North and South: An album of uncommon soldiers in the American Civil War
123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
My great-great grandfather, John Davis, served as a Private in Company A, 123rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry from August 12, 1862, through June 12, 1865. He was the son of Isaac and Sarah J. Davis, who were natives of Pennsylvania. John was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1843, a year behind his older brother Alexander.
Both John and Alexander were among the patriots who answered President Lincoln’s call for “300,000 more” volunteers in the summer of 1862. Alex is listed at 5’11”, John at 6’3″ — both very tall by the standards of the day.
In their county, it was a source of some humor that the soldiers of the 123rd O.V.I. became prisoners of war with frequent regularity. Many of the men, including John and Alexander, were captured in the fighting at Winchester, Virginia, June 12-13, 1863, in the preliminary rounds of the Gettysburg campaign. The Davis brothers and their enlisted comrades were paroled from Belle Isle on July 9, while many of their officers were held until the end of the war. Both Davis men remained at Camp Parole, Maryland until officially exchanged in late autumn.
Back in the ranks for the 1864 campaign, both brothers were wounded in the fighting at Snicker’s Ferry, Virginia in July — Alex was shot in the right hand, John in the back of the neck. Both recovered and rejoined the regiment by the end of the year, at which time the 123rd was transferred from West Virginia to the 24th Corps of the Army of the James. In the pursuit of Lee’s Confederates from Petersburg in the final week of the war, the Ohioans were captured again, this time at High Bridge on April 6th, and actually were being held within the Confederate lines at Appomattox when the surrender took place.
The Davis brothers and the survivors of the 123rd Ohio mustered out at Camp Chase on June 12, 1865. Less than a month later, Alexander died at home on July 3, 1865.
John Davis lived until January 27, 1898.
— Marnie Hill, descendant Walter Kennedy Confederate Army 7th U.S. Cavalry, 1866-68
This unpublished photograph of Walter Kennedy was found in artist James E. Taylor’s scrapbook titled Our Wild Indians in Peace and War: Surveys, Expeditions, Mining & Scenery of the Great West. [Taylor’s biography appeared in MI, Volume XIX, Number 6, May-June 1998.]
Taylor’s caption under the photo identifies Kennedy as Sergeant-Major of the 7th U.S. Cavalry. Kennedy is clearly wearing the standard Confederate officer’s double breasted frock coat.
In what unit of the Confederacy did Kennedy serve? We do not know — there are simply too many officers of that name. It is possible that he was one of those Confederate P.O.W.’s who “galvanized” and enlisted in the U.S. Army to escape the misery of the prison camp. Whatever Kennedy’s circumstances, we do know that after the war, on August l, 1866, he enlisted at Philadelphia in the 7th U.S. Cavalry, one of four new mounted regiments authorized by Congress.
Born in Clarksburg, Virginia, Kennedy listed his occupation as clerk on the muster rolls. He was described as standing 5 feet 81/4 inches tall, with gray eyes, ruddy complexion, and dark hair.
The ex-Confederate’s military abilities were such that he soon rose to the regiment’s highest enlisted rank, Regimental Sergeant Major. The 7th spent some time on garrison duty in the South, then was transferred to Kansas to fight Indians. (The 7th’s Colonel was usually absent on detached duty, leaving Lt. Col. George A. Custer to command the regiment.) In the fight along the Washita, November 27, 1868, the 7th’s Major Joel Elliott, Sgt. Major Kennedy, and sixteen enlisted men pursued some fleeing Indians toward a nearby Arapahoe village. Specific details of the ensuing fight are not known, but the cavalry detachment was surrourided and wiped out by the Indians. Custer chose not to search for the missing men, and their bodies were not recovered. –Charles Markantes
James Taylor’s photo of Walter Kennedy is published through the courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
41st Alabama Infantry
On March 27, 1862, Andrew Lee enlisted for three years as a Private in Company D, 41 st Alabama Volunteer Infantry. Lee joined from Pickins County and was enrolled by Col. Henry Talbird. The 1860 Census lists Lee as a thirty-nine year old farmer from Carrollton in Pickins County. He and his thirty-three year old wife, Mary Ann Lee, had both been born in South Carolina. The couple had four children, ranging in age from eleven months to twelve years. All were born in Alabama.
Sometime early in his Confederate service, Lee had his photograph taken. What has come down to us is a half plate tintype copy of an earlier image. The tintype is housed in an embossed papier-mach* frame. Lee and his unit are identified in the requisite “old brown ink inscription” on the back of the frame. Lee wears a gray jacket with darker collar, cuffs, and epaulets. His gray kepi is trimmed in a lighter color and with what appears to be the metal numerals “41”. The cap insignia is reversed and partially obliterated by gilding on the original image. Lee holds a musket and carries a cartridge box on a white buff shoulder sling. He also sports a polka dot neckerchief or cravat.
