Sunday, June 19, 2011

1861: Henry B. Church Joins the 2nd Florida Infantry

In the Belvidere Cemetery one can find the graves of generals, well-known politicians, veterans of many wars, and ordinary citizens.  The grave stones range from the super elaborate, like the miniature copy of Prince Albert's grave monument which marks the graves of Edmund Carhart's family, to the simplest of markers.  Some stones tell of heroic deeds and high offices achieved by the people interred beneath them. 

The stone of Henry Burnett Church tells little of the adventures and cruelties experienced by the man in his youth.  The marker lists two Pennsylvania Civil War regiments but does not show he served on both sides of the war under two names nor that he sailed the high seas in the British Merchant Marine. Sometime during his travels, Church came to Belvidere and stayed to raise a family.  He died in Belvidere in 1931.  Until 1999/2000, there was no veteran's marker noting Church's Confederate Army service.

In 1986, Warren County Cultural & Heritage Commission member Richard Matthews researched archives and military records to construct a biography of Henry Church for Church's family.  In 1998, Church's granddaughter, Alice Wilhelm, gave me a copy when I was writing More Bugles, Battles & Belvidere: Warren County Civil War Letters to Home, 1861-1865.   In 1916, Church gave a deposition during his legal battle to get his veteran's pension.  Some of the 1916 transcripts were used to give Church's first-hand account.  Warren County Veterans Interment Supervisor Leo Becker and I filed the necessary papers to get a veteran's marker installed at his grave for his Conferate Army service.

This article will deal with Church's early life until he enlisted in the Confederate Army.  His story from the Battle of Williamsburg to his presence in Appomattox Court House in April 1865 as a Pennsylvania soldier named Charles Gardner will be told in a future article.

From the time of his birth until 1856, when he ran away to become a sailor, Church was known as Airewitt William West.  Church recalled, "I was supposed to be born on October 16, 1845, can't say where, I don't know.  It was said that I was taken from an orphan asylum by some.  My aunt, Maria Reynolds, sister of Mrs. West, told me once that Mrs. West had been gone from Fairhaven [Massachusetts] for nine months, and when she came back there, she had me with her, but she, the sister, did not know where Mrs. West got me. I heard I was taken from the orphan asylum in Taunton, Mass.  I don't know what was my father's or my mother's name.  Don't know anything about either one of them.  I don't know whether I ever had any brothers or sisters."  Church would tell his grandchildren that relatives of the Wests told him they believed he may have been stolen from his real parents by the Wests during the period that they had been away from Fairhaven.

Church recalled, "I was supposed to have been adopted by a Jeremiah West and Ardelia T. West of Fairhaven, Mass.   I don't know whether any adoption papers were ever made out or not.  Parties named Taylor, a Selectman, who was married to a daughter of Blucher Hallett, and a man named Tabor were interested in me on account of the abuse I experienced at the hands of the West family, and tried to make West produce papers showing that I was bound to them or adopted by them.  But he would not do it, and they never forced him to do so."

In 1856, Airewitt West escaped from his abusive "parents."  Taking the name of Henry Burnett Church, the eleven-year old  signed on as a cabin boy on a merchant ship commanded by Captain Blucher Hallett. The life and duties of a cabin boy were not to Church's liking so he waited for the ship to anchor in Pensacola, Florida to make his next escape.  

Church recalled, "After I reached Pensacola, I deserted Captain Hallett and went aboard a 'lumber lighter' and went up the Blackwater River to Milton and stayed there until Captain Hallett left, and then I returned to Pensacola.  I made my home in Pensacola during that time but worked out from there on ships like the schooner MAY, bound for Mobile hauling lumber.  I boarded with a party named Ainsworth, the mother of George and James Ainsworth, who served with me in the 2nd Florida Infantry.  I stayed there four years.  I saw a number of Northern people roughly handled for expressing Northern sentiments [in 1861]. I had myself been arrested because I had a boat at the head of Little Bayou.  I and some friends got storm-stayed.  Before I had the opportunity to get my boat, Pensacola was placed under martial law, and a permit had to be issued.  In the meantime, an enemy, one Charles Sara, had me arrested, saying I wanted to take a lot of Negroes to Santa Rosa Island - to Fort Pickins.  I happened to be lucky to get out of that scrape all right.  After that, a friend, a Spaniard, one Joe Reabo, told me that Captain E. A. Perry, of Company A, 2nd Florida, was there for recruits and that I had better enlist and take my chances of getting away and that about the last of the boys in town were going, and we sure were boys! I, with several others, were not 16.  Reabo said he was too old to enlist.  He said, 'You know they are on to you now, and if you enlist, they will not be so watchful over you.'  I enlisted in Captain Perry's Rifle Rangers in August 1861."

Matthews researched the Florida regimental archives and found Henry B. Church enlisted in Captain Edward Aylesworth Perry's company, Company A, of the 2nd Florida Infantry Regiment, Confederate Army.  Church was listed on the company rolls from August 29, 1861 through April 1862.  The company records state Church deserted to the enemy on May 26, 1862 [during the Battle of Williamsburg, VA].          

