On June 3, 1861, while visiting relatives in Montgomery County, Pvt. Manuel C. Causten, District of Columbia Volunteers, was kidnapped by a raiding party from Virginia, and became the first Union prisoner of the eastern theater of the war. Causten’s story is followed by that of Benjamin Jackson Cross, the brother-in-law who betrayed him.
District of Columbia militia at the United States Capitol, May 13, 1861 (Library of Congress)
On or about May 8, 1861, Manuel Carvallo Causten––called Tom by his family––had eloped with Catherine Isadore Homiller, his neighbor’s daughter. Causten’s father had a summerhouse above Georgetown at Weston, and Charles Homiller was a prosperous member of the Georgetown Heights syndicate of master butchers. The couple may have met in summer, when both families attended services at St. Alban’s Church. (B.F. Fisher Correspondence, Carlisle Military History Institute; J. Willard Brown. The Signal Corps, USA, 1861-1865; National Intelligencer, March 22, 1861; April 18, 1865; “Rambler” (George C. Rounds), Evening Star, January 5, 1913)
Shortly after their elopement, Causten and his bride went to visit her sister Lavinia and her brother-in-law, Benjamin Jackson Cross, at Seneca Mills, Maryland, overlooking the Potomac. A party of Virginians crossed the river, seized Causten, and took him back with them. The kidnaping was apparently a reprisal for Fairfax Cavalry taken prisoner by two companies of the D.C. Militia, the Anderson Rifles, and the President’s Mounted Guard on May 23-24 .
Private M.C. Caustin, Capt. Owen’s Company, (President’s Mounted Guard), D.C. Volunteers, whose wife lives near Seneca, Maryland, twenty-two miles above Georgetown, went to visit her night before last, and was taken prisoner by secession troops, who crossed from the Virginia shore in a boat. Where he was taken to is unknown, but it is supposed he was carried to Manassas Junction, where the Confederates have a considerable force. His company are in a great rage, and suspect Caustin is a victim to treachery. The Mounted Guard took an active part in the late advance on Virginia and the occupation of Alexandria by the Federal forces [May 24, 1861], having been selected by reason of their familiarity with the different localities on that side of the river, and the Confederates have offered a reward of five hundred dollars for any member thereof taken dead or alive, it is said. (Evening Star, June 5, 1861)
Just prior to the outbreak of hostilities Causten’s unit had served in Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural security detail. “President’s Mounted Guard, Capt. Owen, Lieuts. Martin, Essex, and Benter, and fifty-five men. This company, together with the Georgetown Cavalry Company, Capt. Stuart, was assigned the special duty of flanking the carriages of the President and suite on the march from Willard’s to the scene of the inaugural ceremonies.” (Star, March 4, 1861)
During the occupation of Arlington Heights and Alexandria (May 23-24, 1861), a detachment of the President’s Mounted Guards crossed the Aqueduct Bridge from Georgetown, and another crossed Long Bridge. The latter participated in the capture, at John Cook’s negro pen near Alexandria, of 36 men of the Fairfax Cavalry, or Chesterfield Troop (Capt. Mottrom Dulaney Ball): the first uniformed Confederate prisoners of the Civil War. (Elden E. Billings, “Military Activities in Washington in 1861”; James H. Whyte, “Divided Loyalties in Washington during the Civil War”; and Journal of the Columbia Historical Society 1960-1962; both quoting Washington DC 63rd Council, 1865-6.)
Arrest of Prisoners.––A picket guard of the Anderson Rifles on Thursday night arrested two members of the Fairfax Cavalry, Capt. M.D. Ball, named, respectively, Ball and Kirby. A man named Smidt, belonging to the same corps, was arrested by Lieut. Lipscomb, of the Rifles, a little later. (National Republican, May 25, 1861, p.3)
The Uniform of this corps, worn by the prisoners taken by the Anderson Rifles, consists of a lead-colored flannel jacket trimmed with black, and large white bone buttons, pants of the gray country cloth, with a yellow cord down the sides. (National Republican, May 25, 1861, p.3)
Arrest of Prisoners.––Henry Nevitt and David Porter were arrested on the train stopped by the President’s Mounted Guard, and brought into the city. They were examined by military authorities, and committed to jail. Porter is well known to our citizens, having formerly worked in the navy yard. He is the same person who was shot in a melee on Four and-a-half street, some years since.
