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