Sunday, December 27, 2020

Books I Read in 2020

With Christmas now in the rearview mirror, and with the New Year just around the corner, it's time to share the list of the books that I read during 2020. This year was particularly challenging for many different reasons, but if there was a silver lining to 2020, it was perhaps that I had a little more time to read while being limited with the number of available outside-the-house activities. As with the past four years' lists, I have highlighted those books that I found particularly interesting or enlightening, offered a fascinating argument, or challenged me to think about new ideas. It appears that I will not get any more titles read before January 1, 2021, so here is this year's list:

1. Dear Ma: The Civil War Letters of Curtis Clay Pollock, First Defender and 1st Lieutenant, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry by John David Hoptak

2.  Lincoln's Greatest Journey: 16 Days that Changed a Presidency, March 24-April 8, 1865 by Noah Andre Trudeau

3. The Geography of Resistance: Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad by Cheryl Janifer LaRoche

4. Four Days in 1865: The Fall of Richmond by David D. Ryan

5. Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Homefront by J. Matthew Gallman

6. Home Rule: Households, Manhood, and National Expansion on the 18th Century Frontier by Honor Sachs

7. A Broken Regiment: The 16th Connecticut's Civil War by Lesley J. Gordon

8. Lee's Bodyguards: The 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry by Michael C. Hardy

9. The Underground Railroad: A Selection of Authentic Narratives by William Still

10. The Rest I Will Kill: William Tillman and the Unforgettable Story of How a Free Black Man Refused to become a Slave by Brian McGinty

11. Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, 1862-1867 by Patricia C. Click

12. Rebel Richmond: Life and Death in the Confederate Capital by Stephen V. Ash

13. The Woman's War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War by Stephanie McCurry

14. We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1830 by Katy Simpson Smith

15. Occupied Women: Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War edited by LeeAnn Whites and Alecia Long

16. Sanctified Trial: The Diary of Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain, a Confederate Woman in East Tennessee edited by John N. Fain

17. Masterful Women: Slaveholding Widows from the American Revolution through the Civil War by Kirsten E. Wood

18. All for the Union: The Civil War Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes edited by Robert Hunt Rhodes

19. The Orphan Mother: A Novel by Robert Hicks

20. Gettysburg: The First Day by Harry W. Pfanz

21. Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America by Matthew Fox-Amato

22. Antietam: The Soldier's Battle by John M. Priest

23. Shifting Loyalties: The Union Occupation of Eastern North Carolina by Judkin Browning

24. Virginia's Civil War edited by Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown

25. The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster by James K. Bryant

26. Men is Cheap: Exposing the Frauds of Free Labor in Civil War America by Brian P. Luskey 

27. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management by Caitlin Rosenthal

28. Make the Fur Fly: A History of a Union Volunteer Division in the American Civil War by Timothy B. Mudgett

29. Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War by Gary Gallagher

30. Freedom's Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner edited by Jean Lee Cole

31. The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul by Andrew Delbanco

32. An Environmental History of the Civil War by Judkin Browning and Timothy Silver

33. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 edited by Gary Gallagher

34. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868 by Anne Sarah Rubin

35. Irish Green and Union Blue: The Civil War Letters of Peter Welsh edited by Lawrence Kohl and Margaret Richard

36. Vicksburg's Long Shadow: The Civil War Legacy of Race and Remembrance by Christopher Waldrep

37. The Politics of Black Citizenship: Free African Americans in the Mid-Atlantic Borderland, 1817-1863 by Andrew K. Diemer

38. Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform, 1880-1930 by Patricia Schechter 

39. To the Battles of Franklin and Nashville and Beyond: Stabilization and Reconstruction in Tennessee and Kentucky, 1864-1866 by Benjamin F. Cooling

40. Civil War Places: Seeing the Conflict through the Eyes of Its Leading Historians edited by Gary Gallagher and J. Matthew Gallman

41. Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel

42. Why Learn History When It's Already on Your Phone by Sam Wineburg

43. American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865 by Jeremy Zallen

44. Honor in Command: Lieutenant Freeman S. Bowley's Civil War Service in the 30th United States Colored Infantry edited by Keith Wilson

45. Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America by James Marten 

46. After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War by Gregory P. Downs 

47. Gettysburg: Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill by Harry W. Pfanz

48. Freedom for Themselves: North Carolina's Black Soldiers in the Civil War Era by Richard M. Reid

49. As If It Were Glory: Robert Beecham's Civil War from the Iron Brigade to the Black Regiments edited by Michael E. Stevens

50. Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War edited by J. Matthew Gallman and Gary W. Gallagher

51. The Children by David Halberstam 

52. Black Slaves, Indian Masters: Slavery, Emancipation, and Citizenship in the Native American South by Barbara Krauthamer 

53. Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis by David Silkenat

54. The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion by A. Wilson Greene

55. Confederate Waterloo: The Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, and the Controversy that Brought Down a General by Michael McCarthy

56. An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads by Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander

57. Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones

58. Civil War Supply and Strategy: Feeding Men and Moving Armies by Earl J. Hess

59. Extraordinary Circumstances: The Seven Days Battles by Brian K. Burton

60. Fighting for Citizenship: Black Northerners and the Debate over Military Service in the Civil War by Brian Taylor

61. A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomac by Zachary A. Fry

62. Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna River, May 21-25, 1864 by Chris Mackowski

63. Hensonville's Heroes: Black Civil War Soldiers of Chester County, Pennsylvania by Cheryl Renee Gooch

64. The War Went On: Reconsidering the Lives of Civil War Veterans edited by Brian Matthew Jordan and Evan C. Rothera

65. A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland by Sydney Nathans

66. Friendly Enemies: Soldier Fraternization throughout the American Civil War by Lauren K. Thompson

67. The Untold Story of Shields Green: The Life and Death of a Harper's Ferry Raider by Louis A. DeCaro, Jr. 

68. For Their Own Cause: The 27th United States Colored Troops by Kelly D. Mezurek

69. Slavery's Descendants: Shared Legacies of Race and Reconciliation edited by Dionne Ford and Jill Strauss

70. Rot, Riot, and Rebellion: Mr. Jefferson's Struggle to Save the University that Changed America by Rex Bowman and Carlos Santos

With some quarantine time and curtailing my travels in 2020 I was able to get 12 more books read than I did in 2019. 1.3 books per week is not too bad. We'll hope 2021 brings another year of happy reading. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

More on the Burning of the Albert Boisseau House

About two years ago I shared some information that I located in a Richmond newspaper concerning the burning of the Albert Boisseau house , on October 4, 1864, following the Battle of Peebles Farm. I mentioned in that article that if I ever found anything else about this incident I would share it. 

