I should be doing something else, but got pulled off track by a trooper of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry, James Williamson, who was killed in a little-known cavalry skirmish at the Quebec Schoolhouse near Middletown, MD on 13 September 1862.

His regiment’s historian, former Corporal William N. Pickerill wrote a fascinating account of that ‘desperate little cavalry battle’ for a newspaper in 1897, and put it in his regimental History in 1906. Because of him, I’ve spent the last couple of days putting names and faces with some of the men who were there.

The Antietam Cemetery History has him as Daniel Mibbon, 18th New York Infantry (thanks Western Maryland’s Historical Library/WHILBR!). It’s Dan’l Mibbon, N.Y. on his stone.

Frederick hospital records list him as Daniel S. Milborne, 13th New York (thanks National Museum of Civil War Medicine!).

He doesn’t appear in the rosters for either of those regiments or any other New York unit, for that matter (thanks New York State Military Museum!). Nothing close.

A little more digging, though, and voilà !!

Under or near this stone in the Antietam National Cemetery lies David Spencer Milburn, late Private, Company D, 13th New Jersey Infantry. A 26 year old farmer, he was mortally wounded on 17 September 1862 just over a month after enlisting. He died in a hospital in Frederick on 2 October.

I hope his descendants can still find him!

James VcVay & Sons

4 August 2020

James McVay was an “old man” in the 14th Connecticut Infantry. He had enlisted as a Private in Company K with his sons Michael and Francis in July 1862.  He died of “exhaustion” at the end of the regiment’s first day’s march on what became the Maryland Campaign.

His was the first death in that brand new regiment.

His name’s on a familiar looking monument in Norwich, CT.

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Notes

The clip above is from Charles D. Page’s History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry (1906).

The picture of the Soldiers’ Monument in Norwich, CT is online from Waymarking.  You’ll notice the statue’s similarity to “Old Simon” in the Antietam National Cemetery.

Modern headstones

19 July 2020

I recently tweeted about adding a new bio page for a Georgia soldier, Andrew W Poarch and, somewhat as an aside, noted that his modern headstone has some problems.

He was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, MD in October 1862 and at some point given a basic headstone, now heavily worn.

Much more recently, I’d guess in the 1980s or 90s, well-meaning persons got him a new headstone from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Probably because of transcription errors in his original burial records, they got his name terribly wrong. Apparently the applicant for the new headstone didn’t dig any deeper – into the soldier’s service records, muster rolls, or family genealogies, for example – to verify his information. Although, to be fair, it’s much easier to do that today than it was 30 or 40 years ago.

But now the errors are literally carved in stone.

I’ve seen dozens of markers like these with errors large and small over the years of researching my soldiers, but had not thought to make a list or keep a log of them.

The day after Private Poarch’s, though, I found another such case – the stone for Louisianan Volney L. Farnham at Elmwood in Shepherdstown, WV. It has his first initial/name and his regiment wrong.

And this afternoon a third popped-up: Private William T. Curry of South Carolina. This is his modern VA marker in Dials Cemetery, Gray Court, SC. Minor things, to be sure, but his middle initial and his year of birth are probably wrong.

So taking these 3 stones as huge cosmic hints, I’m starting a visual list here, and I’ll add to it as I find more. I can’t fix them, but I can provide a virtual erratum.

Let me know if you find any more cases like these, won’t you? Or if you have any information that corrects errors I’ve made.

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Gravestone pictures via Findagrave.

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[40] additions after the break …

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.

James Grant of the Christian Commission was on the field after the battle of Antietam …

While moving around amongst the wounded … my attention was called by a disabled officer to a friend of his, badly wounded in the face, and lying out somewhere without a covering. Following his directions, and throwing the rays of my lantern towards the foot of a wooden fence, I soon discovered the object of my search … The ball had entered one side of the cheek and passed out at the other, grazing his tongue, and carrying away several of his teeth. His face was horribly swollen, and he could not speak. On asking him if he was Lieut. M. [Morin], of Philadelphia, he assented by a nod of his head.

During the next two days, the Surgeons were all so busy, that his wound, which had been hurriedly dressed on the field, remained untouched; yet he showed no signs of impatience. In the inflamed, wounded condition of his mouth, nothing could be passed down his throat. On the third day, as the Surgeons still had more to do than they could manage … [w]ith some hesitation, I took the Lieutenant’s case in hand, and, after two hours’ labor, succeeded in cutting away his whiskers and washing the wound pretty thoroughly, both inside and outside the mouth. This done, and all the clotted blood and matter cleared away, the swelling abated, and he began to articulate a little. A day or so afterward, he could swallow liquids; and being carefully washed daily, in less than a week he was able to travel to Philadelphia …

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Notes

This excellent photograph of First Lieutenant Anthony Morin of Company D, 90th Pennsylvania Infantry is from the collection of Scott Hann.

The quotes here from Edward P. Smith’s Incidents among Shot and Shell (1868), online from the Hathi Trust.

Here’s an impressive cavalryman you might like to meet: Charles L. Leiper of Rush’s Lancers – the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Although cavalry units were not significantly engaged at Antietam on 17 September, they battled all across Maryland in the week or so before.

On the 7th [September 1862], Lieutenant Charles L. Leiper was placed in command of Company ‘A,’ which he retained until the beginning of October. On the march to Antietam, when near Frederick, Maryland, on the 13th of September, he came upon a body of dismounted rebel cavalry in a wood. Although largely outnumbering his small force, he drove them in confusion, and made some prisoners. The enemy were armed with carbines, and though our men had only the lance and their pistols, by one determined charge they succeeded in dislodging the enemy, who fled in dismay.

