I have had a great time pulling a research “thread” this evening and thought both of my readers might like to share in the journey.

Looking into Sergeant John Martin Rushton (1837-1889) of the 7th South Carolina Infantry.

I started with Glen Swain’s excellent roster in The Bloody 7th (Broadfoot, 2014), based mostly on the Consolidated Service Records (CSRs) from the National Archives.

Those records say Rushton was wounded at Sharpsburg in 1862. In November – December 1864 he was in a hospital in Richmond, VA with a gunshot wound in the shoulder, then served as an attendant in another hospital there. He retired in March 1865, presumably for disability, and was paroled at Augusta, GA in May.

Nothing unusual here; it seemed like a typical soldier story until I looked at his gravesite on Findagrave, which refers to him as Dr. Rushton. Not so many enlisted men were later physicians, so I thought I’d find out when and where he trained.

A little digging online with various forms of his name, and up popped an announcement in the Richmond Dispatch that J.M. Rushton of Edgehill [sic], SC graduated from the Medical College in Richmond (now part of Virginia Commonwealth University).

In March 1865.

Oh-ho! Now we’re having fun: did our man attend medical school while still a soldier and patient/hospital aide in 1864-5?

That would be unusual.

Then I got really lucky. Thanks to the digital archives at VCU, I found an October 1864 letter John Rushton wrote to Levin Smith Joines, the Dean of the medical school. In it, he requested admission to the Winter 1864-65 course, noted he’d had previous training in Georgia 1860-61, and best of all, described what he’d been doing since Sharpsburg.

So, in contrast to the tale of the CSRs, it turns out he was furloughed home after he was wounded in the shoulder at Sharpsburg and I don’t think he ever returned to his unit. By January 1864 he had been judged disabled and was teaching school in Edgefield, SC.

He was admitted to the Medical College for the 1864-65 winter session and graduated in 1865. The day after he’d been “retired” in the Army records, coincidentally.

Long story short – I got to see part of the man’s story in his own hand, in real time. Rare, but very gratifying. And a lot more exciting than the basic and sometimes confused service records.

…. on to the next story.

Wounded seven times?

3 July 2020

The stone of 28 year old farmer William F. Harris, a Private in the 7th South Carolina Infantry.

He was a recent recruit who enlisted in August 1862 and saw his first combat in Maryland. He was mortally wounded at Sharpsburg on 17 September and died at home a little over two weeks later.

There’s quite a story behind “wounded seven times” noted on his stone, no doubt.

Let me know if you have any details, won’t you please?

Catawbas at Sharpsburg

25 June 2020

I’ve spent the afternoon down something of a rabbit hole – learning a little about the Catawba Tribe of north-central South Carolina and how they are remembered.

I dove in chasing a Private in the 12th South Carolina Infantry listed as John Harris (Indian) in the State Roll.

So now I know of 4 Catawbas who were in Maryland in 1862, all wounded there. John and his brother Jim of the 12th South Carolina, and Jeff Ayers and Bill Canty of the 17th. They were among 19 men of the tribe – probably the entire military age male population – who enlisted in the Confederate Army.

Another story about Antietam soldiers I’d not heard before now.


The picture at the top is of the Catawba Memorial (1900) in a park in Fort Mill, SC.