Well, while doing some research at work this past week, I found some corroborating information. While trying to learn how former U.S. Congressman and Confederate brigadier general, Roger A. Pryor  ended  up captured (then serving as a private in the 3rd Virginia Cavalry) on November 27, 1864, near where the Union picket line ran by the remains of the Albert Boisseau house, I happened upon the the name of Capt. Henry S. Burrage. Not knowing anything about Capt. Burrage, I looked him up and found he served with the 36th Massachusetts Infantry (IV Corps). With that information I searched further and found that he helped write a history of the 36th Massachusetts after the war. I located a copy of the book and found the following account on page 268: 

"October 4th. Comparative quiet prevailed until the afternoon, when there was a lively breeze on the picket line. In our immediate front, and held by our pickets, was a deserted house, to which reference has already been made, lately occupied by Dr. Boisseau. As this house stood on rising ground, and commanded a view of the enemy's line, it was surmised that it might be made the object of an attack. In anticipation of such an event, Captain Morse, with his company, was, on the 3d instant, detailed as a reserve picket force, and[] took up a position in a small rifle-pit near the house a short distance to the rear of the picket line. The rebels had during the day kept up a desultory fire, which made the position of the few men stationed in the building somewhat uncomfortable; but nothing unusual was noted until about four o'clock, when the enemy attacked the picket line of the Second New York, of our brigade. The capture of this line let the enemy into the rear of the picket pits of the Thirty-Sixth, and those adjacent to the house were precipitately evacuated; but the reserve force held its ground until convinced that the enemy was present in superior numbers, when it fell back, leaving the house and a few men in his possession. Our loss was four men captured,—Corporals Charles Bottomley and George H. Mills, of Company C, and privates Reuben Jackson and Lyman McDowell, of Company E. Mills and Bottomley were shortly afterwards paroled; but Jackson and McDowell were fated to swell the ranks of that mighty army the story of which is sadly told by the words, "Died in rebel prisons." The picket line was at once reinforced, and the captured posts were retaken. A second attack of the enemy was unsuccessful. After dark, in accordance with orders, Captain Burrage, who was brigade officer of the day, gave directions for the burning of the building. It was soon a mass of flame, and presented a brilliant spectacle, the weird effect being heightened by the sharp crack of the rifles as the outposts on both sides blazed away at random, each desirous to show to his antagonist that he was not to be caught napping. At daylight on the morning of the 5th the disputed property was a heap of ruins, and our pickets who had been drawn back, on account of the fire, took possession of their old pits without opposition."

There is it. October 4 is the date the Albert Boisseau house was burned, and the account gives the reason why it was incinerated. It, along with the neighboring Pegram house (just off the map to the south), and later, the Robert H. Jones house (also known as Oak Grove), became caught between the lines and thus victims of the flames of war.  

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Leasing the Enslaved Created Family Separations at Christmas and the New Year


The Holiday Season is typically a time of sharing and looking forward to a fresh start in the New Year. However, for enslaved men, women, and children, Christmas and New Year often created uncertainty and anxiety.

During slavery it was common in Virginia and other slaves states to lease or rent enslaved people for an agreed upon rate and time period. The contracts between the parties—those who were leasing out and those who sought additional laborers—more often than not ran on a yearly cycle. Leases typically started on New Year’s Day and ran to Christmas Day.

Leasing enslaved individuals could solely involve two private parties, but sometimes a middle man got involved, serving as a broker. As shown in the accompanying advertisement, which appeared in the December 12, 1860 edition of the Petersburg Daily Express, commission merchant brothers Alexander and James Donnan, who operated an office in Petersburg, offered to locate enslaved people for those who had specific labor needs. For their services the Donnan brothers received a commission or “finder’s fee.”  

When thinking of separations involving enslaved family members during the antebellum and Civil War years, we tend to focus on sales. Sales from upper-South states like Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky to the growing “Cotton Kingdom” states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and East Texas happened frequently. However, it is also important to also remember that separations between husbands and wives, and children from parents occurred as well in leasing agreements. The distances for leasing may have involved dozens of miles rather than the hundreds of miles that went with sales, but the anguish of parting from loved ones was no less a painful experience. From the perspective of the enslaved, it mattered little whether their family member was 1,000 miles away or 10 miles away when there was little to no opportunity for contact to enjoy the love and support of the family circle.   

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Dying Far From Home: Sgt. Jacob A. Moss, Co. H, 5th USCI


What’s in a name? For a Civil War soldier, in a day before carrying one’s identity was a common practice, a name and the reputation behind it was sometimes all a man had. That is one reason why it is disappointing to find so many soldiers’ names misspelled on their government gravestones.

A case in point is Sergeant Jacob A. Moss. His grave marker spells his last name as Morse, which apparently comes from his inventory of effects form in his Compiled Military Service Record, as that is the only record that incorporates that particular spelling. Several earlier documents from various sources confirm his last name as Moss.

Jacob Moss was only 21 years old when he enlisted in Company H of the 5th United States Colored Infantry at Lancaster, Ohio, on June 29, 1863. Jacob may have been following the example of his younger brother, Charles, who at 19, enlisted in Company G, 12 days before in nearby Chillicothe.   

Jacob and Charles Moss appear in the 1850 census living in Fairfield County, Ohio. They resided in the household of their parents, Edmund and Martha and siblings. Edmund worked as a blacksmith. He, Martha, and the three oldest children were all born in Virginia. Jacob was the first of the siblings born in Ohio. He along with his three older siblings attended school, an opportunity that would not have been readily available in the Old Dominion. Included in the Moss household, too, was Fleming Crump, an 18 year old blacksmith born in Virginia. Crump was likely serving as an assistant or apprentice to Edmund Moss. One wonders if Edmund and his family left the slave state of Virginia as an enslaved or free people of color.

Interestingly, the 1850 census also shows Jacob Moss in the Crump household in Fairfield County, Ohio. Other records tell us that Fleming Crump enlisted in the 27th USCI in 1864. The Moss and Crump families likely were related. Jacob Moss does not appear in the 1860 census, but his father and brother do. They are the only residents in their Ross County, Ohio, household.  

Described in his service records as a five feet six inch tall blacksmith, with a “brown” complexion, Jacob Moss formally mustered into U.S. service at Camp Delaware, Ohio in July. Although his promotion date is not included among his service records, by the end of October 1863, Jacob was a sergeant. Over the next 11 months, Sgt. Moss apparently always answered roll as “present.”

Moved from the Petersburg front to north of the James River, the 5th USCI, along with the rest of the 3rd Division of the XVIII Corps, received orders to attack the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights on the morning of September 29, 1864. Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Maj. Milton Holland, also fighting in the 5th USCI, remembered, “The shot and shell of the enemy mowed down the front ranks of the colored troops like blades of grass beneath the sickle’s deadly touch. But, with a courage that knew no bounds, the men stood like granite figures. They routed the enemy and captured the breastworks.” During the second concerted assault at the Battle of New Market Heights, led by the 5th USCI, Sgt. Moss received a wound to the head damaging his skull. Removed from the battlefield and transported to the general hospital at Fort Monroe, Jacob died of his wounds three days later on October 2. In addition to his army issued clothing, which consisted of a cap, blouse, trousers, drawers, shirt, shoes, and socks, he also owned a money purse and a knife.

Jacob’s brother Charles also received a wound at New Market Heights. However, Charles’ service records are not clear if he fully recovered, although his hospital stay proved lengthy. Charles appears in the 1880 census, living in Columbus with his wife Sarah and their three sons. That census noted that Charles had not worked during the last year due to consumption (tuberculosis). Other documentation shows that Fleming Crump died on June 7, 1906. He was buried in the Dayton, Ohio, National Cemetery.

Today, Sgt. Moss rests in peace in grave number 3868 in the Hampton National Cemetery. Although his gravestone misspells his name, we remember him and his courageous participation in the Battle of New Market Heights. He and his family earned a worthy reputation for their service and sacrifice.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Zooming in on the 27th USCI Winter Encampment near Petersburg

 Not too long ago I came across the above photograph on the Library of Congress website while searching for USCT images. It is described as the winter encampment of the 27th United States Colored Infantry, near Petersburg. Raised in Ohio, 27th USCI fought in the IX Corps, until consolidated into the all-African American XXV Corps during the winter of 1864-65.

Zooming in on parts of the photograph give us some better detail, but being that the photograph was exposed far away from the subjects it shows, many of the people are blurry. Regardless, it is a fascinating rare look into a USCT winter encampment.

