Following in the Captain's Footprints

On a recent trip to Charleston, SC, I took the opportunity to explore details behind the visit made to the fair city by my Great Grandfather, James Harvey Cline, then Captain of Co. F of the 100th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Regiment of the Grand Army of the Republic, or more simply known as the Roundheads. Capt. Cline had the dubious honor of seeing many of the sights of Charleston after he was captured in a skirmish somewhere in the vicinity of James Island. The Captain was promoted to Major later in his military career with the Union army, so a family publication of his letters is simply titled "The Major". Armed with this collection of letters I sought find the place of his capture and the place where he was imprisoned for one evening in Charleston, before being sent off to Columbia, SC, to spend approximately 90 days as a prisoner of war. So, in the words of the Major (then Captain) himself:

Tuesday, June 3rd, 1862

This proved an eventful day for some of us. At midnight, I received orders to detail 40 men from each of the 4 comps., viz., A. F. D. and be prepared to march at 4 A. M. The detail was immediately made, and the men for service ordered to stock their arms and lay down until the moment for marching arrived. At the appointed time the men were promptly in line, and the arms were carefully loaded. I now learned that we were to form part of a party who were to make an excursion on the Island for the purpose of discovering the locality of the enemy, their numbers, and feel for batteries. We were to proceed to the outer line of picket and report to Capt. Elliott of the 79th. I immediately proceeded to the lines and reported. The officers accompanying me were Lieut. Pentecost, Co. A., Lieut. Cahoon, Co. D., and Lieut. Morrow, Co. I. It was not yet clear day when we arrived at the lines. The troops stacked arms and rested until the arrival of Capt. Elliott. When Capt. Elliott arrived, he took the two comps. of the 28th, Mass., and went forward as skirmishers. They had proceeded but a short distance when unmistakable signs of the enemy were seen, when we were ordered rapidly forward and halted at the Legarre House. We had been here but a few minutes when the two comps. of skirmishers were seen emerging from the woods rapidly. They were filed to the right and deployed behind a hedge in a very advantageous position. This was of but little avail though, as they broke and ran the first fire they received. This made things look like earnest. As we were well aware, they outnumbered us two to one. The reserve was immediately formed behind some houses which afforded an excellent opportunity for skirmishing, and immediately opened fire. Most of the men showed a bravery worthy of them, but I regret to say they didn't come up to the bright anticipations formed of them. In a few minutes the action became quite warm, and several were killed and wounded. At this time an attempt was made to outflank us on the right. I was ordered to take 20 men and take possession of a hedge to the right and effectually preventing the possibility of flanking us, and to hold that place. Soon the fire from the enemy became very hot. It was evident that they were directing a heavy fire upon us with the intention of forcing us this position. I returned to the main force and got a few more men. The skirmish had lasted for 2 hours, 15 minutes. The "Irish Vol." supported by a part of the "Eutaw" Batallion charged upon our position and the right main body. I could have had ample time to have drawn my men off and rejoined the main body, but I supposed that Capt. Elliott would have rallied the main body and met the charge, in the issue of which we could have done good execution upon the enemy. But, judge of my surprise when I saw our right fall back and leave us to our fate. We immediately commenced our retreat, but too late. We were cut off and compelled to surrender. We had two men killed and two wounded here. We were exposed to a very severe cross fire from our forces, as we were carried off. I think one of our men was killed here. Our forces followed the retreating enemy until under cover of their batteries. After coming under cover of their batteries, we were taken to "Cesessionville" about 2 miles from the scene of the action. It was raining very hard at the time. We were taken to the headquarters of Col. Stevens in command at Secessionville and the names of the prisoners taken. We were treated with respect by both citizens and soldiers. We were kept here but a short time, when we started under a strong escort for "Fort Johnston." A heavy rain was falling at the time, but we toiled on through a deep heavy sand. The distance was about five miles. We reached there about 12 o'clock. We were rewarded by a sight of Fort Sumpter, although we did not expect to see it so soon. This fort, made memorable by its being the place where the first gun was fired in this struggle between Sister States, is built upon a small island about 3 miles in the harbor. It has the appearance of being a place of great strength. It rises from the water as a grim monster, prepared to dispute the passage of hostile vessels into the harbor. We saw also "Fort Johnston" and the famous floating battery, built for the reduction of "Sumpter." It was not without its merits and, as all know, did good service at the reduction of Sumpter. Although it appears to have served its purpose. We were soon placed upon a small tug and taken to Charleston. As we approached the wharf, we had a fine view of "Castle Pinckney." It is a fine circular work mounting several guns but would not suppose if a place of very great strength. We were soon on the wharf, making our way through the city to the jail. We were objects of curiosity, the people being anxious to see a "live Yankee." No indignities nor insults were offered us as we passed through the streets. As we passed along, we saw a part of the burnt district. It ran diagonally through from river to river. We soon received a formal introduction to the jail and told to make ourselves at home. The quarters were not good, but we remembered that we were prisoners of war, and so made the best of it. We soon found that we were not without company here, as the dissatisfied soldiers of the Confederate Army at this place were confined for trivial offenses. Over a hundred were now here. They were mingling with the Union prisoners, which was not the most pleasant thing. We were furnished with bread, a good quality about 6 o'clock, and we were thankful for it, having eaten nothing today. Night closed in storm and dark. A heavy storm blew most of the night causing the vessels to stand out.

... and so it was that armed with this description I sought to follow in the Captain's footprints.


willsby said...

My great-grandfather was John W. Cline. He fought in the Civil War in Company K of the 100th PA. It is my understanding that James is a brother to my great-grandfather John W. Cline and that there were five brothers that fought in the Civil War, Issac, James, William, John and Richard. I would appreciate further information on the Cline borthers and particularly my great-grandfather John W. my email address is

pmiller said...

I was so amazed and glad when I found your blog yesterday, Ray. I am presently reading "The Major", and I find the book very intriguing. It is so neat to see some of the places where the Major was, and someday I would like to retrace his steps as well. By the way, I am Paul H. Miller II, son of Paul H. Miller, grandson of Thelma Cline Miller Jack. My email is

Thanks for all your research, and email me if you get the chance.

Wilde Bill said...

The Cedar Rapids Library has come across a copy of "The Major" by Victor Young - can you give us any information about this book, e.g. when it was published, how many editions, and etc. This example appears to have been signed by several of the author's family members.

We are hoping you will know all about this fascinating book.


Wilde Bill

Tom said...

Maj James Harvey Cline Klein is my third great uncle. My name is Harold T Altman.


Martha Irene Altman
my mother

→Erma Owrey
her mother

→Etta Pinney
her mother

→John W Cline Klein, "K" Co. PA 100th Infantry
her father

→Maj James Harvey Cline Klein
his brother