Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Youth at War: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 7.

This is the last in my seven-part series of posts about the 93rd New York. In the previous six posts, I scoured the collection of Timothy O’Sullivan images and then tried to find the best stories from the Overland Campaign.

However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the most ubiquitous image from this collection, the one that depicts the 93rd New York’s twelve-person drum corps. Over the years, this photograph has appeared in multiple venues. If you are a Civil War buff, you have probably seen it before. It appeared in Ken Burns’s documentary series, The Civil War. (If any of you out there in internet-land possess the illustrated book that accompanies that documentary—written by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns—the image appears on p. 122.) The drum corps photograph also appears in various photographic histories of the war and books about Civil War uniforms. It took me about three minutes to find two books on my bookshelf that contained it. I found it on page 17 of William C. Davis’s Fighting Men of the Civil War and on page 98 of Davis’s mammoth book, Touched by Fire. I also found it in several recently-published books: it appears on page 32 of Stephen M. Forman’s Echoes of the Civil War, it appears as a two-page spread (pages 88 and 89) in Theodore Savas’s Brady’s Civil War Journal, and it appears on page 7 of Tom Crask’s book for beginner musicians, Should I Play the Drums? Finally, it appears in several books about children in the Civil War, including Duane Damon’s Growing Up in the Civil War (where it appears on page 44) and Chaim Rosenberg’s Child Labor in America (where is appears on page 155).

Here is the oft-seen image of the 93rd New York's drum corps.

I’m not sure why this image is so popular, but if I had to guess, I’d say the allure comes from the proud youth standing in front, the 93rd New York’s principal musician. Undoubtedly, he steals the show. But who is he?

It took only a little bit of sleuthing to figure it out. Luckily, I possess a copy of Frederick Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion, which lists all of the 93rd New York’s regimental staff. According to Phisterer’s data, the young musician in the front is Patrick Ford, who would have been twenty-years-old at the time this photograph was taken.

I don’t have much information on Ford, and what I have is a little spotty, but he was probably born in Ireland sometime in the spring of 1843. I’m not sure when he came to the United States, but Ford enlisted in the 93rd New York on October 13, 1861, at Glen Falls and mustered into Company F as a private on November 14. On July 1, 1863, the colonel—presumably John Crocker—appointed him to the rank of principal musician, and that was the rank he held when Timothy O’Sullivan photographed him. On December 18, 1863, Ford re-enlisted as a veteran volunteer. In January 1865, he received a second lieutenant’s commission, but for some unknown reason, he never mustered-in as an officer. Ford served with his regiment until its last days, mustering out with the survivors on June 29, 1865. He must have been one of the elite few in his regiment who had served with it throughout the whole of its existence.

Beyond that, there is not much that I know about Patrick Ford’s life with the Army of the Potomac. The regimental historian mentioned him only once. On April 5, 1865, as the Army of the Potomac pursued the Army of Northern Virginia during the war’s final days, Ford led an expedition of six men from Company I to forage at a nearby Virginia farm. Ford and his fellow soldiers killed six sheep and brought them back to camp. That night, the soldiers ate mutton.

Of course, much, much more might be learned by searching Ford’s military records and pension file at the National Archives (presuming he or his immediate family filed the appropriate paperwork), but right now, this is all I’ve got.

Yet, my limited information on Ford is all I need to make my point. Ford was a young man caught in the fires of war. He enlisted in 1861, and when the war paused long enough for him to take up his baton and get his image struck, he did so proudly. Since then, he has become one of the most recognized faces of the Civil War, and yet few people know who he really was. I wonder if Ford ever imagined that his face would become the iconic image of American youth in the Civil War.
Here is a close-up of Principal Musician Patrick Ford, cropped from the famous photograph of the 93rd New York's drum corps.
Here is another image of Patrick Ford. This one is cropped from a photograph of the regimental staff.

Patrick Ford also appears in the group photograph of the 93rd New York's company officers. He appears in the back, sticking his head above the shoulders of two officers.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

“A Touch Above Any General Training I Ever Attended”: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 6.