In the left center of image are five black soldiers. One sits on what may be a small cart of some kind. Whatever it is, its wheels appear to be too small for an artillery carriage. The soldier on the back left wears a light blue great coat, and at first he escaped my attention. To his left is a soldier resting on a wheel of the cart. He looks to have chevrons on his fatigue blouse, so he is likely a sergeant or corporal. The man sitting on the axel of the wheels may also be a non-commissioned officer. The winter cabin these five soldiers stand in front of has a double-barrel chimney. Soldiers used old discarded barrels as an easy means to extend their chimney smoke above their quarters.

Another group of soldier appear on the left side of the photograph. Some of these men appear to be white, and thus are likely the regimental officers. A few non-commissioned officers and enlisted men may be among them as well. There are a variety of structures in use behind the men. A couple of tents that may or may not have log bases are directly behind them. A vertical log winter quarter is visible through the trees. While most cabins utilized a horizontal log construction method with interlinking logs at the corners, some soldiers around Petersburg chose to build their cold-weather homes by digging a footer trench and then making vertical stockade walls daubed with clay. The most famous example of this type of construction in the area was Gen. U.S. Grant's headquarters at City Point.

Soldiers often commented that the winter of 1864-65 was an especially cold one at Petersburg. Frequent days below freezing and lots of sleet and ice covered the ground. This photograph appears to corroborate those accounts. A detail (above) shows what looks to be icicles on the earthwork ditch in the foreground of the photograph.

Throughout the photograph, but particularly in the right foreground, tree stumps are clearly visible. Those areas still timbered around Petersburg were almost totally denuded during the winter of 1864-65. The trees were used to build the soldiers' winter quarter cabins, burn for fuel and cooking their food, and to construct their earthworks and defensive obstacles. Wood got to be so scarce during that winter that some accounts tell us soldiers cut stumps a second time closer to the ground for firewood. I would not be surprised if the standing trees that are shown in this photograph did not eventfully succumb to the soldiers' axes before evacuating the camp.    

Friday, December 4, 2020

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

November provided quite a book haul for me. Between my birthday gifts from my wonderful wife, a few good deal purchases here and there, and a couple of gifts from friends, I added a number of interesting new titles to my ever-growing library.

Hinsonville's Heroes: Black Civil War Soldiers of Chester County, Pennsylvania by Cheryl Renee Gooch is a slim volume, but don't let its size fool you. It is packed full of amazing stories about USCT veterans from one small southeastern Pennsylvania community. I received this one for my birthday and thoroughly enjoyed reading it already.

I recently had the pleasure of providing a guided tour of the Seven Days Battles to Mr. Gibert Kennedy and his wife. Kennedy is the author of the recently published A South Carolina Upcountry Saga: The Civil War Letters of Barham Bobo Foster and His Family, 1860-1863. He wanted to see a number of the places where his ancestors fought in the 3rd South Carolina during the Seven Days. He kindly gave me copy of the book as thanks. I am a huge fan of soldiers' published letters, so I certainly look forward to enjoying this one. 

We were fortunate to have Chris Mackowski as our November speaker at the Petersburg Civil War Roundtable. I had requested Chris to speak about the fighting at the North Anna River during the Overland Campaign. He did a fantastic job of explaining the Army of the Potomac's offensive movements and the Army of Northern Virginia's counter actions. To help reinforce what he shared and to learn more, I got a copy of his book on the subject, Strike Them A Blow: Battle along the North Anna River, May 21-25, 1864. I've already finished reading it and I highly recommend it.

Chris was selling a number of his books at the Petersburg Civil War Roundtable, and Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac's "Valley Forge" and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union, which he co-authored Albert Z. Conner, Jr., caught my eye. The winter of 1862-63 was a trying time of the Union's eastern theater army. With the defeat at Fredericksburg, and yet another failed general, a lot was on the line. 

When I was a junior in high school I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X for the first time. Alex Haley's writing was captivating and Malcolm's life story was so eye-opening. I've read a few other Malcolm X biographies over the many years since, but this one really has me intrigued due to the many interviews the other conducted over about 30 years. The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne is getting good reviews, so I'm sure I'll enjoy digging into it and learning new things about this complicated man's life. 

When I lived in Kentucky, I ventured out to the western part of the state to share with some teachers about my then research project about Kentuckians' reactions to John Brown's raid. On that trip I made a side excursion visit to Fort Donelson National Battlefield for the first time. At the visitor's center I encountered the story of Andrew Jackson Smith. Smith, a Kentucky native, ran away and joined in with an Illinois regiment serving as an officer's body servant. Wounded at Fort Donelson, Smith later joined the 55th Massachusetts when African Americans were finally allowed to enlist. For his heroism during the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina, Smith would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in 2001. Smith's biography is now available with the new book Carrying the Colors: The Life and Legacy of Medal of Honor Recipient Andrew Jackson Smith, by W. Robert Beckman and Sharon S. McDonald. 

A book that I've has on my "wish list" since even before it was released is Diane Miller Sommerville's Aberration of Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South. I was so happy to receive a copy for my birthday. The psychological distress caused by the experience of war, both on the frontlines as well as on the home front, along with the tremendous amount of change, affected Southerners across racial and gender lines. I am a firm believer that wars cast long shadows that in turn produce psychological trauma simply too great for some to endure.     

I follow Civil War book news pretty closely. So, sometimes, I am a little surprised when I miss a title. I recently happened across Alfred C. Young III's Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study while browsing through the LSU Press online catalog. I'm not sure how it previously escaped my attention. To understand the Petersburg Campaign, a definite center of my interest, it is necessary to understand the campaign that preceded it. I also enjoy numerical studies, so this work should help kill two birds with one reading.

Happy page turning! 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dying Far From Home – Pvt. Perry Hamilton, Co. K, 6th USCI


The 6th United States Colored Infantry (USCI) recruited its soldiers largely from the New Jersey, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania area. Organized and mustered in at Camp William Penn near Philadelphia in the summer and fall of 1863, the regiment moved to Virginia for duty that fall.

Not all new recruits were volunteers. Some men came to the ranks by way of the draft. Recent historical scholarship explains that many free African Americans took pause before enlisting or showed little interest in signing up when finally allowed to serve the United States army. Much of the vacillation came from the difficult lessons learned from black service in past conflicts. Participation in the armed forces during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 brought few political, social, or economic gains to men of color. Early on, there was not much evidence the Civil War would be different from previous wars in terms of rewards and fulfilling the latent promises of the Declaration of Independence.

We do not know why Perry Hamilton ended up being drafted rather than volunteering. Perhaps he would have enlisted if had he not been drafted first. Perhaps he had his eyes on an opportunity that he felt offered a brighter future. Maybe he was supporting family members financially who could not do without his earnings. Regardless, he fulfilled his duty by enlisting in Company K, 6th USCI on August 13, 1863, at Smyrna, Delaware.

Hamilton’s Compiled Military Service Record provides a brief physical description of the newly minted soldier. The 21 year-old young man measured five feet ten inches tall and possessed a “light” complexion. In the 1860 census, Hamilton appears described as a “mulatto,” residing in the household of Abram and Matilda Brinkly in New Castle, Delaware, which is located just south of Wilmington. There are a number of other individuals in the household, so his may have been an extended family home. His occupation, “laborer,” was by far that which was listed most often by his regimental comrades.

