As we are in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the assault on Battery/Fort Wagner outside Charleston, SC, you can find a lot of new articles, posts, and opinions on the web right about now. Some of them are even concerned with what actually happened there. For a good example of this, see this post from Craig Swain. If you’re a true First Bull Run geek (I’m not sure there are more than two of us, though) you’ll see a link to our little battle in Craig’s post: the name John Chatfield. This is the same John Lyman Chatfield (at left, from Hunt, Colonels in Blue: The New England States) who was the colonel of the 3rd CT in Erasmus Keyes’s brigade of John Tyler’s Division. At the assault on Wagner, he was in command of the 6th CT of George Strong’s brigade, and was mortally wounded, as was Strong. You can read more on Seymour’s death in Colonel Chatfield’s Courage, or A Share of “Glory” .
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Tags: 3rd Connecticut, Articles, Battery Wagner, Fort Wagner, John Lyman Chatfield
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
A big thanks go out to FOBR (Friend of Bull Runnings) Damian Shiels, a professional archaeologist who specializes in military archaeology and who runs Irish in the American Civil War from, of all places, Ireland. He’s been feeding me clippings from the New York Irish-American, featuring letters primarily from the 69th New York State Militia on the battle. I hope you’re enjoying them. I think they’re great, especially in illustrating the limited perspective of most private soldiers during battle.
Just a word – you should keep in mind that the 69th NYSM is NOT the 69th New York Volunteers that would be a part of the famous Irish Brigade. That was a completely different organization, although some (and it’s hard to say how many) members of the 69th NYSM did join the 69th NYV. I’ve been informed that there was some division among the men of the militia units in their loyalty to its colonel, Michael Corcoran, and the captain of Co. K, Thomas Francis Meagher. The schism was perhaps rooted in the Fenian movement. While Meagher was recruiting up the new 69th NYV, some members of the militia unit, which had mustered out of US service when its 90 days were up shortly after Bull Run, joined him, some decided to stay with the militia, and some joined other units, including the 88th and 63rd NYV which also became part of the Irish Brigade, and the various regiments of Corcoran’s Irish Legion which was formed after Corcoran’s release from captivity and his promotion to brigadier-general. The 69th NYSM would operate through the war, being called back into emergency service once or twice more during the conflict, and in fact it survives to this very day and has an illustrious history including Father Duffy (as portrayed by Pat O’Brien, above with James Cagney, in The Fighting 69th; below is my 2004 snapshot of Duffy’s statue in Duffy Square in NYC). So, no, the Irish Brigade was not at Bull Run, and neither was the regiment that would be a part of that brigade and known as the 69th NYV.
Hope that makes sense!
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Tags: 69th NYSM, Articles, Irish Brigade, Michael Corcoran, Thomas Francis Meagher
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
A while back in this post I asked for some assistance in finding images for Bull Run commanders. I got my first response yesterday from reader Bruce Baryla, who informed me that he had located a CDV of Col. George W. McLean of the 2nd NJ Infantry. The image
is currently available for purchase sold on eBay here, where you’ll also find his biographical sketch of McLean. Bruce has given me permission to reproduce the image, and here it is below.
I still need all of these:
- Capt. Otis Tillinghast
- Surgeon William Shakespeare King
- Capt. Josiah Howard Carlisle – 2nd US Arty
- Capt. James Kelly – 69th NYSM
- Lt. Col. Henry Peck – 2nd Wisc Vols
- Maj. Adolphus Williams – 2nd Mich Inf
- Lt. Col. Ambrose Stevens – 3rd Mich Inf
- Lt. John Edwards – 1st US Arty
- Col. George Lyons – 8th NYSM
- Major John G. Reynolds USMC
- Col. George Clark, Jr – 11th Mass Inf
- Maj. Alonzo F. Bidwell – 1st Mich Inf
- Maj. Henry Genet Staples – 3rd Maine Inf
- Col. Adolphus J. Johnson – 1st NJSM
- Col. Henry M. Baker – 2nd NJSM
- Col. William Napton – 3rd NJSM
- Col. Matthew Miller – 4th NJSM
- Col. William R. Montgomery – 1st NJ Inf
- Col. George W. McLean – 2nd NJ Inf (FOUND! Thanks, reader Bruce Baryla)
- Co. Max Einstein – 27th PA Inf
- Capt. C. Brookwood – Brookwood’s (Varian’s) NY Battery
- Col. William Ayrault Jackson – 18th NY Inf
- Col. Calvin Edward Platt – 31st NY Inf
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Tags: 2nd New Jersey Infantry, Articles, George W. McLean, Photos, Soldier Photos
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
Here’s an interesting bit on William Fitzhugh Lee of the 33rd VA, mortally wounded at First Bull Run. Below are images I recorded of his grave in Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown, WV, a few years ago.
