Friday, December 7, 2012

Sacrifice Lost to History: Honored Dead of the 39th Illinois Volunteers

There are 4,776 graves at Antietam National Cemetery containing the remains of Union soldiers who died during the four year Civil War that raged between April 1861 and April 1865.  Many of those soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds following such well known battles as South Mountain (September 14, 1862), Antietam (September 17, 1862) or Monocacy (July 9, 1864).  Others died in obscure places often times of unknown causes and their sacrifice has been largely forgotten or unrecognized by historians.  Such is the fate of a handful of soldiers of the 39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry who are buried with their comrades in the Illinois Section of Antietam National Cemetery.

The 39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry was mustered into federal service on October 11, 1861.  The regiment traveled to St. Louis from whence they were ordered to Williamsport, Maryland on October 29, 1861.  The inexperienced troops were assigned as railroad guards, to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in the Department of West Virginia.  The regiment's companies were split up and assigned to various strategic locations in West Virginia including Bath (present day Berkeley Springs), Alpine Station (present day Hancock) and Great Cacapon Bridge.

In early January 1862 during the Bath-Romney Campaign soldiers of the 39th Illinois were attacked by 8,500 veteran soldiers commanded by Stonewall Jackson.  The Illinoisians were pushed across the Potomac to Hancock, Maryland as Jackson's troops destroyed the railroad from Great Cacapon to Hancock before heading west toward Romney.

In late January and February, 1862 the 39th was deployed to guard the railroad at Cumberland, Maryland and  later New Creek, Virginia.  The weather was cold and miserable.  Many of the soldiers were without adequate food, clothing or shelter.   Several died of disease.  Others of the 39th died of unknown causes.  They were originally buried at Cumberland, Maryland and later disinterred and reburied at Antietam National Cemetery.

Private/Drummer Charles Rowley, from Homer, Illinois enlisted in Company G, 39th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  He died at Cumberland, Maryland of unknown causes on February 20, 1862.

Private William H. Perry a resident of Esmona, Illinois mustered in with Company C, 39th Illinois in October 1861.  He died at Cumberland, Maryland of unknown causes on February 25, 1862.

Private Harmanus Borchers of Peoria enlisted in Company G of the 39th.   He died of disease at Cumberland, Maryland  on February 13, 1862. 

Private George H. Mott of Wilmington, Illinois enlisted in Company A. 39th Illinois.  He died of unknown causes at Culberland, Maryland on February 2. 1862.

Private William S. Littleton, a resident of Mahomet enlisted in company I, 39th Illinois.  he died at Cumberland of unknown causes on February 6, 1862.

Private Hiram G. Dunham, a resident of Hartford, Michigan enlisted in Company G, 39th Illinois.  He died of disease at Cuberland, Maryland on February 23, 1862.

There are ten soldiers from the 39th Illinois buried at Antietam National Cemetery.  Seven of those died near Cumberland, Maryland in February 1862.  Non of the deaths are attributed to being killed or wounded in battle.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A View of the Past: Horse Drawn Artillery

A reenactment was held on October 21 & 22, 2012 at the Cedar Creek Battlefield near Middletown, Virginia, commemorating the battle's 148th Anniversary.  One special treat, which appears to be an annual occurrence, is the presence of a ten pound Parrott Rifle drawn by a matching team of six bay horses.

As you can see several of the cannoneers ride on the limber, others on the team pulling the cannon.  The cannon itself is attached to the back of the limber.   The cannon is pulled on the field of battle and unlimbered.

As several of the cannoneers prepare the gun for firing, others take the team and the limber to a location behind the gun.

The gun ready to fire.

 The cannon had to be extricated quickly so it was dragged away by attaching the prolonge rope to the limber.

The gun was set up at the new position and commenced firing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Antietam 150 Years Later: Honoring the Fallen

This past weekend witnessed the 150th Anniversary of the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, a day that produced more casualties that any other day in this nations history.  While trying to wrap your hands around 23,110 casualties, which included dead wounded and missing, is a best a difficult task, it is easier to visualize what, at least a portion of that figure means, when you stand at a microphone in Antietam National Cemetery and read the names of the dead.  I and a number of others had this opportunity yesterday afternoon.