The 41st Alabama completed its organization at Tuscaloosa in May 1862. It’s original strength was 1,250 offcers and men. The regiment became one of the most widely traveled units in the Confederate Army. After serving in East Tennessee, the Alabamians were assigned as the only non-Kentucky unit in the Army of Tennessee’s famous Orphan Brigade. The 41st fought alongside the Kentuckians at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and was active in operations around Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi. It also fought at Chickamauga. The regiment was then transferred to the brigade of Alabama General Archibald Gracie.
After the Knoxville campaign, the 41 st moved to Virginia in the spring of 1864. Here the unit was involved in the engagement at Drewry’s Bluff, the siege of Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign.
As testament to the regiment’s hard service in both the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia, three of its brigade commanders died as a result of combat action: Roger Hanson was mortally wounded at Murfreesboro, Ben Hardin Helms was mortally wounded at Chickamauga, and Archibald Gracie was killed by an exploding shell in a Petersburg trench. Perhaps even more explicit are the regiment’s statistics at Appomattox: the 41 st Alabama surrendered with only fourteen officers and eighty-four enlisted men. Its service ended as part of Young Marshall Moody’s Brigade. Andrew Lee was not with his comrades at the end, however, having been captured three days previously.
Private Lee served throughout the war. He was hospitalized at times in Chattanooga; Dalton, Georgia; and Richmond for chronic diarrhea. Lee lived past the surrender, but did not survive for long. He was captured April 6, 1865 at Farmville, Virginia, and on June 13th, he was admitted to the U. S. Military Prison Hospital at Newport News, Virginia with anasarca, a form of edema. Anasarca can be caused by starvation or by too much salt in the diet. In any event, Andrew Lee died June 17, 1865. He is listed as buried at P. West’s farm on the mainland near Craney Island, Virginia. During the 1880s and 1890s, Lee’s widow made repeated applications to the State of Alabama for a Confederate pension. Most of these applications show her destitute and owning nothing. A May, 1899 application lists her only worldly possession as a bed worth $10.00.
— Arthur O’Leary
George E. Lavender Phillips Legion Cavalry
George Lavender was born in Henry County, Georgia on November 3, 1837. On March 4, 1862, he enlisted in the cavalry battalion of the Phillips Legion. While records are scanty, they show him present for duty throughout the war with the exception of two weeks in June of 1864 when he was hospitalized in Richmond, Virginia with dysentery.
Phillips Legion, a combined arms team consisting of both infantry and cavalry companies, served initially in South Carolina before transferring to the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862. After Sharpsburg, the infantry companies were assigned to Wofford’s Brigade and the mounted elements went into the cavalry division. Near the end of the war they went south with Wade Hampton’s Cavalry Command and fought in the last battles of Joe Johnston’s army. George Lavender was paroled May 1, 1865 at Greensboro, North Carolina.
Lavender returned to Georgia, farming near Weaver, Pike County. On February 21, 1878, George married Miss Lethia Reid. The couple had one son. George Lavender, farmer, father, ex-Confederate, passed away on December 23, 1924.
Lavender proudly displays his Georgia state plate and Colt revolver in this quarter-plate ambrotype. In addition to the photo, the author also has Lavender’s reunion medal from the 1919 UCV convention in Atlanta and a Georgia National Guard ladder badge.
George Perkins l9th Maine Infantry
Among the many groups of brothers who fought at Gettysburg were two men from Maine. One was my great-grandfather, Corporal George L. Perkins, Company G, 19th Maine Volunteers, who had been a farmer on Cape Cod Hill in New Sharon, Maine. His regiment, a part of General Hancock’s 2nd Corps, arrived on the field the morning of the second day of July, 1863 and occupied the center of the Union line along Cemetery Ridge. At the end of the day, the 19th Maine under Colonel Heath assisted in repulsing a Confederate attack and then made a charge that drove the enemy beyond the Emmitsburg Road, recapturing the guns of a Union battery which had been abandoned earlier. The casualties of the regiment in killed and wounded exceeded those of any other Maine regiment in the battle.
Among the casualties was Corporal Perkins, who was wounded and eventually died on the field. Two of his friends were on either side of him when he was hit. One of them brought home a canteen and gave it to George’s daughter: my grandmother who gave it to me many years ago. Of course I still have it.
As it happened, George’s brother Private Nathaniel Perkins, of Chesterville Hill, Maine, belonged to Dow’s 6th Maine Battery, which also played an active role on July 2, 1863. This battery consisted of four light twelvepounder Napoleon guns and brought onto the field one hundred and three men and officers with ninety horses. It had been in service since January 1, 1862. First Lieutenant Edwin B. Dow commanded this unit at Gettysburg. The 6th Battery arrived on the field from Taneytown about 8:00 a.m. and eventually was posted to the artillery line assembled by Major Freeman McGilvery to support the crumbling 3rd Corps position. When the 6th Maine reported to McGilvery at about seven o’clock, the enemy had just overrun and captured four guns of Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery near the Trostle house. The Maine gunners quickly opened fire toward the abandoned guns and drove off the enemy. Three guns were recovered.