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Tags: 33rd Virginia, Articles, Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown, William Fitzhugh Lee
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
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.
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Tags: 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, Articles, Lt. John P. Shaw, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Articles, Private Correspondence, Soldiers
The author of this stunning account of the battle, which he penned while recovering from his wound the day after the battle, became something of a celebrity late in life. Charles W. Hutson was born in McPhersonville, SC in 1840, and attended South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). He served through the Civil War. After its end he was admitted to the bar, but eschewing the practice he taught throughout the south, including at the University of Mississippi, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M. His subjects included Greek, metaphysics, moral philosophy, history, and modern languages. He also authored numerous books on civilization and languages.
After his teaching career ended, he settled in New Orleans and took up painting. Though his trained artist daughter offered to teach him the basics, he insisted on an amateur’s approach. In 1917, at the age of 77, his works were first shown publicly, in New York. His first one-man show came in 1931, at 91. He gained a solid national reputation, though his landscape artwork is hard to categorize. Here are some examples of his work.
Charles Woodward Hutson died in New Orleans in 1936, having proven you’re never to old to try something new.
Update – A friend in North Carolina left this comment, and it’s worth moving into the post:
Charles Woodward Hutson was a well-connected young man in South Carolina. His father, William Ferguson Hutson, was one of the framers/drafters of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. On September 9, 1862, the elder Hutson wrote a letter to the Confederate secretary of war requesting a promotion to lieutenant and transfer for his son to the “Regulars of the State of South Carolina.” I think you’ll recognize the names of the three men who signed the letter of recommendation: “It gives me great pleasure to recommend the most favorable consideration of the Secretary of War for C. Woodward Hutson for the appointment of lieutentnant.” Signed: James Chesnut, Jr., R.W. Barnwell, D. F. Jamison.
Thanks, Tonia Smith!
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Tags: Articles, Charles Woodward Hutson, Hampton's Legion, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Articles, Private Correspondence, Soldiers
An edited version of this story ran in the April 2011 issue of Civil War Times. I’m running it here with additional photos with permission of the publisher. It is titled as it appears in the magazine.
Repaying a Debt of Compassion
Today a pile of rubble, hard by the cut of the still unfinished Manassas Gap Railroad and across the road from the impressive bulk of the Sudley Church, is all that marks the site of what tradition holds was the home of Amos Benson and his wife Margaret. Precisely when the Bensons occupied the house is not clear, but it was not until after the war was over. By most accounts it was to the modest dwelling known appropriately as “Christian Hill” that John L. Rice, erstwhile private of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, made his way on horseback from Washington, DC in October, 1886. He had a debt to pay. How he had incurred that debt and how he went about paying it is the stuff of legend, a story of compassion and reconciliation.
The pre-war history of the Bensons is sketchy. Amos was born in September, 1825, in Maryland; Margaret Newman was born in May of 1821 and grew up in the vicinity of Sudley Springs. The two were married sometime prior to 1850. Census records and maps indicate that at the time of the Battle of First Bull Run the Bensons were living east – the “other” side – of Bull Run, in Fairfax County. In March of 1862, Amos would leave Margaret to go to war with Company A of the 4th Virginia Cavalry, a unit whose roster was thick with names from the area. He eventually rose to the rank of third corporal.