The names of both Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives at Antietam and/or during the Maryland Campaign were read alphabetically by state.  While standing in line awaiting my turn I heard the name of Joseph K. F. Mansfield of Connecticut.  It sent a shiver down my spine as every civil war buff recognizes the name of the Major General who was killed near the East Woods as he lead the Army of the Potomac 12th Corps into battle on that fateful September day. In lots of cases however the names of many of the soldiers who lost their lives on the farm fields near Sharpsburg, Maryland 150 years ago have been lost to history as their mortal remains lay mouldering under weathered headstones in a cemetery far from their homes and loved ones.

I had an opportunity to read 40 names, ten at a time, as I stepped to the microphone 4 different times.  The soldiers, who's name I spoke, came from Georgia, Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts.  Some of the men I honored are buried in Antietam National Cemetery including the following four soldiers from Indiana and Maine.

Headstone of private Alfred L. Cantwell, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Alfred L. Cantwell, Company E or F, 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Died 9/17/1862, Battle of Antietam, Sharpsburg, MD. Grave # 3463.
The 27th Indiana was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 12th Corps, Army of the Potomac.  They fought in the West Woods under Sedgwick and were routed by Confederate forces under the command McLaws and Walker.  The 27th Indiana went into the Battle of Antietam with an initial strength of 443.  Losses included 41 killed and 168 wounded which represents 47.2% of the regiments initial strength.

Headstone of Corporal Robert Bryant, Antietam National Cemetery
Corporal Robert Bryant,  Company C, 14th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Grave # 3434.

The 14th Indiana was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.  They attack troops lead by D. H. Hill, stationed in the Sunken Road.  The 14th Indiana went into the Battle of Antietam with an initial strength of 320 men,  Losses included 30 killed and 150 wounded which is 56.3% of those engaged.

Headstone of private Rinaldo Ireland, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Rinaldo Ireland, Company F, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry.  Died 10/21/1862, grave # 3147.

The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, Army  of the Potomac.  The regiment was held in reserve during the Battle of Antietam but saw action during the September 19-20 Battle of Shepherdstown, the last battle of the Maryland Campaign.

Headstone of private Arthur Goodwin, Antietam National Cemetery

Private Arthur Goodwin, Company G, 16th Maine Volunteer Infantry. Died 10/27/1862, Smoketown, MD. Grave # 3187.
The 16th Maine Volunteer Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac.  The regiment joined the 3rd Brigade on september 9, 1862 and were on detached service guarding railroads during the battle of Antietam. It is unclear if Arthur Goodwin died of wounds received in battle or from disease.  His remains were originally buried at Smoketown, Maryland and later removed to Antietam National Cemetery. 
It was an honor and a privilege to spend a short period of time at Antietam National Cemetery yesterday afternoon,  after a hectic weekend, remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  May those honored dead never be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Ties that Bind: The 104th New York and Tuthill Rich Cut Glass

The 104th New York Volunteer Infantry Monument stands north of and adjacent to Cornfield Avenue at Antietam National Battlefield,  The 104th New York was part of Duryea's Brigade of Rickett's Division of Major General Joseph Hooker's 1st Corps Army of the Potomac.  This unit fought valiantly in the cornfield at Antietam sustaining 82 casualties.

One of those casualties (wounded) was the captain of Company A Henry Guernsey Tuthill.  Henry was born in East Otto, New York on September 25, 1833.  He apprentices as a carpenter and cabinet maker before joining the Drake and Towley Sash and Blind Company in Corning, New York in 1856.   When the civil war broke out Tuthill enlisted and helped recruit Company A of the 104th which was known as Wadsworth Volunteer Infantry.

                                     Captain Henry G. Tuthill

Captain Tuthill saw action at First Bull Run where he was wounded in the right leg.  At Antietam he was struck by a minie ball in the left hand which resulted in the loss of portions of two of his fingers.  Tuthill's leadership at Antietam impressed his commander Brigadier General Abram Duryee who wrote after the battle:
Sir, I take great pleasure in recommending Capt. Henry G. Tuthill of the 104th Regt. as a gallant officer, efficient subordinate and brave. He has been engaged in the following battles: Rappahannock, Bull Run, Chantilly, Thoroughfare Gap, South Mountain, and Antietam, in the latter engagement the Captain was severely wounded and lost several of his fingers. I take especial interest in his welfare and promotion because I have witnessed his courage upon the field of battle and known him to be a reliable officer and it affords me much gratification to present him this my recommendation.
I Have the Honor to be Your Obt. Servt., A. Duryee, Brig. Genl.
P.S. Capt. Tuthill is senior Captain in the Regt. and was at the time of the promotion of Capt. Pray, but was absent with leave on acct. of his wounds.

