1861 – The First War Meeting in Camden

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On the 16th of April, 1861, three days after the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, a large number of loyal and patriotic citizens of Camden City and County issued the following vigorous and spirited response to the President’s proclamation:

To the President Of the United States:

The unparalleled events of the last week have revealed to the citizens of the United States, beyond question or the possibility of a doubt, that peaceful reconciliation upon the form of our Constitution is repelled and scorned, and secession means, in the hearts of its supporters, both Treason and war against our Country and Nation.

We, therefore, the undersigned Loyal Citizens of the United States, and inhabitants of the city of Camden, in the State of New Jersey, responding to the proclamation of the President of the United States, hereby declare our unalterable determination to sustain the government in its efforts to maintain the honor, the integrity and the existence of our National Union and the perpetuity of the popular Government, and to redress the wrongs already long enough endured; no differences of political opinion; no badge of diversity upon points of party distinction, shall restrain or withhold us in the devotion of all we have or can command to the vindication of the Constitution, the maintenance of the laws and the defense of the Flag Of our Country.”

The above was signed by:

  • I. S. Mulford
  • E. R. Johnson
  • Louis L. Scovel
  • B. M. Braker
  • Joseph C. Nichols
  • Elwood C. Fortiner
  • Joseph Vautier
  • Edmund Brewer
  • Uriah Norcross
  • Isaac L. Lowe
  • Henry B. Goodwin
  • Richard W. Test
  • James M. Cassady
  • John Duprey
  • Jesse Pratt
  • Hamilton Johnston
  • Charles P. Dickinson
  • Richard H. Lee
  • C. G. Zimmerman
  • Thomas M. K. Lee, Jr.
  • Charles J. Sanders
  • Samuel S. E. Cowperthwait
  • James M. Scovel
  • S. C. Harbert
  • John S. Read
  • D. H. Erdman
  • Adam Angel
  • George W. Vanhorn
  • Charles S. Garrett
  • Thomas M. Barracliff
  • W. H. Saunders
  • Jacob Harman, Jr.
  • Charles K. Horsfall
  • Timothy Middleton
  • William W. Sloan
  • Charles Cloud
  • A. W. Test
  • C. A. S. Driesback
  • Henry Schock
  • Walter Patton
  • Azael Roberts
  • Thomas Jeffries
  • O. Gilbert Hannah
  • John T. F. Peak
  • Samuel O. Cooper
  • J. C. De Lacour
  • Edward T. Andrews
  • Conclin Mayhey
  • William Reynolds
  • Simon Rammell
  • H. H. Goldsmith
  • John Horsfall
  • Thomas H. Dudley
  • Robert Folwell
  • Edw. H. Saunders
  • James O. Morgan
  • David H. Sheppard
  • Richard Fetters
  • Charles C. Reeves
  • S. H. Grey
  • N. B. Stokes
  • S. O. Wright
  • Joseph Dlinston
  • David Creary
  • John R. Barber
  • James H. Denny
  • William R. Maxwell
  • Robert Wible
  • Hamilton William
  • George W. Jackson
  • Joseph Maurer
  • Joseph D. Brown
  • William S. Scull
  • Daniel Witham
  • Isaac Shreeve
  • Adam Hare
  • George Wardell
  • Joseph Coffman
  • George W. Conrow
  • Joshua Howell
  • Martin Grey
  • S. L. Wayne
  • Abner Sparks
  • Van T. Shivers
  • Westcott Campbell
  • William J. Taylor
  • Isaiah Norcross
  • Alden O. Scovel
  • Philip J. Gray
  • George W. Gilbert
  • Charles D. Hineline
  • Thomas H. Davis
  • Charles De Haven
  • Thomas Ackley
  • John Gill
  • James B. Dayton
  • James M. Stevens
  • Joseph French
  • George Campbell
  • A. A. Merry
  • E. Wells
  • William D. Clark
  • William B. Hatch
  • E. O. Jackson
  • A. B. Martin
  • Richard O. Robertson
  • Timothy O. Moore
  • George W. Stanley
  • Robert Schall
  • Reynell Coates
  • Aaron Hewit
  • Henry Shuster
  • William Hartsgrove
  • William B. French
  • W. A. Winchester
  • John M. Natty

In response to a call, on the 18th of April an enthusiastic meeting was held in the county court-house, which was formed of a large collection of prominent citizens. The court-room was decorated with flags and mottoes. John W. Mickle was chosen president and Samuel C. Harbert and Thomas G. Rowand secretaries. The president addressed the meeting first and Rev. Mr. Monroe offered a prayer. Hon. Thomas P. Carpenter, Thomas B. Atkinson (mayor) and Joseph Painter were appointed a committee on resolutions.

