The author of the passage was Fitz James O'Brien (a well known poet and essayist of the era), of the 7th New York Regiment commanded by Col. Marshall
Lefferts. The 7th was embarked on the steamer Boston, en route from Philadelphia to Annapolis on April 21, 1861. The passage is as follows:
"[In the evening] a curious phenomenon occurred. Some men in the
regiment... had been singing - with all that delicious effect
that music at sea produces - several of the finest psalms in our
liturgy..... While we were singing, the moon swung clear into the
air, and round her white disk was seen three circles, clear and
distinct - red, white and blue!
The omen was caught by common instinct, and a thousand cheers
went up to that heaven that seemed in its visible signs to
manifest its approval of the cause in which we were about to
from the log/account of a ship's captain, F. W. Banner: "The sailors saw a remarkable object or cloud in the sky. It was a cloud of circular form,
with an included semi-circle divided into four parts, the central dividing shaft beginning at the center of the circle and extending far outward, and
then curving backward. The thing traveled from a point 20 degrees above the horizon to a point about 80 degrees above. Then it settled down to the
northeast, having appeared from the south, southeast. It came up obliquely against the wind, and finally settled down in the wind's eye. For half an
hour this form was visible, then it finally did disappear"
Perhaps a search on the names involved will provide more info, but I'm not gonna do the work for you...
Granted, the last one is about 5 years
after the war, but same general time frame...so thought it might help.
They did use observation balloons then, so soldiers unfamiliar with them, might have easily misidentified those as well, so no doubt more accounts and
sightings, just a matter of finding them.
[edit on 6-5-2005 by Gazrok]