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.

The Scariest Place in Charleston

So, from the Captain's letter of 1862 we had a couple of "landmarks" to find, the Legarre house somewhere on James Island and the city jail. Could the either of these places still exist?

The answer came fast on at least one of these two. While taking a carriage tour as part of the meeting I was attending I asked the carriage driver if she knew where the city jail would have been in 1862. She quickly answered, "That is the Old City Jail on Franklin Street." Did it still exist? "Yes, it is still standing, and it is reported to be the most HAUNTED building in Charleston." High "praise" for a city that emphasizes its ghost population through its tourist trade. She went on to explain that it was "really a not nice place." So, check on the jail, we should be able to find that one.

Not wanting to visit an unknown area in the evening, let alone a haunted jail, we decided to wait until day time to seek out the Old City Jail. There are many references to the Old City Jail of Charleston on the web, many explaining the unusual happenings within the confines during the evening tours. We found this place in broad daylight and didn't have the courage to go inside. This is one scary place.

It was exciting to find a true landmark where I was certain the Captain had been, though it was depressing to think of him and his fellow soldiers confined within this place. I also began to realize the nature of the Captain's writing, "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." Stoic and understated, no doubt to calm the fears of family at home. This could not have been a pleasant experience. "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." Dissatisfied soldiers of the Confederate Army, let's try thieves, deserters, and just plain not nice people. I can't imagine that they were wanting to have tea and discuss the news of the day, not to mention out numbering the Union captives by about 6 to 1. Clearly they were "mingling" with the Union prisoners.

You Say Legarre, I Say Legare

The Legarre house required some more digging. Initial internet searches produced little fruit. So, I tried spelling combinations, the easiest of which was "Legare." Bingo! Charleston is full of references to Legare, a very prominent family throughout the city's history. Next, were there any "Legare" houses on James Island? Bingo again! The Legare-Waring House is located on James Island. You can read more about this house at their website I am including an image of the house from that site, just to give you a feel for the excitement that I had thinking that I might have found the location of the battle field.

So, on our excursion in the Captain's footsteps we were off to the Legare-Waring house. It is a very historic place! Better known as Charlestowne Landing, the location of the original city of Charleston. So, we paid our money and took the tour. Very interesting. We saw some of the reconstruction of the original town, learned about the excavations, the settlement, the early commerce, and many other things. There was even a part on the walking tour that described the original plantation house that had existed during the civil war. A few pictures of these sites:

A view of the recreated earthworks and cannon location of Charlestowne Landing.

Recreation of a working garden at Charlestowne Landing.

The Scene of some excitement for me. This was identified as the location of former slave quarters on the grounds of the Legare-Waring plantation. Could this have been the location of the Captain's capture?

As I thought about the location and geography, this place didn't seem to fit the intent of Union operations in June 1862. It was fairly far from Secessionville, with no direct connection to that part of James Island. So, I became less convinced that we had found the spot of the Major's Capture.

Captain"Clina" Surrenders his Sword

While we were busy on other excursions in the Charleston area I continued in spare time to search for more evidence the Legare house skirmish on June 3, 1862. By serendipity I ran across a posting of articles from the Charleston Mercury news paper on the site The relevant passage of the article is copied below, explaining the skirmish and the capture of Captain Clina of the 100th Pennsylvania.

The Skirmish at Legare’s Place on the Third Inst. — Official Reports.
Filed Under Civil War