If you have been following my latest series of posts, you know that I’ve been talking about the 93rd New York photographs from August 1863 and the casualties suffered during the Overland Campaign. Well, here is yet another. This tale is told by a poet.
After the two-day Battle of the Wilderness, the 93rd New York counted up its losses. The regiment had suffered 260 casualties: four officers killed, forty-one enlisted men killed, two enlisted men missing, and 213 officers and enlisted men wounded, twenty-five of whom later died. With barely a pause, the regiment followed the Army of the Potomac into its next fight, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The regiment fought every day for the next ten days, but it engaged most heavily during the charge against the Mule Shoe salient on May 12. By the end of the week, another forty-five officers and men had been killed or wounded.

One of the casualties from this week of bloodshed was Corporal Samuel M. Peters of Company G, age 34, of Waterford, New York, who fell wounded during the assault against the salient. As he told his story to a friend, “I was standing on the rebel breastwork near Col. [John] Crocker and Lieut. [Simon] Newcomb, when a bullet struck me in the right groin and immediately another struck me in the left hip and knocked me down as quick as if I had ‘been shot’.” Knocked back by these two successive musket balls, Corporal Peters fell into a pile of mud and began swearing loudly. Eventually, two men from his regiment carried him to the rear.  

While in the hospital, Peters completed a short poem, an epitaph to the men from his regiment who had been killed. He had started this poem on May 6 amid a lull in the Battle of the Wilderness. Now, he found an opportunity to put in the final lines. Eventually, veterans from the regiment published a version of his poem in the regimental history. However, what appears below is his first draft, the one that Peters mailed home on May 19, 1864:

To the mustered-out Battalion of the 93d New York Veteran Volunteers:

 Ye are mustered out, ye glorious men,

 And the ringing peal of your battle shout

 Is heard no more in the woodland glen

 Where your earth lives poured so freely out;

 Perhaps your spirits linger now

 Amid the lurid smoke and flame,

 Where every dying hero’s brow

 Was wreathed in never-dying fame.


Ye are mustered out, ye glorious men,

 And I love to think as the hot tears gush

 How ye thundered through that woodland glen,

 With a wild hurrah and a headlong rush

 Cheering, rallying, onward still!

 The ranks grew thin, but the line swept on,

 And the glorious flag flew from hill to hill

 Till the field was ours, and the victory won.


Like most soldiers from the 93rd New York, Peters was shocked by his first battles. He told his friends, “The battle of Spotsylvania Court House was a touch above any general training I ever attended and the list of killed and wounded will be likely to prove it. We fought the gray backs from the 5th to the 12th, they under cover, we the attacking party, and my acquaintance with the boasted chivalry of the South has not exalted them much in my estimation.”

Interestingly, Peters mentioned a curious detail about one of the dead lieutenants in his regiment: “Dr. Gray’s son, Liston, was killed on the 5th. I hid his body and can find it again if not taken away.”

Peters recovered from his wound and returned to duty, becoming the regiment’s principal musician. He was killed in action on October 27, 1864, at the Battle of Burgess Mill. He was buried on the field and today his gravesite is unknown.

Here is Company G, 93rd New York. Somewhere in this image, I don't know where, is the poet-soldier, Samuel Peters.

Here is a close up of Lt. Gray, the officer that Peters buried.

Just because I prefer to overdo things, here is another close-up of Lt. Gray, this one taken from the staff photograph.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

“I Carry the Colors Now”: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 5.

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know that in the four previous posts I have been connecting the well-known photographs of the 93rd New York taken at Bealton Station to that regiment’s first battle experience during the Overland Campaign. For the most part, I have let the officers tell the story. Today, a young private gets to tell his tale.
Here it goes.
On May 5, 1864, as Colonel John Crocker’s brigade gave way to a Confederate counterattack, nineteen-year-old Private Samuel Giles Payn, Jr. of Albany, New York, found himself in a tight spot. Private Payn was trapped between the two hostile lines of battle. He needed to run and follow his retreating regiment, the 93rd New York, to safety. However, filled as he was filled with the bravado of youth, instead he decided to give the oncoming Confederates one last shot. Payn fired his rifle, and then turned to run. He had hardly gone a few paces when a Confederate ball struck him in the knee. At first, Payn thought he had been disabled, but he looked down to see that he had suffered only a glancing blow. “Not yet!” he muttered to himself. He kept running. Then, a second ball struck him in the head. Blood spurted out and Payn thought he had been dealt a mortal wound. However, it was yet another glancing blow. Payn put his hand to his scalp, felt no brains oozing between his fingers, and again said, “Not yet!”

