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Dam 5

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Date: 9 Dec 1861 to 21 Feb 1862
Location: Maryland, United Statesmap
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Jesse Wharton was arrested near Dam 5 on 22 December 1861, at the end of several Confederate attempts to destroy Dam 5. This page includes evidence about those attempts from The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I Volume V, pages 389-400. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1881.


report, Thomas J Jackson, 21 Feb 1862

[source: extract from "Reports of Maj. Genl. Thomas J. Jackson, C. S. Army, of operations from November 4, 1861, to February 21, 1862." Official Records, series I, volume V, pages 389-395 at page 390.]

HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT, Winchester, Va., February 21, 1862. . . . The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal having been repaired to such an extent as to render it boatable and of great service to the Federal Army at Washington, I determined, if practicable, to cut off western supplies by breaking Dam No. 5. For this purpose an expedition was undertaken in the early part of December, but, in consequence of the enemy's resistance and for want of adequate means, the object was not accomplished. A few days subsequently Capt. R. T. Colston, Company E, Second Regiment Virginia Volunteers, who was well acquainted with the locality of the dam and its structure, volunteered to take charge of the working party to accomplish the desired object. As there was reason to believe that General Banks could soon concentrate a large force there, I moved, with Garnett's brigade, part of the cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel Ashby, and part of Carson's brigade, to the neighborhood of the dam. General Carson made a demonstration towards Falling Waters and Williamsport, while the remaining troops took such a position as to support the working party.

The work was commenced on the night of December 17, and by the morning of the 21st a breach, supposed to be sufficiently large for the object in view, was effected. Though Federal re-enforcements of artillery and infantry were ordered up and opened their fire upon us, our loss was only 1 man killed.

. . .

letter, Thomas J Jackson to J E Johnston, 14 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 pages 395-396]

HEADQUARTERS VALLEY DISTRICT, Winchester, Va., December 14, 1861. GENERAL: Yours of the 12th instant is at hand. [footnote in OR: "Not found."] I have made two attempts to prevent navigation on the canal, but have not thus far succeeded. The only good results that I am aware of having been effected was [sic] the capture of 1 captain, 2 corporals, and 5 privates of the Twelfth Indiana Regiment, and damaging this end of Dam No. 5, and killing 1 of the enemy. On our part 2 men are supposed to be mortally wounded. The injury done to Dam No. 5 is not sufficient to admit the passage of water on the Virginia side.

In consequence of the importance of economizing ammunition and keeping the batteries and other troops that would be required for supports at drill, I do not think that it would be advisable to attempt with artillery anything more than the protection of our working parties engaged in turning the water around one of the dams, or making a break in the canal. I have had some small boats made for the purpose of crossing a party to the Maryland side if necessary. I hope in this way to stop the navigation for a while, but my desire is to complete the work commenced on the dam, and for this purpose have made arrangements for marching with Garnett's brigade at 6 a. m. on Monday.

During the greater part of next month I expect to have my headquarters near Martinsburg. If this plan succeeds--as through the blessing of Providence it will--Washington will hardly get any further supply of coal during the war from Cumberland; but should General Kelley advance on me, I may have to content myself with trying to make a break in the canal.

I have not received any additional force except Colonel Taliaferro's brigade, which is well encamped and giving its time to drilling.

The enemy are, from last information, near 9,000 strong in Hampshire, principally at Romney. Their present principal damage to us is in the demoralization of our people in Hampshire. They picket near 6 miles this side of Romney. I should not be surprised any day to hear of his (General Kelley) advancing. He says that he does not design going into winter quarters in Romney; that as soon as the weather becomes cold enough to require such protection, if not before, he expects to receive orders to advance. I hope that I will be in a condition to move before he does.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

T. J. JACKSON, Major-General, Commanding Valley District. Gen. J. E. JOHNSTON, Commanding Department of Northern Virginia.

report, NP Banks to McClellan, 9 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 pages 396-397]

FREDERICK, MD., December 9, 1861--11 o'clock. The force referred to in my dispatch last night proves to be cavalry, and does not indicate occupation. The firing Saturday was at Dam No. 5, near Clear Spring. No damage done. Rebels driven back with loss of some men. They had 6 Parrott guns. No rebels between Hancock and Romney, and General Kelley in no danger of attack. Have ordered Colonel Leonard to support him, if necessary.

