The escape of William Independence Rasin from Capitol Prison

Captain William I. Rasin of the 1st Maryland Cavalry Co. E    July 4th, 1841-June 18th 1916. Born  near Still Pond Maryland in Kent County, Rasin was the youngest son of McCall Medford Rasin and Margaret Ann Boyer Rasin.  Rasin lived in Maryland until the death of his father in 1848 and then Rasin and his older brother McCall were sent to live with their uncle Unit Rasin in St. Louis, MO.  William attended school in St. Louis and then moved to Leavenworth, Kansas in 1858 to begin a business career. 

 When war broke out in 1861, Rasin volunteered to serve with Sterling Price  in the State Guard however his unit is not known. After the battle of Lexington September 13th-20th, Rasin decided to head back to Maryland.  Arriving in Maryland he finds out his native state is under martial law. While visiting the Price family at Stoneton near Unionville in Kent County, Maryland, Rasin is arrested February 12th, 1862 by  detectives. From there Rasin was taken in a closed carriage to Elkton, MD and then on to Washington D.C. to be tried as a spy. Convicted by Military Courts as a spy, Rasin who is being held in  Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. is sentenced to be taken to Ft. Warren in Boston, MA for the duration of the war.

While in  Capitol Prison, Rasin’s roomates were Captain Harry Steuart and Rudolph Jenkins and Judson J Jarboe of St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Rasin, Watkins and Steuart became fast friends and were determined to find an escape route.  The three became aware of a rope made from an old manila doormat by a political prisoner (Mansfield Walworth) who was now in solitary confinement.  Using a table knife fashioned into a saw, the three prisoners took turns and in two weeks had sawed through the heavy wooden bars.  After about a month of waiting for the right time to try their escape, they decided on a dark stormy night to make their attempt. Drawing cards to see who would go out the window  first, Rasin drew the high card and the first attempt. After securing the rope, Rasin swung himself out the window and started down the rope hand over hand. The rope suddenly broke and Rasin fell with a loud thud. Fearing they had been exposed and Rasin was dead or injured, Steuart and Watkins pulled the remaining rope up and burned it to destroy the evidence.  However Rasin fell feet first and landed on a wooden cellar door. The loud wind from the storm carried the sound away from the guards. Rasin proceeded to walk towards the guards who were flirting with a young lady. Gathering all his courage, Rasin walked by the guards and gave a salute. Thinking he was an officer they returned the salute.  Rasin hid out in Washington D.C. for three days while the Union Army scoured the city and countryside looking for him.

William Rasin eventually headed to Salisbury, North Carolina to procure enough horses to outfit  his future command. He would be elected Captain of Co. E of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

Published in: on July 4, 2009 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Confederate Senior Grade and Flag Ranked Officers

Maryland contributed 17 officers to the Confederate cause and six did not survive the war. Below is a list of the famous(and some not so famous)Marylanders who went South:

Brig. General James Jay Archer

Brig. General Joseph Lancaster Brent

Maj. General Arnold Elzey (Jones)

Brig. General Bradley Tyler Johnson

Brig. General Lewis Henry Little

Brig. General Mansfield Lovell

Brig. General William Whann Mackall

Brig. General George Hume (Maryland) Steuart jr.

Brig. General Allen E Thomas

Brig General Lloyd Tilghman sr

Maj. General Issac Ridgeway Trimble

Brig. General Robert Charles Tyler

Brig. General Charles Sydney Winder

Brig. General John Henry Winder

Admiral Franklin Buchanan

Admiral Raphael Semmes

Commodore George Nicholas Hollins


My goal in the coming weeks is to prepare a small bio on these gallant men as well as lesser known Maryland Confederates. My thanks goes out to Mark Peters, my friend from across the pond who has been asking me to start blogging away again. Thanks for the encouragement Mark and the A-1 steak sauce will be sent when you and Yan need it!

Published in: on June 13, 2009 at 2:52 am  Comments (2)  


 Sorry for the downtime, I’ve had some pressing things at work. I’ve  got some articles planned, so please stay tuned.

Published in: on January 23, 2007 at 3:09 am  Comments (1)  

It never ceases to amaze me…..