After Antietam Tuthill returned to Corning to recuperate from his wounds.  While there on December 3, 1862 he was promoted Lt. Colonel tp date from October 21.  He did not report back to the army until December 15, 1862, missing the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Henry was wounded a third time, in the left leg at Chancellorsville and at Gettysburg received a wound in the groin while engaged in the first days fighting.

Henry Tuthill was honorably discharged for disability on November 7, 1863 but he later reenlisted in the reserve corps.  He was finally mustered out of the army with 100% disability on November 6. 1866.

Charles Guernsey Tuthill, Henry's son, who started the Tuthill Cut Glass Company was born On February 5, 1871 in Corning, New York.  As a youth of 16 he apprenticed with the Hawkes Rich Cut Glass Company.  By age 22 he was a master glass cutter and a journeyman engraver.  In 1895 he opened the C. G. Tuthill Cut Glass Company which in 1899 was renamed Tuthill Cut Glass Company.
This company produced some of the finest cut and copper wheel engraved glass produced in the Brilliant Period in America.

It it apropos that both the 104 New York Volunteer Infantry Monument at Antietam and the Rich Cut Glass produced by Charles Tuthill stand as a lasting monument to civil war veteran Henry G. Tuthill.

for additional reading see "The Rich Cut Glass of Charles Guernsey Tuthill" by Mauruce Crofford

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let Us Have Isaac Peace Rodman

August 12, 2012 was Rhode Island Day at Antietam National Battlefield.  In recognition of one of her  most illustrious native sons, the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society of Washington County, Rhode Island, has graciously lent Antietam a field officers sword, that  belonged Brigadier General Isaac Peace Rodman when he was a Colonel in the 4th Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.  The sword is on display at the Visitors Center for a short time.  It seems fitting to honor Rodman as we approach the 190th anniversary on his birth on August 18, 1822 and the 150th anniversary of his mortal wounding during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

Isaac P. Rodman, the eldest son of Samuel and Mary Peckham Rodman was born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, August 18, 1822. He was engaged in a number of business ventures including the woolen manufacturing business, S. Rodman & Sons, with his father and younger brother Rowland before the civil war.  He was also active in state and local politics as the president of the Town Council of South Kingstown, as a representative in the Assembly of Rhode Island and as a state senator prior to volunteering.

                          Brigadier General Isaac Peace Rodman

 When president Lincoln called for 75,000 troops following the firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861 Rodman raised a company of men from South Kingstown which became Company E of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.  The 2nd Rhode Island was engaged at 1st Bull Run where Captain Rodman won "high distinction for his steadiness and bravery".   On October 9, 1861 he was promoted to Lt. Colonel of a new regiment the 4th Rhode Island.  On October 30, 1861, the date the regiment mustered into federal service Rodman was promoted to Colonel.

Rodman was with fellow Rhode Islander, Ambrose E. Burnside and the North Carolina Expeditionary Force  where he participated in the Battles of Roanoke Island (February 8, 1862), New Bern (March 14, 1862) and Fort Macon March 23-April 26, 1862). His "gallant and distinguished conduct" in these  engagements earned him a promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers effective April 28, 1862.

After the Battle of Fort Macon, Isaac Rodman contacted typhoid fever which forced him to leave his command and return to Rhode Island to recuperate.  When Major General Burnside organized the 9th Corps in July 1862 he called upon Rodman to return and take command of the 3rd Division. Though not fully recovered from typhoid fever  Rodman returned to the army, against his doctors orders, and assumed command of the 3rd Division, 9th Corps on August 6, 1862.  Brigadier General Rodman was leading this division during the afternoon final attack of the 9th Corps at the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam when he was mortally wounded in the chest.  He died  at a field hospital near Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 30, 1862.  His  remains were taken back to Rhode Island and interred in the Rodman family cemetery, in Peace Dale, Rhode Island.