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 14, 1861: Archibald Nimmo's Letter From Camp Olden

On June 14, 1861, Archibald Nimmo, of Belvidere, wrote to The Warren Journal from Camp Olden in Trenton, NJ.  Nimmo enlisted in Company E, 7th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in May.  During the Civil War, John Simerson, owner/editor of The Warren Journal, and Franklin Pierce Sellers, owner/editor of The Belvidere Intelligencer [originally founded as The Belvidere Apollo by Gen. Daniel Sickels' father], urged Warren County soldiers and sailors to send letters to their newspapers as a way to reach more of their friends and relatives - and increase newspaper circulation. 

Nimmo wrote, "Editor Journal, I suppose you had forgotten my promise made you some time since.  So far, I am satisfied with camp life, and the men of our company are equally so.  Our camp is situated about three miles southeast from Trenton, upon ground that is hardly fit, for part of it is marshy and damp, although the health of our company is good (Company E, Capt. Campbell, Third Regiment). We are quartered in No. 1 tents, each holding 16 men: they are portioned off in messes, each mess having a cook, who attends to our rations, cooking &c. Our time is occupied as follows during the day: at sunrise the reveille takes place, when every man has to fall into line, and the Orderly Sergeant calls the roll, and then all is dismissed until 5 o'clock, when squad drill takes place until 6 o'clock, then breakfast.  At 9 o'clock, guard mounting takes place for the next two hours, it consists of nine privates and one corporal from each company, directly after which the surgeon call is made, when the First Sergeants conduct the sick to the hospital tent.  We have leisure time until 10; from that time until 11-1/2, company drills; dinner next in order; more spare time until 3 o'clock; company drill from 3 to 5 o'clock, then dismissed for supper; dress parade next in order at 7 o'clock; then dismissed until 9 o'clock; then the tattoo and roll call; at half past nine, douse the glim [lights] and retire for the night.

"I am quartered in tent No. 5, Corp. [Henry] Neimeyer, who is Captain of the tent. We have also three more Warren County boys in our tent - - Nelson Easton, Abraham Salmon, and George Freeman - - who are in good health and spirits, as are all of our Regiment; we are all anxious to get  on the field of battle.  Captain [Edward] Campbell is well liked by all members of the company, and is an efficient and good officer, attending to all our wants as far as is in his power to do so.  We have a fine Brass Band connected with our regiment, which discourses some very fine music.

"On Monday last, a private belonging to Company H, Captain Brytan, deserted, and was arrested in the evening at Mount Holly, and brought back to Camp Olden on Tuesday morning; he has been court marshaled, but I do not know what his sentence was.  We expect to get our uniforms during next week; when we get them, we intend to parade the finest regiment of the three that is encamped at Camp Olden.  Our encampment is visited by thousands of ladies and gentlemen from all parts of the State. We have plenty of good food, consisting of ham, salt pork, fresh meat, rice, coffee, bean soup, &c.  Excuse the shortness of my letter; in future I will endeavor  not only to lengthen, but make them more interesting.  Yours truly, A. N."

copyright 1999-2011 by Jay C. Richards 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

1861: Warren County Men Join the 7th NJ Regiment

After the first call for three-months volunteer soldiers had been filled by the end of April 1861, many Warren County men joined Warren County militia units while others had joined out-of-state units or signed up for three-year enlistments  in the 1st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 2nd NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment or 3rd NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment in May 1861.

When more three-year units were created by New Jersey, more of Warren County's men enlisted.  In August 1861, the 7th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment was created.  A number of Belvidere men joined Company E along with a few men from Phillipsburg, Greenwich, Harmony and Oxford/White Townships.

Belvidere men who joined Company E, 7th NJV Regiment were: William Crutz, William Fisher, Andrew I. Hayes, John W. Kinney, David Prall, John Rierdon, David Rockafellow, James Roseberry, Alfred Rosell, George P. Sanders, Nelson W. Schuyler, Aaron Watson Smith, David Sutton, John E. Swayze, Abram B. Swisher, John J. VanAllen, and Joseph Williams.

Enlisting from Phillipsburg were: Philip V. Clark, Marcus Dingler, Henry Engle, Edward Gephart, Philip Lawton, Godfrey Lutz, William W. Mutchler, Samuel Petit, William H. Prall, Edward H. Seagraves, George Seagraves, James Stull, John G. Tolmie, Jr., William H. Tolmie, Martin W. Wilson, and William W. Young.

Other enlistees were: Frederick Koch and William Vreeland from Greenwich Township; Robert Dalrymple from Harmony Township; James McKeever from Oxford/White Township; and other county residents: Thomas Buss, Edward Crosby, Joel Grant, John S. Gulick, Calvin J. Osmun, James Shewell, and Thomas Walraven.

Some Warren County men enlisted in other companies within the 7th NJV Regiment: Company C: George W. Smith, of Belvidere; Ira L. Hann, of Hope Township;  and George H. Millen, of Phillipsburg; Company F: Edward Dingler, of Phillipsburg; Company G: Thomas Fagan and James Hudson Tiffany, of Phillipsburg; Company H: Anthony Heminover, of Belvidere; Company I: Stephen S. Foster, of Frelinghuysen Township; Company K: James Babbitt, of Belvidere; and 7th Regiment Field Hospital: Robert Mosson, of Asbury.