PROFESSOR THADDEUS LOWE

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE

 

Paper: Daily Press (Newport News, VA)

Title: WHEN THE YANKEES OCCUPIED THE PENINSULA

Date: May 3, 1998

This newly published narrative, part of H.E. Howard's distinguished Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders Series, is a fitting companion to John Quarstein's pictorial history of the Civil War on the Virginia Peninsula published last year. This is an account of military activity - the recruitment of the Warwick Beauregards; the June 10, 1861, Battle at Big Bethel; the Aug. 7, 1861, burning of Hampton; the March 9, 1862, Battle of the Ironclads; the April 16, 1862, Battle at Dam No. 1 on the Warwick River.

These high points came early in the war; after Gen. George B. McClellan's failed Peninsula campaign, Federal forces occupied the sparsely populated Peninsula for the remainder of the conflict. The Confederacy had hopes of liberating the Peninsula, but was unable to do so. From Fort Monroe, the Union commanded Hampton Roads and kept control of "Slabtown" in Hampton; from Camp Butler at Newport News Point, the Union maintained watch over Warwick. From Federal outposts at Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown, patrols crisscrossed the Peninsula.

Quarstein, who has done so much to preserve Lee Hall, Endview and Confederate embankments along the Warwick River line, is the acknowledged authority on local Civil War history. Late last year his book of photographs, part of the Images of America series of Arcadia Press, was published, and in it are photographs of the military leaders who took part in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign and drawings of scenes and action on the Peninsula, including the May 5, 1862, Battle of Williamsburg (which is not included in this account of war on the Peninsula).

Quarstein also has been conducting tours of Peninsula Civil War sites and, of course, has a leading role in the preservation of Lee Hall, the mansion that served as the headquarters for Confederate Gen. John Bankhead Magruder. It was Magruder, as commander of Southern forces on the Peninsula, who established the three defensive lines of redoubts and earthworks to impede the advance toward Richmond of the Army of the Potomac. Prince John's bold display of troops to disguise the thinness of his ranks is a legendary maneuver.

Magruder is a favorite of Quarstein's, and his familiarity with the career of this theatrical officer shows in this account - as well it might, considering the fact that Quarstein is writing a biography of Magruder.

Other characters of Civil War fame make cameo appearances in this narrative. Among them is Thaddeus Lowe, who launched an observation balloon (named Intrepid) to spy on Confederate positions. Another is John La Mountain, who launched a balloon tethered to a Union gunboat in the James River. Gen. Benjamin Franklin Butler, famed here for his declaration that "chattel property" be considered "contraband of war," makes his appearance, as does Capt. Jefferson Curle Phillips, who led the Confederate soldiers who set Hampton afire in order to save it. "My little hometown," wrote Sgt. Robert Hudgins II, "was being made a sacrifice to the grim god of war." (Quarstein reminds us that the Federals, on order of Gen. Butler, previously burned one-third of the town.)

The Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack is one of the Civil War's best-known stories, and Quarstein offers an concise and accurate account of the CSS Virginia's victorious appearance in Hampton Roads on March 8 and the stand-off encounter the following day. And he tells, too, of the "mysterious" sinking of the captured Confederate raider Florida off Newport News on Nov. 28, 1864. That famed warship was commanded by John Newland Maffitt, who before the war, when he was an officer in the U.S. Navy, lived in Warwick County.

Quarstein reminds us of the quasi-guerrilla war that took place during the summer of 1861 when both sides sent patrols and foraging parties into the no-man's-land that stretched across the Lower Peninsula between the Confederate forward positions at Big Bethel and Young's Mill. These forays and skirmishes introduced residents to the horrors and privations of the war years to come.

Quarstein does not detail civilian life, perhaps because there are few source documents other than George Benjamin West's diary, William Corson's letters to his sweetheart and a few other miscellaneous writings. But then again this is a military - yet, as such, it would benefit with a few more good maps. The photographs here are all portraits of warriors; for scenes of the Peninsula at war, consult Quarstein's "The Civil War on The Virginia Peninsula."

HAMPTON AND NEWPORT NEWS IN THE CIVIL WAR

War Comes to the Peninsula

By John V. Quarstein

H.E. Howard Inc., Lynchburg

Illustrations. 197 pages. $25

Copyright 1998, 2000 Daily Press (Newport News, VA)

Author: WILL MOLINEUX Daily Press

Section: Outlook

Page: H5


INDEX PAGE

BEFORE THE WAR

CIVIL WAR YEARS

INVENTIONS AND INDUSTRY

NORRISTOWN PENNSYLVANIA YEARS

PASADENA CALIFORNIA YEARS

MOUNT LOWE RAILWAY

AFTER THE RAILWAY

LOWE FAMILY

BOOKS ABOUT LOWE

NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

EVENTS AND REUNIONS

ARTIFACTS AND HISTORY

ENCYCLOPEDIA BIOGRAPHY

ACCLAMATIONS AND AWARDS

LINKS TO OTHER THADDEUS LOWE WEBSITES