Isaac Rodman Mortuary Cannon, Antietam National Battlefield

According to  Memories of Rhode Island Officers, "Rodman exhibited even more than his usual bravery and coolness (at Antietam).  Though in feeble health and much exhausted from five days and nights of extraordinary service, he kept in the saddle from early dawn till  sunset, when he fell pierced by a minie ball through the left breast."

                            Inscription on Mortuary Cannon

When Major General Ambrose Burnside reported Isaac Rodman's death to the 9th Corps he had this to say about his friend and fellow Rhode Islander:  "One of the first to leave home at his country's call General Rodman, in his constant and unwearied service, now ended by his untimely death, has left a bright record of earnest patriotism undimmed by one thought of self.  Respected and esteemed in the various relations of his life, the army mourns his loss as a pure hearted patriot and a brave, devoted soldier, and his division will miss a gallant leader who was always foremost at the post of danger.

Incidentally Isaac's younger brother Rowland Gibson Rodman a Captain of Company G, 7th Rhode Island Volunteer infantry was wounded in the shoulder at the December 13, 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg.  The wound was severe enough that it ended his army career.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mississippi at Antietam: Honoring Those Who Fought Here

On Wednesday July 25, 2012, 54 days short of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, which saw more casualties than any other single day in American history, a monument was erected by the Mississippi Memorial Association on private land to the 11th Mississippi Volunteer Infantry.  The 8 foot tall 2.5 foot wide monument, crafted from Georgia light blue-grey granite, is south of Cornfield Avenue, placed on ground the 11th Mississippi shed blood and died on 150 years ago.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the southern soldier and joins the Texas and Georgia Monuments in honoring and remembering those who fought for the Confederate States of America on this most hallowed ground.

The 11th Mississippi Volunteer infantry, recruited from northern counties of the state, was organized in Corinth, Mississippi  and mustered into Confederate service on May 4, 1861.  At least two of the regiments ten companies, the University Greys and the Lamar Rifles, were comprised, in part, of students from the University of Mississippi.  By mid May the 11th Mississippi and a sister regiment the 2nd Mississippi, were in route to the eastern front, arriving in Harpers Ferry, Virginia on May 16, 1861. The regiment saw action at the Battle of First Manassas on July 21, 1861.  They fought with the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the spring and summer campaign in Virginia before marching into Maryland in early September 1862. 

 At Antietam the 11th Mississippi was brigaded with the 2nd Mississippi and a regiment from Alabama and North Carolina as part of Colonel Evander M. Laws Brigade of Brigadier General John Bell Hood's Division.  On September 17, 1862, " Law's Brigade advanced from the woods at the Dunkard Church at 7 A.M. and relieved Trimble's Brigade across the Smoketown Road south of the cornfield. Gradually gaining ground to the left, its center on the open ground and its right in the East Woods, it assisted in repulsing the advance of Ricketts' Division, First Corps. Supported on the right by the 21st Georgia of Trimble's Brigade and the 5th Texas of Wofford's Brigade, it advanced to the northeast corner of Miller's Cornfield and the woods adjacent, from which it was dislodged by the advance of the Twelfth Corps. It withdrew to the fields south of the Dunkard Church and was not again engaged" (text from War Dept tablet # 330).   

                                            (from Antietam on the Web)

Both the 2nd and 11th Mississippi was in the thick of the fighting on land in and around D. R. Miller's famous cornfield at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  The 11th Mississippi battle flag was captured by the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.  The 2nd lost 27 killed and 127 wounded while the 11th lost 8 killed and 96 wounded.  The 11th's losses included Colonel Philip F. Liddell (mw), L. Colonel Samuel F. Butler (mw), and  Major Taliaferro S. Evans, killed. 

                                                 (from Lamar Rifles website)

According to the Monroe Journal the 11th Mississippi Monument is scheduled to be dedicated on August 19, 2012 at 4:00 p. m.   Dignitaries from the state of Mississippi and Antietam National Battlefield will speak at the dedication.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Conspicuous Courage and Gallantry of Brevet Major General Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom

                                           photo by David Seibert

In 2001 the State of Georgia placed a wayside marker on State Route 20 honoring Union Brevet Major General Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom who died near the markers location on October 29, 1864, a month short of his 30th birthday. Ransom is one of a score of courageous young Americans, little remembered today, who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the country they loved and revered.  It is fitting, as we approach the 150th anniversary on Ransom's death to honor his memory.