McGilvery then shifted his line somewhat to the north to contest the advance of Confederate forces against the left center of the ridge. Dow’s Battery advanced about seven or eight hundred yards into an open field in full view of the enemy. The Maine guns first dueled with two batteries in the enemy’s line. Then Confederate skirmishers advanced from their shelter toward the Union batteries, followed by a battle line of the enemy moving up at a distance of about six hundred yards, and evidently bent upon dashing through the line of batteries to the Taneytown road. The situation of the battery was perilous. Its anxious commander did not see any infantry supports; the batteries around it were unable to stand the terrible fire and were moving off to the rear or were deserted by their cannoneers. The guns of Battery I, 5th U.S. became silent. Thompson’s Pennsylvania Battery, running low on ammunition, was sent to the rear. Pettit’s 1st New York Battery, which had come up with the 6th Maine, moved off. Dow’s 6th Maine and Phillip’s 5th Massachusetts stood to their guns. McGilvery directed Dow to “hold position at all hazards” until reinforcements could be brought up.
Upon the advancing enemy the 6th Maine and 5th Massachusetts fired spherical case and canister with such precision and rapidity that his line was forced to retire. By the end of the action, the 6th Maine Battery had expended two hundred and forty-four rounds of ammunition in about an hour and a half. Although under severe fire, the battery had only eight men wounded and not one killed. At eight o’clock the Maine men were relieved by Battery K, 4th U.S. Artillery. Fortunately, my great-uncle Nathaniel Perkins survived Gettysburg — and the war.
In July 1963, my son and I went to Gettysburg for the Centennial observance of the battle and toured the field by car and on foot. I had heard that my great-grandfather George was buried in the National Cemetery there, although in the “Unknown” section. I am certain that we found his grave when we located a head stone marked “A Corporal of the 19th Maine.” C.R. “Bob” Tyler
De Van Postley
7th Regiment, N.Y. State Militia
174th New York Volunteers
On March 7, 1864, Lt. De Van Postley, had finally come home after a journey of nearly three years.
Postley had mustered as a private at the age of 18 on April 26, 1861 in the 2nd Company, 7th Regiment New York State Militia. He marched down Broadway with Colonel Marshall Lefferts and the rest of the 7th on their historic journey to Washington D.C. and the defense of the Union.
The 7th was transported by steamboat to Annapolis, on the Chesapeake Bay twenty miles south of Baltimore, then marched forty miles overland to Washington. After repairing an old steam engine, attaching a few cars and relaying three miles of track, the 7th moved forward cautiously. Just beyond Millersville Station, a bridge had been burned by the enemy. While the 7th halted to repair it, Colonel Lefferts decided to send the train back to Annapolis to bring up elements of the 8th Massachusetts Infantry.
During the march a number of men had been overcome by sweltering temperatures. One of the men suffering from sunstroke was sent back with the train to Annapolis. Accompanying him was Private Postley, who had accidentally shot himself in the leg with his own pistol.
Postley recovered in time to rejoin the 7th during its Maryland campaign in May 1862 and served until mustered out with the regiment in August of the same year. On October 20, 1862, he was mustered into Co. D, 174th New York Volunteer Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant.
The 174th New York, nicknamed the 5th Metropolitan Guard, was assigned to the 19th Army Corps, Department of the Gulf. After some minor engagements, Postley and the 174th saw heavy action for the first time at the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. During the doomed assault of May 27th, the 174th, which was part of Colonel Nathan Dudley’s brigade, was held in reserve too late to see any action. But while serving in the center of the line during the June 14th assault, the 174th participated in a feint attack to draw Confederate troops away from the all-out assaults on the right and left. Again the assault failed miserably and the 174th with the rest of the l9th Corps settled down to starve out the Port Hudson garrison. The Confederates gave up on July 9, 1863, after hearing of Grant’s victory at Vicksburg.
Shortly after the surrender, the l9th Corps’s 4th and Ist Divisions (which included the 174th NY) were transferred by riverboat to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. On the morning of July 13th, Union elements on a foraging mission down both banks of Bayou La Fourche began to meet enemy resistance. Their objective was Cox’s Plantation, situated about six miles below the city’s defenses. The U.S. brigades of Paine and Dudley, including the 174th New York, with a few companies of cavalry and two batteries of artillery, were marching down the west bank, while Colonel Joseph Morgan was moving his brigade down the east bank. Facing the Federals on the west bank were Col. Thomas Green’s three understrength regiments and a section of artillery. Confederates on the east bank amounted to about 400 infantrymen and a section of artillery under Colonel W. P. Lane. By midmorning Green’s Rebels almost succeeded in turning Dudley’s right wing and rigorously pressed his center. On the east bank, after Morgan’s Federals were driven back in panic, Lane’s infantry and artillery were free to harass Dudley’s Yanks across the bayou.