N. P. BANKS. Major-General McCLELLAN, Commander-in-Chief.

report, NP Banks to S Williams, 18 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 397]

FREDERICK, MD., December 18, 1861. Colonel Leonard reports, at 12 m., rebels still in position at Falling Waters. Thinks they intend to cover attack on Dam No. 5, where, under cover of guns, they began to cut away, but were driven back with loss of life. Now skirmishing across river. Jackson in command.

N. P. BANKS Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant-General.

order, NP Banks to Col Kenly, 18 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 397]

FREDERICK, MD., December 18, 1861. SIR: Information is received from various sources, believed to be reliable, that the enemy contemplates an attack upon Dam No. 4 or No. 5, with a view to the destruction of the canal. You will march your regiment with all expedition to one or the other of these localities, as necessity may require or as the movements of the enemy may dictate, and resist at all hazards the destruction of the dam or any efforts to cross the river. Your long service at these posts will render you familiar with the duties required of you. If the presence of the enemy at Sharpsburg or at Dam No. 4 demands your attention, you will take your post there, assuming command of the forces at that point. If the enemy is above, co-operate earnestly with Colonel Leonard to defeat all his plans. Much must be left to your discretion, your energy, and vigilance. Report progress of affairs constantly. If re-enforcements are wanted, they will be sent.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

N. P. BANKS, Major-General, Commanding Division. Colonel KENLY, Commanding First Maryland Volunteer Regiment.

letter, NP Banks to Col Leonard, 18 Dec 61 11.00

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 397]

FREDERICK, MD., December 18, 1861--11 o'clock. Your dispatch of 6.30 duly received. Do you need more men? Let us hear from you often.

Do not allow your attention to be drawn altogether from General Kelley by the movement in your front. It may be a feint.

N. P. BANKS, Major-General, Commanding Division. Colonel LEONARD, Williamsport.

letter, NP Banks to Williams, 18 Dec 61, 12 m

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 398]

FREDERICK, MD., December 18, 1861--12 m. Colonel Leonard reported last night and again this morning at 6.30 a threatened attack on Dam No. 5 by Jackson in force with boats. He thinks he is strong enough to protect it.

Having cautioned him not to withdraw attention from position by General Kelley, as this may be cover to other movements. [I] do not leave Frederick on this account.

N. P. BANKS. Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS.

letter, NP Banks to Williams, 18 Dec 61, 10 p.m.

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 398]

FREDERICK, December 18, [1861]--10 p.m. Colonel Leonard reports enemy in position at Falling Waters.

Firing all day, but no loss on our side. Four regiments on the river between Hancock and Shepherdstown, with eight guns. Two regiments and two guns en route to-night. Citizen of Baltimore from Richmond reports that Richmond paper Saturday stated that orders had been given for destruction of canal, thinking it essential to Washington. Perfect quiet at other points.

N. P. BANKS. Brigadier-General WILLIAMS.

letter, NP Banks to Williams, 19 Dec 61, 10.00

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 398]

FREDERICK, December 19, 1861--10 o'clock. Enemy began cannonading Dam No. 5 this morning. No damage. They have not appeared at Dam No. 4. They commenced shelling our camp at Point of Rocks this morning, but were driven back at once. Force probably from Leesburg. Nothing important occurred during the night.


letter, NP Banks to Williams, 19 Dec 61, 6 p.m.