Ransom was born in Norwich, Vermont, November 29, 1834 the second son of Colonel Truman Bishop Ransom and Margaret Greenfield Ransom.  His father was killed September 13, 1847 during the Mexican War Battle of Chapultepec.   He graduated from Norwich University in 1851 along with older brother Dunbar Richard and lifelong friend Grenville M. Dodge.  After graduation Thomas moved to Illinois where he was employed at Farina as an agent for the Illinois Central Railroad when the Civil War broke out in 1861.  He raised a company of volunteers in Fayette County which were incorporated into the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  Ransom quickly rose through the ranks from Captain to Major to Lt. Colonel when the remnants of the three month 11th Illinois were mustered into the 11th Illinois that had been raised as a three year unit. 

In August 1861 Ransom was wounded in the shoulder during the Battle of Charleston, Missouri (Birds Point) by a Confederate officer who, while pretending to surrender, fired at Ransom.  Ransom received a second shoulder wound while leading the 11th Illinois at Ft. Donelson in February 1862.  Though wounded, he refused to leave the field  until the fighting was over.  His clothing was pierced by 6-8 bullets and at least one horse was shot under him. He was sick for some time, after the battle, from fatigue, exposure and the wound, but refused to leave his regiment, traveling with it in an ambulance.  On February 15, 1862 he was promoted to Colonel for "bravery. skill and gallantry" at Ft. Donelson.

Colonel Ransom commanded the 11th Illinois during the April 6-7, 1862, Battle of Shiloh.  He was wounded in the head during the early hours of the battle but again refused to leave the field.  Division commander Major General McClernand wrote of Ransom that he "performed prodigies of valor, though reeling in his saddle and streaming blood from a serious wound."

On November 29, 1862 Thomas Ransom was commissioned Brigadier General of Volunteers.  He commanded a brigade in Major General John A. Logan's Division at Vicksburg.  After the fall of Vicksburg Ransom lead an expedition against Natchez.  His behavior so pleased Major General Grant that Grant wrote in his official report, "He has always proved himself the best man I have ever had to send on expeditions. He is a live man and of good judgment."

In October 1863 Brigadier General Ransom participated in a campaign in Texas and in early 1864 was engaged in the Red River Expedition commanded by Major General Nathaniel P. Banks.  Ransom was  wounded in the left knee and knocked from his by a piece of shrapnel during the April 8, 1864 Battle of Sabine Crossroads where he commanded a division in Banks advance guard that was attacked by three Confederate divisions.  Though seriously wounded he remained on the field until the attack had been suppressed.

After being wounded at Sabine Crossroads Ransom returned to Chicago and points north to convalesce. By July 27, 1864 however he was in Northern Georgia fighting with the Army of the Tennessee in the Atlanta Campaign.  He commanded the XVI Corps in the Battle of Jonesboro which sealed the fate of Atlanta.   While chasing Hood though Northern Georgia after the fall of Atlanta General Ransom became seriously ill with either dysentery or typhoid fever.  As always he was unwilling to leave his command and commented "I will stay with my command until I leave in my coffin." 

 When he became so ill that he was unable to sit his horse or ride in an ambulance his troops carried him on a litter.  Finally by 11:00 a. m. on October 29, 1864 while near Rome, Georgia Ransom was unable to go farther and his staff took him to the home of John Berryhill.   When told a few hours later by the surgeon that his death was imminent Ransom "Looking up, with a cheerful expression, said: "I am not afraid to die, I have met death too often to be afraid of it now.'  He breathed his last at 2:45 p.m.

Brevet Major General T. E. G. Ransom was buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.  He was revered by his command and commanders including Generals U. S. Grant and W. T. Sherman. 

When remembered in Martyrs and Heroes of Illinois the author had this to say of Ransom:  
 "General Ransom was retiring and unostentatious. There was no strut about him. He was simple in his manners. Quiet, unobtrusive. In a company of gentlemen he would not have been selected as a military man, according to the people's estimate. His power was always in reserve for occasions and the greater the occasion, the deeper the peril, the more capable did he show himself to be. Ambitious - meaning thereby desire of power or eminence  he was not. His ambition was to honor his country the service to quit himself as a man should, acting in such a presence and such an hour."

Further Reading "Hard Dying Men" by Jim Huffstodt