The two close calls made Payn rethink his recklessness. He decided to seek cover. He dived behind an oak tree, making up his mind that if the Confederates came, he would fight them to the death, as he preferred to perish than go to a Confederate prison. Luckily, he never had an opportunity to test that resolve. The Confederate advance stalled just short of his position, and later, his regiment swept back across the area, retaking the lost ground. When his regiment arrived, Payn joined its advance, but got struck two more times. One bullet even hit him in the chest, but did no damage, as it bounced off a pack of playing cards he kept in his pocket. On both sides of him, two comrades, Private David Van Buren and Private Dennis McVay, fell dead. At the end of the day, Payn counted up his bullet holes. In addition to the wounds to his scalp, knee, and chest, he had six holes in his knapsack, some of which had shattered his hardtack.

On May 7, two days after the harrowing fight in the Wilderness, the lieutenant colonel of the 93rd New York appointed Payn to the color guard. That day, he scratched out a letter to his father, addressed from the “battle field.”

DEAR FATHER:—Bill and I are safe so far, we were engaged yesterday afternoon; the Rebs attacked us in our breastworks; we repulsed them every time and drove them off; they left their dead and wounded in heaps in front of us. One regiment broke—ours took their place. The Rebs had got over our works when we got there; the left of our line charged them, capturing them all and two stands of colors which they had planted on our entrenchments. There were nine of our regiment [company] hurt in the attack; both Lieutenants are unhurt; the Orderly Sergeant, who stopped with me when I was home, is wounded in the head or neck and gone to the rear (night of the 7th.) We were engaged again this morning and lost a few men—Bill and I are safe yet. I was made corporal this afternoon, and am on the color guard. I suppose we will move tonight. We have punished the Rebs severely. Brig.- Gen. Hayes was killed in the first day’s fight. Our Colonel is in command of the brigade. He is a brave man as ever I saw. Love to all.

 From your son, S. G. PAYN

At first, Payn did not mention his wounds, but then, two days later, Payn wrote a second letter, and almost as an afterthought he explained, “I have received four slight wounds, the first one is on top of my head, an inch over, and it would have laid me out, but a miss is as good as a mile.”

Payn accompanied the 93rd New York’s color guard into the next fight, the attack against the Mule Shoe salient on May 12. Once again, he was struck on the breast by a spent ball. During the chaos, the bearer of the state colors, Corporal Charles A. Culver, was captured, but an unnamed private somehow rescued the flag. Payn believed the brave private should be the new bearer, but when that private’s face began to swell up from poison ivy, he turned the flag over to Payn. The next day, Payn wrote to his father. Unlike his previous letters, he made it abundantly clear that he and his comrades were enduring a hard campaign.

Dear Father—I write you a few lines to let you know I am alive and safe. We had a hard battle yesterday. We started a line of battle at daylight in the morning, composed of one Division, took the Rebs by surprise, stormed their works, drove them two and half miles, capturing more prisoners than were in our own storming party, also 30 or 40 guns, 21 of which were taken off the field, 3 Generals, 2 Johnsons and 1 Stuart. We fell back about a mile and still hold our ground. The Rebs tried their best. It rained all day yesterday and last night we suffered a great deal; was without a blanket, overcoat, or tent-sheet; did not have anything to eat for twenty-four hours, except some crackers, but feel well after having some coffee this morning. William was wounded in the hand, not very bad; has gone to the hospital. I was knocked down by a spent ball. I carry the colors now; the color-bearer was killed yesterday. I will write more the first opportunity. Both Lieuts. are wounded pretty bad; there are three privates, three Sergeants, and three Corporals in our company at present.

