Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Steel-Cold General John Gibbon: An Artillerist at Heart

John Gibbon was born in  Holmesburg, Pennsylvania, about 10 miles from the center of Philadelphia, on April 20, 1827.   John was the third son and fourth child of  Dr. John H. Gibbon and Catherine (Lardner) Gibbon.  When John was eleven the family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where his father had obtained a job as assayer for the U. S. Mint.  In 1842 John was appointed to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point from which he graduated 20 in a class of 38 in 1847.

After graduating from West Point, as a brevet 2nd lieutenant, Gibbon was sent to Mexico during the Mexican War but did not see combat.   He served in Florida in the Seminole Wars and later was an instructor at West Point where he wrote The Artillerist's Manual.  When the civil war broke out Captain Gibbon was commanding Battery B 4th U. S. Artillery at Camp Floyd, Utah Territory.

                                       Brigadier General John Gibbon

John Gibbon, his wife, young children and Battery B left Camp Floyd with elements of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry and the 10th U. S. Infantry on July 27, 1861.  The column spent 74 days in route to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas where they arrived on October 8, 1861.  From there Gibbon and Battery B went to Washington.  Gibbon was soon appointed chief of artillery for General Irvin McDowell.   He spent the winter instructing Battery B and three other volunteer artillery batteries.  On May 8, 1862 newly minted Brigadier General John Gibbon assumed command of a brigade of western regiments (2nd, 6th, 7th Wisconsin & 19th Indiana) to which Battery B was attached.  He would command this brigade at the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam.

When John Gibbon's brigade stepped out around 6:00 a.m. on September 17, 1862,  advancing south from the Joseph Poffenberger Farm toward the Confederate forces in line of battle about a half mile to their front Battery B followed.  They advanced to a field directly south of the North Woods and then to high ground east of the D. R. Miller Farm all the while firing their 12 pounder bronze guns in support of Gibbon's brigade and the other troops in General Doubleday's Division.  Soon the 6 gun battery would move to the west of the Hagerstown Pike south of the D. R. Miller barn.  Here, while suffering heavy losses in men and horses, they would help repulse General Stonewall Jackson's troops and assist Gibbon's brigade and others in advancing within a couple hundred yards of the Dunker Church.

Confederate General John Bell Hood's counter attack around 7:00 a.m., forced the Union infantry back to and through the cornfield at Antietam and in some cases to the west side of the Hagerstown Pike where they rallied to support Battery B which was receiving heavy fire from Confederates in the cornfield.  While this was going on General Gibbon saw that his prized bronze guns, especially the one on the pike, were in danger of being captured by the Confederates even as they fired rounds of double canister at the foe. 

In Recollections of the Civil War John noted: "I happened to look at the gun (in the road) and noticed that the cannoneers had carelessly allowed the elevation screw to run down and every time the piece fired its elevation was increased until the missiles were harmlessly thrown high over the heads of the enemy in its front.  I yelled to the gunner to run up the elevation screw, but in the din he could not hear me.  I jumped from my horse, rapidly ran up the elevation screw until the muzzle pointed almost into the ground in front and then nodded to the gunner to pull the lanyard.  The discharge carried away most of the fence in front of it and produced great destruction in the enemy's ranks."


After assisting with the cannon Gibbon encountered Rufus R. Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin who was rallying his men in a field east of the D. R. Miller house.  Dawes commented on this encounter in a letter to Ezra Carmen dated March 4, 1898.  In the letter Dawes noted: "General John Gibbon came to me as I was rallying my regiment... and I remember one exact expression he used. His face was black with powder smoke.  He had been sighting one of his guns.  He said by --- --- --- they shan't have these guns and he marched over by my side when I moved my regiment over to the battery".

To an artilleryman, the cannons in a battery, are like their children.  It was a point of honor to never loose a gun to the enemy.  So at Antietam, even as he commanded a brigade of infantry, John Gibbon still had an attachment to the guns of Battery B which he commanded at the outset of the civil war and for a number years prior to that.  In the full uniform of a brigadier general Steel-Cold John Gibbon stood up to the Confederates in the cornfield and probably in so doing helped save his prized guns from being captured.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

From Harvard to Cedar Creek: The Storied Life of Charles Russell Lowell

Charles Russell Lowell was born in Boston, Massachusetts, January 2, 1835 the son of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., and his wife Anna Cabot Jackson Lowell.  He attended Harvard, graduating as valedictorian in the class of 1854.  Lowell was employed in various practical, menial jobs, learning to be a businessman,  between his graduation from Harvard and his being diagnosed with consumption in October 1856.  He spent 2 years in Europe (1856-1858) in an attempt to regain his health.  By the spring of 1861 when the civil war broke out Lowell was employed at the Mount Savage Iron Works in Cumberland, Maryland.  