James W. Quinton, a man of about sixty years of age, was arrested, in company with a youth named Cluite, in the neighborhood of Ball’s Cross Roads, by a squad of the President’s Mounted Guard. When arrested they were in full uniform, and were armed with old fashioned carbines, sabres, and navy revolvers, and were out as picket guards. When brought before Gen. Mansfield, he stated that he was glad he had been taken prisoner by the United states, as he had been compelled to join the secession movement, and that he was now willing to fight against the South. He was committed to jail, to await the action of the authorities. (National Republican, May 25, 1861, p.3)
Arrival of Prisoners.––About the same time the Zouaves were landed [in Alexandria], Capt. Owen [President’s Mounted Guard], with a section of artillery from the West Point battery and a squad of his own men, went to the negro pen of John Cook, rear the jail, and surprised a company of cavalry, who were asleep.
The following is a list of these prisoners, which were brought to the navy yard yesterday by the steamer Baltimore.
Captain M.D. Ball, Lieutenant Grigsby, Privates Ball, Monroe, Harrison, Smith, Uterback, Spriggs, Burk, Gean, Nelson, Burk, Heath, Kirby, Ball, Nelson, Kensalar, Warfield, Bell, Thompson, Clomp, Walcott, Stalcup, Moore, Smith, Ball, Butler, Ford, Alexander, Grigsbee, Cooksey, Reed, Falkland, Bell, Radcliff, and Williams.
They were placed in charge of Commander Dahlgren at the Washington navy yard, who will hold them until the Government shall make some provision for their retention or release. All the men have depressed countenances, and seem fully to realize their peculiar and painful position. (National Republican, May 25, 1861, p.3)
The Prisoners At The Navy Yard.––The following letter of thanks, signed by the Fairfax Cavalry company captured in Alexandria at the time of the taking of that city, has been handed by them to Captain Woods:
Steamer Powhatan, Navy Yard
Washington, June 6, 1861.
We, the undersigned, now held by the United States as prisoners, desire to express to D.C. Woods, U.S.A., (acting captain of our boat) our grateful appreciation of the kindness he has shown us. We hope that in his future career in life, those with whom he may come in contact may render his “times” as agreeable as he has made our sojourn with him. “May his shadow never grow less.”
Signed by M. Dulany Ball, Captain U.S.A., I.M. Grigsby, Lieutenant C.S.A.; James W. Nelson, W.E. Ford, R.D. Warfield, R. Williams, J.B. Monroe, W.H Kirby, J.C Kincherton, J.W. Cooksey, W.B. Butler, Edwin Reid, J.L. Speaks, E.F. Thomson, J.E. Burke, J.F. Nelson, A. Tennent, F.M. Smith, John Clump, Summerfield Ball, John H. Ball, Basil Alexander, Alexander M. Smith. (National Republican, June 8, 1861, p.3)
Discharged.––John T. Ball and G.F. Kirby, the young men, members of the Fairfax Cavalry, who were captured by the picket guards at the chain bridge, the night before the taking of Alexandria, took the oath on Saturday, and were discharged from custody.
(National Republican, June 10, 1861, p.3)
On June 3, 1861, while visiting relatives in Montgomery County, Manuel C. Causten, a private in Capt. Owen’s Company (President’s Mounted Guards), was kidnapped by a raiding party from Virginia, apparently in reprisal for the Confederate prisoners taken May 23-24.
