Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
					Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

Civil War

Civil War:  African Americans

Free Blacks

Report on Confederate Affairs:

Archy Jenkins Talks to the Union Navy

C. V. Brooks
(Constance Brooks)  

Names on Record:  A Journal Featuring Virginians of African Descent

(Civil War Sailors)

and the

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion 

They are putting two barges and a sloop lashed together, filled with shavings and pitch and with torpedoes, which they intend to set on fire, and when it reaches the fleet it will blow up and destroy the fleet.

 

--Archy Jenkins, USS Agawam, James River, June 1, 1864

 

They all say you haven't sense to make a good torpedo; they reckon on them more than all else besides.  They say that all that they are afraid of, that you have a string of torpedoes all across at Cox's and Trent's reaches and that the river is otherwise obstructed, and that when they come on you will fall back and lead them on over the torpedoes and blow them all up.

 

--Archy Jenkins, USS Agawam, James River, June 1, 1864

       Not all black Virginians bringing information to the Union navy were runaway slaves.  From Deep Bottom on Virginia's James River, the gunboat Hunchback sent three men from Richmond to S. P. Lee, then commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron from the Agawam, also on the James.  It was the U.S. Army's General Benjamin F. Butler who had referred the three free men (one white) to the U.S. Navy, for the newly arrived men had information about Confederate naval affairs.  One of the two African Americans bringing news of the Confederacy was Archy Jenkins, who had been "running on the river five or six years, off and on."

Archy Jenkins 

     Archy Jenkins, a stevedore, left Richmond on Monday, May 30, 1864, when Union forces were attempting to break through to Richmond, the Confederate capital.  Jenkins reports that he "gave a colored man $10" to show him "the batteries, past the [Confederate] pickets."

     Jenkins names ships fitted with mines.  The ORN (Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion), Series II, Vol. 1, which extracts statistical ship data from original Union and Confederate records, corroborates Jenkins's reported estimation of the number of guns on the Confederate vessels, except that the numbers for the Beaufort and the Torpedo are reversed.  For April 30 and November 5, 1864, the ORN notes one (1) gun for the Torpedo and two (2) guns for the Beaufort. 

     S. P. Lee, commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron at the time, considered the Jenkins report reliable and passed it on with other corroborating reports to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.  In the copy of the Jenkin report enclosed in S. P. Lee's letter to Welles, the Drewry is listed.  Although in the James at the time, this ship does not appear in the ORN transcription of Jenkins intelligence. 

Statement of Archy Jenkins, colored, a refugee from Richmond, Va.

 

June 1, 1864.

I am a free man, stevedore. I was employed on the Bonita.  I left Richmond Monday.  I gave a colored man $10 to show me the batteries, past the pickets.  I crawled through the bushes and came down to Hill Carter's place [Shirley Plantation, Charles City County on the James River].

The firing was about 7 miles from Richmond, out toward Boar Swamp; the firing was rapid and heavy.  The mate of the Bonita said Lee was 5 miles from Richmond and Grant about 7 miles.  Opinion is divided as to Grant's getting to Richmond.  They are putting two barges and a sloop lashed together, filled with shavings and pitch and with torpedoes, which they intend to set on fire, and when it reaches the fleet it will blow up and destroy the fleet.  There is a vast quantity of powder in it.   There are six others small steamers--Nansemond, 2 guns; Raleigh, 2 guns; Hampton, 2; Beaufort, 1; Torpedo, 2; Patrick Henry; they said she was too big an object and they would not bring her out.  All are fitted with torpedoes on long poles.  The ironclads: Virginia [not the former Merrimack], about 14 feet; Richmond, about 14 feet; Fredericksburg, about 14 feet, I guess; I don't know exactly.  They were lightened over Warwick Bar.  You can carry with good tide 12 feet.  You can carry about 15 feet good tide over Trent's Reach.

There is a freshet now, a little; there is about 6 or 7 inches more than usual high water.

I don't think they will have any trouble in bringing their ironclads over Trent's Reach; there is plenty of water close over to the left bank.  They must come at high water.  I am no man for steering a boat, but I know where the bars and deep water [are].  I have been running on the river five or six years, off and on.  They all say they know "they can whip you all; they are certain of it."  They believe in their torpedoes in preference to everything.  They all say you haven't sense to make a good torpedo; they reckon on them more than all else besides.  They say that all that they are afraid of, that you have a string of torpedoes all across at Cox's and Trent's reaches, and that the river is otherwise obstructed, and that when they come on you will fall back and lead them on over the torpedoes and blow them all up.  They say that is all they care about.

They are very hard up for provisions at Richmond.  If you took Petersburg "they could not fight another week.  They must give right up." (ORN, Series I, Vol. 10, p. 112)

 


 

To retain researcher C. V. Brooks, write to the following address:

P.O. Box 23827, Washington, DC 20026-3827.

 


 

Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Reports - Union | Tags: Virginia , Washington
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1864, 2002, African American, Army, Benjamin F. Butler, Civil War, DC, Deep Bottom, GE, Haven, Henry, James River (Virginia), Patrick, Petersburg (Virginia), Raleigh (North Carolina), Richmond, The War of the Rebellion (Book), Virginia, Ward, Washington (DC),