Hamilton, like countless Civil War soldiers, experienced a period of illness during his service that required medical attention. He missed a significant amount of time in the spring of 1864 while in the hospital at Fort Monroe for treatment. His unspecified illness may have prevented him from experiencing the 6th USCI’s first taste of combat on June 15, 1864, at Baylor’s Farm that morning and the assaults on the Dimmock Line at Petersburg that evening. However, apparently after recovering, Hamilton spent time working on the Dutch Gap canal project.

Back in the ranks of the 6th USCI, Hamilton participated in the assault on the Confederate line at New Market Heights on September 29, 1864. Company D’s Capt. John McMurray remembered the thoughts of the soldiers as they anxiously awaited the charge. “I know there was a big lot of thinking done by us while we stood there. We knew there was a strong line of Confederates behind the rifle pits, across the slashing from us. We knew that as soon as we would move forward they would open fine on us. We knew the order to move forward would soon be given. But beyond that, what? Would it be death or wounds, or capture? Would it be victory or defeat?,” he recollected.

Company A, and Hamilton’s Company K, served as skirmishers, out ahead of the initial assaulting regiments. Skirmishers, fighting in dispersed formation, probed forward and engaged the pickets of the defenders. It was likely in the role of skirmisher that Pvt. Hamilton received a grievous wound. Right behind the skirmishers, Col. Samuel Duncan’s brigade, composed of the 6th attacking right behind the 4th USCI, tried to make their way though the slashings of abatis. The 4th and the 6th took heavy casualties. According to one count, the 6th lost 42 killed, 161 wounded, and seven missing out of the 367 men and officers who entered the battle.

Evacuated from the battlefield due to a gunshot wound in the back that injured his spine, Hamilton received transportation by boat to Fort Monroe, where he had previously received treatment for a sickness. He must have experienced excruciating pain due to the nature of his wound. Unlike a wound received to a bodily extremity that may receive amputation in effort to mitigate infection and prevent the patient’s death, a wound to the body’s core or head often limited a surgeon’s ability to help. Hamilton suffered for 11 days before death released him from his pain on October 10, 1864. An inventory of possessions showed that Hamilton owned no personal effects.

Having faithfully performed his duty, Pvt. Perry Hamilton rests only a few short rows from a shady tree in grave number 1373, and surrounded by fellow soldiers who gave their lives for a “more perfect Union,” in Hampton National Cemetery.

Image of the 6th USCI flag courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Sweet Potato

In many homes across the United States, sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple. Sometimes served as a side dish and topped with melted marshmallows, or even better, in pie form, sweet potatoes have a long history, especially in the South.

Sweet potatoes were a common tuber grown on Southern plantations. These highly nutritious root plants flourished in the gardens of both the free and the enslaved. Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas and are often confused with the African and Asian yam due to its similarity in look and taste.   

The sweet potato first came to the colonial South from the Caribbean Islands in the late 17th century. The hearty root plants quickly gained favor with black and white Southerners for their versatility, longevity, ease of cooking, and flavor. The enslaved often cooked sweet potatoes by roasting them in the ashes of their fires, or boiling them, mashing them, and then baking or frying as a type of bread.

To help preserve sweet potatoes, slave quarters often included a floor hole where they could be stored for long durations. As an enslaved boy in Virginia, Booker T. Washington remembered:

“There was no wooden floor in our cabin, the naked earth being used as a floor. In the center of the earthen floor there was a large, deep opening covered with boards, which was used as a place in which to store sweet potatoes during the winter.  An impression of this potato-hole is very distinctly engraved upon my memory, because I recall that during the process of putting the potatoes in or taking them out I would often come into possession of one or two, which I roasted and thoroughly enjoyed.”

Although free and enslaved Southerners knew little to nothing about the vitamins and minerals that root plants like sweet potatoes afforded them, the tuber’s high levels of beta-carotene, calcium, iron, and fiber added significant nutrients to a diet largely composed of pork and corn. 

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Sgt. George W. Hatton, 1st USCI Expresses Disappointment on Unfair Treatment

 After receiving a serious wound to the left knee in the June 15, 1864 fighting at Petersburg, 21 year old Sgt. George H. Hatton received medical treatment at the army hospital at Hampton, Virginia. While there he wrote to the Christian Recorder newspaper to express his disappointment. 

"I have been silent for a long time, but today I must speak, for it is a day long to be remembered by me, a wounded soldier of the U.S. Army.

I was wounded at the battle of Petersburg on the 15th of June last, and arrived at the Hampton Hospital on the 20th. On my arrival there, I wrote to my father, stating that I was wounded and would like him to come and see me, and if possible, take me home, where I should have the attendance of my kind and loving mother. My father complied with my request, and arrived at Fortress Monroe on the 30th. I was overjoyed to see him.

Today, he departed with a hung-down head, leaving me with an aching heart. I must here state the cause of my trouble. It is as follows:

On my father's arrival at the hospital he stated the object of his visit to the doctor in charge, who, very short and snappish, referred him to Dr. White, one of the head surgeons. Father immediately proceeded to Dr. White's office, where he expected to receive a little satisfaction, but to his heart-rending surprise, received none. After making every exertion in his power to get a furlough, he failed in so doing, without receiving the slightest shadow of satisfaction.

All of this I was willing to stand, as I had discharged my duty as a soldier from the first of May, 1863, up to the time I was wounded, for the low United States' degrading sum of $7 per month, that no man but the poor, down-trodden, uneducated, patriotic, black man would be willing to fight for. Yes, I stand all this; but the great wound I received at the hospital was this: A white man, whose name I did not learn, came from Washington with my father for the same purpose, to see his son and carry him home. His success needs no comment; let it suffice to say that he was white, and he carried his son home.

Such deception as that I thought was crucified at the battle of Fort Wagner; buried at Milliken's Bend; rose the third day, and descended into everlasting forgetfulness in the Appomattox River at the battle of Petersburg.

Mr. Editor, when, oh! when can one of my color, and in my position, at this time, find a comforter? When will my people be a nation? I fear, never on the American soil; though we may crush this cursed rebellion."

1st Sgt. Hatton transferred to Summit House General Hospital in Philadelphia in August 1864. He apparently retuned to duty on November 28, 1864. However, he became ill on March 17, 1865, and appears to have remained so until he was mustered out due to disability on June 17, 1865. Hatton appears in the 1870 census living in Washington D.C.'s Fourth Ward with his wife Frances. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Amazing Account: Pvt. Oliver W. Norton, 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry at the Battle of Gaines' Mill

While preparing to give a recent tour of the Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862), I came across an account by Pvt. Oliver W. Norton, 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry, describing his experience during the Battle of Gaines' Mill, which was fought on June 27, 1862. Norton, a bugler, had just come back from a serious bout with dysentery a day before the battle. After what he went through in the fight, he might have wished he stayed sick just a bit longer.

"Suddenly I saw two men on the bank in front of us gesticulating violently and pointing in our rear, but the roar of battle drowned their voices. The order was given to face about. We did so and tried to form in line, but while the line was forming, a bullet laid low the head, the stay, the trust of our regiment--our brave colonel, and before we knew what had happened the major shared his fate. We were then without a field officer, but the boys bore up bravely. They rallied round the flag and we advanced up the hill to find ourselves alone. It appears that the enemy broke through our lines off on our right, and the word was sent to us on the left to fall back. Those in the rear of us received the order but the aide sent to us was shot before he reached us and so we got no orders. Henry and Denison were shot about the same time as the colonel. I left them together under a tree. 