JAMES ISLAND, June 10th, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report the details of the recent engagement with the enemy’s advance, at Legare’s place, below Secessionville, on the 3d inst. In obedience to your direction I left the camp before daylight with four companies of the 24th — the Marion Rifles, Pee Dee Rifles, Evans Guard and Colleton Guard — to remove the guns of Capt. Chichester’s Battery, which were bogged in the marsh at the causeway below Rivers. Arrived at Secessionville, it was reported to me, by Col. Lamar, that our pickets had been driven into Rivers, and that the guns were covered by the enemy. I reported this to the General, who ordered me to take my companies and drive him back until the fire of his boats obliged me to withdraw. I moved down to Rivers, and found the picket force, consisting of the Beauregard Light Infantry and the Charleston Riflemen, at that point, and the enemy’s advance in the pines just in their front. I ordered these companies to join my command, and formed my line at the head of the causeway, facing Legare threw out the Marion Rifles, Captain Sigwald, as skirmishers, and ordered him to push on and draw the fire of the enemy. This was well and promptly done, the Marions soon occupying the pines and the enemy’s skirmishers retiring. I crossed the causeway by flank and deployed on the other side; throwing my companies forward on the right, where we engaged the enemy warmly until our fire becoming too severe, he fell back to the edge of the wood on this side of Legare’s old field. After a half hour’s firing in this position, we moved into the wood and drove through, the enemy retreating across the old field to the house beyond. Our way was now unobstructed, the enemy occupying the Legare houses beyond and the long hedge to the east of them, from which he poured in a strong fire, most of which passed entirely over us. A regiment, which I afterwards ascertained to be the 28th Massachusetts, constituted his reserve, and was posted below the negro houses, a quarter of a mile to the south. I determined, by a rapid charge on the main building, to cut off the advance from this support, the only difficulty being, that at Legare’s we would be open to the river and within a half mile. But I resolved to attempt it. Just at this period Lieut. Col. Gaillard, with his command, about 125 strong, reported to me, and I assigned him a position, and ordered the Evans Guard, Captain Gooding, Charleston Riflemen, Lieut. Lynch, Irish Volunteers, Capt. Ryan, Beauregard Light Infantry, Capt. White, Sumter Guard, Lieut. J. Ward Hopkins, and the Calhoun Guard, Capt. Miles, to perform the duty, while Lieut. Col. Gaillard took command of the centre and left as a reserve. It was well and nobly performed; twenty-two persons being captured, among them a captain and sergeant, all of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment. The prisoners in our possession and the enemy driven back to his support, which promptly took position in and behind the row of negro houses, the boats opened a brisk fire on us, while we received our only damaging fire from the negro huts. I, therefore, ordered a retirement to the wood, which was performed in good order and under cover of the fire from our left, where the remainder of the Charleston Battalion, with three of my companies, were posted. I deemed it proper to retire the force beyond the causeway to Rivers, where I took position by the General’s direction. I would have retained the wood had I had a force sufficient to cover my right which was open to the enemy and immediately under the fire of his boats. The following is a list of the casualties of the Beauregard Light Infantry, Pee Dee Rifles and Evans Guard: In the former, Lieut. A. J. Mims, wounded in the thigh; Corporal W. H. Bilton, in the thigh; private Jno. Brenan, in the hip. Pee Dee Rifles, private Jno. Chavers, in the chest. Evans Guard, privates Jno. Brown, severely in the thigh; Lee Brown and M. T. Mock, slightly. The report of Lieut. Col. Gaillard, which is herewith forwarded, shows the result in his command, which makes our total injury sustained, 17 wounded, one of which was mortal and one missing. From a prisoner captured on Saturday last, I learned that Lt. Walker was not dangerously wounded, and was doing well, being held a prisoner at Legareville. The same prisoner informs me that many of the enemy were wounded, two having since died, and that several were killed. He represents the regiment engaged to have been the 100th Pennsylvania, and the support to have consisted of the 28th Massachusetts and the 49th New York. The officers and men under my command behaved with coolness and determined bravery. I have no special mention to make of any one for distinguished behavior. Capt. Clina surrendered his sword to Capt. Ryan, of the Irish Volunteers, who now wears it as a trophy of his gallant command, I return my thanks for their prompt and efficient support. The companies of the 24th, after a long march and without breakfast, went into the action with spirit and sustained it throughout.
With gratitude to God for our success, I have the honor to be,
Colonel, very respectfully and truly,
Your obedient servant, ELLISON CAPERS,
Lieut. Col. 24th Regiments S. C. V.
To Col. C. H. Stevens, commanding 24th Regiment S. C. V.

The passage "Capt. Clina surrendered his sword to Capt. Ryan, of the Irish Volunteers, who now wears it as a trophy of his gallant command" caused my heart to sink. The family story is told that Captain Cline was asked to surrender his sword and rather than doing so he stuck it into the ground and broke it off. The family legend goes on that at that point the Confederate officer was so irate that he raised his sword to land a fatal blow upon the Captain. Captain Cline was purportedly saved by one of his soldiers stepping forward and fending off the blow of the Confederate officer. Having heard this story and seen the broken sword that had belonged to Captain/Major Cline I was crushed by this passage. Could my Great Grandfather have surrendered apparently so mildly? The answer to that required a visit to an Angel.

The Angel Oak and Charlestonians in War

One of the attractions we decided to visit on our drivings around Charleston was the Angel Oak ( It is a live oak tree that is over 1500 years old. Very impressive as you can see from the picture below. (That is my wife Barb standing under the tree. This thing is HUGE.)

