Thanks to Tom Rice for the pointer to this excellent photograph of Samuel Brown Little. The original is in the Lillenquist collection at the Library of Congress.

Sergeant Little was appointed 2nd Lieutenant of his Company in August 1862 and was wounded in the thigh at Antietam in September. He was mortally wounded at Fredericksburg and died nearby on Christmas Eve 1862.

A well-to-do merchant from Butts County, James Mitchell Newton was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th Georgia Infantry at its organization in May 1861. He was mortally wounded in action at Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862 while in command of the remnants of the regiment in or near the Bloody Lane.

His portrait is thanks to descendants Mike Newton and Deidre Jean Hyde.

Battlefields revisited

2 April 2021

In an article in the National Tribune of 13 October 1892 [pdf] a veteran of the 45th Pennsylvania Infantry wrote to his comrades of his weekend visit to the battlefields on South Mountain and at Sharpsburg, MD 30 years after the combat there.

He mentioned Private Jacob Beirbower of Company B, who was severely injured in action above the Burnside Bridge at Antietam when “a grapeshot struck a top rail [of the fence he was behind], sent it flying through the air,” striking him on the right arm. Both lower arm bones were broken and he later lost the arm to amputation at the elbow.

Big thanks to Jim Smith [@CivilWarOnTour] for the pointer to Bierbower and that fine newspaper account, excerpted above.

Robert Shaw, Newlin, NC

30 March 2021

34 year old farmer Robert Shaw was conscripted into the Confederate Army at Raleigh in July 1862 and assigned to Company B of the First North Carolina Infantry.  He was seriously wounded at Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862 and captured there.  He returned to duty by January 1863, was captured again, at Spotsylvania Court House, VA in May 1864, and survived the prisons at Point Lookout, MD and Elmira, NY to return to his farm in Newlin, Alamance County, NC in June 1865.

He’s seen here in an undated post-war passport photograph contributed to his Findagrave memorial by user Roy K in December 2020.  His smokehouse and much more about his community are found in the Alamance County Architectural Inventory (pdf, 2014) online from the County Historical Properties Commission.

USS Despatch, the third US Navy ship of the name, was formerly the screw steamer America, purchased by the Navy in 1873.

She sailed 20 April 1877 for the eastern Mediterranean and a special assignment with the U.S. Embassy at Constantinople, Turkey. Arriving there 14 June, Despatch carried dispatches and transported the American minister to Turkey, in turmoil because of war with Russia and internal political unrest. She was detached early in 1879, and returned to her home port [of Washington, DC], where she was placed out of commission 9 July 1879.

Aboard for that cruise was a sailor named James Henry Bratton, late Private in the First North Carolina Infantry. James was wounded at Sharpsburg in September 1862 at age 17 but got through the rest of the war unharmed. Afterward he moved to Baltimore and was a marine fireman and engineer. He enlisted in the US Navy for four years in 1876, by then 31 years old.

Family lore says he told his wife he’d given four years to the Confederacy and four years to the United States (after his US Navy enlistment of 1876-1880). Maybe he figured that made him even.

The quote here from Despatch’s page in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, online from the Naval History and Heritage Command. As is her photograph.

William Rufus Barlow was conscripted into Confederate service in August 1862 and assigned as a Private to Company B of the 18th North Carolina Infantry. He was slightly wounded in his first action, at Sharpsburg in September 1862, and was afterward with his Company until captured at Spotsylvania Court House, VA in May 1864. He ended up in the prison at Elmira, NY and died there of pneumonia in January 1865.

This fine photograph of him is from a family researcher, shared online on WikiTree.

There’s a superb discussion about Barlow’s family and a collection of his wartime letters in Company Front (Issue 2, 2013) [pdf], the journal of The Society for the Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops, from Locke W. “Skip” Smith, Jr.

Mr Smith described the photo above:

The firearm held by Private Barlow in this image is a rapid-fire “sidehammer” Colt Model 1855 Revolving Carbine, in a rare variant known as the “Artillery Model.” This .56 caliber weapon never gained wide acceptance due to its propensity to “chain fire,” or discharge all five chambers of its firing cylinder in one dangerous explosion. This problem may have in part prompted the Federal government to transfer sixty of these long arms to the State of North Carolina on May 7, 1859, and Barlow’s carbine may be one of that number. Other images of North Carolina Confederate soldiers armed with this weapon can be seen in Mast’s State Troops and Volunteers, images 2.67, 4.2.12, and 5.4.11. A saber type bayonet could be fixed to this “Artillery Model” carbine. In this typical early war image Barlow appears in civilian clothing with a 6-pointed “secession star” device affixed to his low-crown bowler hat.

I’ve seen a number of these rifles in soldiers’ photographs. Perhaps they just made good photographers’ studio props, not that they had wide use.