 S. G. PAYN, Jr.

Payn carried his regiment’s state banner until May 23. That day, the 93rd New York participated in the Union attack against Henagan’s Redoubt on the North Anna River. Determined to be the first color-bearer to plant a flag upon the enemy earthworks, Payn rushed ahead, only to be shot through the left knee. Another bearer picked up the flag as the battle line rushed over him, and the stricken corporal lay on the field for hours before receiving any medical treatment. Eventually, Union transports shipped him to Port Royal, then to Alexandria, and finally to his hometown of Albany. It was not an easy recovery. The wound discharged pus for eight years and he endured four operations to remove the damaged bone. In 1895, when the regimental historian collected Payn’s story, he commented, “The wound has ever been a drain upon his system, and will continue to be so while he lives.”

Payn died in 1917. He is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.
This is an image of Samuel Giles Payn, Jr. taken after he received his wound. Here, he bears the rank insignia of a second lieutenant.

Here is my connection to the O'Sullivan photographs taken at Bealton. I was curious to see if O'Sullivan photographed Payn back when he was a private. I searched the images for a face that resembled the one above. This is a close-up of a soldier in the Company B. I don't know if this is Payn, but it is a close match.


Friday, September 4, 2015

“Death Awaits Him”: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 4.

In the last three posts, I’ve profiled the combat debut of the 93rd New York at the Battle of the Wilderness. Let’s return to that regiment and to that battle in part four.

As the 93rd New York formed for action on May 5, 1864, a short dialogue occurred in the ranks of Company F. Captain John Bailey turned to Sergeant Adoniram Judson Gibbs. He said, “I have an impression, a premonition that I shall be killed in this battle. I shall not come off this field alive.” Gibbs tried to cheer him up, but Bailey would hear none of it. He shook his head and told him that death was certain. Gibbs remembered the next few moments:

As we were drawn up in line, at the crossing of the Brock and Orange plank roads, and ordered forward into the woods, Company F, Capt. Bailey’s company, had the right of the regiment. While marching through the woods, and approaching the ravine, so soon to be the scene of a fierce conflict, he called me to his side. ‘Take your place as file closer, Sergeant, and see that every man is in his place and does his duty,’ said he. Noticing that he appeared nervous, dejected and very pale, I tried again to change his thoughts and direct them in another channel, but he only shook his head. I was partially rewarded, though, by seeing a look of heroic and settled determination overspread his countenance, and I remember thinking, ‘Perhaps he will shake it off.’ We received the shock of battle. Capt. Bailey fell, mortally wounded. I ran to him and gave him a drink of water. As soon as he could speak he exclaimed: ‘O, Sergeant! This is my last.’ I then understood the meaning of the changed look in his countenance. It meant, ‘I lay life down for the cause.’

Gibbs remembered the death of Captain Bailey for the rest of his life. Thirty-one years later, Gibbs joined a committee of veterans that collected stories for a regimental history. He made sure to mention the above incident. Gibbs remembered Bailey’s final moment, and not because his captain’s death premonition had preceded it. He remembered it because, before the battle, Captain Bailey felt fear, just like any soldier in the 93rd. Yet, Bailey chose to confront that fear directly. Gibbs explained: “He was a hero in the true sense. The soldier who marches to his fate in the performance of duty, though firmly impressed that certain death awaits him in the performance of that duty, is a hero.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Here is a photograph taken by Timothy O'Sullivan at Bealton Station. Captain Bailey, the officer who had a premonition of death, is seated at the far left. He is holding a bottle.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lost Brother: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 3.

In the two previous posts, I examined the combat debut of the 93rd New York and connected that story to some of the famous images taken by Timothy O’Sullivan in August 1863. In this post I intend to do more of the same. Here, we will see some images of a well-remembered casualty from the 93rd.
On May 6, 1864, the 93rd New York lost one of its most beloved officers, Captain Dennis Edwin Barnes, a 36-year-old lumber dealer from Schroom, Essex County, New York. Barnes inspired soldierly qualities among his men, and one veteran recalled years later, “Those who knew him best said that he seemed a stranger to fear, and was above all meanness so often shown by some in scrambling for position.”

Captain Barnes fell on the evening of May 6, as the battle seesawed up and down the Orange Plank Road. During the confused fighting, no one bothered to carry off his body. Lieutenant Waters W. Braman, who had recently served under Barnes in Company C, felt great remorse when he learned that Barnes’s body had been left behind. “There is my old Capt. (Barnes),” Braman wrote his fiancée, “who was killed in the fight of the second day. His company neither carried his body off the field or took the things from his pockets, and my company passed right over the body.” By the time anyone cared to collect Barnes’s personal items, wrote Braman, “the Rebels had stripped him of everything.”

