I, 32, 3, p. 417. Discussing how to protect the upper Mississippi and Tennessee areas, "...A few forts well located, with strong defensive works to enable the garrison to hold out ....and the gunboats and Marine Brigade must do the balance in patrolling the river."

43. Report of General J. McArthur, 22 May, 1864. OR, I, 39, 1, pp. 7-8. " ...I desire, before closing my report, to call attention to Brigadier General Ellet, commanding Marine Brigade, for his kindness and assistance in doing everything he could to make the expedition successful...."

44. A.W. Ellet to Stanton, 21 Sep., 1863. OR, I, 30, 3, p. 757. "I have received intelligence of the capture by a detachment under LtCol George E. Currie of 3 rebel officers and a number of privates and $2,200,000 Confederate money, and important dispatches...In the absence of Major General Grant, what should..."

45. Lincoln General Order, 7 Nov., 1862. OR, I, 17, 2, p. 323. Stanton lost the political fight since it made no sense to the Cabinet to have "two navies" operating in the same waters.

46. Porter to Welles, 5 Feb., 1863. OR, I, 24, 2, p. 32.

47. See Charles Ellet to Stanton, 26 May, 1862. OR, I, 10, 2, p. 215. Ellet ready to attack, but says Commodore disapproves plan. Ellet thinks there is more danger in not doing anything. He is determined to attack. And see Charles Ellet to Stanton 30 May, 1862. OR, I, 10, 2, p. 231.

Ellet reports Commander Davis aboard Benton is stalling cooperating with him, He will attack.

48. A.W. Ellet to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, 30 Mar., 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 160.

50. Porter Report, 31 Mar., 1863. OR, I, 24, 3, p. 161. The report of found much confusion as to men’s roles (in Marine Brigade /Ram Fleet); found some were disciplined and other not; found "discipline in ram fleet not very good", that men had been "discharged since they were paid, and thus now could not be punished."

50. For a full discussion of the relationship among Grant, Porter and Sherman during the Vicksburg campaign, see Joseph T. Glatthaar, Partners in Command: The Relationship Between Leaders in the Civil War (New York: The Free Press, 1994), pp. 163-85.

51. In July, 1863, Porter recommended to Welles that the Marine Brigade be assigned to Grant. See Porter to Welles, 13 Jul., 1863. OR I, 24, 3, p. 564. Stanton, using the bureaucracy, tells Welles that Halleck can see no reason to reassign the Marine Brigade; Stanton to Welles, 5 Aug., 1863. OR I, 24, 3, p. 576. Grant adds to the pressure by having his adjutant request the transports; see Thomas to Stanton, 14 Aug., 1863. OR, I, 30, 3, P. 25. Halleck replies to Grant that "Stanton does not approve the transfer," but permits Grant to use the assets as he sees fit; Halleck to Grant, 24 Aug., 1863. OR, I, 30, 3, P. 144. But later in the month, Stanton finally permits the transfer; Halleck to Grant, 27 Aug., 1863. OR, I, 30, 3, p. 183. The next day Stanton tells Ellet of the change; Stanton to Ellet, 29, Aug., 1863. OR, I, 30, 3, p. 212. But for Grant’s success at Vicksburg, one wonders if Stanton would have acquiesced?

52. Report of LtCol. Naismith, 1 Jul., 1863. OR, I, 24, 2, p. 517.

53. Halleck to Grant, 16 Feb., 1864. OR, I, 32, 2, p. 407. Halleck gave the order, but Stanton was surely behind it. Sherman’s Special Order and Grant’s order to Sherman, gave no room for doubt about what the mission of the Marine Brigade. OR, I, 32, 2, p. 488. OR, I, 32, 3, p. 19.

54. Report of General N. Dana, 15 Aug., 1864. OR, I, 41, 2, p. 712.

55. Orders to Ellet, 15 Oct., 1864. OR, I, 41, 3, p. 622.

56. Dana to Stanton, 11 Jun., 1863. OR, I, 24, 1, p. 96.

 

 

Bibliography

Department of War. War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Day, Harry E. "Ellet’s Horse Marines." Marine Corps Gazette, XXIII (1939), No. 1.

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Partners in Command: The Relationship Between Leaders in the Civil War. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Johnson, Allen and Malone, Dumas, eds. Dictionary of American Biography. NY: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1931. Vol. VI.

Johnson, R.U. and Buel, Clarence, Editors. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. NY: The De Vinne Press, 1887. V. 1.

Scott, Newton letter to Hannah Cone, April 23, 1863. Online. University of California Santa Cruz Library. Internet. March 7, 1995.

 

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