Lowell traveled to Washington City in April 1861 seeking a commission in the Regular U. S. Army even though he had no background or experience in the military.  Seeking assistance from Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Senator he had never met, Lowell noted he: "could speak and write English, French, and Italian and read German and Spanish," and that he had once known "enough of mathematics to put him at the head of my class in Harvard".  He also claimed to be "a  tolerable  proficient with the small sword and the singlestick" and to be able to "ride a horse as far and bring him in as fresh as any other man."  In closing his note to Sumner Lowell wrote: " I am twenty-six years of age, and believe I possess more or less of that moral courage about taking responsibility which seems at present to be found only in Southern officers."    

                              CDV of Charles Russell Lowell circa 1863

Lowell was commissioned a Captain in the 3rd U. S. Cavalry (later the 6th U. S. Cavalry) in June 1861.  He was an aide-de-camp to General George B. McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign and at Antietam.  In 1863 Lowell helped recruit the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry  and was appointed Colonel of the regiment on May 10. He spent part of 1863 and 1864 engaged against Colonel John Singleton Mosby's Partisan Rangers in northern Virginia.   By the fall of 1864 Colonel Lowell commanded the Reserve Cavalry Corps in Brigadier General Wesley Merritt's First Division, Cavalry Corps of Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah.

Lowell Monument, Middletown, Virginia

On the morning of October 19, 1864 while leading his brigade at the Battle of Cedar Creek Lowell was struck by a bullet in the right breast.  Even though he was in great pain and probably had a collapsed right lung he would not allow himself to be removed from the field.  In the afternoon he insisted he be allowed to lead his brigade in a charge against the Confederates.  While leading his brigade in a charge that would help win the day for Union forces Lowell was struck by a second bullet that severed his spinal cord.  He was taken to a house adjacent to the Valley Pike in Middletown, Virginia where he died on October 20, 1864. 

Lowell's Headstone, Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Lowell's body was returned to Massachusetts where he was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery on October 28, 1864.  This unsung hero, who is all but forgotten today, was praised by Custer, Merritt and Sheridan for his action at the Battle of Cedar Creek.  He died in the service of his country, two weeks short of his 1st wedding anniversary (he was married to Robert Gould Shaw's younger sister Josephine) one month short of the birth of his daughter and three month short of his 30 birthday.

For further reading see:  The Nature of Sacrifice A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-1864, the Life and Letters of Charles Russell Lowell and California Sabres The 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in the Civil War.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Colonel Roger Preston Chew: Commander of Stuart's Horse Artillery

Roger Preston Chew was born in Loudoun County,Virginia to Roger Chew and Sarah West Aldridge Chew April 9, 1843.  The family moved to Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1848.  Chew attended the Charleston Academy before becoming a cadet at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1859.  He graduated from VMI in 1861.  After graduation Chew was ordered to Harpers Ferry,Virginia with a group of VMI cadets, where he acted as a drill master. 

                                            Lt. Colonel Roger Preston Chew

In September 1861, a youthful 18 year old Chew and a VMI classmate raised an artillery battery of which Chew was elected captain.  In November 1861 Captain Chew proposed his battery be attached to Lt. Colonel Turner Ashby's 7th Virginia Cavalry as a horse artillery unit.  The plan was approved by Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin.  Chew's Battery was the first horse artillery battery in either the Union or Confederate Army.  Horse artillery road with the cavalry and participated in cavalry charges.

Chews horse artillery was attached to "Ashby's" Cavalry.  By December 1861 the battery had 2 guns an iron 3.5 inch caliber 12 Pound Blakely rifle and a 3 inch ordinance rifle made by Tredegar Iron Works.  Chews Battery rode with the 7th Virginia cavalry, where they participated in Jackson's Valley Campaign, until Ashby's untimely death on June 6, 1862.  The battery then became part of J. E. B. Stuart's Horse Artillery.  

Chews Battery remained with Stuart's Cavalry throughout the remainder of the war participating in such battles as 2nd Manassas, the Maryland Campaign, the Gettysburg Campaign, Bristoe Station, the Overland Campaign, the Petersburg Campaign, Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign and the retreat to Appomattox.  The battery suffered 100 casualties (7 killed, 43 wounded,3 missing and 47 captured) out of 271 men engaged between 1861-1865.  