The Prisoner.––The last heard of Dr. M.C. Causten, of Capt. Owens’ Mounted Guard, who was captured by the secessionists near the Point of Rocks, he was at Manassas Junction––probably en route to Richmond to be imprisoned. (Evening Star, June 7, 1861)
Letter from Mr. Causten Somewhere in Dixie.––The following letter, received in this city from Mr. Causten, of the President’s Mounted Guard, has no locale mentioned, and otherwise appears to have been written under the supervision of his captors:
June 9, 1861
My Dear Father: You will be much surprised, no doubt, to learn that I have been taken prisoner by the southern forces, and with no prospect for the present of joining you all again in the old and happy family circle, in which I was wont to spend so many pleasant hours. I was taken on the first of this month, near Darnestown, in Montgomery county, Md. I have been treated very kindly by every one ever since I have been a prisoner, but as to what disposal may be made of me and my fellow prisoners will, I dare say, depend entirely upon the action of the Federal Government.
I do not suppose that it will be possible to negotiate an exchange of prisoners until after the United States Congress has taken such steps as it may think proper with regard to the Confederacy. If, however, such exchange can be made, nothing would be more gratifying to we poor fellows here in confinement. I am enabled to write this hasty scrawl through the kindness of Col. Strange, who has treated us all with the kindness and humanity of a Christian and a soldier. I enclose herewith a note from my three fellow-prisoners, which they, as well as myself, would be much obliged should you deliver it.
With much love to all of the girls, I remain, dear father, your affectionate son, Manuel C. Causten
(Evening Star, July 1, 1861)
The President’s Mounted Guards, whose enlistment was for three months, were mustered out at the Columbian Armory, on July 19, 1861.
By 1862 , Manuel C. Causten was in a prison in Salisbury, North Carolina. He had received a commission as a lieutenant in the 19th US Infantry while still in enemy hands, to permit his exchange for a Confederate officer of equal rank.
Salisbury, N. C., April 22, 1862.
General John H. Winder, Richmond, Va.
A letter from my father received on the 8th instant, in which he makes some suggestions in regard to my exchange, induces me to write to you. I was captured on the 1st day of June last and was the first prisoner taken and held by the Confederate Government. At the time of my capture I was a private soldier, but since that time have been appointed to a lieutenancy. My father after mentioning this circumstance says:
If you would apply through the chief officer having you in charge for leave to come here (to Washington) on a parole of say thirty days you could readily obtain an exchange of a prisoner of equal rank.
Therefore if there be no objection to such a parole being granted and you will select a C. S. officer now held by the United States as a prisoner of war with the same rank as myself I am confident the exchange will be arranged to the satisfaction of all parties.
Hoping to have an early reply,
I remain, general, your obedient, humble servant,
Manuel C. Causten,
First Lieutenant, Nineteenth U. S. Infantry.
(O.R. Series II, Vol. III., p.856)
As his letter makes clear, Manuel C. Causten understood himself to be “the first prisoner taken and held by the Confederate Government”; this would also have been the understanding his captors.
Strictly speaking, however, Causten was only the first Union prisoner of the eastern theater of the war. The first Union prisoners of the Civil War were actually seven companies of the Eighth U. S. Infantry in Texas, obliged by superior numbers to surrender without a shot, in April and May of 1861. ( The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series II, Vol. III., p.856; Ser.I, Vol.1, pp. 12, 40, 52, 89-90; Ser.I, Vol.1, Ch.VII-Reports, Report No.17, p.567)
In June of 1862 Lt. Causten came home.From July, 1862 to June, 1863, while convalescing, he served as a recruiter, after which he rejoined his regiment.
In September, 1863 Lt. Causten was captured at Chickamauga. (His obituary says Second Bull Run, but that appears to be an error.)
During this time the Union’s Signal Camp of Instruction had been established on the heights overlooking Georgetown, across the road from his father’s country house. Lieutenant Benjamin F. Fisher, a Pennsylvanian detailed to the Signal Corps, was one of those who came to consider Weston a home away from home. Fisher became engaged to Manuel Causten’s sister Alice in April 1862, and went to the front.
Captured near Chancellorsville in 1863, and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond, Lt. Fisher was soon joined by none other than Lt. Causten.
Libby Prison, Richmond
When 109 prisoners tunneled out of Libby in 1864, Fisher and Causten escaped together. Causten couldn’t continue, and gave himself up while Fisher was sleeping. Fisher evaded searchers for eleven days, and found his way to Union lines. He got a promotion and thirty days leave, and promptly married Alice.
