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Alfred Ely Journal?

Discussion in 'First Battle of Bull Run / Manassas' started by JPK Huson 1863, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I'm new to the forum, so do not know if I'm searching topics correctly. I searched 'Alfred Ely', didn't seem to find anything but this doesn't mean I looked well.

    Has anyone else come across Alfred Ely's journal? It's on Google books. He was a journalist and a Representive from New York who was swept up as a civilian/political prisoner in the shambles after Bull Run. It's a great account of what it was like, from the carriage ride there to the actual capture, to the imprisonment in the tobacco warehouse. This must have been Libby? I think they didn't call it Libby as yet, although someone please correct me on this.

    There's one part of our family, the Husons, who lost 3 sons in the Civil War. One was Calvin Huson Jr., who was in Ely's carraige that day. He is mentioned here and there, along with his death from disease later during captivity. We'd never really known much of what happened to the guy before someone sent us Ely's journal, all we'd known was that he'd died a political prisoner in Richmond after Bull Run.

    At any rate, this is an awesome read, from the viewpoint of one of the unfortunately optimistic civilians who went out to actually watch a battle transpire. My husband re-formated it for my Kindle, if anyone would care to have a convienient copy, otherwise it's entirely free and readable on Google.
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  3. Arioch

    Arioch Corporal

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    That's a great find if he was your ancestor....I'd love to come across something like that from my family
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  4. kholland

    kholland 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    That's great you found out about your relative, what are the odds?
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  5. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    It was accidental, yes and what are the odds? Really was a random Google search with just the name, plus 'Civil War', on a 'you never basis'. A distant relative had sent a blurb, so I knew Ely had written something, not in a Google book-form however. The journal is great, though. Ely writes about what it was like ( Yes, I know, duh ) to be captured and imprisoned You can't tell whether he was afraid, with a gun pointed at him or annoyed because the first Confederate to find him behind a tree was really rude.

    First-hand accounts flatten me with what is it- respect? Something, not sure what. It's why the letter-home books are so read-til 1 a.m. maybe? Just was given the one with letters by the Seneca County NY regiments, put together by R. L. Murray. Gosh, talk about reading until 1 a.m. .
  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    CalvinHusonJr.jpg Alfred Ely.jpg View attachment 3560 View attachment 3561 I've had a few wierd things happen in the few days since joining your nice forum. Here's one! I was actually on a hunt for an etching of pre-war John C. Breckenridge we hilariously found behind a framed flower print- I stuck it in a book somewhere, canNOT remember which one. ( Hilariously because a Yankee ancestor must have had it when he'd been Vice-President then the moment he became one of THEM, behind the flowers we went! ) In a copy of 'Divided We Fought' ( Hirst D. Milhollen, Milton Kaplan and Hulen Stuart, Macmillan and Co., 1956 ) I opened to a photo of -Alfred Ely. Sorry to fall into words like 'awesome'- I'm on my 4th of 4 teenagers- but how cool is that? The caption reads:

    " The Union invasion had a holiday air about it. Sure of victory, Federal Congressmen, Newspapermen, and " a few fairer, if not gentler sex," taking picnic baskets in their buggies, had ridden out to see the fight. But when Congressman Alfred Ely of New York " strolled down the road near the scene of the battle" he was captured by Confederates and imprisoned in Richmond."

    The scanned photo isn't as good as it is in the book. I'll also include a photo of Calvin Huson Jr.. He was an attorney, although the Confederates claimed he was a political prisoner because supposedly some sec. for Sec. of War. We knew nothing about that, still do not. His grgrgranddaughter tells me her family thought he'd been going to Costa Rica as ambassador, didn't think he'd made it.

    "Divided We Fought" has wonderful photos in it, if anyone can find a copy.
  7. kholland

    kholland 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    That's quite a beard! I just get a kick out of the interesting configurations they had in facial hair back then. Although I have seen some in the present.
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  8. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    They HAD to itch, right? Or so I'm told, one of the benefits of all this estrogen is not having to worry about it.
  9. Arioch

    Arioch Corporal

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    for the first couple weeks, yes...then it stops after it reaches a certain length.
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  10. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I guess beards would have been inevitable in those days, although it does seem surprising when you see photos of say, privates who remained clean shaven. I WISH I had photos of any of my ancestors other than pre and post war, other than ones of extremely distant relations. The ones I have show them with great beards so can't imagine they'd have shave just for the war! Not the lawyer- just great 'chops. Yes- there was an amazing variety of men's facial growth, wasn't there?

    I found another mention of Ely in another Google book. It's " History of The Army of The Potomac " , J.H. Stine, Historian of The First Army Corps. I got lost in it for awhile, although boy was in over my head historically-maybe some day will not be. There's an awful, awful part where Ely, while a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse in Richmond, is forced to participate in a lottery whereby the Union officer he choses ( name drawn from a hat, written on a piece of paper ) is executed, can you imagine? I don't remeber reading of this in Ely's own journal but may have missed it- I never did read it page by page yet. Horrible.