Lieutenant Postley met his end just after Colonel Morgan’s disgraceful withdrawal. When Dudley’s left flank was uncovered by Morgan’s retreat, a section of the 1st Maine Battery and its infantry support consisting of two companies of the 174th New York and one company of the 30th Massachusetts became exposed to fire from Colonel Lane’s Confederates across the bayou. One of the cannon was successfully brought off the field, the other was abandoned, but only after a gallant attempt by its infantry support to retrieve it. Soon after, Dudley’s left flank collapsed, causing a disorderly retreat of his entire force. It was driven back several miles before reaching Paine’s brigade, which had been deployed across the Plantation road in line of battle as a reserve. When the division commander, Gen. Cuvier Grover, arrived on the field, both columns were ordered to fall back under the protection of the heavy artillery of Fort Butler at Donaldsonville. So ended the battle of Cox’s Plantation. It was a humiliating defeat for the Union forces who outnumbered their opponents by more then three to one.
In the evening, under a flag of truce, thirty-six dead and wounded were found within a 20 yard circumference of the abandoned cannon of the Ist Maine Battery. Among the valiant dead was Lt. . He holds the unenviable distinction of being the only officer of the 174th to be killed in action. His body was returned home and De Van Postley today lies in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn.
— Scott Valentine
Carte by Hallett, 136 Bowery, inscribed, “Lieut. Devan Postley, Co.D, 174th N. YS. Vol, killed at Donaldsonville, La, July 13, 1863, age 20 yrs. & 11 mos. Member 2d Co., 7th Reg. N. YS. … my mother’s brother. ”
Robert Stokes U.S. Marine Corps l9th Pennsylvania 72nd Pennsylvania
Robert Stokes was a twenty one year old Philadelphia tinsmith when he enlisted in the
U.S. Marine Corps on the fourth of June, 1857 for a term of “four years or unless sooner discharged.” During his time in the Marines he was stationed in Virginia at the Gosport Navy Yard and served on at least two warships, Colorado and Roanoke. In a letter from the Gosport Yard dated September 6, 1857, he wrote,
“I hardly expect to go to sea now before spring. There is several vessels here getting ready for sea. I am very well pleased here, it is a easy station to be on. We get Liberty almost every day if we want it. The duty is quite light and living very good. In fact I have nothing to complain of.” Later Stokes wrote to his mother from the Colorado:
“March 21 st, 1858. I am well and in good health. I have been on one of the Pennsylvania receiving ships since I wrote last, we went on the 13th of March. There will be seven hundred [seamen] all told. The Colorado will go on the home station. We might be only eight months and we might be two years. I like the Colorado first rate.” For reasons unknown, Stokes left the Marine Corps in June 1860 after completing three years of his enlistment.
With the coming of civil war the following spring, Robert Stokes reenlisted on April 27, 1861 in the 19th Pennsylvania Volunteers, a three-month regiment raised in Philadelphia. The 19th was commanded by Colonel Peter Lyle, seconded by Lt. Col. DeWitt Clinton Baxter.
The 19th soon was sent to Baltimore, where it encamped initially just outside Fort McHenry. A few days after Union forces arrested the city’s chief of the police, Stokes described his circumstances to his mother:
“Newton University, Baltimore. There is a great deal of excitement here. We are in the City now. There is two companys on guard in the streets at all hours opposite the battle monument. We had to come over here in a hurry. We did not take anything with us but our overcoats. The people of Baltimore is all down on us. There was a piece in one of the papers which said we was all lousy. We sleep, eat and drink in a college. I’ve been throughout the college from cellar to garrett. Think of that, getting paid for going to college.” Another letter, dated May 17th, adds, “We sleep with all our clothes on and belts with forty rounds of cartridges and with our muskets loaded by our sides.”
With its term of enlistment expiring, the 19th Pennsylvania was mustered out on August 19, 1861. The officers immediately set about raising three year regiments. Robert Stokes, after a month at home, reenlisted as a sergeant in DeWitt Baxter’s regiment of “Fire Zouaves,” the 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteers’ At that time the regiment boasted fifteen companies. Stokes was 3rd sergeant of Company R. The regiment moved south, and near the end of the war’s first year, Stokes wrote home:
“Picket on the Potomac, Dec. 28th, 1861. We got new rifles, it keeps us busy cleaning them. They will carrie 13 hundred yards. The rebels on the other side had better look out for the boys will take a pop at them if they get a chance to do so.” In another note dated February 23, 1862 from “Camp Observation,” where they had been since September, Stokes expressed the frustration with camp life felt by many of his messmates:
“We are getting tired of staying in one place. We would like to move from here. We won’t get a chance to do anything if they keep on the way they have been doing lately. There was no use in Volunteering if we won’t get a chance to thrash them…”
The 72nd served through the Peninsular campaign, after which Stokes was promoted to First Sergeant of Company R. The new diamond above his stripes did little to allay his growing disillusionment. At the battle of Antietam in September, the Philadelphia Brigade was seriously thrashed by the Confederates of Lafayette McLaws and Jubal Early. Nearly half of the Philadelphians’ 500 casualties were among the Zouaves of the 72nd. Stokes survived to write home on October 19th:
“Bolivar Heights [above Harper’s Ferry]. They are making a good many promotions in this regiment, but I would make a poor Officer. I can’t drink Rum enough nor ain’t got a hard cheek. If I had money to throw away I could buy a commission here. The Officers, with a few exceptions, are drunk half their time. They are a disgrace to the service…I would like to get a furlough for to go home for a week or so. I am getting disgusted with the service. If I were home I would let the Union take care of itself, my Patriotism is pretty near played out. To see how things is carried on here, it is enough to make one sick of it.”