Causten, now a prisoner for a third time, was sent to prison at Camp Oglethorpe, in Macon, Georgia, and then on to Columbia Military Prison, South Carolina. He returned to Washington from his third imprisonment in December, 1864, presumably by exchange of prisoners. He resigned his commission in February, 1865, due to illness contracted while imprisoned.
After the war, Manuel Causten lived in Georgetown (65 1st (N) Street), held a post in the Treasury, and was a partner in the firm of Ritchie & Causten, druggists.
He died March 30, 1878. Although he was only 37 when he died, his obituary is silent regarding the cause of death:
Death of Dr. M.C. Causten.––Dr. Manuel C. Causten, well-known throughout the District of Columbia, died yesterday afternoon at No. 65 1st street, in the 37th year of his age. The deceased was a son of the late James H. Causten, who for so many years was the agent here in the presentation of the French spoliation claims. The deceased married young. At the commencement of the late war he was a member of the President’s Mounted Guard—a cavalry company then under the command of the late Col. S.W. Owen—and entered on the three months campaign. Going to see some of his relatives near the Great Falls, some one betrayed him and he was captured by a small band of confederates. He was taken to Richmond and held as a prisoner for over a year. On being exchanged, and when he recovered his health, he was commissioned by President Lincoln as a lieutenant in the regular infantry and was soon promoted to a captaincy, but in the second battle of Bull Run he was again captured and taken prisoner, and for over a year he was in Richmond as a prisoner of war, and was then sent to the Salisbury, N.C. prison for exchange. On again being exchanged, having spent in four years over two years as a prisoner, he resigned his commission. For several years he was one of the firm of Ritchie and Causten, druggists, here, but for some time past he has been a clerk in the Second Auditor’s office. Mr. Causten was a man of fine education, being the master of several foreign languages. He was very popular among his acquaintances. He was a Past Master of George C. Whiting Lodge, No. 2, F.A.A.M.; a member of Potomac R.A. Chapter, No. 8; Potomac Commandery, No.3, K.T., and also of Harmony Lodge, Knights of Pythias. He leaves a wife and three children. His funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon, and his remains will be interred at the Congressional cemetery.
(Evening Star, April 1, 1878, p.6)
City News In Brief.––“Dr. Manuel C. Causten, whose death at his residence in Georgetown has been noted, was a gentleman well known for his scholarly attainments and genial disposition. He was the son of the late James H. Causten, and served as a Captain in the regular army for four years during the late war. At the time of his death he was a clerk in the second auditor’s office. He leaves a wife and three children. He will be buried this afternoon in the Congressional burying ground.” (Washington Post, April 2, 1878, p.4)
Georgetown Gossip.––“Mrs. Causten, widow of the late Dr. Manuel C. Causten, lies dangerously ill at her residence on First Street.” (Washington Post, April 17, 1878, p.4)
In the 1880 census the widowed Isadora Caustine is listed in the Georgetown Heights house of her parents, with three children: Eliza, born circa 1863; Daisy, born circa 1865; and James, born circa 1868.
Causten. Monday, February 16, 1885, Isidora C., widow of the late Manuel C. Causten, aged forty. Funeral will take place from her late residence, 710 Tenth street northwest, Wednesday, February 18, at 2:30 p.m. Friends and relatives are invited to attend.
Manuel C. Causten and Isadore C. Causten are buried at Congressional Cemetery, in the Causten family vault.
Benjamin Jackson Cross
Benjamin Jackson Cross, Causten’s brother-in-law, admitted that he had betrayed his brother-in-law, and spent more than eight months as a prisoner of state. His repentance was not of long duration.
Washington, July 25th 1861
Comdg. Dept. of Washington
Mr. Benjamin Jackson Cross of Seneca Mills, Montgomery County, Maryland wishes to be permitted to come to Washington and take the oath of allegiance to the Government. Mr. Cross is the person who is reported to have betrayed his brother-in-law, Mr. Causten, and procured his arrest, but this he deserves having done unintentionally being intoxicated at the time, and says the information of the presence of Mr. Causten at his house, was procured from him by false means during his intoxication: and that he has visited his brother-in-law Causten at the City of Richmond [and] done his best to secure his release, and failing furnished him funds to secure any little comfort he may want. Mr. Cross sincerely regrets his course, and is willing and anxious to take the oath of allegiance to the Government, being perfectly aware of its binding effect.