I retuned to the fight, and our boys were dropping on all sides of me. I was blazing away at the rascals not ten rods [55 yards] off when a ball struck my gun just above the lower band as I was capping it, and cut it in two. The ball flew in pieces and part of it went by my head to the right and three pieces struck just below my left collar bone. The deepest one was not over half an inch, and stopping to open my coat I pulled them out and snatched a gun from Ames in Company H as he fell dead. Before I had fired this at all a ball clipped off a piece of the stock, and an instant after another struck the seam of my canteen and entered my left groin. I pulled it out, and, more maddened than ever, I rushed in again. A few minutes after, another ball took six inches of the muzzle of this gun. I snatched another form a wounded man under a tree, and, as I was loading kneeling by the side of the road, a ball cut my rammer in two as I was turning it over my head. Another gun was easier got than a rammer so I threw that away and picked up a fourth one. Here in the road a buckshot struck me in the left eyebrow, making the third slight scratch I received in the action. It exceeded all I ever dreamed of, it was almost a miracle."

Norton, indeed, miraculously survived the Battle of Gaines' Mill, the Seven Days Battles, and, in 1863 started serving as a 1st lieutenant in the 8th United States Colored Infantry. He mustered out of service in November 1865 with the 8th USCI. 

Norton's experiences are captured in Army Letters, 1861-1865, published in 1903. It contains loads of letters that Norton wrote home. One of the recorded excepts has received quite a bit of attention in Civil War soldier's studies. On Oct. 9, 1861, Norton wrote: "I commenced writing yesterday, but was obliged to stop to attend drill, a very common incident in soldier life. The first thing in the morning is drill, then drill, then drill again. Then drill, drill, and a little more drill. Then drill, and lastly, drill. Between drills, we drill, and stop to eat a little and have a roll call."

However, Norton has gone down in history for a more significant contribution. He is credited as the first soldier to have played "Taps." Written by his brigadier general, Daniel Butterfield, in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing on the James River after the repulse from Richmond's environs during the Seven Days Battles, Butterfield had Norton play the tune for the first time for "lights out." It caught on quickly and has remained a mainstay since. 

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Wide Awakes


During the presidential election year of 1860, a group of young men sought change. They identified themselves as “Wide Awakes.” 

The Wide Awakes started in Connecticut in the spring of 1860. The organization, composed largely of young men in the free states in their twenties and thirties, developed clubs or “companies” with the goal of seeing a successful Republican Party candidate in that coming fall’s presidential election. Recognized by their glossy-black military-style capes and caps, and bearing pole torches and Wide Awake open-eye banners, they marched in formations to enhance their size and show their solidarity.

Most young men who joined their local Wide Awake companies grew up in the politically turbulent 1840s and 1850s. Nationally divisive issues such as the annexation of Texas, the Mexican-American War, the Compromise of 1850 and Fugitive Slave Act, Bleeding Kansas, and John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, along with fragmented and short-lived political parties, all left these young men disillusioned and seeking a more hopeful future. For the Wide Awakes, the Republican Party offered that hope. 

Established in the mid-1850s, the Republican Party formed primarily around a platform plank of preventing the further expansion of slavery into the western territories. The party’s first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, ran a surprisingly strong race in 1856, but ultimately lost to Democrat James Buchanan. As a new election year dawned, Republican young men desired better organization, more visibility, and the opportunity to have their voices heard this time around. They also sought to display their manhood and embody their party and their candidate’s messages.  

Started with the aim of giving Republican Party proponents the ability to speak freely in public forums without interruption from opposition hecklers, the Wide Awakes grew rapidly and spread across the free states from Connecticut to Wisconsin through party networks and newspaper coverage. Their youthful enthusiasm, militaristic uniforms, martial formations, and collective sense of political objectives only added to their appeal. Historians estimate that about 100,000 young men participated in Wide Awake clubs during 1860.

By the time Abraham Lincoln received the Republican Party’s nomination for president (May 18, 1860) the Wide Awakes were growing rapidly. The Wide Awakes fully supported their party’s choice of the “Rail Splitter,” and as the election neared, their numbers continued to grow. On Election Day, the Wide Awakes attempted to ensure a peaceful vote by patrolling polling stations. Lincoln’s election ultimately resulted more from the split nature of the election (4 candidates) than from the influence of the Wide Awakes, but they provided an energy and sent a message of change that certainly aided Lincoln’s win.

On the heels of Lincoln’s election came the secession of South Carolina, and eventually ten other slave states. Few Wide Awakes prophesied the war that eventually came while they were organizing in the spring and summer of 1860. However, many transitioned from political soldiers to actual fighting men by joining the United States army and naval forces during the Civil War.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Will Miss Him Sadly:" Capt. Samuel W. Vannuys, Co. E, 4th USCI


The research process often uncovers helpful evidence that fill in otherwise exasperating gaps of knowledge. For example, while recently looking for information about an officer from the 4th United States Colored Infantry (USCI), who was killed in action at the Battle of New Market Heights, an obituary in his hometown newspaper came to light. This notice, printed in the Franklin Jeffersonian, provides significant details of a heroic life and death that would otherwise likely be lost to history, but instead, it along with other sources, helps construct a biography for this patriotic soldier. Corroborating the obituary’s information are the diary entries and letters home that Vannuys wrote and were later published in 1913 in History of Johnson County, Indiana (pages 420-485).

According to his gravestone Samuel Watson Vannuys was born on January 23, 1840, in Franklin, (Johnson County) Indiana. His parents, John and Caroline, ran a successful farm and Samuel grew up as the eldest of a group brothers and a sister. Educated at local Hopewell Academy, young Vannuys was preparing to obtain a college education when the Civil War erupted. As the obituary declares “he left this school, abandoned his studies and, although, of fine manly form, and commanding personal appearance, he modestly stepped into the ranks as a common soldier” and enlisted on September 13, 1861, in Company F, 7th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Vannuys soon received recommendations for promotion to officer status, but with no vacancies in his regiment, “his papers were forwarded to Washington, and he was eventually appointed to a first Lieutenancy, in the 4th U.S. Colored Regiment.” Vannuys passed his officer’s board of review examination in Washington D.C. His service records show that he received appointment as 1st lieutenant in Company H on July 23, 1863, and reported for duty on August 7.

As a lieutenant, Vannuys “engaged with zeal in the training of these Colored patriots, in the use of firearms, and the duties of the soldier.” As he worked with his soldiers Vannuys lost any “doubt as to their possession requisite of the soldier—bravery in the face of danger.”

It appears that Vannuys missed leading his troops in the June 15, 1864, fighting at Petersburg, which served as the combat initiation for the 4th, as he was absent serving as adjutant at division headquarters. Although he received promotion to captain of Company E on July 1 to fill the place of its former captain, Vannuys continued to serve in his adjutant role. However, unfortunately, Vannuys’ time as captain of Company E proved short lived.

During the September 29, 1864, attack by the 4th and 6th USCIs at New Market Heights, “Captain Vannuys’ horse was killed and he led his men on foot to within a few yards of the rebel pits [earthworks], when they were met by such a murderous fire, as no men on earth could stand.” Devastated by the concentrated fire of the Texas Brigade on the two initial assaulting regiments, the attack lost its momentum and began to withdraw. “As they turned [Vannuys] received a shot in the neck, severing the carotid artery, and, it is supposed, killing him instantly.” However, “the men were soon rallied and reinforced and returned to the charge and drove the enemy from their works. Although, not more than 20 minutes elapsed between the retreat and the return of the attacking party—the enemy had robbed [Vannuys] of his watch, money and clothes.”

