Monday, April 18, 2011

April 1861: First Call To Arms

On April 16, 1861, New Jersey men were called to duty by President Abraham Lincoln and Governor Charles Olden.  Company A of the National Guard, of Trenton, was mustered for special duty.  On April 17, four regiments of the NJ Militia were detached for three months duty to guard Washington, D.C.  A call for volunteers to fill the companies of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments, NJ Militia rang out across the state.  The Olden Guard of Trenton is credited with being the first militia company mustered into federal service on April 23.

On April 16, Captain Edward L. Campbell, of Belvidere, founded the Warren Guards militia company,  He began recruiting on April 17 and 18.  In less than a week Capt. Campbell's Warren Guards boasted 50 enlisted men, three officers, and four sergeants.  This was the first Warren County, NJ company formed.

The Warren Guards of Belvidere consisted of the following: Capt. Campbell, Lieutenant John J. VanAllen, Ensign William Penn Robeson, Jr., Orderly Sgt. Joshua Brokaw, Sgt. Edward T. Kennedy, Sgt. Nehemiah Tunis, Sgt. George Fox, and Privates: Charles W. Butts, James J. Krom, John Gano, John Shay, Peter Mettler, Abram S. Swisher, John H. Jackson, Dr. George Summers, Andrew Hiram Ackerman, George W. Freeman, William Fisher, Joseph Williams, Edward Willever, George A. Bemler, John A. Person, Henry L. Cummings, George Fritts, John Sipp, Robert Bishop, Abraham M. Salmon, Jonathan R. Fitzer, Roderick B. Stephens, Abraham Ackerman, Joseph Smith, Theodore Carhart, John E. Matthews, William Salmon, G. Peter Oblinger, Henry C. Snyder, Smith G. Blythe, Moore G. Coen, Nelson S. Easton, John Sutton, Derrick Albertson, Nelson Schuyler, George W. Shipps, Henry D. Neimeyer, John C. Chamberlain, Samuel Vanatta, J. Scott Drake, Joseph H. Banghart, Joseph S. Burdge, William Mathews, Edward H. Swayze, George Stute, James E. Babbitt, Alfred L. Hann, Henry Cook, Jacob Meyer, and William N. Barnett.  Oxford Furnace school teacher John Schoonover enlisted shortly after the group was formed.    

Phillipsburg was the second town to enlist a full company of militia, The Phillipsburg Garibaldi Guards.  Captain Valentine Mutchler and Ensign Charles Sitgreaves, Jr. enlisted 78 men in their company.

In Oxford Furnace, the Oxford Guards enrolled 30 men in a day or two.  In Asbury, the Musconetcong Rifle Guards enlisted  volunteers.  Captain DeWitt Clinton Blair, Esq. called for volunteers for his infantry company in Belvidere.  In Washington, the Union Guards company was formed. 

On April 18, a "Save the Union Rally" was held at the Warren County Court House, with Colonel Charles Scranton presiding.  Speeches were made by Scranton, Capt. Phineas B. Kennedy, David Ayres Depue, Jehiel G. Shipman, I. H. Norton, and James M. Robeson.  Donations of $1,500 were received at the Belvidere rally to support the families of the volunteers who joined the militia.   

On April 19, Scranton presided over a similar rally in Oxford Furnace at Seldon T. Scranton's company store, across from Shippen Manor.  Speeches were made by Col. Scranton, Robert McAllister, Seldon Scranton, George B. Weistling, Capt. Phineas B. Kennedy (by letter), and Jehiel Shipman (by letter).

On April 29, people of all ages gathered at the railroad station on Second Street in Belvidere  to cheer the Warren Guards as they departed for Trenton.  John Simerson wrote in The Warren Journal, "Doubtless one of the grandest, yet most sorrowful copes witnessed in Belvidere for some time, was the departure for Trenton of the Warren Guards, the volunteer company of this town.  Some thousand people assembled at the depot to witness their departure, and the parting scene was truly effecting.  The company was accompanied to Trenton by the Belvidere Band, and their arrival at that place, noticed as follows by The Trenton True American: 'The Warren Guards, of Belvidere, Warren County, Captain Campbell, arrived in this city yesterday.  They were accompanied by a fine band of music and presented the appearance of a healthy, able body of men'."

The Warren Guards soon learned the three months militia units were already full so they could not be mustered into federal service at that time.  Capt. DeWitt Clinton Blair, a Belvidere attorney with offices in Belvidere and New York City, used his own funds to transport his militia company  to Trenton.  Blair, like Campbell, arrived to find the three months militia quota filled so Blair paid the cost of transporting his men back to Belvidere. 

Many of Blair's men joined the Warren Brigade, NJ Reserve Militia, which would later be incorporated into the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in August 1862.   Blair did not wait.  Blair enlisted for three months service in the 22nd New York National Guard ["The New York Grays"] as a private on June 6, 1862.  He would later write to his father, John I. Blair, noting his regret in enlisting as a private instead of buying a commission as an officer.

Some Warren County residents were able to enlist in three months militia regiments. Charles Butts and Abram Depue, of Belvidere, and Jacob Thomson, John Longstaff, James Vanatta, and Joseph Johnston, of Washington, enlisted in Company H, 2nd NJ Militia Regiment.  Andrew Neal and Thomas A. H. Knox, of Belvidere, enlisted in a Pennsylvania Militia regiment for three months service as soon as the call was made.  William Mathews, stepson of Belvidere Intelligencer editor/publisher Franklin Pierce Sellers, enlisted in Elmer Ellsworth's 1st New York City Fire Zouaves [11th New York Regiment] as a lieutenant in Company K on April 25, 1861.      

Copyright 1997-2011: Jay C. Richards

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