In support of the above request, I will state that during my recent camp at Seneca Mills, the family of Mr. Cross was exceedingly kind to myself and my men; furnished us with many little necessary articles otherwise not obtained; and that his family consisted of his wife, three young children, his sister and sister-in-law, who are entirely without a protector in his absence.
I have the honor to be
Your most Obt. Servant
Late MajComdg. 2nd Bat D.C.V.
(General Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Office, Washington, DC, National Archives)
HDQRS. CITY GUARD, PROVOST-MARSHAL’S OFFICE,
Washington, D. C., December 6, 1861.
Brig. Gen. A. PORTER, Provost-Marshal.
DEAR SIR: In accordance with a request of the Secretary of State just made of you to report the facts and circumstances in the case of Benjamin J. Cross, a prisoner confined in the Old Capitol Building, I have the honor to report as follows:
I find on the in my office a letter addressed to yourself; of which the following is a copy and which seems to be the initiation of the case:
Headquarters Corps of Observation,
Poolesville, Md., October 10, 1861.
Brig. Gen. A. PORTER,
Army of the Potomac,
Washington, D. C.
General: I forward to you as a prisoner Mr. [B.] Jackson Cross who was this morning arrested by the Thirty-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers at Seneca. Mr. Cross is brother-in-law of Doctor Causten, a member of the President’s Mounted Guard lately in the service of the United States from the District of Columbia, who was taken prisoner in his own house near Seneca in May last by Virginia troops said to have been led there by this Mr. Cross, Lieut. Col. Samuel [W.] Owen, of the Kentucky (Pennsylvania] Cavalry (Colonel Averell), was captain of the company and can give testimony or information in the case. Mr. Causten, notary public on P street near Fifteenth, can also give information. Young Mr. Causten yet remains a prisoner in the hands of the rebels by the act as it is alleged of this Mr. Cross.
I am, general, your most obedient servant,
Chas. P. Stone,
Washington, D. C., October 11, 1861.
I believe the facts herein stated to be true.
S. W. OWEN,
Lieutenant-Colonel Kentucky [Pennsylvania] Cavalry.
On the 7th of November I detailed one of my operatives to further investigate the matter. He learned from two nieces of young Causten at the residence of their grandfather on F street, near Fifteenth, that their uncle, the Doctor Causten above mentioned, was a brother-in-law of Cross; that they had understood that on the day before their uncle’s arrest he went to the house of Cross at his (Cross’) invitation, where he was captured by Virginia troops said to have been guided there by Cross. They further stated that they had been informed that their uncle was then a prisoner at Raleigh, N. C.; that Lieutenant-Colonel Owen knew more of the matter, &c.
On the 8th of November the same operative visited the camp of the Kentucky [Pennsylvania] cavalry on the Virginia side of the Potomac for the purpose of examining Lieutenant-Colonel Owen on the subject. Colonel Owen stated that Causten, the man who it was alleged had been betrayed to the rebels by Cross, was a member of the President’s Mounted Guard of which he (Owen) was captain and which was in the service of the United States; that some time in May last Causten went to the house of Cross in Seneca, Md., to see his wife who was on a visit there, she being a sister of Mrs. Cross; that while he was there an officer of the Virginia army by the name of White came with a detachment of rebel soldiers and took him prisoner, carrying him to Virginia where he has been ever since; that he (Owen) went with the District volunteers to the vicinity of Seneca, near Edwards Ferry, a short time after the capture of Causten and remained there four or five weeks; that while there he had the house of Cross watched all the time and Cross never came to it; that on inquiry he learned that on the day of Causten’s capture Cross was seen to go over the river at Edwards Ferry into Virginia; that a short time afterward White with his squad of men crossed over from Virginia at the ferry, proceeded straight to Cross’ house, captured Causten and returned with him into Virginia; that it was the belief of all the persons in the vicinity who were cognizant of the affair that Cross betrayed Causten into the hands of the enemy; that Cross never came back from Virginia until about the time of his arrest; that General Stone had kept a watch on the place and had set several traps to catch White and Cross, but did not succeed while he (Owen) was in the vicinity.