I was at work the other day and a elderly lady (early 70’s) looks at my name tag and asks if I’m related to anyone of the same name from her home area which is the Northern Neck of Virginia. Since my surname family came in the Tidewater region of Maryland and Virginia in the 1630’s I told her it was likely. We then proceeded to talk about genealogy and history. I told her of my interest in the Civil War and that I collect civil war books.  She was a from a little town in Virginia not far from Robert E. Lee’s birthplace. I exclaimed that Lee and I almost had the same birthdate and he was one of my favorite Generals. Her eyes glazed over and she told me ” I love that man”! The way she said it was like your mom would talk about the singer Tom Jones. She then said she has a picture of Lee hanging over her fireplace that has been in the family for years. I wanted to ask if she had any ancestor’s that fought, but unfortunately her daughter didn’t share her mom’s interest in the civil war or Marse Robert and  encouraged her mom to “move along” to finish their christmas shopping.  She thanked me for the talk and hurried along to finish her contribution to capitalism. But it was still fun for one moment to recognize that even afterLee died almost 140 years ago, he’s still loved and worshiped……If I could only be so lucky! 😀

Published in: on December 13, 2006 at 5:28 am  Comments (9)  

Forgotten Delaware Confederates

Though I was born in Texas, I have spent the majority of my life living on the Delmarva Peninsula.  The Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware had numerous men run the blockade to join the Confederacy. Several are household names such as, General Arnold Elzey (Jones) and Charles S. Winder. Winder and Admiral Franklin Buchanan are buried in the same family burial ground near Wye Mills, Maryland. While quite a bit has been written about Maryland’s involvement in the Confederacy, Delaware’s part has been ignored. After searching for over 10 years I have garnered about 75 names of Delawareans who served the Confederacy. While estimates have as many as 1000 Delawareans serving the Confederacy, I feel the number was about 250-300. My original goal was to self publish a monograph, however I came across a Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp in Seaford, Delaware called the Delaware Grays who are planning on erecting a monument to these brave souls who gave up their wordly goods to fight against Yankee oppression. They would like to publish a book to help raise money for their monument, so I donated my list of men that I’ve located. Delaware, much like Maryland, was a seized state. Union troops were stationed throughout Delaware to scare southern leaning Delaware Democrats. Many men in this region were arrested without cause or charges and thrown into Prison or “sent South”. No where was this Interference more felt than during the November 4th 1862  elections in Delaware. Known Southern Sympathizer’s and Staunch Democrats were driven away from the polls and not allowed to vote by Federal troops with fixed bayonets. I’m lucky enough to own a rare copy of a book published about the Union soldiers intervention at the Delaware Polls. Published in 1863 in Dover, Delaware by James Kirk, this book called “Report of the Committee of the General Assembly of the State of Delaware together with the Journal of the Committee, and the Testimony taken before them, in regard to the Interference by the United States Troops with the General Election held in the State on the Fourth Day of November, 1862”. That may be the longest title of any Civil War related book! 😀  If you would like to help these fine men establish a monument to Delaware Confederates that will be erected in Georgetown, Delaware please visit this site and tell them Mark sent you. People in the South should realize that many Border Staters laid down their lives wearing the Gray, even though their state wasn’t allowed to secede.

Published in: on December 11, 2006 at 2:45 am  Comments (3)  

What’s the Maryland Line?

The Maryland Line was the name used by the Maryland Continental Troops in the American Revolution. The Maryland troops were often referred to as the “Old Line” by General Washington and he regarded them as some of his finest soldiers. They valiantly on many battlefields, especially at Long Island, Camden, The Cowpens and Guilford Courthouse. During the Civil War, many of the Maryland Confederates were the descendents of these heroic freedom fighters. One of these men was the Maryland Confederate officer Bradley T. Johnson who lobbied to unite all the Maryland Men under one banner. This was finally authorized on June 22nd, 1863 by Secretary of War James A. Sedden.

                                                     Confederate States of
America, War Department

                                                                        Adjutant and Inspector-General’s Office

Richmond, Virginia, June 22, 1863

Colonel Bradley T. Johnson : 

    Sir :-  You are authorized to recruit from Marylanders and muster into service companies, battalions and regiments of Infantry, cavalry and artillery, to serve for the war, and to be attached to and form part of the Maryland Line.

       By Command of James A. Sedden, Secretary of War.

                                                                Samuel W. Melton, Major and A. A. G.




Unit’s that composed the Maryland Line were as follows:

  •   2nd Maryland Infantry (Ist Maryland Battalion)
  •   1st Maryland Cavalry Battalion
  •   2nd Maryland Cavalry ( Gilmor preferred to act as a Partisan and resisted joing the Maryland Line
  •  1st Maryland Artillery (Dement’s Battery)
  •  2nd Maryland Artillery ( Baltimore Light Artillery)
  •  3rd Maryland Artillery never joined and served along the Mississippi River
  •  4th Maryland Artillery (Chesapeake Battery)

Maryland Confederate soldiers were noted for their “natty attire”, they generally wore Kepi’s  (even late in the war), were alway’s well drilled and fought hard. Bradley Johnson and his small band of men were   praised by Wade Hampton for his work in harrassing Kilpatrick and Dahlgren in their Richmond raid.  After his command was destroyed at Moorefield in 1864,  Early’s cavalry unit’s were consolidated and Johnson lost his command. He finished out the war in North Carolina as commandant of the prison in Salisbury, North Carolina.


