Monday, July 13, 2015

1865: Henry B. Church at Appomattox

Henry Burnett Church, who was born Airewitt West and who became a runaway and a world traveler, returned to America in 1865 and joined the Union Army in Pennsylvania. 

Church had enlisted in the Confederate 2nd Florida Regiment in August 1861 but deserted to the Union troops after the Seven Pines battle in July 1862.  After traveling the world in the British Merchant Marine, he returned to Philadelphia on the British merchant ship GENERAL BARRY.

On March 8, 1865, he enlisted in Company I of the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment under the name of Charles Gardner.  Church recalled in 1916, "I changed my name when I enlisted because I did not know whether I might be caught by the men I deserted in the 2nd Florida, who would have remembered me by my name, if not in person.  Oh yes, I was able to write my name at enlistment.  I signed my name as Charles Gardner.  The name just came to my mind.  I knew no one of that name and had no relatives of that name either."
In the 210th Penna., Gardner (Church) participated in the battle at Gravelly Run, Virginia on March 17, 1865.  The regiment was assigned to Colonel William Sergeant's 3rd Brigade of Brigadier General Romeyn Ayres' 2nd Division in Major General Gouvenor Warren's  5th Corps.  On April 1, 1865, the 210th Penna. was in the center of the Battle of Five Forks, VA.  During this battle, the 210th Penna. attacked General George Pickett's Virginia troops on the White Oak Road.
Church recalled, "After my enlistment in Philadelphia, we went directly to Petersburg, Virginia and by rail all the way.  We lay there quite a while until the Battle of Five Forks in the later part of March 1865.  From there we went, I think, to Bottoms Bridge [on the Chickahominy River - near where Church had deserted the 2nd Florida] and Pamplin Station, where we had a lot of  [captured Confederate] troops  come to us who did not have any guns...We participated in the Battle of Five Forks and several skirmished along the South side railroad. We had a skirmish also at Bottoms Bridge.  We had a few men killed, but none of our immediate officers were killed...I can't recall any battle at Mrs. Butler's house nor recall such a place, but we were on the White Oak Road.  I remember when I went to get water after the battle of Five Forks, and to fill the canteens with a man from another company, I don't know his name, we saw a lot of wounded men in the yard of a certain house. And there were some in the house, too, all had been wounded in the battle of Five Forks.  We lost quite a few men.  My file closer, Yates, of Adams County, Pennsylvania, was shot in that battle, and I fell over him.  I don;t remember the names of any others that were wounded there nor that were killed there...Yes, we were at Hatcher's Run; the battle was just a few days before I came there.  We were in the siege of Petersburg and very near what was called Fort Hell.
"We went to Appomattox from Pamplin Station, and we were there until after the surrender of [General Robert E.] Lee.  We gave his troops our rations and lived ourselves for several days on corn... They had us march double quick there at Appomattox for making certain remarks about the food.  The quartermaster was late in coming up , and everyone started calling out certain things when he came.  For this we were forced to march double quick, but Lieutenant Thomas M. Fisher, who was our commanding officer, took us out of sight of the camp and allowed us to rest."  Warren County historian Richard Matthews pointed out Fisher was Church's commanding officer later in Company B of the 190th Penna.  Matthews noted Captain James H. Foster was the commanding officer of Company I of the 210th Penna.
After reaching Arlington Heights, VA, Church transferred to Company B, 190th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  Church recalled, "After the surrender, we marched back to Arlington Heights, Virginia, and about the second day of the march back, we heard of the assassination of [Abraham] Lincoln.  We stayed at Arlington Heights until after the Grand Review of the Armies of the Potomac and of the West, in which my regiment participated.  We then went to Harrisburg. After being mustered out and were paid off, I came home to Philadelphia.  He later moved to Belvidere, NJ where he married.
Copyright 1999-2015: Jay C. Richards

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

May 1864: The Wilderness

On May 4th, 1864, the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a part of Second Corps along with the old 2nd NJ Brigade [5th, 6th, 7th and 8th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiments].  On that day, the 11th NJ crossed the Rapidan River and joined its new brigade at the Chancellorsville battlefield.  While General Gershom Mott was in command of the third Division, Colonel Robert McAllister, of Belvidere & Oxford Furnace, was in command of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division. 