From a letter of James H. Causten, of this city, on file in my office dated December 5, 1861, I learned further that his son, Manuel C. Causten, the above-mentioned captive of the rebels, is now a prisoner in Raleigh, N. C.; that a few days after his capture the same or some other rebel party forcibly took from the stable at the same place his horse and equipments and still retain the same; that since the capture of his son he has on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, been appointed a first lieutenant in the new Nineteenth Regiment of the U. S. Army, his commission as such as the father understands now awaiting his release from the rebels.
I further learn from refugee Union parties from the vicinity of Dranesville, Va., opposite Edwards Ferry, that Jack Cross has always had the distinguished credit in that neighborhood of having betrayed his own brother-in-law (Causten) from his Maryland home into the hands of the rebels, and that Jack has always been a great crony of the Virginia rebels, freely and fully enjoying their hospitality until their pressing invitations to carry one of their muskets and if necessary stop the balls of the Federal muskets-so annoyed him and conflicted with his idea of personal safety that he again sought the quietude and felicity of his Federal-protected fireside with what result the foregoing report discloses.
I also understand from parties from the vicinity of Seneca, Md., that at the time of the capture of Causten an ill feeling existed against him on the part of Cross (growing out of family affairs) which it was thought led to the treacherous and disloyal conduct of the latter.
Unless Benjamin Jackson Cross (as I understand his name to be) can satisfactorily explain the foregoing charges against him-where he was on the day of Causten’s capture, &c. I submit that there is but one true course for the Government to pursue and that is to hold Cross if not as a hostage for the return of Causten and his property (and it is not likely that the rebels would entertain such a proposition) at least until Causten returns or the war is at an end. While it is very hard for Cross to be thus separated from his wife and children it is no less a hardship for Causten separated from his young wife to be pining in a Southern prison while the Government is in need of his services in camp and in the field.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. J. ALLEN.
(O.R., Ser. II, Vol. 2, pp.172-174)
A list of prisoners confined in the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D.C., March 17, 1862, includes: B.J. Cross. Date of arrest: October 10, 1861. Nature of offense: giving aid and information to the rebels. (O.R., Ser. II, Vol. 2, p.271)
Memoranda of Various Political Arrests-From Record Book, U. S. Department of State, “Arrests for Disloyalty.”
This man [Benjamin J. Cross] was arrested on the 10th day of October, 1861, at or near his residence at Seneca, Md., by the Thirty-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers and forwarded by General Stone to the provost-marshal at Washington. Cross was charged with having betrayed Dr. Causten, a member of a military company called the President’s Mounted Guard in the service of the United States, to the rebels in May last, Causten being his brother-in-law and then at his house at Seneca. From a report of E. J. Allen forwarded by General Porter, provost-marshal, it appears on the testimony of Lieutenant-Colonel Owen of the Kentucky [Pennsylvania] cavalry, that on the day that Causten was captured in May, 1861, Cross went over the river into Virginia and soon after the Virginia troops came over, proceeded directly to Cross’ house and took Causten captive and carried him to Virginia, and that Cross did not return to his residence till about the time he was arrested. Said report also shows on the authority of Union refugees from the vicinity of Dranesville, Va., opposite Edwards Ferry, that Cross has always had the credit in that neighborhood of having betrayed his brother-in-law (Causten) into the hands of the rebels and that he has always been a great crony of the Virginia rebels till they became very urgent that he should go into military service when he returned to his home and was arrested. It is also alleged on the authority of parties from the vicinity of Seneca that at the time of the capture of Causten an ill-feeling existed against him on the part of Cross growing out of family affairs which it was thought led to the treacherous and disloyal conduct of the latter. The said Cross was confined in the Old Capitol Prison at Washington where he remained February 15, 1862, when he was transferred to the charge of the War Department pursuant to the order of that Department of the preceding day.