Much of the information in the obituary apparently comes for a letter written to Capt. Vannuys’ father from Lt. Z. F. Wilbur, Acting Assistant Quartermaster for the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Division, XVIII Corps, and obviously Vannuys’ good friend. His warm sentiments provide ample evidence of their friendship: “What can a stranger say to comfort those nearest and dearest to him. But of one thing I can assure you, that you and your lady have the heartfelt sympathies of every officer in our Brigade, for Van as we called him was universally esteemed as a man and soldier. He has no enemies, but many friends, warm friends. It could not be otherwise with one of fixed principles, strict integrity and kindly heart. The death of no other officer in the 4th regiment, or of this brigade, has created such a sensation, and we who were his daily companions will miss him sadly at our mess table and at our little circle around the camp fire.”

The last letter written by Capt. Vannuys to his Indiana family did not come from him, but interestingly from an unknown Confederate soldier. In a small envelope postmarked Old Point Comfort, Virginia, and cancelled on October 10, 1864, was a small piece of paper. On it, written by Capt. Vannuys and dated two days before his death at New Market Heights, it read: “This testament [Bible] belongs to Capt. S. W. VanNuys, Acting Ass’t Adj’t General 3d Brigade, 3d Div., 18th Army Corps. Should I die upon the field of battle, for the sake of a loving mother and sister, inform my father, John H. VanNuys, Franklin, Indiana of the fact.” In postscript the Confederate soldier wrote: “Mr. John H. Vanings: It is my painful duty to inform you that your son was killed on the 29th of the last month near Chaffin’s farm, Va. I have his testament. I will send it if you wish. From your enemy, one of the worst rebels you ever seen.” The postscript was initialed “L. B. F.”   

Vannuys’ body was recovered from the battlefield by Lt. Wilbur, who had it embalmed and returned to his “stricken parents and friends” back in Indiana who had the pleasure of beholding once more, the noble form of the fallen Patriot and Hero.” The young captain was only 24 years old.

Today, Capt. Samuel Watson Vannuys rests in peace in Greenlawn Cemetery in Frankiln, Indiana, having performed his duty faithfully and giving the last full measure of devotion to his country.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Civil War Soldiers and Tobacco Use


During the Civil War, almost all soldiers, both Union and Confederate, enjoyed a taste of tobacco from time to time. Many of the fighting men were unfamiliar with what all went into producing the substance they so enjoyed chewing or smoking, while others knew well from first-hand experience.

The popularity of tobacco among Civil War soldiers is evident from the large numbers of photographs showing men smoking pipes and cigars. Whether in formal studio sittings, or in candid camp scenes, soldiers proudly displayed their love for tobacco by including it in their images. Pamplin Historical Park has several of these photographs in its collections.

Tobacco’s ubiquity among Northern and Southern fighting men also comes out in their correspondence. Soldiers often wrote about the comfort that tobacco brought. One man, writing to a cousin claimed: “There seems to be a pride felt in enduring what at home we would consider hardships. But the soldier’s life is not all hardship. It is a pleasant sight to look on a group sitting round a fire in the evening, whiling away the time with stories of the past and speculations of the future. Then you would always see the pipes there. That you wouldn’t like. But for some reason a soldier does enjoy his tobacco.” He went on to explain that out of 87 men in his company 61 used tobacco. An Andersonville prisoner wrote in his diary that a friend’s gift of tobacco “’saved my life,’ for 24 hours at least.”

Other soldiers either mentioned experiencing tobacco’s ill effects or feeling a moral responsibility to stop using it. A 4th Virginia Infantry soldier wrote, “I think I shall quit the use of tobacco altogether, as I am inclined to believe that it injures me.” Another Confederate used the excuse of scarcity to halt consumption: “I have quit chewing tobacco from necessity. I can not procure the weed at any price, so I thought it was as good a time to quit as I will ever find,” he wrote. Sometimes soldiers had to trade to get the valuable substance. A soldier at Petersburg marveled watching pickets swap. “These men who take one another by the hand this minute, may the next send one another to the spirit-land. These who are now trading tobacco for coffee and sugar, may, ere another hour rolls around, be trading lead for lead,” he wrote. 

Regardless of it perceived concerns then, and known adverse health effects today, tobacco’s place among America’s soldiers predated and went long past the Civil War. Its use by soldiers from colonial times to the Revolutionary War, Mexican-American War, Spanish American War, through the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and to the present conflicts is ample evidence of its continuing appeal to fighting men.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Recent Acquisitions to My Library

Studies on individuals who participated in John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper Ferry continue to emerge to inform us. Previously works on white raider John E. Cooke, and black raider John Anthony Copeland are now joined by The Untold Story of Shields Green: The Life and Death of a Harper's Ferry Raider by Louis A. DeCaro, Jr. I've enjoyed and benefitted from DeCaro's previous works on John Brown, so I am confident this one will prove highly insightful as well.

An area of Civil War scholarship that is finally receiving much needed attention is army logistics. This critical aspect to understanding the success of the conflict's campaigns has largely escaped historians' focus. Civil War Supply and Strategy: Feeding Men and Moving Armies by Earl J. Hess looks to help fill a yawning void. Hess previously approached the topic with his Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation (2017), which I recommend reading before jumping into his most recent work, as it provides a solid foundation for better understanding the more campaign-focused Civil War Supply and Strategy


The men who served in the United States Colored Troops gave a number of reasons for why they fought. Some did so to to abolish slavery, some to save the Union, and many did so to stake a claim to the benefits of citizenship. In fact, a key element in the postwar move toward amending the Constitution to grant citizenship to African Americans born in the United States was the service and sacrifices of black soldiers in the Civil War. This was particularly true in the demands made by northern African Americans who tried to make the most of their service and who had learned from previously unsuccessful attempts for citizenship rights after military service in earlier American conflicts. Fighting for Citizenship: Black Northerners and the Debate over Military Service in the Civil War by Brian Taylor is an exciting new study exploring this relevant topic. I look forward to learning more about this political process.


 H. W. Brands is a prolific historian who publishes on various topics and diverse eras. His latest book, The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom looks at the different paths that these two giants of the mid-19th century American history took in attempting to solve the problem of slavery. One seemingly set things in motion with action, while the other responded to and negotiated the stream of emancipation politically. 

Happy reading! 

Monday, November 2, 2020

Dying Far From Home - Sgt. Lafayette Tibbs, Co. H, 5th USCI


The Civil War was by and large a young man’s conflict. Most enlisted men and noncommissioned officers fell within the 18-26 age group. A large number of commissioned officers also were under 30. It is a tragedy that so many of these young men fell victim to disease and battle. So many bright futures wiped out prematurely and so many generations left unrealized.

What motivated Lafayette Tibbs to enlist as a 19 year old? Were his reasons practical? Did he need steady income to help provide for his family? Were his reasons altruistic? Did he want to end slavery to help provide a brighter future for his race? Did he want to prove that black men were as brave as white men and thus as worthy of the rights of citizenship? Did he envision the promising future of an indivisible Union? Was it a combination of these things? We’ll likely never know, as his short life came to an end on October 19, 1864, succumbing to wounds he received at the Battle of New Market Heights.

Unfortunately, like so many men who served in the United States Colored Troops, little information is available about Lafayette Tibb’s developmental years. A small clue does survive with his appearance in the 1850 census, living in the household of his 50 year old mother Matilda Tibbs in Hocking Township, Fairfield County, Ohio. The seven year old Lafayette is the youngest of the five boys in the family. The whole family, all categorized as “mulatto,” were born in Virginia, except for Lafayette, who was born in Ohio. Perhaps Matilda and the other boys left enslavement in the Old Dominion and established a new life in the free state of Ohio either by self-emancipation or manumission by their former enslaver. Lafayette does not appear in the 1860 census, but Matilda and one of his older brothers are listed in the household of a man named John Brown, his wife, and their infant. At 17 years old, Lafayette may have been working locally elsewhere and missed by the census taker.