In 1864 Chew was promoted to Major and later Lt. Colonel and assumed command of all of Stuart's Horse artillery.  General Wade Hampton once described Chew as "the ablest commander of the horse artillery, though that gallant body of men at different times had very gallant and efficient officers." 

After the civil war Chew became a farmer and a businessman in Charlestown, West Virginia.  He was president of the Eagle Manufacturing Company and the Charlestown Mining, Manufacturing and Improvement Company.  He married Louise Fontaine Washington, a daughter of  Colonel John Augustine Washington in 1871.  He was elected to the state legislature in 1882, 1884, 1886 and 1888.  Roger Preston Chew died March 16, 1921.  He is buried in the Zion Episcopal Cemetery in Charlestown, West Virginia.

                                Chew's Monument, Zion Episcopal Cemetery

                                   Chew's Headstone Zion Episcopal Cemetery

For further reading see "Chew's Battery of Stuart's Horse Artillery" by Edward K. Cassedy


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Old Simon" The Private Soldiers Monument, Antietam National Cemetery

A colossal granite figure rising 44' 7" high, and weighing 250 tons stands guard over the graves in Antietam National Cemetery.  The statue nicknamed "Old Simon" but officially known as the Private Soldiers Monument looks northward and honors the 4,776 Union soldiers interred in the National Cemetery who gave their lives for their country.

The design of the monument which stands in the center of the cemetery was approved by the Antietam Cemetery Board at a meeting held in Baltimore, MD., on September 16, 1867.  The corner stone was placed on September 17, 1867.  The monument was erected in 1880 at a cost of $32,000 and was dedicated September 17, 1880 the 18th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. When erected it  was the largest monument of its kind in the country.

            The Private Soldiers Monument (Library of Congress Photo)

The soldier itself which is 21.5" tall and weights 30 tons is made of 2 pieces of granite joined at the waist.   The figure stands at the military position of "in place rest".  The monument was designed by James Batterson and sculpted by James Pollette.

Close-up "Old Simon"

The base of the monument is inscribed with the words "Not for themselves but for their country ".

The beautiful monument is a fitting tribute to the valor and courage of the private soldiers of the Union Army who laid their lives on the alter of their country.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gone But Not Forgotten: Remembering Union Cavalry at Mt. Zion Church Cemetery

Mt. Zion Church and the adjacent rock walled cemetery lie south of the John S. Mosby Highway (Route 50) a mile or so east of Gilbert's Corner in Loudoun County, Virginia.  I stopped there on May 10 to participate in a program sponsored by the Mosby Heritage Area Association which included visiting graves of Mosby's Rangers.

                                          Mt. Zion Church

At the back of the cemetery, nestled in the corner, are 12 U. S. Government headstones inscribed with the names of cavalrymen from the 2nd Massachusetts and the 13th New York Cavalry Regiments.  The Union soldiers were killed by Mosby's Rangers in a July 6, 1864 running skirmish near the church and on Samuel Skinners Farm east of the church.  The cavalrymen were reportedly originally buried near the Little River Church adjacent to Old Braddock Road and later disinterred and moved to Arlington National Cemetery.  In the 1990's citizens of Loudoun County obtained the headstones from the Veterans Administration and had them placed in the cemetery to honor the fallen Yankees.

Private Cornelius Tobin, Company I, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A shoemaker from Marlborough, Mass., Tobin was 19 when he enlisted on March 21, 1864. KIA July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Charles Oeldraiher, Company G, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A tinsmith from Boston, Mass., Oeldraiher was 22 when he enlisted on February 29, 1864.  KIA July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private John Johnson, Company I, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A bricklayer from Canajoharie, New York, Johnson was 22 when he enlisted on June 4, 1864.  KIA July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private William F. Dumaresy (Dumaresq) (Dumareso), Company K, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A sailor from Jersey Island, England, Dumaresy was 27 when he enlisted on June 1, 1864.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Owen Fox, Company H, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A laborer from East Braintree, Mass., Fox was 23 when he enlisted on October 9, 1863.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Corporal Samuel C. Hanscom (Handscom), Company A, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  Hanscom was from San Francisco, California.  He was 28 years old when he enlisted on December 10, 1862.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Corporal James McDonald, Company F, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A miner from California, McDonald was 30 when he enlisted on April 2, 1863.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Charles W. Rollins, Company I, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A farmer from Stanstead, Quebec, Canada, Rollins was 38 when he enlisted on May 27, 1864.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie. Virginia.