On Sunday morning, July 21, 1861, members of the congregation to which Amos and Margaret belonged made their way along roads and trails to the Sudley Methodist Church along the Sudley Road south of the fords over Bull and Catharpin Runs. They were no doubt startled to encounter columns of soldiers marching down the main road. The worshippers had run headlong into the advance of Union General Irvin McDowell’s army as it moved to turn the forces of Confederate generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston from their positions along Bull Run.
At the head of that column was Colonel Ambrose Burnside’s brigade of Col. David Hunter’s division, which included Rice’s 2nd NH. Despite initial success in the morning, later in the afternoon McDowell’s forces were driven back from the Confederate position near the Henry house. Prior to the retreat Rice was wounded, shot through the lungs by a musket ball. His fellows carried him towards the rear and Sudley Church where Union surgeons had set up shop, but with the enemy closing in and Rice apparently dead, they laid him in under a fence and made good their escape. Two days later, Rice recovered consciousness, still under the fence where his comrades had left him. His wound had putrefied and become infested with maggots.
Later that evening, as they were making their way back to their home from Sudley Church where they had been assisting with the care of wounded Union soldiers, the Benson’s found Rice in his dire state. Amos went back to the church and returned with a Confederate surgeon. The exhausted doctor dismissed Rice as a hopeless case and returned to his duties, but the Bensons were determined. Margaret brought some food from their home and Amos stripped and washed Rice and cleaned out his wound. He was too seriously injured to move, so for ten days the Benson’s clothed, fed, and cared for Rice under the fence, until he was well enough to move to a freight car in Manassas for treatment and eventual imprisonment in Richmond.
Rice was later exchanged and re-enlisted to serve again in the war, becoming an officer. But even twenty-five years later he had not forgotten the Bensons and the debt he felt he owed. In 1886 while on a trip to the nation’s capital he determined to revisit the site of his near-death experience. He made inquiries in the area and found the Bensons. They took him to the place where they had nursed him and visited the battlefield. Rice learned of Amos’s service in the war and was surprised to realize that he had doubtless faced his benefactor on the battlefield.
Rice of course thanked the Bensons for their kindness and attention in his time of need, and they modestly said they were simply “obeying the dictates of humanity”. Rice persisted in his efforts to find some way to repay the Bensons, and Amos hit upon a solution:
“If you want to do that you can help us poor people here pay for our little church yonder. We owe $200 on it yet, which in this poor country is a heavy burden.”
Rice determined then to not only contribute, but to return to his home in Massachusetts and raise the entire sum of the debt remaining on the rebuilt Sudley Church, which had been destroyed during the war. On November 24, he told story of his wounding, the kindness of the Bensons, and the plight of the congregation in the pages of Springfield’s “The Republican”:
“I do not know what creed is taught in that church, but it cannot be wrong in any essential of Christian faith when it bears such fruit as I have described…There must be still living many Massachusetts soldiers who can bear testimony with me to the timely aid rendered by those people when so many of our wounded were left uncared for on that disastrous field.”
By November 28, Rice had received $235 from seventy-nine people, including twenty-seven veterans. The donations ranged from $0.50 to $20.00. In describing the religious and political backgrounds of the contributors to the Bensons, Rice quoted Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
“Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in welcome of thee”
And in a letter of thanks to Rice, Amos said the value of the act was more than financial. In fact, it had “converted” the previously un-reconstructed Margaret. John Rice’s debt to the Bensons was repaid.
A history of the Sudley Church states that once the war ended Amos and Margaret moved to Warrenton, and in the early 1880’s had come back to the area of the Springs and were living in a house located 1/8 mile south of Sudley Church and owned by Reverend Henry Cushing – probably Christian Hill. Margaret died in 1898, and Amos followed her in 1901. They are buried together very near the southern door of the modern Sudley Church. The shared marker says of Amos: “He was a good man and full of faith”; of Margaret: “She was a child of God, lived a happy life and died in peace.”
As is often the case, there are some parts of the story of what happened after Rice’s wounding that are in doubt. See John Hennessy’s post here.
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Tags: Amos Benson, Articles, Christian Hill, Collateral Damage, John Rice, Writing About The Civil War
Categories : Articles, Civilians, Soldiers, The Battle, The Battlefield, Writing About The Civil War