A month later he wrote from “Camp near Fredericksburg. They have been humbugging us here, so I am now in Company G. Company R is broke up. The Captain is going home…I have a notion to take a trip home!” It’s clear that Stokes was thinking about taking French leave, but bad water and army rations saved him the trouble. A case of dysentery put him in the hospital in early December, and in March of 1863 the military career of Robert Stokes was brought to a close when he received a medical discharge. — Jim Jezorski
Stokes wears his Zouave uniform in a sixth-plate tintype and the torn upper half of a CDV. Author’s collection.
Frederick Cordes “The Bucktails”
42nd Pennsylvania Volunteers
18th U.S. Infantry
For many American families the Civil War was a family affair, with many sets of brothers and even fathers and sons serving in the military. Among them were two brothers, emigrants from Prussia, who served in the army of their adopted country.
Frederick Cordes was twenty years old when he enlisted in “Kane’s Rifles,” the first of Pennsylvania’s three famous Bucktail regiments, in May of 1861. Frederick served throughout the war, but not without injury. During the battle of Gettysburg, he and two comrades were walking along when an artillery shell exploded, knocking the trio to the ground. His two friends quickly arose, but Frederick lay still on the ground with a bloody wound in his chest. “Cordes is killed,” said one of his companions, and they walked off. Cordes was not dead, however, and he later was brought to a field hospital. His sergeant recalled that after Gettysburg Frederick often complained of pain in his breast and side. He was habitually on the sick list and was excused from picket many times. On a hard march he invariably fell out, but, noted the sergeant, “He was always ready to fight.”
Frederick Cordes reenlisted in 1864 and was mustered out in 1865. Returning to his home in Harrisburg, he married in 1871. In 1880 he moved with his wife and daughter to South Dakota, where he died in 1901.
Like Frederick, his brother Henry arrived in America in 1852. In 1861 he served three months in the 2nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, then reenlisted in the 18th U.S. Regulars.
The 18th saw a tremendous amount of action in the western theater: Mill Springs, Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Stone’s River, Chickamauga (where the battalion suffered 65% casualties), Missionary Ridge and the Atlanta campaign. Through all this Henry Cordes missed not a day of service until September 1, 1864, when he was shot in the left arm at Jonesborough, Georgia. The wound necessitated amputation.
Henry Cordes returned to Harrisburg, married and became a telegraph operator. He also was active in G.A.R. affairs, and served a term as president of his local post. — John Sickles
Norvell F. Churchill 1st Michigan Cavalry
Norvell Churchill joined Company L of the 1 st Michigan Cavalry in August of 1861. He stood 5’6″, had hazel eyes and brown hair. The Saint Clair County native listed his occupation as farmer.
The Ist Michigan saw quite a bit of action, and Churchill was present in all of the early campaigns. Just prior to Gettysburg the Ist was brigaded with three other Michigan regiments and placed under Custer’s command. Churchill was assigned as an orderly to the new brigade commander.
While John Buford’s division of Union cavalry fired the opening shots of the three day battle at Gettysburg, it fell to the divisions of Kilpatrick and Gregg to guard the Union flanks from southern cavalry attacks. From Hanover, Pennsylvania on June 30, 1863 to Falling Waters, Maryland on July 14, Union and Confederate cavalry clashed repeatedly. During this campaign the name of George Custer became an American legend. Yet that reputation was almost snuffed before it was established. Were it not for Norvell F. Churchill, hundreds of books about Custer, a veritable industry, would never have been written.
Custer, newly promoted from captain to brigadier general at the inception of the campaign, had opportunity to lead his first mounted charge near Hunterstown, Pennsylvania. It was almost his last. While Longstreet’s Confederate infantry was assaulting Little Round Top and the Peach Orchard on July 2, Custer was leading the fifty men of Company A, 6th Michigan Cavalry, in a wild attack down the Hunterstown Road against a numerically superior foe.
