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Ozzy

Pensacola Connection, Part 4

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It was one of the most secret and daring preliminary acts performed by the Federal Government prior to commencement of the Civil War: and only President Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward, Army Captain Montgomery Meigs, and Navy Lieutenant David D. Porter knew its full dimensions... the mission to resupply Fort Pickens at Pensacola, Florida.

Needing to stop the "stripping down for extensive maintenance" being conducted on a warship at New York Navy Yard, the above four conspirators brought in a fifth member; but revealed only that information acting-Commandant of the Navy Yard, Commander Andrew Hull Foote, was required to know: "That USS Powhatan was urgently required. She needed to be returned to a seaworthy condition, and her steam propulsion plant reassembled, as expeditiously as possible. And contact "with agencies outside New York Navy Yard" was strictly controlled, especially in regard to the true, intended use of the powerful steam frigate; Commander Foote was directed to communicate only with other members of the conspiracy IRT progress of readying Powhatan for sea: even the Secretary of the Navy (Gideon Welles) was to be kept in the dark" [Porter's Naval History of the Civil War, pages 99-103.]

On April 6th 1861 USS Powhatan entered the Atlantic Ocean, under command of Lieutenant David D. Porter, in loose company with the chartered Collins Company steamer, Atlantic, carrying stores, equipment and 450 troops commanded by Colonel Harvey Brown. Due to a storm, the vessels became separated; but by April 17th the Atlantic and USS Powhatan arrived off Fort Pickens. The troops and supplies were landed. And Fort Pickens would remain in Federal control during the entirety of the Civil War.

The newspapers of the day said, "it was all due to Lieutenant Adam Slemmer," the young Army officer who had the courage and the foresight to put his ad hoc team of eighty soldiers and sailors to use, in expeditiously relocating from Barrancas Barracks to Fort Pickens on that fateful day in January 1861, depriving Florida State authorities the opportunity to simply seize control of the mostly unoccupied ring of fortifications. But, Adam Slemmer saw it differently: "I have only to say that Lieutenant Gilman and I stood side by side during the whole affair; and if any credit is due for the course pursued he is entitled equally with myself" [OR 1 Report No.3, pages 333-342.]

Lieutenant Gilman? Who was he?

Jeremiah H. Gilman was born in Knox County, Maine in 1831 and received an appointment to West Point in 1852. Graduated in the middle of his Class of 1856, he was assigned to the Artillery; and after initial service in Texas and Rhode Island, was posted to Barrancas Barracks, Pensacola in 1858... where he was by-default second-in-command (due absence on leave of the senior two Army officers at the Barrancas -- Fort Pickens -- Fort McRae complex.) On January 10th 1861, under pressure from Florida State authorities, the acting-Commander, Lieutenant Slemmer, determined not to surrender Federal control of Pensacola Harbor; and with Lieutenant Gilman's assistance, an Army - Navy force of about 80 men moved guns, ammunition, supplies and food from Fort Barrancas (on the mainland) to the much more strategically valuable Fort Pickens, securely tucked away on the western tip of the Santa Rosa Barrier Island.

From early January, Slemmer and Gilman supervised and participated in mounting artillery pieces,  sealing off embrasures, standing picket duty, and otherwise preparing for an attack that might come from a numerically superior Rebel force at any moment. The Pickens Truce of January 28th offered some respite (a Rebel guarantee to not attack Fort Pickens, provided the U.S. Navy ships hovering nearby in the Gulf of Mexico did not land and resupply that fortification.) In meantime, Braxton Bragg arrived at Pensacola and began strengthening the Rebel-occupied forts; and mounting the heaviest guns available all along the shore of Pensacola Bay, from the Navy Yard northeast of Fort Pickens, along to the west, just across the inlet to Pensacola Bay, where Fort McRae laid claim to the closest Rebel guns, about 2000 yards away.

