by Richard E. Quest
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Potomac Books, 2018. Pp. xx, 204.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio. $24.95. ISBN: 1612349498
A Desperate Battle, a Daring Escape, and a Tragic Moment
On May 6, 1864, Benjamin Loring (1824-1902), a volunteer lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, commanding the gunboat U.S.S. Wave, which, accompanied by and the gunboat Granite City, was on a mission to evacuate local Unionists and forage for cattle at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana. The two ships suddenly came under heavy fire from Confederate troops. Granite City surrendered in about 45 minutes, but Loring and the men of the Wave fought on for 45 minutes more, until, having been hit some 65 times, with her engines and guns disabled and eight of her crew wounded, he decided resistance was futile, ordered the ship scuttled, and surrendered.
Loring was taken to Camp Groce, a prisoner-of-war camp on the Brazos River in Texas. He twice tried to escape, On the first try he eluded capture for ten days in July of 1864. Then, after more careful planning in collaboration with Lt. Col. Aaron M. Flory, of the 46th Indiana, made a second escape. On November 13th, Loring and Flory, aided by some sympathetic local citizens, began a 25 day trek that brought them to the Union lines near New Orleans. This escape forms the bulk of the book, full of close calls, amusing encounters (the two men several times succeeded in convincing Confederate sympathizers that they were Rebel officers travelling to a new assignment), and a lot of physical hardship,
During his imprisonment and escape, Loring kept a diary, which forms the basis of educator and Civil War battlefield guide Quest’s book. It’s a remarkable story, capped with Loring’s account of his brief encounter with Lincoln, as one of the first people to come to the dying President’s aid in Ford’s Theatre.
I Held Lincoln is well worth a read by anyone with the slightest interest in the Civil War, throwing light on service in the Navy and the death of Lincoln, but most of all as a rousing tale of escape and evasion.
Note: I Held Lincoln is also available in several e-editions