When two mounted groups charge headlong into each other, there is a huge clash of men, animals and weapons in a cacophony of sound and almost unprecedented confusion. When one of the opponents is greatly outnumbered, however, the results are predictable. In this particular melee, Custer’s horse was killed and the new general was in a very precarious situation. An enemy officer spied Custer’s predicament and rode down on the unhorsed general, swinging his saber. A scant second before the impending fatality, Norvell Churchill arrived beside Custer. He deflected the Reb’s saber blow, drilled the enemy horseman with a pistol ball and then pulled Custer onto the back of his horse. The two galloped back to the brigade.
A reporter from the New York Times had been on the scene to begin the documentation of the Custer legend; but what of the fate of Norvell Churchill?
In November of 1863, Churchill, who had been having trouble with his eyes since contracting an infection at Harpers Ferry a year earlier, was sent to Grand Rapids on detached service at a draft rendezvous camp. There the army forgot about him. In August of 1864 his enlistment elapsed, but it was not until December that an officer wrote to headquarters wondering what to do with the still-serving Churchill. “It does not appear that he has been discharged,” marveled the officer. Finally, in February 1865 at Detroit Churchill was honorably discharged.
At home (now Lapeer County), Churchill’s persistent eye infection continued to plague him. His left eye burst in 1868 and was replaced with a glass eye. (Later Churchill would amuse his neighbors by popping the glass eye in and out.)
Custer, of course, went on to greater notoriety, while the man who saved Custer’s life during his first cavalry charge died an obscure Michigan farmer in 1905. — John Sickles
In this wartime carte de visite of Churchill, we can see that he apparently has problems with his left eye.
15th Pennsylvania Cavalry
A resident of Gettysburg, twentyfive year old Joseph Meals listed his occupation as druggist when he enlisted in Company E of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry (The Anderson Cavalry) in October of 1862. The l5th served in the western theater, so Meals was not present for the huge battle outside his hometown. He arrived shortly thereafter, however, having been discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate that month.
The following spring, Joseph Meals reenlisted at Chambersburg on April 13,1864, to serve for three years in the Signal Corps. He was stationed in the Department of West Virginia until honorably discharged on August 23, 1865. Meals passed away on Valentine’s Day, 1907, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
This photograph was purchased from the Meals family of Adams County. It is interesting to note that Joseph Meals was never a sergeant — it seems probable that he had the stripes painted on his image at some point, or perhaps a family member had the picture touched up at a later date. I believe this photograph was taken in Gettysburg shortly after his enlistment in 1862. — Guy W. Smith
John H.L. Bray 9th Texas Infantry
A few days after the new Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter, a marriage took place in far off Texas between John H. L. Bray, 21, and Harriet A. Provine, 19. Both bride and groom were born in Tennessee but now resided with their respective parents in Lamar County, Texas. The groom’s father was a fairly well-off merchant and farmer. The bride’s father, a teacher, also supported her seven siblings.
It did not take long for the war to spread to the western reaches of the Confederacy, and by August 1861, the 9th Texas Infantry was recruiting in north Texas and elsewhere. The new regiment was raised by Mexican War veteran Samuel B. Maxey, a West Point graduate ranked 58th in the class of 1846. John Bray left his new bride to join a company called the “Island City Rifles,” which drew men from Galveston, Red River and Lamar Counties. Bray was elected first lieutenant and when his unit became Company K of the 9th Texas, John also served as regimental commissary officer.
After a brief training period the 9th was sent to Tennessee as part of Albert Sidney Johnston’s army. In April 1862 the Texans were heavily engaged at the battle of Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh Church as it’s sometimes called. The next month, at the siege of Corinth in northern Mississippi, Bray was promoted to Captain.
Soon the 9th was drawn back to Boonville, Mississippi, but Bray’s service was nearing its end. In September 1862 John asked for and received a leave of absence and went home sick. He was diagnosed with spinal infection and ascites (fluid in abdomen). Too ill to serve, the young officer resigned his commission in April of 1863. John Bray died at his home on February 8, 1866.
— John Sickles
Frank Huger (pronounced Hu-gee) was an 1860 graduate of West Point. His father, too, was a West Pointer who had graduated from the academy in 1826 and served as an ordnance officer. Both father and son went south to their native Virginia when the Civil War started.
Frank captained a gun battery from Norfolk as his first command in the infant Confederacy. In February 1863 he was named executive officer in Edward Porter Alexander’s battalion of artillery in the 1st Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. Alexander remembered years later when he “got my glorious Frank Huger, who never shirked a care or danger or grumbled over a hardship in all his life, and with whom all my intercourse was always as that of the most affectionate brothers.”
Huger soon proved himself the ablest of warriors. At Gettysburg he ran four batteries up to within five hundred yards of the Peach Orchard. Huger was counting on striking the Union line a heavy blow, but Union guns on Cemetery Hill zeroed in on him, and in two days of intense fighting Huger lost a fourth of his command. On the night of July 4, 1863 , Huger and Alexander sat on an old door in the pouring rain, awaiting their turn to roll their guns back into Virginia; a sad end to a lost battle.