Most distressing, Captain Barnes’s younger brother, Lieutenant Charles Talbot Barnes, had been wounded earlier in the day. The younger Barnes described his wounding and the last words he ever spoke to his brother:

I . . . was first struck by a ball hitting my tin cup and plate in my haversack, which made things jingle, but did not hurt me. It however was some time after this, near night, when another ball struck me squarely in front and I went down sure. When two of the men lifted me to my feet I could not stand without support. Seeing my sword sticking up in the clay a few feet in front, I undertook to step to or reach it and could not move my limbs, and I was assisted to it by the two men putting an arm over each of their shoulder, when I could move my feet by taking very short steps. I have often thought how singular it was that I should have asked to be helped to the sword instead of asking one of them to get and hand it to me. No doubt the ball stunned me, and the terrible pain might have turned my head for a few moments. I was borne to the rear in this position, my arms over their shoulders. One of the men was John McDermott; I forget who the other was. I had not gone but a few paces when my brother, Capt. Barnes, came to me and asked: ‘Are you hurt badly, Charles?’ I said both ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and he looked to find where the ball had struck me, and, in a practical way, examined me and returned to the company. This was the last time I ever saw that brave and noble brother.

As Lieutenant Barnes waited for an ambulance, he had bright hopes for victory. He remembered the unusual feeling of losing all sense of worry about the welfare of his brother:

After I had been borne to the rear and placed on a stretcher by the roadside, waiting for an ambulance, I could still hear the roar of musketry from our lines, and although as one half dead, I felt like cheering the brave men. I have since thought how different the feelings of one soldier for the safety of his brother soldier as compared with civil life. In this case, I remember when I fell it was a sense of great relief to think that my dear brother, Capt. Barnes, was still left to attend to and look after command. The thought or concern of his getting hurt was lost in my great anxiety and hope for gaining the day. That such a hope in victory should (as did with most of the soldiers) predominate over fear for self or hope for safety of near and dear friends, seems, to look back upon, as unnatural, and almost like a dream.

After the battle, Barnes’s widow tried to claim the body, even contacting more than one New York Congressman to secure a truce, but in the end, it did not matter. The Confederates buried Barnes’s earthly remains and they were never seen again.
This is Captain Dennis E. Barnes, who was killed on May 6, 1864. Can you find Barnes in the image below?
Timothy O'Sullivan took this image on or about August 4, 1863. It depicts the officers of the 93rd New York. If you didn't pick out Barnes, consult the key below. I've identified the officers.

Front Row (seated on ground, left to right): Captain Samuel McConihe, Quartermaster Sylvester Alvord

Middle Row (seated on chairs, left to right): 1st Lieutenant William Bramhall, 1st Lieutenant William Kincaid, 1st Lieutenant Edson Fitch, Captain Henry P. Smith, Lt. Col. Benjamin C. Butler, 1st Lieutenant Robert Robertson, Adjutant Haviland Gifford, 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Gray, Captain Dennis Barnes, Captain Nathan J. Johnson

Back Row (standing, left to right): Captain John Bailey, Captain William Randles, 2nd Lieutenant George Bushnell, unknown, 1st Lieutenant Francis Bailey, Captain William V. S. Beekman, 1st Lieutenant Waters W. Braman, 2nd Lieutenant Jay H. Northup, 2nd Lieutenant William Ball, 1st Lieutenant Silas S. Hubbell, 2nd Lieutenant John J. Sherwood, Surgeon Strobridge Smith, 1st Lieutenant Joseph Little, Sergeant-Major Wilbur Mosher
Here's a close-up of Captain Barnes. Thumbs up if you found him in the first look.
This is the only officer who I have been unable to identify. However, my guess is that it is Lt. Charles T. Barnes, the younger brother of the slain captain.
This is an identified image of Lt. Charles Barnes, who after being wounded at the Wilderness, bid a final goodbye to his older brother, Dennis.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Few Minutes of Battle: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 2.