Private Patrick Riordan, Company I, 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry.  A shoemaker from Marlborough, Mass., Riordan was 19 when he enlisted on March 31, 1864.  KIA, July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Joseph Lovely, Company K, 13th New York Cavalry.  Lovely was 20 when he enlisted on December 4, 1863 at Belmont, New York.  KIA, July 5, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Michael Hubin, Company I, 13th New York Cavalry.   Hubin was 30 when he enlisted as a private in the 13th New York on November 24, 1863.  He had previously seen service with the 4th New York Infantry, enlisting on April 27, 1861 before mustering out on May 25, 1863.  KIA July 6, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

Private Duff Montanado, Company H, 13th New York Cavalry. Montanado was 18 when he enlisted at Watertown, New York on August 7, 1863.  KIA, July 9, 1864 near Aldie, Virginia.

For fore info see:  http://www.2mass.reunioncivilwar.com/Rosters/battle_casualties.htm & http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/cavalry/13thCavCW_Roster.pdf

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Shiloh's Mortuary Monuments: Honoring Fallen Officers

There are five unique Mortuary Monuments at Shiloh National Military Park, placed there in 1902 to honor 2 Confederate and 3 Union officers killed or mortally wounded during the April 6-7, 1862 battle.  The monuments were designed by the park commission's chief engineer Atwell Thompson and erected by the government close to where the officer was killed or wounded at a cost of $250 each.  The rectangular base is made of reinforced concrete upon which is mounted 4 small pyramids of deactivated 8" cannon balls and an upright tube of a 30 Pounder Parrot Rifle.  A bronze plaque with information about each officer is mounted on the cannon barrel between the trunnions. 

                    General A. S. Johnston Mortuary Monument

General Albert Sidney Johnston commanded the Army of Mississippi at Shiloh.  Born February 2, 1803 in Washington, Kentucky he was the youngest son of Dr. John and Abigail Johnston.  He graduated from the U. S. Military Academy in 1826, ranking 8th of 41 cadets and was appointed a brevet 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd U. S. Infantry.  Johnston would serve in the U. S Army before and after his tenure with the army of the Republic of Texas (1836-1840) before resigning his commission in March 1861 to join the Confederate States Army.

                                   General Albert Sidney Johnston

General Johnston assumed command of the Western Military Department of the Confederate States in September 1861.  After suffering defeats at Mill Springs, Ft. Henry, Ft. Donelson and Nashville in late 1861 and early 1862 Johnston withdrew his forces to the vital railroad junction at Corinth, Mississippi.  In early April 1862 his reorganized and reinforced forces left Corinth and at dawn on April 6 made a surprise attack on the Union Army of the Tennessee camped at Pittsburg Landing.  In the early afternoon while leading his forces he was shot in the right leg, presumably by his own men.  The bullet severed an artery and Johnston soon bled to death.  His remains were taken to New Orleans for burial.  He was later disinterred and reburied in Austin Texas.  Johnston is the highest ranking Confederate officer killed during the Civil War.

                    Brig. General W. H. L Wallace Monument as constructed 

                       Brig. General Wallace Mortuary Monument today

William Harvey Lamme Wallace was born July 8, 1821 in Urbana, Ohio the son of John any Mary Lamme Wallace.  As a young man he read law under Theophilus L. Dickey a friend of Abraham Lincoln and was admitted to the bar in 1846.  He served in the Mexican War with the 1st Illinois Infantry.  When the Civil War broke out Wallace volunteered as a private with the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  The close friend of future General Thomas E. G. Ransom was elected Colonel of the 11th.  Wallace fought gallantly with the 11th Illinois at Ft. Donelson which earned him a brigadier general's star.   He assumed command  of the 2nd Division, Army of the Tennessee after Major General Charles F. Smith was sidelined by a leg injury.

                                 Brigadier General W. H. L. Wallace

Wallace's Division, which was engaged near the Hornet's Nest, withstood numerous Confederate assaults on April 6 before his division was surrounded and himself mortally wounded from a shot through the head.  He remained on the field the night of April 6th before being removed to the Cherry Mansion at Savannah, Tennessee where his wife Anne Dickey Wallace cared for until his death on April 12, 1862.  He is buried in Ottowa, Illinois.