This was Leiper’s habit through the war – taking aggressive action apparently without regard for the odds or his own safety.

He was seriously wounded twice as a result, and was promoted to Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel of his regiment by early 1865, and had been their commanding officer in practice since mid-1864. In March 1865 he was breveted – honorarily ranked – Brigadier General of Volunteers for his service.

Amazingly, he was then just 22 years old.

Corporal John H “Highly” Coulston, Company A, 51st Pennsylvania Infantry was wounded at Fox’s Gap on South Mountain in September 1862. He was Captain by January 1865 and mustered out in July.

Tragically, he was severely injured in a train crash – known afterwards as the Exeter Station wreck – on 12 May 1899 while returning with many other veterans from the dedication of a statue of statue of General Hartranft in Harrisburg. He died the next day.

Superimposed on the front page of the Reading Times of 13 May 1899 above is a picture of him c. 1864 from a published photograph contributed to his Findagrave memorial by Charles McDonald.

The crushed train car below testifies to the force of the collision. Below that is a post-war photograph of Isaac E Filman – also of Company A and wounded at Fox’s Gap, and also killed in the crash (lower two photos from the Pottstown Mercury of 1 July 2012).

Sergeant Angelo M Crapsey of the “Bucktails” – the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves. Eyewitness to the Maryland Campaign.

After fighting at Turner’s Gap on South Mountain on 14 September he wrote a friend at home:

… It looked like a task to storm the mountain for it was very steep and more than one mile to the top of it. In we went. Company I was reserve awhile & the Rebels shelled us, wounding 3 of our men, 2 of which died that night. My right hand man was one to fall. Soon after this we were deployed & 3 with me were posted behind a rock wall. W Brewer & L Bard & Hero Bloom [Blom] were with me. The Rebels were behind a fence and rocks. Bard was wounded and Brewer helped him away & soon Bloom was shot by my side. He died that night. Northrop fell a few yards to the left. Maxson fell dead within a few feet of him.

Well it was close work. I only got my face and eyes full of bark for there was a tree just on the rock. That’s all of this …

Two days later, on the evening of the 16th, he and the Bucktails were at Antietam:

… Just as we emerged from a belt of woods into a plowed field, the Rebels fired across the field. We moved forward double quick & lie down behind a little knoll & commenced firing at the Rebels … It was soon dark. We kept firing so fast they could not stand it. My gun [a Sharps breechloader] was so hot I was afraid to load it but kept stuffing it and firing at the flash of their guns. We charged & drove them out of the woods … Col. McNeil was killed and Lt Ellison [Allison] also. I fired 70 times & was well satisfied to stop for the night.

(you can find something about all those names from the Bucktails’ page on AotW)

Crapsey was captured at Fredericksburg in December, was a prisoner at Libby in Richmond, was released and saw action again at Gettysburg, but was very ill afterward and was discharged for disability in October 1863.

He went home probably suffering from PTSD and attempted suicide twice. He succeeded in killing himself the third time, with a friend’s rifle, in August 1864. He was 21 years old.

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His picture from a photograph posted on Crapsey’s Findagrave page by Dennis Brandt, author of Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the American Civil War (U of Nebraska Press, 2008) – the tragedy was Crapsey.

Washington, DC-born William J.H. White was 35 years old in September 1862 and had been an Army doctor since he graduated from the Columbian College Medical School (now George Washington University) in 1849. At least 10 of his 13 years service had been in the frontier West, with the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas and New Mexico. His had not been soft duty.

Earlier in 1862 he had seen considerable action with the 6th Corps and gained experience with large numbers of casualties, notably at Gaines’ Mill in June and Bull Run in August.

He arrived with his Corps at the battlefield of Antietam about 10am on Wednesday, 17 September and his job as Medical Director was to set up and staff the Corps field hospital; the battle had been underway for some 5 hours when he arrived, which made his work both important and urgent. He established a hospital on the Michael Miller farm, known later as the Brick House Hospital, and nearby at Dunbar’s Mills, both at the north end of the East Woods. He probably didn’t treat any soldiers himself, but would have been closely involved with their care.

The troops of his 6th Army Corps were placed largely in holding and supporting positions on the field at Antietam, but one Brigade, Irwin’s of Smith’s 2nd Division, made an attack toward the West Woods about mid-day.

That afternoon something went terribly wrong with Dr. William White.

During the whole of the terrible battle of Wednesday Dr. WHITE was superintending the care and removal of the wounded from the battle; and it is supposed the excitement consequent to the occasion produced a species of temporary insanity, for after the battle had lulled somewhat, he rode up to Gen. FRANKLIN and said, “General, if you will give me a regiment of men I will clear those woods of rebels,” pointing to a piece of woods on his right in which was stationed a very large force of rebels.

Gen. FRANKLIN replied, that fifty regiments would be unable to dislodge the enemy from the position, and that it would be useless to attempt the experiment. Dr. WHITE rejoined, “If you will not give me the men to take those woods, I will go and take them myself,” at the same time proceeding in the direction of the place where the rebels were concealed, at a rapid gait. When within about twenty or thirty rods of the edge of the wood, he was fired upon by several rebel sharpshooters, two balls taking effect, one in the forehead and another in the breast, killing him instantly.

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Edwin Forbes’ engraving of Irwin’s attack is from the Century Magazine of June 1886.

The extraordinary narrative of his death quoted here is from a Memorial of 20 September issued by US Army Surgeon-General William A. Hammond and published in the New York Times of 12 October 1862.

This story also cross-posted to CivilWar Talk.