(O.R., Ser. II, Vol. 2, p.308
List of prisoners examined by the commission relating to political prisoners and how disposed of.
Cross, Benjamin J., arrested Oct. 10, 1861, Seneca, Md.
Charge: Procuring the arrest of Doctor Causten by the insurgents.
[No action taken.]
(N.D., but marked on back: “March 28, 1862”; O.R., Ser. II, Vol. 2, p.277)
Augusta Heath Morris, a state prisoner paroled to the Confederacy on or about June 2, 1862 (O.R.,Ser. 2, Vol.2, pp.1346-1351) was asked to forward a request by Benjamin Jackson Cross that his brother-in-law be exchanged.
Old Capitol Prison. (Received July 1, 1862.)
My Dear Mrs. Morris: Will you be kind enough to present the statement which I have made below of Mr. Cross’ case to the Confederate Government? Poor fellow, he has been here a long time and he wishes that you would interest yourself for him. He is a young man and a right good fellow. Please answer my last.
B. J. Cross, of Montgomery County, Md., was arrested 9th of October, 1861, charged with having his brother-in-law, M. C. Causten, of Washington City, a Federal soldier, arrested in June, 1861, by the Confederate soldiers and imprisoned at Raleigh, N. C. The Federal Government state that they hold Mr. Cross as a hostage for his brother-in-law and will release him on condition that M. C. Causten is exchanged for any Confederate soldier. Mr. Cross desires to call the attention of the Confederate Government to the matter, as by the release of Mr. Causten they will secure a Confederate soldier and also effect his own release.
(O.R., Ser. II, Vol. 2, pp.172-174)
After Lt. Causten had been exchanged, in June of 1862, Benjamin Jackson Cross was allowed to go home. But just a year later, Benjamin J.Cross again came to the attention of the authorities. Reuben Rowzee, lock keeper at Lock 23 (now Violette’s Lock) was Cross’s closest neighbor (1860 census); and Rowser’s Ford, where the Virginian Rowzees were accustomed to cross the river, was a short distance from Cross’s farm.
Rowser’s Ford of the Potomac River, near Lock No.23 of the C&O Canal
On June 27, 1863, a “citizen” having previously forded the river to report that the river was fordable, and that there were no Union pickets about, Stuart’s Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac at Rowser’s Ford (O.R. Ser. 1, Vol.27, Pt.2, Ch.39. p.693). Benjamin Jackson Cross, and his brother, Lewis P. Cross (household of Benjamin Cross, 1860 census) were there.
Washington D.C. [July] 19th, 1863
Capt C.B. Todd
Sir, I have the honor to submit the following report of Mr. Thomas H. Evans for your information.
Thomas H. Evans states that he started from Georgetown on or about the 27th of June 1863 on board the canal boat George W. Riggs, Capt. Martin, with a large lot of Shad and Herring and proceeded as far as Seneca Lock, and there stopped, which was about 6 o’clock in the evening of the next day. Mr. Jack Cross came on board while we were in the lock and begged us to stay there, until Mr. Rouser came (who would buy a barrel of whiskey) as he had gone to look for some horses. We then locked through, and tied up on the side next to Mr. Rouser’s house. Mr. Rouser then came on board, and Mr. Cross started and went away. Mr. Rouser then said, he could not buy until Mr. Cross come. We got ready to start again and Mr. Rouser took Mr. Knight (my partner) and went over towards the stables and tried to trade him a horse, for the fish. We then hollowed for Mr. Knight to come on, we were going to start. Rouser then told him that he would take them fish that was in barrels. Mr. Knight then hollowed to us that he had sold the fish, to drop back in the lock, and unload the fish. We wanted Mr. Rouser to pay for the fish so we could go on that night. Mr. Rouser told him he would pay him the next morning. We then dropped back out of the lock, and tied up at the same place as before. The next I seen was Mr. Cross riding up the tow path, and a rebel soldier behind him. Mr. Cross did not stop but went towards home. I made the remark to Mr. Cross here comes a Rebel Soldier, he said “Oh dry up” I said if it ain’t a Rebel Soldier it is a Government spy dressed in Rebel clothes [and] the soldier rode up close to the boat. I walk out and he asked me if I had seen any Rebs about there. I made a reply, that I had seen one, and that was himself, he