In the last post, I introduced to you the 93rd New York, a regiment photographed by Timothy O’Sullivan at Bealton Station in August 1863. Having served as headquarters guard for two years, the soldiers of the 93rd experienced a bloodless war; however, that changed abruptly on May 5, 1864, when the regiment accompanied the Army of the Potomac into the Wilderness.

Undoubtedly, the officers in the 93rd New York exhibited anxiety at their sudden change of duty. Although they expressed eagerness to get into the fight, some of them wondered what their first taste of battle would be like. Most of the officers knew the eyes of the brigade would be upon them. After all, their brigade, the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, contained eight seasoned regiments, veterans of the Army of the Potomac’s most famous campaigns. Would the soft bread soldiers of the 93rd be able to stomach the bloody fight that was sure to erupt?

At 11 o’clock, May 3, the 93rd New York quietly broke up camp at Brandy Station and took up a line of march toward Ely’s Ford, a crossing point on the Rapidan River. After eating breakfast near the ford on May 4, the column reached Chancellorsville. A sense of urgency spread throughout the army; everyone was certain that battle was on the horizon.

The narrator of today’s tale is one of the officers who accompanied the 93rd New York into the Wilderness, First Lieutenant William Leggett Bramhall, age twenty-four. Before the war, Bramhall was curator of the American Numismatic Society. An avid Republican, Bramhall designed many of the medals used by Abraham Lincoln’s “Wide Awakes” during the Election of 1860. (If you are a collector of political campaign medals, check out the work, as it may be of Bramhall’s design.)

Taking note of his new routine as a combat infantryman, Bramhall wrote to his brother describing the march across the Rapidan: “Our march was a rapid and fatiguing one with few and far between, and the day was hot and sultry from early morning until 3 1/2 o’clock p. m. . . . All were foot-sore and weary, especially our recruits, after the forced march of 27 miles, and our mess, like most others, drank our hot coffee with our ‘hard tack’ and fried ham, and then laid down to delicious sleep and pleasant dreams among the Rebel graves on the old Chancellorsville battle-field.”

The next morning, May 5, the 93rd New York and the other regiments belonging to Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays’s brigade struck their tents, ate breakfast, and made haste for Todd’s Tavern, a crossroads west of Spotsylvania Court House. Bramhall continued, “The day was very warm and sultry, but our pace was rather accelerated than abated.” The bluecoats reached the tavern at noon, where they stopped for lunch. Suddenly, said Bramhall, “artillery and light musketry fire broke upon our ears.” Although the New Yorkers did not yet know it, the 5th Corps had made contact with Confederates along the Orange Turnpike in the Wilderness. Soon, buglers blared the assembly. With their lunch interrupted, the New Yorkers strapped on their accoutrements and made haste yet again. Bramhall continued, “nearly half of the time ‘double-quicking,’ we continued for more than an hour, when we were finally halted in the Wilderness, where we rested for about ten minutes, and filled our canteens with the best water we could procure. Then commenced a terrific fire of musketry away off to the right, which rolled along to near our front in continued waves, and assured us that the fight had now commenced in earnest.”

After that, the soldiers of the 93rd New York did not have long to wait. The regiment formed for battle on the north side of the Orange Plank Road, and together with Hays’s other regiments, it moved forward for half a mile through a thick growth of oak trees. Suddenly, a frightened Pennsylvania regiment belonging to Brig. Gen. Frank Wheaton’s 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 6th Corps, came barreling out of the woods, and “came running through our ranks in a manner too precipitate to call good order,” recalled Bramhall. Pushing through the routed Pennsylvanians, the New Yorkers passed over a ditch, then up a roll of ground, and met a terrific volley from the Confederates belonging to Colonel John M. Stone’s brigade. Bramhall wrote, “Though halted, we did not flinch, but replied vigorously, and gradually advanced, the enemy failing back, but halting to give us a volley as we came up to them each time. “

The battle burst upon the 93rd New York like a torrent, with soldiers falling left and right. Bramhall wrote down some of disjointed memories of the battle:

One of the first to fall was Lieut. Gray, of Co. G. the ball passing directly through his head. He fell to the ground lifeless without a murmur. (He was slightly wounded by a spent ball a moment before, and after going to the rear a few steps, and finding the wound a trifling one, he returned.) One by one the men were pierced by the enemy’s bullets, either wounded or killed outright. Not a groan or cry escaped one of them, but in the calm possession of every faculty, they would turn to an officer and cooly say, ‘I am wounded,’ and then pass, or be carried to the rear. One instance I would mention, I saw a corporal in the ranks of my company wounded in the leg, while in the act of loading his  gun; he deliberately aimed his piece and fired, exclaiming ‘Take that,’ he then turned and said ‘Lieutenant, I am wounded and can do no more.’ He went to the field hospital and had his wound dressed, and soon after came back to the line, saying, ‘I must have another pop at the rascals.’ That corporal must be promoted.