Judge Philip J. Grey addressed the meeting, after which the committee adopted a long series of patriotic resolutions. The Washington Grays, Stockton Cadets and the Zouaves marched into the room and were received with cheers, Samuel Hufty read a resolution which was signed by many persons, who immediately formed the Home Brigade. David M. Chambers, Captain Stafford, Benjamin M. Braker, John H. Jones and E. A. Acton each addressed the meeting.

James M. Scovel was then called upon and responded in eloquent terms and with patriotic energy. S. H. Grey offered a resolution, which was adopted, that the City Council and the Freeholders of the county be requested to appropriate money for the equipment of persons who may volunteer in defense of the country, and S. H. Grey, James M. Cassady and Joseph Painter were appointed a committee to look after the interests of the resolution. The meeting continued in session until eleven p.m.

On the 22d of April Samuel H. Grey made an address before the Board of Freeholders in a patriotic appeal, soliciting the board to make appropriations for the relief of families of volunteer soldiers. John S. Read offered a resolution favoring the appropriation of five thousand dollars, which was unanimously adopted. On the evening of the 25th the City Council voted four hundred dollars for the same purpose. On the same evening the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Camden collected one hundred and fifty dollars and purchased five hundred Bibles for the volunteer soldiers of Camden County.

The State Bank of Camden loaned twenty-five thousand dollars and the Farmers and Mechanics Bank ten thousand dollars to the Governor of New Jersey to aid in the prosecution of the war. In July, 1861, the County Bible Society sent large installments of Bibles to the Camden County soldiers at Trenton.

On April 16th the Washington Grays, of Camden, held a meeting and resolved to open the armory for recruits. By Saturday, April 20th, these two companies, the Camden Zouaves and the Union Guards were reported ready for service and the Camden Light Artillery organizing. On the 25th the same correspondent wrote that the following companies had taken their departure from Camden for Trenton :

Washington Grays, Captain E. Price Hunt. Camden Light Artillery, Captain I. W. Mickle. Stockton Cadets, Captain E. G. Jackson. Camden Zouaves, Captain John R. Cunningham.

And the following from Gloucester City:

Union Guards, Captain Joseph B. Strafford. Anderson Guards, Captain John P. Van Leer.

It was the boast of the Gloucester people that Union township, which had but four hundred voters, sent at this time one hundred and ninety-eight good men to do duty for the cause.

Foster’s history asserts that on April 18th, Captain John R. Cunningham tendered the Camden Zouaves, a well-drilled and uniformed company, to the Governor.1 This organization had been formed under the militia law in the preceding year, when the tour of the principal cities made by Ellsworth’s Chicago Zouaves inspired thousands of young men to join companies patterned upon that famous model. It was mustered into the Fourth Regiment, on April 25th, as Company G, under command of Captain Cunningham, First Lieutenant Louis M. Morris and Ensign Joseph L. De La Cour.

The other five companies from Camden County were placed in the same regiment. Captain Hunt’s company became Company F ; Captain Van Leer’s, Company H; Captain Jackson’s, Company C; Captain Strafford’s, Company D; and Captain Mickle’s, Company E. The two first were mustered on April 25th and the three last on April 27th.

Among the individual offers was that of William B. Hatch, of Camden, who had served in 1859 and 1860 in the cavalry of the Russian army; he was commissioned as adjutant of the Fourth Regiment in the ninety days’ service, and subsequently made major of the Fourth (three years’) Regiment. Mrs. Hettie K. Painter, of Camden, volunteered as a nurse, and became known to thousands of sick and wounded men for her gentle and efficient ministrations in the hospitals of the Army of the Potomac.

On the last day of April the quota of the State was complete, and it was mustered at Trenton as a brigade of four regiments, under command of General Theodore Runyon, the present chancellor of New Jersey. The next day the Governor sent a special messenger to General B. F. Butler, commanding at Annapolis, Md., requesting him to prepare to receive the brigade, which was to be sent through the canal route in consequence of the destruction of the railroad bridges near Baltimore by the Secessionists of Maryland. The men were embarked at Trenton on May 3d, on a fleet of fourteen propellers, and proceeded down the Delaware River and through the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal to Annapolis, which they reached on the night of the 4th.2 General Butler ordered its advance to Washington, and on the 5th the First Regiment, with six companies of the Second and nine companies of the Third, started forward in two trains of cars. The first of these trains reached Washington about midnight, and the second at eight o’clock the following morning. The same evening the Fourth Regiment and the remaining company of the Third arrived at the capital. The four companies of the Second left at Annapolis, were detailed to guard the telegraph and railroad between Annapolis Junction, and were left without tents and almost without a commissariat for a month.

On May 6th the arrival of the brigade was reported to General Scott, and no camps being provided, the troops went into such quarters as were available in Washington.