While at the Angel Oak we went into the gift shop to look around. I noticed some shelves with books about the local area history during my browsing and was surprised to find books on the civil war, including "Charlestonians in War" and "Infantryman Pettit: The Civil War Letters of Corporal Frederick Pettit." The latter book I had seen when I did some research in the Library of Congress while living in Virginia. It is a collection of letters from Corp. Pettit of Co. C of the 100th Pennsylvania composed by William Gilfillan Gavin. I was very surprised to find it here in outskirts of Charleston, particularly as I thought it was out of print. The BIG surprise awaited in the pages of "Charlestonians in War." On the chance that it might have some local history of the Legare plantation skirmish I turned to the index and found several references to Captain Cline!

"Charlestonians in War"

W. Curtis Phelps

At about 3:00 P.M. on Monday, June 2, the Seventy-ninth New York Highlanders landed on Battery Island, followed later by the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts and four companies of the 100th Pennsylvania. These troops were the vanguard of Union brigadier general Henry Benham's 7,000-man force brought up from Hilton Head and Port Royal to assault Charleston. Before dark, the Federals made a reconnaissance on neighboring Sol Legare Island, and though Confederate pickets were clearly visible across the marsh on James Island there was no exchange of fire. Among the Confederate pickets observing the blue-clad interlopers were members of the Charleston Riflemen, Company A of the Charleston Battallion.

The next day a more forceful probe was made by the Federals, designed to sweep Sol Legare Island clear of any Rebels. This reconnaissance resulted instead in a contest over the possession of Chichester's three Southern cannon stuck in the mud off River's Causeway. The expedition, consisting of elements of the Seventy-ninth New York, 100th Pennsylvania, it Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, moved east down the length of the island, reaching the Legare plantation house and its outbuildings, where it halted.

To the left across a cotton field was a wooded area, and beyond that was River's Causeway and James Island. The Twenty-eighth Massachusetts was sent out to investigate the woods and what they might conceal, finding shortly that they hid Confederate pickets. Hearing that a brisk firefight was under way, Capt. James Cline swung his detachment of the 100th Pennsylvania to the left and formed line of battle to meet whatever Southern force came out of the woods.

Half an hour later, the battered remnants of the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts came scrambling back with Rebels hot on their heels. Though they tried to regain their composure, after another Rebel volley the Twenty-eighth continued their retreat, leaving exposed Captain Cline and his 160 Pennsylvanians. Cline stated, "In a few minutes the action became quite warm, and several were killed or wounded."

Cline was soon ordered to send twenty men farther to the east past the Legare slave quarters to protect the Federal right flank, which he promptly did. As the action intensified, Cline personally went back for reinforcements, and upon his return to his exposed position the Confederates in the woods broke forward in a charge. Capt. Hazard Stevens, son of Brig. Gen. Isaac I. Stevens, the commander of General Benham's second division, recorded the Confederate charge years later in a biography of his father. Captain Stevens wrote that the Confederates were in a wood just across a large cotton field from the Federal position and here the firing began. "Soon afterward a column of the enemy, apparently a regiment, which was in fact the Charleston Battalion, the crack corps of the city, emerged from the woods and advanced by the flank in columns of four headed by a mounted officer. In this order they charged down the road and across the field at the double quick."

Captain Stevens had it correct, except that not all of the Confederates in the charge were of the Charleston Battalion. The mounted officer was Lt. Col. Ellison Capers, at the head of a portion of his Twenty-fourth South Carolina Infantry. In the ensuing fight, Cline and his small detachment were isolated by the Charleston Battalion and captured. Sgt. Robert Moffatt of the 100th Pennsylvania remembered Captain Cline shouting to his men to cut their way out, as the Confederates "kept pouring volley after volley on us till within 10 paces of us." These were the first of many Union prisoners taken in their first campaign to capture Charleston.

The weather was not favorable during the first few days of June, and the conditions on the day of the skirmish were "unsuited for military operations of any kind; from nine o'clock in the morning until late at night the rain poured down in continuous showers, the roads and fields were transformed into miry bogs." These were the miry bogs that held fast to Chichester's guns.

As Lieutenant Colonel Capers remembered it, "[I] was sent before day on June 3, with part of the Twenty-fourth and a big rope, to pull the guns out of the bog, and had no idea of a fight until I got to Lamar's fort. There Lamar told me if I got the guns I would have to fight for them. I did fight for them."