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 398]

FREDERICK, MD., December 19, 1861--6 p.m. Heavy firing most of the day at Dam No. 5. Enemy driven from the dam. Several killed. Skirmishing at Falling Waters, opposite Williamsport. No loss reported on our side. No serious impression made upon the dam.

Thirty-ninth Illinois guarding the river at Hancock, under Kelley; all quiet, and at Romney at last advices. Captain Best went up to-day for direction of artillery.


letter, NP Banks to Williams, 20 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 398]

FREDERICK, MD., December 20, [1861.] Three o'clock p. m. enemy withdrawn from Dam No. 5. All quiet there. Mill burnt by our men, who crossed over and returned with lot blankets, intrenching tools, &c.; dam but little injured; will be repaired at once. At Falling Waters enemy's camp shelled last night, but few seen this morning; it is believed they have retired.

N. P. BANKS Major-General, Commanding Division. General WILLIAMS.

letter, NP Banks to Williams, 20 Dec 61, 8.30 p.m.

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 399]

FREDERICK, MD., December 20, 1861--8.30 p.m. All quiet on the line of the river at Harper's Ferry, and also at Williamsport and above. Slight skirmishing at Little Georgetown. No artillery to-day. Six guns concentrated at Williamsport; ample protection for the dams. Fifth Connecticut at Hancock. No news there from General Kelley. One prisoner taken last night. Two deserters from rebels are in custody; they report Jackson's force 15,000. Enemy appears to have withdrawn.

General Hamilton goes up to-morrow.

N. P. BANKS, Major-General, Commanding Division. General WILLIAMS.

letter, Banks to Leonard, 20 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 399]

HEADQUARTERS DIVISION, FREDERICK, MD., December 20, 1861. SIR: I received to-night your dispatch of 5 p.m. and the several telegrams and reports [footnote in OR: "Not found."] made since the enemy appeared on the river, and am very much gratified with all that has been done and the results thus far accomplished. So far as I know of events transpiring under your command, your course has entire approval. With reference to possible ulterior movements I have directed General Hamilton to visit Williamsport and other points on the river. He will consult with you, and, if necessary to his purpose, assume command while on the river. You will please aid him in his movements as far as is in your power, and oblige, yours, very truly,

N. P. BANKS, Major-General, Commanding Division. Col. S. H. LEONARD, Commanding at Williamsport and Upper Potomac.

letter, Banks to R B Marcy, 22 Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 page 399]

HEADQUARTERS BANKS' DIVISION, December 22, 1861. SIR: Telegram from Colonel Leonard states as follows:


Canal-boats running to-day both ways. Two guns were brought to Little Georgetown and some infantry appeared this morning. A few shots been exchanged [sic]. The Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania have moved to Dam 4. I hear no rebels have been there yet. From Falling Waters the rebels have moved up towards Dam 5, but a few pickets left there (F. W.). Captain Best has gone to Dam 5.

Respectfully submitted.

N. P. BANKS, Major-General, Commanding. Brig. Gen. R. B. MARCY.

extract from "Records of Events", Banks' Division, Dec 61

[source: Official reports series I volume 5 pages 399-400]

Extract from "Record of Events" return of Banks' Division, Army of the Potomac, for December, 1861.

On the 18th, having received information that General Jackson threatened Williamsport, the Fifth Connecticut Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsbury commanding; the Twenty-Ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Murphy commanding; the First Maryland Volunteers, Colonel Kenly commanding; Company F, Fourth Artillery, Capt. C. L. Best commanding, and two companies of Maryland cavalry, were ordered to march [from Frederick, Md.] to Williamsport, to report to Colonel Leonard, commanding there. These troops made a quick march to that place, and were engaged in defending Dams Nos. 4 and 5 for some days. There was some sharp-shooting, but with little loss on either side, the enemy at last falling back. During the continuance of the contest the Fifth Connecticut Volunteers and a portion of Best's battery, together with the Thirty-Ninth Illinois Volunteers, were sent to Hancock. The Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers and the Fifth Connecticut Volunteers were, after the danger had subsided, recalled to their former quarters near this city, and Captain Matthews' Pennsylvania battery was ordered to Hancock to relieve Best's battery, which then returned to their camp, near the Second Brigade. During the continuance of the enemy's attack all the companies of Lamon's brigade were ordered by the commanding general to join General Kelley, which order was issued anew from these headquarters to Colonel Leonard at Williamsport, and the troops sent on to Hancock.

