Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd RI Infantry

3 10 2011

The Lieutenant Shaw who authored this account of his experience in the Battle of Bull Run is most likely John P. Shaw, who would die a captain in the regiment during the Overland Campaign in 1864. Here’s a photo of Shaw courtesy of the Library of Congress:

The LOC info on this image:

Title: Camp Brightwood, D.C.–Contrabands in 2nd R.I. Camp
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1865]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10×6 cm.
Summary: Capt. B.S. Brown (left); Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F 2nd Regt. Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry (center); and Lt. Fry (right) with African American men and boy.

Notice the distinctive early war Rhode Island blouses and Shaw’s name stenciled on the folding camp stool at right. The regiment encamped in Camp Brightwood in the fall and winter of 1861-62.

Several sources, including the Official Army Register (which is probably the culprit), list Shaw as killed at the Wilderness on May 5, 1861. However, Augustus Woodbury’s history of the regiment has this memorial biography:

Captain John P. Shaw, son of General James Shaw, was born in Providence, January 3rd, 1834. He was instructed in the common schools of Providence, and became by occupation a jeweller. He was married, September 13th, 1854, to Amanda O., daughter of William P. Brightman. At the outset of the rebellion he joined the First Rhode Island, as sergeant-major, and, on the formation of the Second, was appointed second lieutenant of Company F. He was successively promoted to first lieutenant, July 22nd, 1861, and captain, July 24th, 1862, of Company K. He was particularly efficient as a drill and recruiting officer, and, while as lieutenant, during the absence of his captain, he received, in special orders, the congratulations and commendation of Colonel Wheaton, for the “entire success with which he had performed the duties of a higher grade.” In battle he was known as a brave and gallant officer, and was selected more than once to perform services of a peculiarly difficult kind. He fell in the bloody battle before Spottsylvania Court House, May 12th, 1864. The generous words of Colonel Edwards, in his farewell order to the Second, on the departure of the Regiment from Cold Harbor, have already been given. In a private letter to General Shaw the colonel rendered an additional testimony of his regard: “Captain Shaw died fighting so bravely, was so conspicuous among the bravest, that I could not help noticing him particularly. I and all that knew him are fellow mourners.”

And Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes Shaw’s death in his diary entry Line of Battle Near Spottsylvania Court House, May 13th 1864:

In front of our line there was an open plain for perhaps two hundred yards and then there were thick woods. The Rebels formed in the woods and then sent forward a small party with a white flag. As we saw the flag we ceased firing, and the officers jumped upon the parapet, but as the party approached they were followed by a line of battle who rushed upon us with yells. Our men quickly recovered from the surprise and gave them a volley which sent them flying to the woods. From the woods a steady fire was kept up until after midnight. The guns which I mentioned above were still standing idle in the angle and neither party could get them. A Brigade of New Jersey troops were brought up and attempted to enter the angle but were driven back. General Sickles’ old Brigade (the Excelsior) were then brought up, but the men could not stand the terrible fire and instead of advancing in line only formed a semicircle about the guns. Capt. John P. Shaw of Co. “K” 2nd R. I. Volunteers was standing upon a stump and waving his sword to encourage these men when he suddenly fell backwards. I shouted to Major Jencks that Shaw was down. I ran to him and found him lying with his head upon an ammunition box. I raised him up, and the blood spurted from the wound in his breast, and he was dead. As I had lost my pistol I took his and placed it in my holster and will, if I live, send it home to the Captain’s father.





Lieutenant John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

3 10 2011

The following is an extract from a private letter of Lieut. Shaw, Company F, 2d regiment:

Camp Clark,  July 22, 1861.

Here I am safe and sound. We started from our camp, just beyond Fairfax C. H., at half past one a. m. for Bull Run, and marched about 15 miles, going round instead of taking a direct road, so as to get the other side of the enemy. We arrived there about 9 1/2 a. m. Sunday, and the first intimation we had of their whereabouts was a discharge of musketry, although we had a company of skirmishers on each side of the road. Our company was the advance guard, and the instant we were fired upon, Col. Hunter gave our company the order to “advance company front, and let them have it.” Their position was in a thick wood of about 500 feet in depth, beyond which  was a large open lot slightly ascending, and just beyond that was a deep valley with a high hill and masked battery. As soon as we received their fire, we returned it, and fell flat on our faces to reload; while loading they gave us another volley, which passed over our heads. We then arose again and drove them (500 in number) over the hill. As we were advancing they fired again, but fired too high. Reloading, we ran to the top of the hill, and let them have it again, and believe that every shot dropped on man. They then retreated to their battery, firing as they went, 10,000 more firing at us over their heads. one of the shots striking Capt. Tower in the throat and killing him almost instantly. The only words he spoke afterwards were, “Turn me over on my back – go in.” We then had it hot and heavy for about ten minutes, with the assistance of the two companies which were deployed as skirmishers, at which time our regiment joined us. In about fifteen minutes afterwards the 1st came in, and together we fought them 1 1/2 hours, without other assistance, and drove them from their battery to the woods, mowing them down as they retreated with a considerable loss on our side. At that time a division made its appearance on our right and blazed away at them, making great havoc among them, and driving them from the woods back to their battery, (the reason of their leaving it in the first place was that our light battery exploded their magazine.) By this time our troops had arrived to the amount of 20,000, including the regulars, and to every appearance our victory was complete, and we had orders from our Colonel (Burnside) to go into the wood and rest ourselves and take care of the wounded.

Those of our troops who have been in engagements before say it was the hardest battle they ever witnessed, and that they never saw any troops stand fire as well as ours.

In my last I wrote you that I had a lame foot, occasioned by blistering it, wearing the blister off and taking cold in it. I walked all the way to the battle ground with a cane, and threw it away when the firing commenced, then walked back to camp and half way to Washington, when I got a horse without a saddle and rode to Long Bridge.

Providence Journal 7/27/1861

Clipping Image

Notes








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