After Gettysburg, the 1 st Corps was sent west on the ricky-tick Confederate rails to reinforce the Army of Tennessee. Longstreet’s infantry proved to be the decisive factor in the battle of Chickamauga, but the artillery arrived too late to participate.
The Virginians were next sent into eastern Tennessee to try to retake Knoxville. Campaigning was arduous in the mountains and rations were practically nonexistent. At Tyner’s Station in early November, Colonel Alexander found a lady with several fat pigs, but she would not sell one for Confederate money. Sitting around the table in their tent one morning eating what little victuals they could scrape up, Alexander spoke what was on everybody’s mind: “I wish an infantry man would kill one of that old woman’s pigs and I could catch him at it.” It was a statement everyone agreed with but thought it so unlikely that it was treated as mere idle conversation. Just then a musket exploded about 200 yards away across the meadow. Alexander’s staff looked out across the pasture to see two infantrymen, one holding a gunny sack and the other stuffing a pig into it. Huger grabbed a pistol and took off sprinting after the infantrymen. “Run, Frank!”, they cheered. Huger chased down the fellow with the bag and took him at gunpoint. The culprit was marched to Alexander’s headquarters for a speedy trial. The old woman was notified and was forced to accept Confederate scrip. The pig was obtained honestly, and Alexander, Huger and the staff dined on pork that day.
Back in Virginia the following May, Alexander’s guns were heavily engaged with the federals at the battle of the Wilderness. Attesting to the accuracy of the enemy’s shooting, two of Huger’s 24-pounder brass guns were hit in the muzzle by enemy shot, although neither was disabled. A twelve pound cannonball actually went down the muzzle of one of Huger’s guns. Huger blithely reloaded the ball into a Napoleon and fired it back at the Union line. “It seemed to know the road,” he observed.
When the Yankees laid siege to Petersburg, the Army of Northern Virginia first came in contact with black soldiers. The colored troops were not met too kindly, nor were their officers. When the northerners dug a tunnel and exploded a mine under the Confederate trenches it touched off a huge battle that was ultimately a failure for the Yankees due to poor leadership. A division of blacks were heavily engaged, and afterward Huger encountered one he had known, a barber, who used to shave him back in Norfolk:
“Mass’ Frank!”, the wounded soldier called out to Huger. “Please Mass’ Frank, can I have some old greasy water what they been washing dishes in? I don’t want no good water but just old greasy water they are going to throw away,” he begged. Huger gave the man some water, then the hapless Union soldier expired.
During the final days of the Confederacy, Lee’s army evacuated the Richmond defenses and marched west. Outnumbered and out in the open, they were easy prey to the Union army. After the battle of Amelia Court house, General George Armstrong Custer’s Union cavalry rode down upon Huger’s guns, cutting and slashing, and demanding surrender. Huger’s guns were quickly taken. When a Federal corporal rode down upon the dismounted Huger, he drew his pistol and killed the corporal’s horse. A major riding behind the corporal rode right at Huger, and Frank Huger fired the last shot he would fire in the Civil War. The pistol ball laid open the major’s cheek.
Huger ran for some nearby bushes, but another cavalryman rode up, and pointed his carbine at Huger’s head. “Surrender, damn you!”, he ordered. Custer was soon on the scene. He and Huger had been great friends at the academy, and a cordial reunion took place. Even the wounded major was all smiles — the wound inflicted by Huger had earned the major a furlough.
Custer kept Huger with him all that day — even had him sleep in his tent with him that night. Huger was wearing a fancy pair of spurs his father had brought back from the Mexican War. These Custer appropriated. A few days later while Lee’s army was being harried further west by the Union cavalry, Custer saw his chance to grab some glory. He rode toward General James Longstreet’s lines under a flag of truce and demanded Longstreet’s surrender. Some of Longstreet’s infantrymen ignored Custer’s truce flag and pulled one of his aides off his horse, disarmed him and pulled his fancy boots off. Custer, recognizing an officer he had known at West Point appealed to him for a sense of order. The officer in turn recognized Huger’s spurs and demanded to know where Custer had obtained them. Custer nervously explained that he was “taking care of them for his friend, Frank Huger.”
After the war times were hard in the south. Huger searched far and wide before finding work with the Norfolk and Western Railroad.
Frank Huger, Confederate artilleryman, died in 1897 at the age of sixty. — John Sickles.
William C. Mills 21st Illinois Infantry
William Mills was born on February 8, 1836 in Pitt County, North Carolina. Sometime after that he and his family moved west and settled in southeastern Illinois. William left his work as a carpenter to enlist as a private in Company I of the 21 st Illinois Volunteer Infantry on June 13, 1861. The 21 st was raised under the “Ten Regiment Bill” and rendezvoused at Mattoon on May 9th, composed of men and boys from nine counties in southern Illinois. The new regiment was mustered in by a Regular Army captain with Mexican War experience named U.S. Grant.