'From Gen Banks' command', [Philadelphia Pennsylvania] Public Ledger Wednesday, 25 December 1861, page 1

'From Gen Banks' command' ['From Gen Banks' Command', [Philadelphia PA] Public Ledger Wednesday, 25 December 1861, page 1] [transcribed 19 July 2014, from GenealogyBank] [parts of this were hard to read; I've noted only the conjectures of which I was not confident]

From Gen Banks' Command WILLIAMSPORT, Dec 21--From personal observation, your correspondent is convinced that the rebel troops which have been threatening this point were not, at the utmost extent, over 7,000 in number, and not over four pieces of artillery have been seen here [?] within the past week. The militia, which might have numbered 150 [??] refused from the first to cross the river, and on two occasions, would not approach nearer than a mile.

The mill owned by the Colstons [?], at the south end of Dam No. 5, was set on fire on Thursday night by Capt. Hampton of the Pittsburg Light battery attached to the First Virginia Regiment and six men, volunteers who went over in three skiffs. They found in the mill besides the articles before mentioned, several shells, which were probably to have been sent over the next day.

On Friday, the elegant brick residence of the Colstons, situated a hundred yards from the mill, was seen to be on fire, but a party of the First Virginia went over and extinguished it, after which they ransacked the outbuildings and brought off a considerable amount of plunder, such as overcoats [?], pocket [?] ropes, leggings[,] axes[,] besides a supply of poultry.

The rebels, excepting a few solitary sentinels posted on the distant hills, were not seen at this point until half-past three PM, when they brought in sight their 12-pound Parrot gun, and threw a few shells towards the camp of the First Maryland, which had succeeded the Fifth Connecticut, then en route for Hancock. A 10-pound Parrot gun of Matthews' (Pa) battery, soon drove them out of sight. There was no loss on our side, and probably but slight loss on the other, owing to the safe distance at which their gun was stationed.

While these things were in progress, a troop of rebel cavalry made their appearance opposite Williamsport, about one mile from the river. They remained in full view for several hours, going through a drill for the benefit of the spectators.

About noon a regiment of calvary [sic] and another of infantry, made their appearance near the ford at the Four Locks, two miles above dam No. 5, but not liking the appearance of Col Kenly's preparations, they subsequently withdrew.

In the afternoon, intelligence reached Colonel Leonard that the main body of the enemy were, with their wagons and boats, concentrating near Falling Waters, five miles from Dam 5, on the Virginia side, but, owing to the curve of the river, 15 [?] miles between these points on our side. Col. Leonard immediately reinforced his pickets at the former point, keeping a section of a battery and the 29th [?] Pennsylvania as a reserve A few shells were exchanged, and the enemy retreated, encamping out of sight, beyond the range of our Parrott guns.

Intelligence, yesterday, from the other side, goes to show that the rebel commander, being foiled in all his attempts, withdrew his forces that morning towards Martinsburg, leaving only three or four companies as pickets but not taking away his wagons and boats. All was comparatively quiet during the entire day.

... WILLIAMSPORT, Dec. 21--This morning a man, named J B. Wharton, residing at Clear Spring, approached one of the river pickets and offered him $25 to carry a despatch to the other side. The soldier made the fact known to Col. Leonard, who had him arrested, but not until he had destroyed the despatch. He is connected by marriage with ex-senator Mason, now at Fort Warren. Col. Leonard holds him as a spy.

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