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150 Years Ago: Monday, July 15, 1861

Though Virginians had moved very quickly back in May to secure Harpers Ferry, today forces retreat and head south. But before doing so, they confiscate what they can from the armory and burn the buildings to the ground.

Positioned at the mouth of the Rappahannock River in Virginia is the USS Mount Vernon, an old civilian steamer that has been converted for use in the U.S. Navy. Captain Oliver S. Glisson sends a letter to the commander of the North Atlantic Squadron in which he writes about slaves looking to escape to protection behind Union lines.

“I have to report, that this morning at daylight we observed a boat adrift near Stingray Light House and soon after discovered a man in the Light House. We manned a boat, armed her, and sent her with an officer to pick up the boat, and to ascertain who was in the Light House.

At 8h30m the boat returned bringing with her six Negroes who had deserted from the shore during the night and taken shelter in the Light House casting their boat adrift to avoid detection.

I have rationed these Negroes on board of this Vessel, until I receive orders from you as to their disposal.

They appear to be much frightened and state that the people on shore are about arming the Negroes with the intention of placing them in the front of Battle. Their taking this course has caused much excitement amongst the Negro population, who are deserting in every direction. Two other boats made their escape last night in the hope of being picked up by some Vessel passing in the Bay.”

Daily Civil War Calendar

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