Life in the Army for new recruits must have been difficult, especially in volunteer regiments with officers who often were as green as their men. In the 21 st Illinois, an incompetent colonel brought the new recruits very close to mutiny. William Mills must have been one of the mutineers, for his name appears on the muster rolls for July and August as “being under arrest by sentence of a general court martial.”
The 21 st needed a Regular Army officer to get them into shape, and Governor Richard Yates thought U.S. Grant was the man for the job. Grant quietly assumed his first command on June 16th and had the camp in perfect order within a few days using a combination of stern discipline and common sense to win over the rebellious soldiers. In one instance, he had them march a hundred miles across the state instead of going by rail to toughen them up. Slowly the recruits turned into soldiers. Later in the war that same unit would earn the nickname of the “toughs” because of their hard fighting ways. Grant for his work with the 21st Illinois was promoted on August 7th to Brigadier General.
William Mills and the 21 st fought in many minor and major battles, including Fredericktown, Iuka, Corinth, Perryville, Chaplin Hill, Stone’s River, Nashville, Liberty Gap, and Chattanooga. After Stone’s River, where the 21 st lost more men than any other regiment, William Mills was listed on the Regimental Roll of Honor for “cool and daring conduct” during the battle.
On the field at Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, Mills and the men of the 21 st were in reserve behind three other regiments as part of Carlin’s Brigade, on Rosecrans’s right wing. They were positioned across an open field east of the LaFayette road. Alabamians of E. McIver Law’s Brigade and Tennesseans under John S. Fulton attacked out of the woods, overwhelming Carlin’s center and capturing the colors of the 21 st and many of its men, including William Mills. The 21 st Illinois lost heavily on that day: 238 men. The 21st’s Colonel John W. Alexander was killed and the Lieutenant Colonel was captured.
The survivors of the 21 st Illinois reformed in the hills behind the battlefield and marched to Rossville where General Thomas and the rest of the Union Army was continuing the fight. William Mills was confined at Richmond until December 12th, when he was sent to Danville, Virginia. During his time there, he was hospitalized with pleuritis for 12 days. Subsequently, William was sent on to the Camp Sumter P.O.W. facility at Andersonville, Georgia. Mills was exchanged at Vicksburg, April 18, 1865. After a layover at Benton Barracks, he was finally mustered out July 3rd at Springfield, Illinois.
After the war, Mills was a farmer in Clark County, where he married Rhoda A. Haddock on January 17, 1867. He and his wife had thirteen children over the next twenty-two years. He lived what was described as a “peaceable, sober, hardworking life.” William Mills, veteran of the 21 st Illinois and survivor of Andersonville, died of heart failure on February 10, 1904 at the age of 68. He is buried in the Casey Cemetery at Casey, Illinois. Christopher Anderson William Noll
11th New York Fire Zouaves
Private William Noll (also spelled Knoll in some records) did not have the most illustrious military career, but his brief time in the Union army was at least as colorful as his zouave uniform. A butcher by trade, at the start of the war he cast his lot with the firemen of his native New York City, the famous “Fire Zouaves.” Noll enlisted in Company D of the 11 th New York Volunteers at about the age of twenty on April 20, 1861.
The 11 th New York was raised by E.E. Ellsworth, who was made famous by the pre-war tour he organized for his militia drill team, the “United States Zouave Cadets” of Chicago. Almost single-handedly, Ellsworth was responsible for the popularization of the Zouave style throughout America. The tour also earned Ellsworth a position as law clerk in the Springfield law firm of Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln went to Washington in 1861, he took Ellsworth with him. In May of 1861, now-Colonel Ellsworth of the I Ith New York was killed during the occupation of Alexandria, Virginia by Federal forces.
Two months later, the Fire Zouaves were in action at the war’s first major battle, Bull Run. On the morning of July 21, 1861, as William Noll stood among his red-shirted companions, he was probably filled with as much optimism as the other Union soldiers on the fields around Manassas. However, optimism alone does not win battles, and the day ended badly for Noll, the 11th New York and the Union Army as a whole, which was routed from the field and fled back to Washington. Amid the greater calamity, William Noll was shot through the left foot and taken prisoner. From July 23rd to January 17, 1862, Noll was held a prisoner of war. Some of the bone in his foot was removed by Confederate surgeons, and upon his release from captivity it was clear that he was not fit for duty. William Noll was discharged in March of 1862 and returned to New York City. According to his records, he was unable to continue his butchering trade and appears to have simply lived off his disability pension. Disability must have been a relative term, however, as Noll was to marry and father eleven children. Described as having “good character and moral habits and a total abstinence from intoxicating liquors,” he was to live until 1918, passing away on April 9, the 53d anniversary of Lee’s surrender. Image courtesy Richard Ricca.
Copyright Military Images Sep/Oct 1998
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