Lafayette Tibbs enlisted as a private in Company H, 5th United States Colored Infantry on June 27, 1863, at Lancaster, Ohio. Now, 19 years old, Tibbs measured five feet, eight inches tall, and was described as “yellow” in complexion. His given occupation was “farmer.” Tibbs officially mustered into service at Camp Delaware in Delaware, Ohio, where the 5th USCI trained, as well as the 27th USCI. Young Tibbs soon received a promotion to sergeant.

Tibbs must have adapted well to the demands of military life as evidenced by his promotion, and his appointment for service as a member of the 3rd Division, XVII Corps sharpshooter unit. It is unknown if Tibbs was operating as part of the sharpshooters, fighting as forward skirmishers, or within the ranks with Company H, when he received wounds during the assaults on September 29, 1864, at New Market Heights. Tibbs’ service records do not specify his wounds, but he received treatment for them after the battle at Balfour U.S. Army General Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. He died there on October 19. The paperwork for his personal effects, completed four months later, lists no possessions. 

 A soldier’s life, however brief, deserves a soldier’s resting place. Sgt. Lafayette Tibbs rests in grave number 80 in Hampton National Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery sits among buildings at Hampton University, a historically black institution of higher learning. Sgt. Tibbs would likely be proud that so many African American young men and women have had the opportunity to obtain a quality education and pursue the livelihood of their choosing partly due to the sacrifices he and his comrades willingly made during the Civil War.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Bully Photograph: Grant's Headquarters Outhouse

While searching for some images of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters cabin at City Point, Virginia during the Petersburg Campaign, I came across a number of different images, both period and modern. The one above especially caught my attention first of all due to the United States flag. However, at  second glance, I also spotted an additional detail; the little outhouse directly behind Grant's cabin. Yes, even the most famous of military leaders had to answer when nature called. 

Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress

Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Got Used Up:" Casualties for the 4th USCI at the Battle of New Market Heights


Although he amazingly survived the Battle of New Market Heights unscathed, Sgt. Maj. Christian A. Fleetwood recorded his impression of the 4th United States Colored Infantry’s experience on September 29, 1864, in his pocket diary. Brief and to the point, it accurately summed things up in a short phrase: “got used up.”

It is not surprising that the 4th USCI sustained significant casualties since they led the charge at New Market Heights. However, the totals they suffered provide telling testimony to the bravery displayed by the men of the 4th that day.

A thorough search through the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) for all of the regiment’s soldiers helped total the heavy price the 4th USCI paid at New Market Heights. The numbers discovered are: 27 men killed in action, four missing in action but presumed dead, 23 fatally wounded, and 97 wounded but who survived. Of course, as the list below starkly shows, many of the wounded who lived had their lives forever changed by their New Market Heights injuries.

The totals that I found differ somewhat from what Edward G. Longacre shares in his book, A Regiment of Slaves: The 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866. His figures are 27 killed, 137 wounded, and 14 missing. 

Killed in Action

Pvt. Joseph H. Bantum, Co. G, 18, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Robert A. Bantum, Co. H, 26, Traptown, MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Cyrus Boley, Co. E, 27, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Harrison Cooper, Co. H, 33, Traptown, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. William K. Dockins, Co. I, 22, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Henry Dunson, Co. H, 23, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. John H. Dyson, Co. G, 19, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Alfred Ennels, Co. C, 25, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

1st Sgt. Isaac Harrol, Co. E, 25, Nansemond, VA; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. William H. Holloway, Co. I, 27, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Joshua James, Co. C, 22, Harford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Hanson C. Key, Co. F, 26, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Charles Marr, Co. H, 18, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Benjamin Matthews, Co. F, 21, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Henry Mays, Co. A, 20, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Thomas Henry Mitchell, Co. E, 23, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Thomas Mooney, Co. C, 20, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. John R. Newman, Co. I, 23, Caroline Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Andrew Nichols, Co. K, 25, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

1st Sgt. Augustus A. Norton, Co. F, 25, Harford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. William Patterson, Co. E., 25, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Richard Savoy, Co. A, 21, Queen Anne Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Eli W. Smith, Co. B, 20, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Allen Toop, Co. F, 21, Carroll Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Henry Travis, Co. C, 27, Henry Co., VA; Baltimore, MD

Capt. Samuel W. Vannuys, Co. E, 24, Johnson Co. Indiana; origionally served in 7th Indiana Inf. then appointed 2nd Lt in 4th USCI

Pvt. John Dorsey Watts, Co. B, 22, Clear Spring, MD; Baltimore, MD

Fatally Wounded

Pvt. John Bantum, Co. H, 24, Talbot Co.; MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-4-1864 after amputation of left leg at thigh

Corp. Elhanan Buie, Co. G, 20, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-24-1864 from gunshot wound to left ilium (pelvis hip bone)

Sgt. Levin J. Camper, Co. D, 25, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-27-1864 from amputation of leg and chronic diarrhea  

Pvt. Augustus Cook, H, 23, Carroll Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-27-1864 from wounds received in action

Sgt. Isaac Cook, Co. C, 24, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-16-1864 from amputation of left leg

Pvt. John Cook, Co. H, 24, Carroll, Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 9-30-1864 on board hospital transport steamer Matilda

Pvt. Thomas Cornish, Co. K, 19, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-16-1864 from gunshot wound of left shoulder

Corp. James Dawson, Co. A, 20, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-1-1864 at Point of Rocks Hospital from wounds received at New Market Heights

1st Sgt. Nathaniel W. Dorsey, Co. B, 26, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-29-1864 at Point of Rocks Hospital from gunshot wound to left leg

Pvt. Henry Dutton, Co. C, 38, Carroll Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-18-1864 from gunshot wound perforating right lung

Sgt. Alfred B. Hilton, Co. H, 21, Harford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-21, 1864 from amputation at right knee joint; Medal of Honor recipient

Pvt. Henry Jackson, Co. E, 21, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD, died on 10-11-1864 from amputation of left arm and left thigh

Pvt. John H. Maybury, Co. G, 24, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-3-1864 from gunshot wound through breast

Corp. Risdon Newman, Co. C, 45, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on board hospital transport steamer Matilda on 9-30-1864 from severe wounds received at New Market Heights

Corp. Robert Parker, Co. H, 22, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-30-1864 from gunshot wound fracture of right radius, gunshot wound to flesh of right thigh, gunshot wound to right knee, and gunshot wound to flesh of back; noted cause of death is pneumonia

Pvt. James Reynolds, Co. F, 18, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 4-18-1865 from gunshot wounds received at New Market Heights

Pvt. William Richfield, Co. B, 25, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-3-1865 on board hospital steamer Thomas Powell

Corp. Levin Robinson, Co. E, 27, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 11-14-1864

Pvt. William Seafers, Co. H, 38, Dorchester, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-19-1864 from gunshot wound to left leg

Pvt. Samuel Smith, Co. B, 28, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died on 10-11-1864 from gunshot wound to right thigh

Pvt. William Tripp, Co. G, 28, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died 10-24-1864 from wounds received at Battle of New Market Heights

Pvt. Richard Varney, Co. K, 21, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; died 10-6-1864 from wounds to head, right arm, and side

Pvt. Henry Watson, Co. B, 22, Lynchburg, VA; Baltimore, MD; died 11-9-1864 from amputation of right thigh

Missing in Action

Pvt. John Camper, Co. I, 18, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD (presumed killed)

