Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 1863: 27th NJ Regt. loses the DeGraw brothers

In April 1863, General Samuel Powhatan Carter, the Union district commander, planned an expedition to drive the confederates out of Kentucky.  Carter assigned command of the cavalry brigade to Colonel Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, and Colonel George W. Mindil, of the 27th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was assigned command of the infantry brigade.  Mindil was now in command of the 27th NJ, the 2nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, the 103rd Ohio Infantry Regiment, and Lieutenant Abram Calvin Wildrick's Indiana Artillery Battery of six rifled Rodman ten pounders.  The expedition was successful in capturing the town of Monticello and driving the Confederates into Tennessee on May 1.

The expedition started its march back to Somerset, Kentucky.  During this return, Joseph DeGraw, age 28, and his brother Lemuel, age 25, of Rockaway Township and/or Hackettstown, died.  One brother died of dysentery in camp on May 2, and the other drowned in the Cumberland River during a river crossing.  The State and Regimental records disagree as to which brother died in what manner. 

At Stigold's Ferry on May 6, the 2nd Tennessee and the 103rd Ohio crossed the Cumberland River without incident.  Most of the 27th NJ crossed safely, but the last flatboat containing 50 men from Companies A, B, C, G, and L were dumped into the river when the boat capsized in a six-mile per hour current.  Some men managed to swim ashore after freeing themselves of their heavy packs, and some managed to hold on to the ropes that strung across the river, but Captain John T. Alexander, of Company B, and 32 men were pulled to the bottom of the river by the current.  The regimental history states Lemuel DeGraw was the one who drowned.  however, the State of New Jersey's 1863 Register, printed by the Legislature, states it was Joseph DeGraw who drowned.

David DeGraw and the men of the 27th NJ did not have much time to mourn the dead because the 9th Corps marched toward the Mississippi River at Louisville on June 4.

Copyright 1999-2013: Jay C. Richards

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