On May 5th, the troops entered the dense wooded area of Virginia known as The Wilderness. Lieutenant Colonel John Schoonover, of Oxford Furnace, reported, "After proceeding a very short distance through the dense underbrush, I was directed by the Brigade Commander to form in line of battle, which I did, so far as circumstances would permit.  With the regiments on the right and left crowding, and in the midst of almost impassable underbrush, it was found impossible to form a line of battle in the space I occupied on the road.  There was much confusion in the ranks 'till the regiment reached the crest of the hill, when, by detailing three left companies, I succeeded in placing the remainder of the regiment in proper line.  As yet, we had received no fire from the enemy, except for the occasional shot from the skirmish line, which was returned.  We had been in this position but a short time, when a few volleys of musketry was heard to the extreme left and rear, and immediately, the line the line of the left, as far as I could see, commenced falling back in confusion.  This was rapidly carried to the right, and when the 16th Massachusetts, which was on my immediate left, took up the movement, my regiment followed, and all efforts to rally the men were fruitless. 

"The troops seemed panic-stricken, and for what reason, I was never able to imagine.  They acted as if their only safety was the works which they had so hastily erected.  I desire to mention one exception.  The Color Company and color-guard, under the command of Captain [Edward] Kennedy [of Belvidere], retained its position for sometime after the troops on my right and left had disappeared, and until he received a direct order from me to fall back. The officers upon this occasion, so far as I could see, made every effort to keep their men in kine.  The regiment was reformed on the road, and the report showed a list of twelve wounded.
"At half-past four o'clock, on the morning of the 6th, we again advanced in line of battle through the woods.  We continued to advance slowly until seven o'clock, a.m., when heavy fire was opened by the regiments on my right and left, which was taken up for a short time by my regiment.  I soon, however, succeeded in stopping it, as I considered it perfectly useless, as we were at the time receiving no fire from the enemy - neither was he in sight.  The regiment continued to advance, with frequent halts, until about nine o'clock, a.m., when we received a heavy volley from the enemy.  Advancing some distance further, the line was halted, a skirmish line thrown out, and the regiment remained in this position until shots were received from our left and rear, when a change of front was ordered by Colonel [William]   Sewell, then in command of the 5th, 6th and 11th Regiments.  This change of front took place about half-past ten o'clock, a.m.  At eleven, the enemy was heard advancing in our front, with heavy firing and cheering; soon after, the troops composing the front line passed over us in much confusion.  I then passed along the whole length of my regiment, and directed them to reserve their fire until they received orders.  At this time, there were but few of the enemy's shots passing over us."
Schoonover wrote in his report, "The approaching yell and loud firing gave us sufficient warning of the advance and position of the enemy.  In a few minutes, I directed the regiment to commence firing.  The regiment, with scarcely an exception, acted with perfect coolness.  Not a man flinched.  There seemed to be a determination to retrieve what they had lost the day previous.  The fire was continued for some time, when the regiment on my immediate left fell back.  The one on my right followed.  I turned to ask Colonel Sewell for instruction, and I was told by one of my officers that he had gone to the rear with the remainder of the line. At this time, an officer from the left of the regiment came to me and said that Colonel Sewell had left orders for me to fall back.  As no troops were to be seen on either my right or left, I deemed it proper to do so.  The regiment retired to Brock Road, where it took position in the rear of the second line of works on the left of the 16th Massachusetts.  It remained in this position during the afternoon, assisting in the repulse of the enemy at four o'clock, and also took part in the charge upon the first line of works which had been captured by the enemy, and from which they were driven. At half-past four o'clock, p.m., May 7th, the regiment, after moving to the right of the plank road, with the brigade, was detailed for picket, where it remained until ten o'clock, a.m., the next day. "
Not long after the advance of the earthworks by the 11th NJ and the 16th Massachusetts, Colonel McAllister's horse was killed as he rode it, and a spent musket ball temporarily paralyzed his leg.  The Colonel returned to his brigade the next day.
Schoonover observed, "None who passed through the battle of the Wilderness will ever forget it.  On the night of the 7th, I was picket officer for the division; and this night's duty was one of the most unpleasant I ever performed in the army. To establish a picket line at night, in the almost impenetrable wilderness, would be at any time a difficult task, but in addition to this, it lay through the battleground of the previous day, and in many places the bodies of the dead strewed the ground so thickly that it was difficult to guide my horse among them.  At this point, which was on the right of the plank road, the two lines fought with a small stream between them, and on the brow of the hill on one side, the rebel dead lay in perfect line, for at least 200 yards, so closely as to enable a person to step from one to another for the entire distance."
Similar fighting was experienced by the men of the 15th and 10th NJ Regiments.
Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

February 1864: "The Gray Ghost" in Ashby's Gap

On February 19, 1864, Lieutenant Birdsall Cornell, of Company I, 1st NJ Cavalry Regiment, wrote a report to The Belvidere Intelligencer from a camp in Warrenton, Virginia.