           Brig. General Adley H. Gladden Mortuary Monument (nps photo)

Brigadier General Adley Hogan Gladden, commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Mississippi at Shiloh, was born at Fairfield, South Carolina September 28, 1810.  At age 20 Gladden moved to Columbia, South Carolina where he was a cotton broker.  He commanded the Palmetto Regiment in the Mexican War.  When Ft. Sumter fell Gladden was living in Louisiana.

                                      Brig. General Adley H. Gladden

At the outset of the war Gladden commanded the 1st Louisiana in Florida.  He was promoted to Brigadier General September 30, 1861.  In January 1862 Gladden and his brigade were transferred to Mobile, Alabama and later Corinth, Mississippi where the Army of Mississippi was assembling prior to advancing toward Pittsburg Landing.

While assaulting Union forces on the north edge of Spain Field on the morning of April 6 the 51 year old Gladden was mortally wounded by either a cannon ball or a shell fragment that severely mangled his left arm.  His arm was amputated, however gangrene set in and he died at Corinth, Mississippi on April 12.  He is buried at the Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.

To be continued:

Shiloh's Mortuary Monuments: Honoring Fallen Officers, Part II

Colonel Everett Peabody was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, June 30, 1830.  When 15 he studied at Burlington College in Vermont.  A year later he moved to Cambridge and graduated from Harvard in 1849 with a degree in civil engineering.  He soon had a job as a rodman for the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula Railroad.  By age 23 he was a chief engineer having worked on railroads in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri.

                                      Colonel Everett Peabody

When the Civil War erupted Everett Peabody was chief engineer of the Platte County Railroad.  As noted in "A Child's History of the United States", Volume 3," he was "6' 1" tall, broad and heavy, cool and grave in manner and accustomed to toil and exposure."  Peabody enlisted in the Union Army and was mustered in to the 13th Missouri Volunteers.  He was wounded and later captured at Lexington, Kentucky.  After being exchanged Peabody organized the 25th Missouri.

At Shiloh Colonel Everett Peabody commanded the 1st Brigade in Major General Benjamin Prentiss's 6th Division, Army of the Tennessee.  He was concerned that Confederate forces were in his front therefore before dawn on April 6 he sent out a reconnaissance force which ran into soldiers from the Army of Mississippi thus starting the Battle of Shiloh.  While leading his troops Colonel Peabody was wounded five times once in the hand, thigh, neck, body and head.  The bullet that killed him entered the upper lip and passed out the back of his head.  He was buried in a gun-box on the field.  he was later disinterred and reburied in Springfield, Massachusetts.

        Colonel Everett Peabody's Mortuary & Headquarter Monument

Peabody's Mortuary Monument is one of two at Shiloh that were uniquely designed (the other being W. H. L. Wallace's, which was originally built with an apron of cannonballs and steps).  Peabody's Monument serves as both a brigade headquarters monument and a mortuary monument which is exemplified by the star shaped plaque on the pyramid on the south east corner of the monument.

Colonel Julius Raith commanded the 3rd Brigade of Major General John McClernand's 1st Division, Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Shiloh.  Julius was born in Germany March 29, 1819.  He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1836, settling in St. Clair County, Illinois.  Raith later moved to Columbia, Monroe County, Illinois where he became a millwright.  Colonel Raith was a Mexican War veteran, serving as captain of Company H, 2nd Regiment Illinois Volunteers.

                 Colonel Julius Raith Mortuary Monument (nps photo)

When the Civil War started Julius Raith was living in O'Fallon, Illinois, the proprietor of a flour mill.  During September 1861 he raised the 43rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, serving as the regiment's colonel when it was mustered into federal service on October 12.  The regiment was engaged at Ft Henry and Donelson under Raith's command before moving to Pittsburg Landing.

              Colonel Julius Raith (Arkansas Old State House Collection)

While leading the 3rd Brigade near the present intersection of Confederate Road and the Hamburg-Purdy Road on April 6, 1862 Raith was severely wounded in the right thigh.  He lay on the field until April 7 when he was removed and placed on the steamer Hannibal.  His leg was amputated but he died of infection on board the steamer April 11, 1862, leaving 2 young sons orphans as his wife had preceded him in death in 1859.  Colonel Raith is buried in the Shiloh Valley Cemetery, St. Clair County, Illinois.

Thanks are tendered to Ranger Tom Parson, Shiloh National Military Park for information pertaining to construction and erection of the monuments.