then asked me if I had seen any Yankees or Blue bells about here. I told him no. He then asked me how long it had been since the boat of soldiers past. I told him I judged that one was about Georgetown and the other about Edward’s Ferry. He then asked me how long the load of Darkies had passed though the lock, I told him about 15 minutes. He then road back, and brought about 50 Rebels and then went up and brought the boat load of Darkies back, they then commenced crossing and crossed all night. An officer then rode down and ordered every body’s boat burned, except James Davises. I then went up the towpath after Mr. Davis you know me and also Mr. Cross in Georgetown and for God Almighty’s sake go up and tell them to save our boats. He said “God damn you and George Cross, and the boat too, it is as much as I can do to save myself.” The Rebels then marched me and a number of others up to Gen Lee’s head quarters then let us go. About half an hour afterwards, he sent for us again and wanted all the boatmen to fall in and go to Gen. Lee’s Hdqtrs. They asked me if I was a boatman I told them yes, they told me to fall in. They asked Mr. cross if he was a boatman he said yes. They told him to fall in. They asked Capt. Martin if he was a boatman, he said yes. He handed them a paper, and they smiled and told him he was all right, and handed him back. Mr. Cross asked Mr. Martin if he could do something for him. Mr. Martin told him that he would Parole him on his honor. Lt. told him it was all right, and hollowed to Mr. Martin if he could do something for me too? He told me he had as much as he could attend to. They then made me fall in with the soldiers, Cross and Mr. Martin went by themselves another way.
(General Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Office, Washington, DC, National Archives)
Headquarter Provost Marshal’s Office, Washington D.C. July 2nd, 1863
Statement of George A. Crouse
Lewis Cross living at Seneca Md. Assisted the Rebels in arresting me. They kept me [in] conversation in company with others at Rouser’s Lock until the rebels came up and arrested us. We were taken prisoner by the rebels, put under Guard. Everything on board the boat destroyed & boat set on afire. The Rebels took my horse also. I was Paroled.
His mark X, George A. Crouse
Statement of Thomas Evans
Lewis Cross has been in the Confederate service, he is now in communication with the Rebels. He kept us at the Lock until the Rebels came up and captured us. They marched me 22miles though the woods almost killing me. I slipped off intent being paroled.
His mark X, Thomas Evans
Statement of John A. Knight
Lewis Cross is a Rebel sympathizer. He induced us to stay at the lock to trade our fish ect. His brother, Jack Cross is a spy for the Rebels. Jack was there and knew [who?] we were and gave the Rebels the information when they came and arrested us. I was let off without being paroled.
John A. Knight
(General Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Office, Washington, DC, National Archives)
Headquarters Provost Marshal Office Washington, D.C. July 2nd 1863
To Capt. Woods
Old Capitol Prison.
You will receive and confine at the prison under your charge until further orders the person of Lewis Cross, charged with aiding the Rebels to arrest 4 Union men and being a Rebel Sympathizer.
By command of Henry B. Todd,
Capt. Provost Marshal-
J.G. Copley, Lt. Adj.
(General Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Office, Washington, DC, National Archives)
In 1864, Charles Homiller bought 160 acres in Seneca from Lavinia and Benjamin J. Cross (Montgomery County deed, October 5, 1864).
In 1870 Benjamin Cross was still farming in Seneca, but his father-in-law owned the farm. The Montgomery County census shows Cross (41), farmer, with no real estate, and only $1,000 in personal worth (as opposed to $9000 in real estate, and $7,400 in personal worth, in 1860).
Primary documentation is from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, and is cited throughout.
Official Records of the War of the Rebellion:
Ser. I, Vol. 30, pp. 314, 323
Ser. I, Vol. 51, pt.2, Supplement, 9-10
Ser. II, Vol. 3, p.856
Ed Hendrickson, “Defending Washington: The District of Columbia Militia, 1861, Washington History, Vol.23, 2011, 37-56
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