    I hope it's ok to quote another section about Calvin Huson- as in not being pompous or kind of self-imortant about a relative- really don't mean to be.It just gave me chills since I never knew this existed. When you see your relative come to 'life' through the descriptions of someone who was there it does really blow you away. This part is early in Stine's report.

    " One of the saddest incidents which occured in the prison was the death of Calvin Huson Jr. of Rochestor New York who was the Democratic candidate for Congress against Mr. Ely. ( * We had not clue about this ) They went out in the same carriage, in company Senator Foster of Conneticut, at Centerville they became seperated and My. Ely and Mr. Huson were captured and taken to prison.

    The South was greatly infuriated over the presence of members of Congress near the battlefields to encourage the troops.

    Senator Henry Wilson, and Representative John PC Shanks were there and it is said John A Logan fought in the ranks.

    Mr. Ely was given a long imprisonment for his rashness, he had to pay a debt for all the members as he was the only one captured. But poor Mr. Huson was only a private citizen. Mr. Ely states the facts in his case, and begged the authorities to release him. Mr. Huson was well known to the high officials of Richmond, and at the time his release was promised but it never came from his captors. He was finally taken with Typhoid Fever which soon released him from prison. It was a hard lot indeed, and there was no apparent excuse for it unless it was to make an example of him and thereby deter non combatant citizens from visiting battlefields where their presence might inspire troops to greater deeds of valour. "

    Boy, you never know what you're going to find just tooling around entering things on Google. I found this in the first place because Ely wrote in his journal how he'd been so frustrated that the Confederates would not release Calvin, one told Ely that they'd found out Mr. Huson was some secret secretary to the secretary of war-untrue, pretty sure. I'd been checking this story out when I came across this Google book.
  11. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I received an email from my cousin, Calvin's grgrgrandaughter. It does seems as if the Confederates were at least correct that they knew Calvin knew Seward, so maybe decided something more was in the relationship than really was. They'd gone to lawschool together, and I guess their wives were first cousins. Calvin and his wife filled in as host and hostess, she tells me, because Sewards wife wasn't well for some reason. Also she says Lincoln appointed Calvin to something- didn't use the word ambassaor- to Costa Rica, has a letter signed by Lincoln on the subject. There's a treasure for her family! I'm now wondering if my grgrgrandfather, Calvin's brother moved his family to DC to help his brother with that Congress thing- that move has been baffling. He kept a 'public house' in DC during the war, was one of the brothers who did not enlist, very odd for that family.
  12. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I love history. I found this last night while poking around archives- from The New York Times. What I find interesting is that in Ely's journal he never mentions that Calvin was running to try to take his seat in Congress- hee- made me wonder who shoved who out from behind the tree when the Confederates showed up.

    AFFAIRS IN VIRGINIA.; THE DEATH OF CALVIN HUSON.Published: October 22, 1861
    The Enquirer says: "CALVIN HUSON, Esq., one of the civilians captured at the battle of Manassas, died yesterday morning of typhoid fever, at the residence of one of our citizens, to which he was carried several days ago, with the consent of Gen. WINDER, Mr. HUSON had been ill since early in September, and received every necessary attention, not only from the prison authorities, but from Mr. ELY, also a prisoner, whose competitor he was as the Democratic candidate for the United States Congress from the Rochester District.
    Mr. HUSON was formerly Prosecuting Attorney for Rochester, and married a niece of WILLIAM H. SEWARD. His remains will he interred at Hollywood Cemetery this afternoon."
  13. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Amazingly awesome! (I'm around 7-12 graders every day. I'm doomed.)
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  14. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    TELL me about it. I'm on the 4th of 4, last one now in 7th grade. This isn't just an awesome article, when Mom gave it to me I said 'NO WAY, Mom, this is the coolest thing ever!'. I'm 53.... , it's very very sad.
  15. Lt. Waldron

    Lt. Waldron Private

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    The part about the lottery is tough but 150 years later, I gues I am over it...Still chuckling about political prisoner status....Free the Bull Run Two....
  16. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    Hahahahahaha! Good of you to have noticed! I called out the cousin who apparently also has him listed that way, wrote and said 'Yknow....' :smile: The first blurb we knew of Calvin, he died in Libby Prison, after the Battle of Bull Run, that was it. I almost swallowed my tongue as this story slowly came to light. I've ALWAYS been one of the people who have had the whole 'OH for God's sake, what kind of idiot got into a carraige with a picnic basket and went trotting out to watch a BATTLE?'. Hee- someone with my DNA, that's who. Going to have to warn the children of this tendency, who knew? :bomb: Could go off at any time.