According to Capers' official report of the skirmish, he arrived at River's Causeway and found the advance Southern pickets, consisting of the Beauregard Light Infantry and Charleston Riflemen, close to the enemy, in particular the Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, who had halted in the woods to their front. These two companies were ordered to join Capers' command, and using the Marion Rifles as skirmishers, the plan was to drive the Twenty-eighth out of the woods. Upon reaching the opposite side of the causeway, Capers formed his companies to the right of it and after a half-hour's work drove the enemy across Legare's fields and back to the Legare house and its outbuildings.

Despite the risk of being exposed to Union shellfire from the gunboats in the Stono River, Capers resolved to make an assault on these buildings so as to isolate Cline's smaller force. Capers planned to use the remaining five companies of the Charleston Battalion under Lt. Col. Peter Gaillard, who had just reached the field, to surround and capture Cline and his men. Capers estimated the total strength of Gaillard's five companies, excluding Company A, at only "about 124 strong," a much lower figure than previously estimated. Four of the battalion's six companies were designated to take part in the charge. These were: Company A, the Charleston Riflemen under Lieutenant Lynch; Company C, Irish Volunteers under Captain Ryan; Company D, Sumter Guards under Lieutenant Hopkins; and Company E, Calhoun Guards under Captain Miles. Lieutenant Colonel Gaillard "took command of the center and left as a reserve." According to Capers, the charge was "well and nobly performed," capturing twenty-two prisoners of the 100th Pennsylvania. Taken under fire from Federals hidden behind the Legare slave quarters, as well as Union gunboats, Capers withdrew his force under cover of a fire provided by the Charleston Light Infantry and the Union Light Infantry/German Fusiliers, which were the remaining companies B and F of the Charleston Battalion, along with three of his own from the Twenty-fourth.

Gaillard reported that he hurried to the scene of action when he was informed that Capers was engaged with a larger force than his own and, upon receiving his orders, sent his companies into line. Gaillard stated that "by some misapprehension" a part of the Union Light Infantry and German Fusiliers was somehow caught up in the charge but never got into the action. Though his command behaved admirably in their first fight, Gaillard felt it necessary to mention in his report that most of his men had been either on picket duty or performing labor during the twenty-four-hour period prior to the action and were, therefore, not at their best.

The chief results of this engagement were twofold: (1) the capture of enemy prisoners who would provide information as to the strength and intent of the Union landing force and (2) valuable combat experience for troops who had yet to see any real fighting. Though all of the companies belonging to the Charleston Battalion played a part in the fight at the Legare plantation, the god of war—"Chance"—shed its grace on a company that was to prove itself on many battlefields as particularly anxious to fight. It had been Company C, the Irish Volunteers, who isolated Cline's detachment of the 100th Pennsylvania near the Legare house, ultimately forcing them to surrender. In the final rush on the Federal position, Captain Ryan grabbed the Pennsylvanian Cline by the throat and, with his sword raised in the air, demanded his surrender. One of Cline's men, "a strapping Pennsylvanian," charged Ryan, intending to run him through with a bayonet, until Confederate Irishman Rody Whelan bounded forward. "[Whelan] locked bayonets with his Captain's assailant.... The bayonets twisted like wire, when by a quick twist of the wrist elevating the guns, Whelan ... laid his opponent sprawling on the ground—saving his Captain's life."

Here it was, a detailed account of the skirmish on Sol Legare Island, a further clue to the actual location, and an accounting of the actions of the Captain as well. Sgt. Robert Moffatt of the 100th Pennsylvania remembered Captain Cline shouting to his men to cut their way out, as the Confederates "kept pouring volley after volley on us till within 10 paces of us." Clearly the Captain intended to fight to the end if necessary. Then there is the description of the surrender itself. In the final rush on the Federal position, Captain Ryan grabbed the Pennsylvanian Cline by the throat and, with his sword raised in the air, demanded his surrender. One of Cline's men, "a strapping Pennsylvanian," charged Ryan, intending to run him through with a bayonet, until Confederate Irishman Rody Whelan bounded forward. "[Whelan] locked bayonets with his Captain's assailant.... The bayonets twisted like wire, when by a quick twist of the wrist elevating the guns, Whelan ... laid his opponent sprawling on the ground—saving his Captain's life." Not only had the Confederate Private saved his commanders life, it appears that the Union Private had saved the life of the Captain. This picture of an irate Confederate officer charging and choking my Great Grandfather seems more in line with the family legend I outlined above. Not sure of the details of the broken sword, but clearly the Roundheads of the 100th Pennsylvania, and Captain Cline, did not surrender easily. All this I learned under the spreading branches of a 1500 year-old oak tree.