Published in: on December 8, 2006 at 9:02 pm  Comments (20)  

Why Books and not relics?

Many people over the years have assumed I collect civil war relics when I tell them about my civil war book collection. And I’m sure many book collectors collect relics as well. I just never had an interest in relic collecting. I do enjoy seeing relics in museums as well as civil war shows when I’m there buying books. I have always felt you are a bigger target for theft, I mean it’s kind of hard to move over 1500 books. Also you  have a lot of relics that are actually fakes, especially on eBay. Another thing is there are some great book dealers out there. Dealers I’ve enjoyed buying from are:

  Butternut & Blue, Broadfoot Publishing, Olde Soldier Books, First Corps Books, Camp Pope Bookshop, Morningside, Brandy Station Bookshelf, and countless Mom and Pop shops that you find surfing the web.

So while Border’s and Barnes & Noble look nice with their Coffee Bar’s, Beatnik’s, chess tournaments, clean restrooms, poetry readings…..give me an old fashioned bookshoppe that has nice used books at a cheap price and even better conversation from an owner who loves what he does.

Published in: on December 7, 2006 at 3:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Jones-Imboden Raid

Seems Christmas has come early this year.  Zouave and Eric from the Cwdg online website informed me that McFarland Publishing would be publishing a book by Darrell Collins on one of my favorite raids that recieves little attention. The Jones-Imboden raid, which began late April and lasted for almost 30 days, was designed to disrupt the B & O Railroad and to cut Telegraph communication.  In a two pronged attack, “Grumble” Jones and John Imboden road through Western Maryland and Western Virginia. The highlights of the raid were as follows:

Traveled over 700 miles, Fought two battles and several skirmishes, captured almost 700 prisoners( many were homeguards), procured 1000 head of cattle and 1200 horses, burned 150,000 barrels of oil in Oil City, 16 RailRoad bridges and a Tunnel, Two Trains of cars and several boats.

Cavalry units involved in the raid were some of the best the South had to offer: 1st Maryland Cavalry, 6th Virginia, 7th Virginia, 11th Virginia, 12th Virginia, 34th Virginia, 35th Virginia and McNeill’s Rangers rode with Jones. The 18th Virginia Cavalry, 19th Virginia, 22nd Virginia, 62nd Virginia Mounted Infantry rode with Imboden.

I’m patiently waiting for this one and wish Mr Collin’s good luck. Here is the link for those who may be interested in this neglected raid of the civil war.

Published in: on December 5, 2006 at 3:44 pm  Comments (4)  

Remembrance Day 2006

I visited Gettysburg recently and took in the Remembrance Day parade. I was a re-enactor for most of the 125th Anniversary events and really came away with an appreciation for the the civil war soldier and Napoleaonic tatics. However one thing I noticed was the small amount of younger people re-enacting. Seems like the ranks of soldiers has gotten grayer and heavier than I remembered when I wore the Gray. After the parade, I was able to do a little book shopping which was nice since I missed all the Civil War shows due to a job change.  I’ve already warned my better half that we’ll be making a trip to Broadfoot Publishing’s used book outlet in Wendell, North Carolina soon. If you’ve never had the chance to visit Ms. Jean at Broadfoot’s….well you don’t know what your missing. Only about 30 minute’s off of Rt. 95, I usually hit this treasure trove for civil war books when I’m on my way back from Florida. There are thousands of books, many at half price. I often see other civil war book dealers buying there. So if your a civil war book nut like me, save some money by stopping in and say hi to Ms. Jean for me!

Published in: on December 5, 2006 at 6:17 am  Comments (2)  

New Website in town!

Eric Wittenberg who has the only Civil War website I haunt, CWDG online, now has started a website for fans of the American Revolution… . Now I have a place to spend more of my time and cause me to not finish my “Honeydo” lists!  While I will always put the Civil War as my passion, I also have an interest in the Revolutionary War. The only problem I see with the new site is my favorite Brit is a moderator. Mark Peters will probably extract some revenge on us “Colonials”. Mark will be able to help us understand the war from the British perspective. Mark was expressing his opinion that we shouldn’t have won the war. I agree with that statement and will take it one farther. The Confederates had a better chance of winning the Civil War than we had of winning our freedom in the Revolutionary War. Head on over to Eric’s new site and bring your opinions!

Published in: on December 4, 2006 at 3:30 am  Comments (2)