Cornell wrote, "An expedition to Ashby's Gap yesterday, under the command of Lt. Colonel John W. Kester, of the 1st N.J. Cavalry, resulted in the capture of 31 of [John S.] Mosby's guerrillas, with their arms, equipments, &c., and about 50 horses.  Mosby, the famous guerrilla chieftain, it seems was absent at Richmond, where he has recently been promoted to Lt. Colonel.  The road that leads from Aldie to Winchester passes through Ashby's Gap, and it was at a small village in the Gap, called Paris, that the 'Rebs' were found, and where they have had their headquarters for some time.  One of the prisoners gave it as his opinion that the guerrilla system of warfare would soon be discontinued in this section, and that Mosby's men would be incorporated in the rebel regular army.  I incline to the belief that this statement is correct, as the sentiment of the people generally, in this portion of the state, is opposed to Mosby and his band of ragamuffins, adventurers and thieves.  They are a set of cut-throats and assassins, void of all those manly and chivalric feelings that inspire to noble deeds, are actuated solely by a spirit of avarice and love of gain, and who plunder alike from friend or foe. 

"The Union citizens of Loudon and Fairfax Counties will owe Lt. Col. Kester a debt of gratitude for capturing a considerable portion of their number, and dispersing the rest.  The only casualties on our side, one horse killed and Captain James H. Hart, of Company A, slightly wounded in the arm.  Capt. Hart is from Bucks County, Pa., and is one of the best officers we have."

Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Union Soldier Stabbed Near Belvidere, 12 February 1864

On 19 February 1864, The Belvidere Intelligencer filed the following report under the headline "STABBING AFFAIR." 

The report stated, "A mysterious case of stabbing occurred on Friday night last [12 Feb. 1864] near this place, the particulars of which as are as follows, as near as we can learn: A German (name not known), belonging to the 9th NJ Vols., had put some $300 in the hands of Captain [Joseph] Lawrence [of Belvidere, commander of Company H, 9th NJV] to keep for him, and a few days since, he came to Belvidere, in the company of another German, to get his money.  On Friday evening, the two disappeared, and on Saturday morning, the soldier was found a short distance above town, near the Delaware [River], stabbed in the breast, almost insensible.  He was brought back to Cramer's Hotel, where he remains unable to leave.  The other German examined, but as no evidence could be found against him, he was allowed to leave.  We have not learned whether Capt. Lawrence paid him before the stabbing occurred, or not.  The whole affair seems involved in mystery, which we hope will soon be unraveled."

The mystery must have remained unsolved since there were no other news reports on the incident.

Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards

February 1864: 9th NJ Regt. at Deep Creek, Virginia

Colonel Abram Zabriskie had replaced Charles A. Heckman, of Phillipsburg, as commander of the New Jersey 9th Infantry Regiment in November 1862, after Heckman was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers.  In January 1864, Zabriskie secured a furlough for the soldiers who re-enlisted.  On 2 February 1864, the troops on furlough steamed north for Jersey City.  On 4 February, the people of Jersey City sponsored a parade in honor of the men of the Jersey Ninth.  The soldiers were later treated to dinner at Taylor's Hotel.  The men traveled by train to Trenton, where they divided up to return to their home towns.
The men of the Jersey 9th who did not re-enlist remained in Virginia.  They were sent on reconnaissance duty under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Burnett at Deep Creek, Virginia.  Unfortunately, the small reconnaissance group ran into four regiments of Confederate troops under the command of General Robert Ransom.  The group retreated after Privates Albert Nutt and Joel Hulse, both of Company D, were killed.  Their bodies were left behind and were mutilated by some of the rebels.
Brigadier General Heckman, commanding the Suffolk District, was at Getty's Station, Virginia when he received reports of the mutilations.  Heckman sent 500 soldiers to relieve the embattled reconnaissance unit and to drive the Confederate force back into North Carolina. 
Copyright 1997-2014: Jay C. Richards 

February 1864: 47th PA Honors Col. Robert McAllister

From 15 December to 25 February 1864, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were stationed in Florida.  Company A was assigned to garrison Fort Meyers.  Companies B, C, D and I were assigned to garrison Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West.  Companies E, F, G, and H were assigned to man Fort Jefferson, the Union's most desolate fortress in the Dry Tortugas, which was considered to be America's Devil's Island. 