It was not much longer until a bullet found Bramhall. A musket ball raked his scalp. “I felt the ball strike,” he recalled, “and the next I knew was, that, dizzy and weak, I raised myself off the ground and saw the blood spouting from my wound, and not a little ‘clot’ on the ground.” Bramhall staggered over to Captain Henry C. Newton, telling him that he had been hit. Newton replied, “Hurry to the rear and go low.” Bramhall wandered to the rear, barely able to stand up straight. When he came to the ditch that his regiment had crossed, he tumbled into it. Luckily, the sergeant-major came to his assistance and guided him to a field hospital stationed along the Orange Plank Road.  

An ambulance carried Bramhall to Fredericksburg, where he occupied a bare floor along with eleven other wounded officers from his regiment. In a few days, he received a transfer to the Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C. Bramhall returned to duty later that summer, but due to the effects of sunstroke, he left the regiment after the Battle of Deep Bottom. Bramhall mustered out in November, settled in Washington, where he became, at various times, a lawyer, a real estate broker, and a deputy collector of taxes. He died in 1902.

Bramhall’s description of the Battle of the Wilderness is quite exciting, and that, in its own right, makes it a valuable source. However, what I find interesting is that Bramhall, like the other officers of the 93rd New York, waited expectantly to experience his first battle. He waited for two years, operating as headquarters guard, and during that time, he saw no heavy combat. Then, at his first battle, the Wilderness, he endured only a few whirlwind minutes of combat before a bullet knocked him out of the fight. It proves a truth: just a few minutes of Civil War combat was far more than anyone could ever want.

This is Lt. William Leggett Bramhall, the author of the letter that narrated the 93rd New York's first harrowing moments of battle.

This photograph shows the officers' mess of Company E. It is part of a stereo-image taken by O'Sullivan in August 1863. The officer seated in the foreground is Lt. Bramhall. The captain that Bramhall spoke to after he was wounded, Captain Henry Newton, is seated in front of the flag.

This is a postwar image of Bramhall.

This is 2nd Lt. Robert Liston Gray, the officer from Company G who died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

“Adieu to Headquarters”: The Photographs of the 93rd New York, Part 1.

On the evening of August 1, the Army of the Potomac’s headquarters trudged into Bealton, a stopping point along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad located in Fauquier County. The next day, renowned photographer Timothy O’Sullivan stopped by to take images of the soldiers at rest. Specifically, he toured the bivouac of the 93rd New York Volunteers, a headquarters guard regiment, which encamped at a dusty settlement called Germantown. One member of the 93rd described Germantown as a village of “two houses,” lacking “society, and good water.”

Despite these poor accommodations, the soldiers of the 93rd New York welcomed the photographer’s visit. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin C. Butler called out nine of his ten companies (Company H was unavailable) and formed them up to have their pictures taken. Additionally, O’Sullivan took photographs of the company officers’ mess and the regimental field and staff. By the time he had finished, O’Sullivan had cataloged the regiment in a manner that had never been done for any other regiment attached to the Army of the Potomac. Nearly every member of the regiment had been captured on wet-plate, formally or informally.

It was an interesting moment for the 93rd, considering the blood-letting in store for it. The 93rd New York had been raised in the summer and autumn of 1861, but after two years of service, it had experienced a comparatively bloodless war. The regiment left Albany in March 1862 with 980 officers and men, but two months after reaching the front, it received an assignment to the Army of the Potomac’s headquarters guard. Although it was present for the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, it had suffered miniscule losses because it stayed safely behind the lines, operating as the army’s provost.