    This story has gotten more and more fascinating to me, though- on a ton of fronts. Why does Ely never once mention Calvin was running against him, to take his seat in Congress? Zero mention of this in his journal, or of Calvin's buddy Seward-which really wasn't a secret, they were buddies. Ely angelically tells the Confederates that Calvin is a mere nobody, why are you holding him, let this poor fellow go, and denies to them ( and to himself, 'privately' in is journal ) , when the Confederates tell him of this connection, that it's at all true. Ely is well-aware of it- according to another Google book written by the Army og the Potomac First Corp historian- Richmond big wigs all were entirely conversant with Mr. Huson, knew him well. He also did not die in the prison, one of the wealthy widows in town, a friend, took him home when he came down with typoid fever and he died THERE. I'm more and more intrigued by Ely's reports and motivations-not, please know, out of some genealogical need to rub elbows with a dead person who was 'someone'. I smell a rat, is the thing. I don't suspect the man of anything overtly nefarious, I just don't think he was completely honest, either.

    I'm also not attempting to turn Calvin Huson into someone more than he was- truly. He was who he was. My cousin has a letter ( I hope to touch it one day and die with delight ) written by Lincoln, assigning him to duties in Costa Rica, he and Seward were law school buddies, married cousins, were throwing him into the national political arena-he'd already done the New York thing. Ely for some reason wished to write him off, I'd love to know why since he was zero threat by the time Ely published his journal-dead!

    Boy, I still want to know who pushed who out from behind that tree FIRST, when they were captured. I'm betting on Ely.
  17. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    I'm only adding bits here in case anyone ever picks up a copy of that journal. I found a blurb in a Rochestor paper which made me thoughtful. I've always thought it wierd, that anyone would have gone out to watch a battle much less taken picnic lunches and what-have-you. Seems barbaric not to mention foolish. It transpires this sentiment crossed generations, at least with some.

    I can't copy/paste it for some reason, so rats! It's from 'Rochestor History", New York. It's
    a brief paragraph which states that 'Rochestor' found itself amused to note that Ely had been captured after going to watch the battle of Bull Run, and went on to sound a tad testy that he'd been careless enough to get Calvin Huson killed. It transpires that Ely may not have been incredibly popular In Rochestor and possibly a little worried about his carriage passenger usurping his seat in Congress.

    It's not just 2012 which finds people rolling their eyes at the thought of people trapsing off to watch a battle apparently-good to know.
  18. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    • [PDF]
      Potential Sources for Civil War Richmond

      dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr/docs/info/supportingsources.pdf
      Potential Sources for Civil War Richmond ... Richmond at War: Minutes of the City Council, 1861-65. ... Journal of Alfred Ely, a Prisoner of War in Richmond.
  19. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    Holy cow! I didn't realize there was so much out there, thank you! I've been flying around lately, my Kindle has been my best friend in waiting rooms. You can upload interesting things and stick bits on yourself to read later. I stuck the journal on there, then anything I find about it. Or Ely. There's a blurb from a Rochestor paper where the citizenry reports it's been laughing up its sleeve that Ely allowed himself to be captured in the first place, so it isn't only from our vantage point in history we think it silly to have gone out to view a battle! That blurb also seems to blame Ely for being the cause of Calvin's death-hee- like it was his fault Calvin got in the carriage! It doesn't sound like he was incredibly popular in Rochestor anyway.
  20. M E Wolf

    M E Wolf Brigadier General Moderator

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    JPK Huson 1863,

    Everybody has an opinion -- :smile: And, people's opinions back then were easily swayed as they are today, in my opinion.

    M. E. Wolf
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  21. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Captain Forum Host

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    Hahahaha! It's also funny, for some reason I kind of take people 'then' so seriously. Well, of course they were all exactly the same as we are now and if they all went out dressed up carrying picnic baskets to watch a battle, their peers would say the 1861 version of 'Huh?'. It was the first time I'd run across a referance to THAT attitude- found it delightful. I'm at least happy to say Calvin seems to have not taken fried chicken in a wicker basket with him, I guess that's something.

    He did have 3 brothers in uniform. I haven't had time to compare their regimental records, as in who was where and when. I'm hoping to explain his lapse in judgement this way. The New York regiments mustered in early in the war had come to Washington, some stayed at Caspari's House, a hotel next to Congress I think which I guess was taken over to house troops for awhile. My grgrgrandfather, Calvin's brother, is listed as staying there we think ran the place at the time.( An awfully nice woman in DC found that for me. I don't have him listed as a relative in the war, because he mustered in and out in a month, NO idea why, as a Captain, then followed his brother to DC., then bought his own hotel after Calvin's death.) Anyway- I'm hoping Calvin's brotherly concern took him to the battlefield. That would be almost understandable. Almost! Makes me wish it were possible to go back in time, "NOOO, don't get into that carraige!".
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