I’ve also recently seen a large number of Sharpsburg veterans who died at Elmira. All of them said to have died of pneumonia. I wonder if that was really the case, or was it lazy medicine or lazy medical record-keeping? Pneumonia wasn’t the most common cause of death at other prison camps.

I’m exploring another Irish unit today – Company K of the First South Carolina Infantry (McCreary’s). Formed in June 1861 as the Irish Volunteers for the War, they came largely from a pre-war militia company organized in Charleston in about 1853: the Meagher Guards.

When the Guards’ idol and namesake Thomas F. Meagher began recruiting Irishmen for the Union in New York in 1861

the Charleston company condemned Meagher for “taking arms against us in this most unholy war in support of usurpation and oppression,” struck his name off their roll of honorary members, and on 9 May changed the unit’s name to Emerald Light Infantry.

Two former officers the Meagher Guard who formed the Irish Volunteers for the War – Company K – were wounded at Sharpsburg in September 1862:

Dublin-born Captain Michael P. Parker was a carpenter who “had acquired an education beyond his circumstances. He was an able mathematician, and an excellent writer.” Formerly First Lieutenant of the Meagher Guards, he was made Captain of Company K in January 1862. He was “dreadfully” wounded at Sharpsburg, and never really recovered, dying young at about age 35 in 1868.

First Lieutenant James Armstrong, Jr. was only slightly hurt at Sharpsburg and was eventually promoted to Captain of the Company after Parker. He was born in Philadelphia of immigrant parents but was raised in Charleston and lived for some time in Ireland in the 1850s.

At least 9 more men of Company K were casualties on the Maryland Campaign and many had probably been members of the Meagher Guard; with Irish surnames like Burns, Dillon, Feeney, Holloran, Kennedy, and Sullivan.

The announcement for the Guards, above, is from the Charleston Daily Courier of 16 September 1853. I found it and the quotes above in the excellent Meagher Guard, Charleston’s Fighting Irish by Bill Bynum, published in Company Front (Issue 1, 2011) [pdf], the journal of The Society for the Preservation of the 26th Regiment North Carolina Troops.

Private John Henry Libben did not impress his commanding officer at Antietam.

Lieutenant Peter C Hains later wrote of his battery, “M” of the 2nd United States Artillery:

All the men of the company behaved with their accustomed coolness and courage with one exception, Private Litten [sic], who was not at all remarkable for coolness or courage.

Language not often found in an officer’s after-action report.

Libben served with the battery until discharged at the end of his enlistment in March 1864 and he enlisted in the US Marine Corps immediately afterward, in April. He was promoted to Sergeant and spent the last part of his enlistment (c. 1866-68) aboard the beauty above – USS Vanderbilt. I expect he gathered some coolness and courage by then.

This photograph of USS Vanderbilt is online from the US Naval History and Heritage Command.

Huzzah! Hathi Trust

5 March 2021

My favorite basic source for Louisiana troops is Andrew Bradford Booth’s three volume set (in 7 books) of the Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers and Louisiana Confederate Commands (1920). A one-stop shop for the military basics on more than 102,000 individuals.

Until recently I’d consulted an online text transcription of Booth’s work, but it’s disappeared. A couple of days ago I found the Hathi Trust Digital Library has all 7 of the books, but had limited access to three of them for copyright issues.

Books published in the US before 1925 are now out of copyright – in the public domain – so I took advantage of the feedback form on the Hathi Trust site and pointed the problem out to them.

Amazing! Within an hour I had an acknowledgement and a few hours later Jessica from user support responded that she was passing my request to a copyright expert. The next day I got an email from Kristina saying she agreed the books are no longer under copyright and would open up access for US users. And she did, immediately. She also took the time to explain why they’d been restricted in the first place: there was a 1974 microfilming date on the copyright page.

This is in sharp contrast to the results I’ve had over the years from Google Books in many similar situations: Crickets. Nothing. Nada.

Bravo Hathi Trust!

Here’s an unusual view: the enlisted men of Battery M, 2nd United States Artillery at Culpeper, VA in September 1863. One of these men is probably Corporal Michael Frain, who was wounded at Antietam the year before. Corporal Frain had first enlisted back in 1854 and he served in Battery M to November 1873.

I found that great photograph while looking into an officer of the battery who was a Sergeant when they were in action at Antietam.

He was Terrence M. Reilly of Glasgow, Scotland. He enlisted in 1857 and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, 2nd US Artillery in March 1863. That’s him without a hat in the front row in the picture below, also taken at Culpeper in 1863. Both photographs are online from the Library of Congress.

Thanks to Jim Rosebrock for the pointer to Reilly in a bio sketch he posted to the Antietam Guides Facebook page.