Saturday, February 12, 2011

Phoenix R. Briggs: The Story of Sherman and the Old Corporal

I feel I have know Phoenix Randolph Briggs since childhood, probably because as a youth I  stood in the two room log cabin he built with partner John C. Fox and then have watched the structure slowly deteriorate until it became an unrecognizable pile of decayed logs and scattered shingles.  As a graduate student working on a MA in History I delved further into his life while writing a history of the Marshall Lake Mining District in Idaho County, Idaho.  Recently I discovered Phoenix was a civil war veteran and had been admitted to the Old Soldiers Home in Boise, Idaho dying there at the age of 73 in 1911.  I made a pilgrimage to find his grave at Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise and placed a flag there on Memorial Day.   This is his story as it has unfolded before me over more than 40 years.   

Phoenix was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania December 29, 1837 the eldest child of Thomas and Margaret (Hamilton) Briggs.  His father had immigrated to the U. S. from Ireland.  His mother was of Scottish ancestry.  The Briggs moved to New Jersey for a short time. In 1842 the family went west to Illinois and settled in Mercer County where Thomas took up farming.  By 1950 there were seven children including 4 boys (Phoenix, Anamuel, Daniel & George ) and three girls (Elizabeth, Margaret & Maria).  
Phoenix was educated in Illinois & became a carpenter.  In August 1862 while living in Berlin farming he enlisted in Company C 102nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry with 92 other men and officers from Mercer and Rock Island County.  At the time of his enlistment and election as one of 18 company corporals Briggs was 25 years old and stood 5 foot 10 inches tall.  He had sandy hair and grey eyes.  
The 102 Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered into federal service September 1-2, 1862.  In October the regiment was attached to Brig. Gen. William T. Ward’s Brigade of Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Dumont’s 12th Division, Army of the Ohio, commanded by Don Carlos Buell.  The regiment marched through Kentucky to Gallatin, Tennessee where they spent the winter and spring of 1863.  In June 1863 the 102nd moved to LaVergne, Tennessee where they guarded railroads  until February 1864.  In February the 102nd joined up with Maj. Gen W. T. Sherman’s Army Group in northern Georgia, later participating in the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea and through the Carolina’s. The regiment participated in the Grand Review in Washington D. C., before mustering out and being discharged in Chicago Illinois June 14, 1865.
After the war Phoenix lived in Iowa and Missouri.  He married, started a family, and in 1879 moving to northern Nebraska where he declared for a homestead. By 1900 he had divorced his wife Martha and was living in Dixie, Idaho with his mining partner John C. Fox. 

On June 7, 1902 partners Fox and Briggs located two quartz mining claims, the Sherman and the Old Corporal.  These claims and a handful of others including the Sherman # 3-5 and the Old Corporal # 2, were developed by Fox and Briggs until Phoenix’s death in 1911.  The claims, which were sold by Phoenix’s son to Leif T. Holte in 1915, ultimately became the Golden Anchor Mine which was one of Idaho’s top lode gold producing mines while operated by Holte and again in the 1930’s.  The mine ceased operations with the outbreak of WWII and has only seen limited development and/or assessment  work completed since then. 

                                               600 Level Crosscut Golden Anchor Mine 1978

I never thought much about the names Briggs had given to his mining claims until I found out in 2009 he was a civil war veteran and had marched to the sea with Sherman.  Then everything came full circle and the names came to symbolize the significance of both the mining profession and the civil war in both Phoenix Brigg's life and my own.  

                 Yours truly hand tramming at the Golden Anchor Mine in 1989.


  1. Sharon,
    Great stuff. I hope I can find time to keep up with the info.
    Phil Buller

  2. My name is Rebecca Briggs, I am a 3x great granddaughter of Phoenix. I recently picked up my family history and started to seriously look around for information on Phoenix. I am so glad I stumbled upon his history! Thank you sooooo much for this post! I can NOT believe we finally have answers!!! Do you know more about him or is this the extent of your research?

  3. Rebecca - No I do not know a lot more about Phoenix. This information came from many years of research. If you get an opportunity you might contact the National Archives and obtain his service and pension records.

  4. Great information. I'm a 2x great grandson of Phoenix too. I'm the generation older than Rebecca from above. Her mom is my first cousin. My wife and kids and I have been looking at our family history recently as my father just passed and we have possession of one of the Civl War Regimental Rosters that lists Phoenix as a corporal and I believe his brother Manuel Briggs was also in the regiment, as a private.
    How did you become interested in Phoenix, just from seeing his grave and cabin? Are you related?