Pvt. Richard Smith, Co. D, 25, Dorchester, MD; Baltimore, MD (presumed killed)

Corp. Joseph Snavely, Co. I, 19, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD (presumed killed)

Pvt. Theodore Williams, Co. I, 19, Clarktown, MD; Baltimore, MD

Wounded Survived

Col. Samuel A. Duncan, wounded in right ankle (commanding brigade)

Company A

Pvt. John H. Bailey, 23, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Edward Budd, 38, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Benjamin Scott, 18, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. James Shields, 23, Baltimore Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. John R. Warren, 26, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 4-1-1865 on surgeon’s certificate from wounds received at New Market Heights

Corp. Alexander Watts, 19, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. George Williams, 19, Accomack Co., MD [VA?]; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865

Company B

Pvt. David Bedford, 22, Charles, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 9-23-1865 from gunshot wound of left humerus

Pvt. William F. Bordley, 18, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Nathaniel Brooks, 17, Cumberland, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-24-1865 from amputation of left forearm due to gunshot wound

Pvt. Raleigh Butler, 21, Cumberland, VA; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Alexander Cassell, 20, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. William Green, 19, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; later died of disease

Pvt. James Johnson, 19, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died 1-18-1865 of disease

Pvt. William H. Morgan, 28, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. James F. Price, 18, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Ephraim Smith, 19, Mt. Airy, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 7-19-1865 from amputation of right thigh at lower third

Corp. James R. Thompson, 19, Williamsport, MD; Baltimore, MD

Company C

Corp. George Bond, 24, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 5-30-1865 from gunshot wound to right hip

Pvt. Daniel C. Bordley, 22, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Eli Fickle, 42, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-23-1865 at Fort Monroe from wounds received on September 29, 1864

Pvt. Charles Griffin, 39, New Orleans, LA; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. George Hutchings, 30, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. William E. Matthews, 27, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-25-1865 due to complications from New Market Heights wound

Pvt. William Miles, 35, not listed; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 5-3-1865

Pvt. Murray C. D. Palmer, 36, Caroline Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865

Pvt. John H. Pinckney, 22, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 3-20-1865 from amputation of right thigh at upper third

Pvt. John C. Robinson, 25, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 1-12-1866 from gunshot wound of thorax at right side

Pvt. Samuel Sharp, 18, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 4-4-1865

Pvt. Philip Waters, 25, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 4-14-1865

Pvt. Robert Wilson, 20, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Company D

Pvt. Thomas Bell, 16, Dorchester Co., MD; Chillicothe, OH

Pvt. Jacob Cloyd, 19, South Hampton, MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Charles J. Jackson, 25, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. John H. Johnson, 17, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. William Stiles, 21, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865 from gunshot wound of right thigh

Pvt. Charles Thompson, 17, Hardy Co., (West) VA; Baltimore, MD; discharged 6-26-1865

Company E

Pvt. Isaiah Camper, 31, New Market, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Henry W. Dorsey, 20, New Williamsport, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Isiah Fisher, 20, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Jacob Henry, 25, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

2nd Lt. James Murray Hoag, disability discharge 4-18-1865 from wounds to right shoulder and amputation of left arm above elbow

Pvt. John D. Jackson, 18, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Abram Lincoln, 23, Ann Arundel, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 2-8-1866 from gunshot wound to right hand fracturing and carrying away almost the entire metacarpal bones

Sgt. Garrison Nichols, 25, Dorchester, MD; Baltimore, MD; loss of left leg from wound at New Market Heights

1st Lt. Thomas H. Price, wounded in left hand

Pvt. John T. Robinson, 23, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. James Slaughter, 20, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 1-27-1865 from amputation at lower third of left thigh

Company F

Pvt. John Q. Adams, 26, Hartford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 11-10-1865 from amputation of left arm at shoulder joint

Sgt. Joseph Baker, 24, Carroll Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865 on account of wounds received on September 29, 1864

Pvt. Charles Fantis, 28, Princess Anne Co., VA; Baltimore, MD; discharged 6-26-1865 due to severe wounds received on September 29, 1864

Pvt. Benjamin Harp, 23, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. John F. Johnson, 28, Buckingham Co., VA; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Charles Linghams, 28, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Thomas Thornton, 28, Fairfield, NC; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 5-30-1865 from gunshot wound fracturing right tibia

Company G

Pvt. Solomon Camfer, 19, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Joshua Chew, 21, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. William Demby, 19, Queen Anne Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; later wounded at Fort Fisher, NC and died 3-3-1865 from those wounds 

Pvt. James W. Dixon, 28, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge on unknown date

Pvt. Jacob Gibson, 22, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. John H. James, 20, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Jacob Juricks, 22, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Dennis Linthicum, 24, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Henry Preston, 19, Harford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Alfred B. Roberts, 24, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Henry Stewart, 20, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Charles H. Winchester, 21, Baltimore Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Company H

Sgt. William Grafton Buie, 25, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. Joseph Haynes, 22, Harford Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 1-20-1865 from gunshot wound of right thigh

Pvt. Joshua Johnson, 27, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. William Jones, 22, Carroll Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 5-5-1865 from gunshot wounds to both arms

Pvt. Perry H. Kirby, 27, Queen Anne Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Nathan Smith, 26, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Daniel White, 27, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-24-1865 from gunshot wound to right humerus

Company I

Pvt. Israel Banks, 21, Dorchester Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Lewis Cook, 32, Caroline Co., MD; Baltimore, MD

2nd Lt. W. Watson Gillingham, resigned due to surgeon’s disability from gunshot wound of right hip and right arm

Pvt. Jacob Green, 22, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

Corp. John Robert Jones, 22, Port Tobacco, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 10-15-1865 from amputation at left forearm

Pvt. George Seymour, 18, Dorchester, MD; Baltimore, MD; gunshot wound of left hip (slight)

Pvt. Richard Smith, 23, Dorchester, MD; Baltimore, MD

1st Lt. Daniel W. Spicer, 20, disability discharge 5-15-1865 from gunshot wound to right thigh

Pvt. William H. Wheatley, 41, Cambridge, MD; Baltimore, MD

Company K

Pvt. Henry Antony, 19, Queen Anne Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 7-27-1865 from severe gunshot perforating wound of left hand resulting in amputation of index finger

Pvt. Samuel Bentley, 23, Clear Springs, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. John Bowie, 18, Frederick, MD; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Grafton Crosley, 27, New Market, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 4-4-1865 from gunshot wound to right shoulder

Pvt. Jacob Gibson, 21, Talbot Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865 from gunshot wound received on September 29, 1864

Pvt. Alexander Gross, 20, Prince George, MD; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. John Gustave, 22, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD; died 10-9-1864 of typhoid fever

Pvt. John N. Harris, 18, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 8-17-1865 from disease brought on from gunshot wound to right arm received in action

Corp. Phillip Hooper, 24, New York, NY; Baltimore, MD

Sgt. Henry Johnson, 22, Athens, OH; Baltimore, MD

Pvt. Basil Pam, 35, Frederick Co., MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 6-26-1865

Pvt. Matthew Roberts, 22, Eastern Shore, MD; Baltimore, MD; disability discharge 2-26-1866

Pvt. John Thompson, 18, Baltimore, MD; Baltimore, MD

This list was not produced in attempt to sensationalize the pain these men suffered, but rather to acknowledge the sacrifices they were willing to endure to ensure the death of slavery, show themselves men and worthy of citizenship and thus the guarantees of the Constitution, and maintain the Union of the states. In addition, hopefully this enumeration helps descendants make connections with their soldier ancestors. Courageously done, men of the 4th!