Thursday, June 28, 2012

1862: Henry B. Church's Adventures Continue: Deserting the Florida 2nd Regiment

This is the second part of the Incredible Adventures of Henry Burnett Church, the New England teenager who ran away from parents who may have stolen him as an infant, went to sea and ended up in Florida where he enlisted in the 2nd Florida Infantry Regiment (see the June 19, 2011 blog posting). 

Church, then 16 years old, was present in the 2nd Florida Regiment during the Battle of Williamsburg, VA on May 5, 1862.  He was a private in Captain Edward Aylesworth Perry's Company A.  Company records show he deserted on May 26, 1862.

During the battle, the 2nd Florida Infantry was commanded by Colonel Ward and fought as a detached unit.  Colonel Ward was killed in action, and Captain Perry took command of the regiment. At that time, Church's tentmates were: John G. Shuttleworth and Charles Shippey. Other members of Company A included: Marcus Sherman, Charles Bisby, Jack Hernandez, James and George Ainsworth, and Sergeant Harrison. 

Church recalled in 1916, "I left them at Williamsburg, Virginia right after the seven days fight.  I was not captured there but deserted them and went to General Kearny's Headquarters [First NJ Brigade] near the Chickahominy River, and from there I was taken to McClellan's Headquarters, also on the Chickahominy River.  I was examined there to find out whether I was a spy or not: I guess.  I was sent from there to White House Landing after the first day's fight and was taken from there to Fortress Monroe with some prisoners and thence to Baltimore.  There the Union Relief Association took charge of me, and they sent me to Philadelphia.  I was there several weeks and then went to New York City."

In 1986, historian Richard E. Matthews, former member of the Warren County Cultural & Heritage Commission, had reviewed Church's 1916 deposition which Church had given during his legal battle to get a veteran's pension.  Matthews felt Church's recollection may have been a little fuzzy with age when he stated in 1916 that he had deserted at Williamsburg. Matthews noted evidence points more to Church deserting before or during the Battle of Seven Pines, which took place during seven days from June 26 through July 2, 1862 on the eastern outskirts of Richmond, VA.  The 2nd Florida fought at Seven Pines as a part of General Pryor's Brigade in General D. H. Hill's Division.  Matthews pointed out that White House Landing was not in Union hands at the time of the Williamsburg battle.  Matthews also noted during the Battle of Seven Pines, Pryor's Division was opposing Kearny's Division. 

Church went back to life on the high seas after he arrived in New York City.  Church recalled, "I was there [in Philadelphia] several weeks and then went to New York City, and after a few weeks shipped from there to Europe on a Norwegian bark.  I cannot recall the name.  That was in September 1862 that I shipped on that bark.  We went to Queenstown, Ireland, Cork Harbor, for orders where to deliver our cargo.  We were ordered to deliver same to Liverpool, England.  I stayed there trying to get a vessel back to the United States.  While on the docks, I saw a vessel bound for Matamoras, Mexico, via Havana.  A Scotchman was in charge there, and he asked me whether I could hand, reef and steer, and when I told him yes, he took me with him.  [On November 12, 1862] We went from there to Havana, and thence to Matamoras and back to Liverpool again [arriving on May 14, 1863].  I intended to run away in Cuba and go to Florida, but I did not get the chance."

Matthews noted a British Marine Department certificate of discharge showed Henry B. Church served on the merchant ship KELTON, registered in Dumfries, Scotland, which sailed from Liverpool to Matamoras and back to Liverpool.  Church was discharged with a "Good" rating for seamanship and a "Very Good" rating for conduct. 

Church recalled, "After I was discharged from that ship, I shipped on the GENERAL BARRY at Liverpool, England for Philadelphia.  I stayed aboard that ship in Philadelphia until she was sold, about six weeks or two months, and then I went to Providence, Rhode Island and worked with my uncle John Follett at the Corliss Iron Works.  I worked with him until the spring of 1865 and then I came back to Philadelphia and enlisted in March 1865, about two or three weeks after I got there."    

Church's story of life in the Federal Army in 1865 will continue in a future posting.

Copyright 1999-2012: Jay C. Richards                 

1 comment:

  1. I am Henry Church's GGGrandaughter and I was directed to your blog by a civil war reenactor who has been working on clean-up of a cemetery in Philadelphia. (Turns our many of Henry's children are buried there.) I am just so thrilled to read your two blog posts on Henry Church. We knew some of this story about being adopted and fighting on both sides of the civil war, but so many details had been lost over the years. To know his adopted family's name and additional details on the war is an amazing thing. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope to hear more about Great Great Grandpap Church's adventures!

    If you are interested in a photo of him for your next post, I might be able to oblige!