“On all sides,” says Foster, “their arrival was hailed with pleasure. Men felt that now the capital was safe. These three thousand Jerseymen, thoroughly armed and equipped, as no regiments previously arrived, had been and could be relied upon to repel all assaults. New Jersey never stood higher in the estimation of the loyal people of the country than at that juncture, when she sent to the nation’s defense the first full brigade of troops that reached the field.” On May 7th the command marched past the White House, where it was reviewed by President Lincoln and General Scott. On the 9th the Fourth Regiment moved out to Camp Monmouth, on Meridian Hill, where it was soon joined by the other regiments, and on the 12th the camp was visited by the President and Secretaries Chase and Seward, Mr. Lincoln complimenting the troops on their soldierly appearance. They remained at Camp Monmouth, perfecting their drill and discipline, until the 23d, when the Second, Third and Fourth Regiments (the First following the next day) crossed the Potomac into Virginia, and on the Washington and Alexandria road, at a most important strategic point, constructed a mounted with heavy guns a strong defensive work, which, in honor of their brigadier, they named Fort Runyon. It was the first regular fortification built by the national troops. The brigade remained in this vicinity until July 16th, when it was moved forward a few miles, and placed in the First Reserve Division, to which had also been assigned the First, Second and Third New Jersey (three years’) Regiments, which had reached the field a few days previous to the movement. The First (three months’) Regiment was ordered to a point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, three miles beyond Springfield, to guard the track repairs. On the same day four hundred and twenty-five men of the Third Regiment were detailed to escort a provision train, and a portion of the Fourth was charged with guarding another section of the railroad. One company of the latter regiment was then guarding the Long Bridge, and still another was on duty at Arlington Mills, while the remainder was ordered to Alexandria with the Second (three months’) Regiment. Colonel Taylor, commanding the Third (three years’) Regiment, was at the same time instructed to march to a point on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and during the night following, the First and Second (three years’) Regiments were moved forward to Vienna. On the 17th orders were issued to all. the regiments in the command to provide themselves with two days’ cooked rations, and on the 8th, General Runyon assumed command of all the troops not on the march to the front.

These dispositions were in view of the battle of Bull Run, which was fought and lost by the Union army on July 21st. The nearest that any of the Jersey troops came to participation in it, was that the First and Second (three years) Regiments and the First (three months) Regiment were marched toward Centreville during the day, and that the two first-named reached the town in season to arrest with fixed bayonets the rush of thousands of panic-stricken fugitives toward Washington, and rally them into something like order. They performed this duty most faithfully and the value of their services was. fully recognized by General McDowell.

On July 24th the Third and Fourth Regiments, their term of enlistment having expired, were ordered to report to General Mansfield to be mustered out. The First and Second received the same orders on the following day; and after being formally discharged the brigade returned home to New Jersey, where it was accorded an enthusiastic reception. A majority of the men re-enlisted in the long-term regiments and were bank in the field before they had time to forget a movement of the manual of arms.

It has been estimated that in the early months of the war fully five thousand citizens of New Jersey enlisted in New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere in the regiments of other States. They were bent upon entering the army, and as the three months’ quota of New Jersey was already filled, they sought service outside. Whole companies were thus transferred to neighboring States and their identity as Jersey commands thus lost. They cannot now be traced, but it may be mentioned that the renowned Excelsior Brigade of New York embraced many Jersey soldiers in its ranks, An unknown number of Camden County men crossed the river, and in Philadelphia enrolled themselves in commands of the Keystone State.

  1. This was the first official tender of a company made in the State. Foster says that the first regimental offer was made on the same day, when Lieutenant-Colonel V. R. Matthews, commanding the First Regiment, Hunterdon Brigade, wrote to the Governor proffering their services. The first individual offer, according to Governor Olden’s records, was that of General Joseph W. Revere, of the Morris Brigade, who, in January, 1861, tendered his services in any capacity in which they might be required. This offer was renewed and accepted on April 17th. ↩︎
  2. They left Trenton without a round of ammunition. Captain Charles P. Smith was sent to New York that day to procure it, but was unsuccessful, until a Mr. Blunt, a dealer on Broadway, agreed to let him have a certain quantity of cartridges and percussion caps on his personal security. He reached Jersey City with a dray-load, notwithstanding the New York authorities had prohibited any ammunition from being taken from the city. There he had a controversy with the railroad officials, who refused to take such freight on a passenger train, but compromised by allowing it to be packed in an iron crate, which was towed a long way astern of the train. At 10.30 that night Captain Smith reached Camden, where a tug was in waiting for him. The flotilla with the brigade was intercepted as it was passing the city; he transferred the crate to the various vessels, and its contents were served out to the men as they went on down the Delaware. ↩︎


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