The men of the 47th were plagued with malaria, dysentery, hepatitis and other diseases while in Florida.  Private Jenkins J. Richards, of Company E, suffered attacks of dysentery, malaria and hepatitis periodically from 15 May 1863 until his discharge by a surgeon's certificate on 3 June 1865. 

To help pass the time, the troops at Fort Jefferson started a couple of theatrical groups to perform in the fort's theater.  John Lynn Dennett founded "Jack Lynn's Troupe of Pennsylvania Minstrels."  The troupe performed Dennett's melodramas such as "Charles Brandon - or The Gambler's Fate" and some of Dennett's "Serious Comical Burlesques" or his "Extravaganzica Plantationico Display of Ethiopian Eccentricities" or "Sports of the Cotton Field." 

In February 1864, the 47th was relieved of Florida garrison duty by the 110th New York Infantry Regiment and the 2nd US Colored Troops.  The 47th Pennsylvania was ordered to steam to Louisiana to join General Nathaniel Bank's Red River Campaign, which was supposed to isolate Texas from the rest of the Confederacy.  

Before leaving Florida, men of Companies D and H - from Perry County, PA - purchased a number of Florida crabwood canes to be sent to several of Perry County's leading citizens.  Among the canes was one for former Perry County resident Colonel Robert McAllister, commander of the 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  McAllister had moved to Oxford Furnace in Warren County, NJ before the war.  When the war broke out, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in May 1861 at the age of 47 years.  On 30 June 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the 11th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  On 2 July 1863, McAllister was wounded near the Smith Farm on Emmetsburg Road in Gettysburg, PA by a Minie ball passing through his left leg and an artillery shell fragment striking his right foot.  McAllister recuperated  with his family in the Hotel Belvidere in Warren County.   The Perry County men of the 47th Pennsylvania had heard of McAllister's leg injuries so they wanted McAllister to have a special crabwood cane.

Copyright 1999-2014: Jay C. Richards  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Olustee, Florida February 1864

In January 1864, General Truman Seymour's expeditionary force set out to capture Jacksonville, Florida.  Among Seymour's troops were the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry Regiment - with James Furman, of Washington, still in its ranks with Company E, the First North Carolina (Colored) Regiment, and the 8th Regiment US Colored Troops, which included Abram Andrews, of Washington, in his first military campaign.  On February 7, Jacksonville was captured without resistance.  The troops moved inland on February 8 to capture Camp Vinegar.
On February 17, without permission from General Quincey Adams Gillmore, Seymour decided to march toward the Suwanee River, 100 miles from Jacksonville, without first learning the location of General Joseph Finnegan's Confederate troops.  Seymour's expedition moved forward without first making a reconnaissance of the area and without flanking patrols.  Seymour's columns extended for several miles. 
On February 20, after two days marching, the troops stopped near Olustee.  In front was a large swamp and a large wooded area.  General Seymour did not know the wooded area was filled with Finnegan's Confederates.  Confederate artillery, riflemen and sharpshooters opened fire on the Union troops.  After 20 minutes of continuous rebel gunfire, 80 percent of the Union artillery was wiped out.  Without artillery support General Seymour still decided to continue the fight.
 The Seventh Connecticut and the Seventh New Hampshire Regiments came under heavy fire and were beginning to weaken.  The Eighth USCT Regiment was ordered to move up to support the two weakening regiments.  The 9th USCT arrived in time to see the other two regiments retreating.  The 8th USCT Regiment was nearly surrounded by Confederates, but it held its ground for more than two hours before heavy losses forced the regiments to fall back. 
The 54th Mass. and 1st North Carolina Regiments  were ordered to move forward and hold back the Confederate troops until Seymour could rally his retreating troops and place his remaining guns in a good position.  At 4:00 p.m., General Seymour ordered the black regiments to retreat toward his position.  When the Confederates pursued the retreating Union troops, Seymour's guns opened fire and broke the rebel advance. 
Of the 1,861 total Union losses, 627 were from the three black regiments.  The 8th USCT Regiment suffered 50 killed, 187 wounded and 73 missing in action; the 1st North Carolina [later known as the 35th USCT Regiment] suffered 21 killed, 132 wounded and 77 missing; and the 54th Massachusetts suffered 13 killed, 66 wounded and 8 missing.  Furman and Andrew survived and mustered out of Federal Service with their regiments in 1865.
Copyright 1999-2014: Jay C. Richards