In April 1864, while the 93rd New York sat quietly at Brandy Station, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade reassigned it to front line duty. (Specifically, Meade wanted to replace the 93rd New York with a regiment he liked, the 114th Pennsylvania.) On April 21, First Lieutenant Waters Whipple Braman wrote to his fiancée, informing her of the sudden change. Eager for a chance to fight, Braman explained, “The 93rd are at last B-r-i-g-a-d-e-d, and those beautiful colors so long borne, and so galliantly at Hdqrs, are at last to pay a maiden call upon the rebellious sons of our respected Uncle. . . . Adieu to Hdqrs, Wall Tents, ‘soft bread,’ extra baggage and the kindred luxuries. Come ‘Hard-tack’ and whatever hardships are connected with a soldiers life. I am ready for it, and willing to do my duty and if ever I do come out of this war (of which I have not a doubt) I mean to have it said that I ever did my duty.”

After the reassignment, the 93rd New York’s chance to bleed for the Union came swiftly. As part of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps, the 93rd New York took a brutal beating at the Battle of the Wilderness. Over the course of two days, May 5 and 6, 1864, the regiment lost 260 officers and men. From May 8 to May 19, it lost another forty-five at Spotsylvania Court House. At North Anna and Totopotomoy, from May 22 to May 31, it lost another thirty-seven. Finally, at Cold Harbor, it lost another five.

The shockingly high losses in the 93rd New York appalled Captain Braman, who had been promoted during the campaign and transferred to the staff of Maj. Gen. David B. Birney. “I do not wish to boast,” he wrote his fiancée, Maggie Getty, “but the loss of three hundred officers and men and they name they bear in this Division is sufficient praise. But what can compensate for the loss of friends, that we have marched, tented, messed, and lived with for over two years[?]”
What indeed.

What follows are images of the companies photographed by O’Sullivan on or about August 4, 1863.

This is Company A. The officers seated in front are (left to right) 1st Lieutenant Joseph Little, Captain William Randles, and 2nd Lieutenant Oscar B. Ingraham. At the end of the Overland Campaign, Company A reported thirteen killed and mortally wounded, twenty-nine wounded, and two missing. All three officers in this photograph were wounded.
This is Company B. The only officer in this image is 2nd Lieutenant George Bushnell, who can be seen reclining at left-center. As of June 14, 1864, Company B reported five killed and twenty wounded, included Bushnell.

This is Company C. The officers seated in front are (left to right) 1st Lieutenant Waters W. Braman, Captain Dennis Barnes, and 1st Lieutenant Joseph Little (who actually belonged to Company A). On June 14, it reported five killed (including Captain Barnes) and twenty-eight wounded.

This is Company D. The two officers seated in front are Captain Henry P. Smith (left) and 1st Lieutenant Silas Hubbell (right). On June 14, Company D reported five killed and twenty wounded.

This is Company E. The officers seated in front are (left to right) 1st Lieutenant William Leggett Bramhall, Captain Henry C. Newton, and 2nd Lieutenant John J. Sherwood. On June 14, the company reported six killed, thirty-six wounded (including all three officers), and two missing.

This is Company F. The officers seated in front are (left to right) Captain John Bailey, 1st Lieutenant Silas Hubbell (of Company D) and 1st Lieutenant William Kincaid. On June 14, it reported Captain Bailey killed, fourteen wounded (including Kincaid), and one missing.

This is Company G. The officers in front are Captain William V. S. Beekman (seated left), 1st Lieutenant Francis Bailey (reclining center), and 2nd Lieutenant Robert Liston Gray (seated right). On June 14, the company reported six killed (including Gray), thirteen wounded (including Beekman and Bailey), and three missing.
This is Company I. The officers in front are (left to right) Captain Nathan J. Johnson, 2nd Lieutenant Jay H. Northup, and 1st Lieutenant Norman Eldridge. On June 14, it reported four killed (including Eldridge), twenty-two wounded, and six missing.
This is Company K. The officers in front are (left to right) Captain Samuel McConihe, 1st Lieutenant Robert  Robertson, and 2nd Lieutenant William Ball. On June 14, it reported one killed, one mortally wounded, and twenty-seven wounded.

Lt. Waters Whipple Braman of the 93rd New York was eager to leave the headquarters guard, that is, until he fought at the Wilderness.