War started on April 12th at Fort Sumter. The stalemate at Pensacola ended with the landing of Colonel Harvey Brown's force (along with the forces that had been barracked aboard the many warships, just south of Fort Pickens, since the Buchanan Administration.) With the replacement force numbering in excess of one thousand men, the exhausted "first responders," defenders of Fort Pickens since January 10th (and many suffering scurvy) were permitted to steam away...  aboard the steamer Philadelphia. Slemmer's party arrived at New York May 26th; and the rag-tag force that saved Fort Pickens was broken up: the sailors returned to the Navy; the soldiers mostly joined the garrison at Fort Hamilton (guarding the Port of New York). Adam Slemmer was promoted to Captain ( 19th U.S. Infantry Regiment) and sent to Chicago on recruiting duty. Jeremiah Gilman was initially assigned to recruiting duty, and then sent to Kentucky for a series of different duties, mostly involving organization and inspection of artillery assigned to the Army of the Ohio. Ultimately, he was appointed to the Staff of General Buell, and served as Inspector, and Acting Chief of Artillery. It was in this capacity that he served during Day Two at Shiloh, rushing from one Army of the Ohio battery to another, to ensure the most advantageous employment of Terrill, Goodspeed, Mendenhall and Bartlett. For "gallant and meritorious service at Shiloh," then-Captain Gilman was awarded brevet promotion to Major; and participated in Halleck's Crawl to Corinth; the Battle of Perryville; Stone's River. And in January 1863, Major Gilman was assigned to the Subsistence Department (primarily working out of Baltimore) until war's end. Gilman remained in the Army, remained attached to the Commissary Department, and served in Missouri, the Dakotas, and Washington, D.C. until he retired, aged 64, in 1895. Colonel Jeremiah H. Gilman (Ret.) died August 1909 at Manhattan Beach, New York.

As far as can be determined, he is the only Federal officer to have a direct connection to "the Fort Pickens Situation" and the Battle of Shiloh.

Ozzy

 

References: OR 1 pages 333-342 and 365, 366.

New York Tribune, 1861 editions for April 6, 8, 9; May 2; and June 1 (page 8: Slemmer article).

New York Herald, 27 May 1861 (page 8: reports arrival of Slemmer's party from Fort Pickens). 

http://archive.org/details/cu31924032779385  D. D. Porter's Naval History of the Civil War (1886) pages 99-103.

 

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pensacola-harbor (2).jpg

Map of 1861 Pensacola Bay from Harper's Weekly, showing Fort McRea to the west, Barrancas to the north, and Navy Yard NE of Ft. Pickens.

 

So, what's the significance: one Federal officer present at Shiloh, with prior service at Pensacola, Florida?

In the early months of 1861, it became evident there was no stopping the Juggernaut of War -- it was simply a matter of time and place. And Pensacola and Charleston were the two most likely places, due their strategic value (notice how no real effort was expended by the South to gain control of Key West, the Dry Tortugas, or Fortress Monroe.) While PGT Beauregard was sent to Charleston to ensure "satisfying resolution" of the situation there, Braxton Bragg arrived at the former Pensacola Navy Yard mid-March; notable among Bragg's command (which became known as the Army of Pensacola) were the 9th Mississippi, 10th Mississippi and 1st Florida; and commanders Patton Anderson, James Chalmers and John K. Jackson.

All of this expanding Rebel force was faced by a band of 80 men across Pensacola Bay, occupying the one fort that denied use of the deep-water port (at the southern terminus of the direct rail line to Montgomery, Alabama.) Eighty Federal Defenders held that position, while two miles north the forces under General Bragg continued to increase, and eventually numbered over 8000. When the Federal Defenders were at last removed, their place taken by 1000 fresh troops, they had held their ground four months. But, there had been no "contest of arms," merely bold words and posturing (the contest that started the War had taken place at Fort Sumter.)

Now, on April 7th 1862, over 400 miles from Fort Pickens, a sole representative of the 80 Federal Defenders resumed his confrontation vis-a-vis Braxton Bragg; finally permitted the use of deadly arms in pursuing his objective. And Jeremiah Gilman was a member of the team that drove Braxton Bragg away.

Just another "take" on the Battle of Shiloh...

Ozzy

Referencehttp://www.pensapedia.com/wiki/Civil_War  Pensacola Encyclopedia (various entries).

 

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