Spotsylvania Court House fighting ends . . .

The NPS summary for Spotsylvania: “After the Wilderness, Grant’s and Meade’s advance on Richmond by the left flank was stalled at Spotsylvania Court House on May 8. This two-week battle was a series of combats along the Spotsylvania front. The Union attack against the Bloody Angle at dawn, May 12-13, captured nearly a division of Lee’s army and came near to cutting the Confederate army in half. Confederate counterattacks plugged the gap, and fighting continued unabated for nearly 20 hours in what may well have been the most ferociously sustained combat of the Civil War. On May 19, a Confederate attempt to turn the Union right flank at Harris Farm was beaten back with severe casualties. Union generals Sedgwick (VI Corps commander) and Rice were killed. Confederate generals Johnson and Steuart were captured, Daniel and Perrin mortally wounded. On May 21, Grant disengaged and continued his advance on Richmond.”

Here are some pictures of soldiers who fought in the battle, from an exhibition display in the visitor’s center.

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The Battle of New Market took place in 1864, on this day in history

Battle summary below provided by the Civil War Trust | Read more on their site

“In conjunction with other spring 1864 offensives against strategic points in the Confederacy, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel to move up the Shenandoah Valley along the Valley Turnpike to destroy the railroad and canal complex at Lynchburg. Union control of the strategic and agriculturally rich valley was a crucial part of Grant’s plans. Receiving word that the Union Army had entered the valley, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge pulled together all available troops to repulse the invaders and gathered his forces near Staunton. Breckenridge decided to take the offensive and attack Sigel, and moved his army north towards New Market. The morning of May 15th, Breckenridge’s men met Sigel’s army just north of the town. At a crucial point, a key Union battery was withdrawn from the line to replenish its ammunition, leaving a weakness that Breckinridge was quick to exploit. He ordered his entire force forward, including many young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, and Sigel’s stubborn defense collapsed. Threatened by the Confederate cavalry on his left flank and rear, Sigel ordered a withdrawal, burning the bridge over the North Fork of the Shenandoah River behind him.  Sigel retreated to Strasburg and was soon replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter.”

Click here to peruse a photo gallery of pictures of New Market on Flickr.

German immigrant joins 183rd Ohio and faces the elephant at Franklin and Nashville

George Schuch of the 183rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Co E was at Franklin.

George Schuch(k) Spelled Schuck in most records Schuch on his gravestone and his family went by Schuch.

10th OVI I Co Sgt transfered to 10th OVI D Co as a Pvt Enlisted in 174th OVI then the unit was combined with 183rd OVI E Co First Sgt then reduced to Sgt after one month.

George Schuch was born in Germany in 1827. Moved to Cincinnati, Oh. Enlisted in the 10th OVI (3 month)  June 1861 and then 10th OVI ( 3 year) Fought in W. Va and then returned to Cincinnati in Dec 1861 Went AWOL and was later Declared a deserter. He returned to the Unit in May 1863 and forfeited all pay and allowances. He fought in the Tennessee campaign.

May 1864 Placed in stockade awaiting General Court Martial by his Commander. Charges unknown. He was acquitted of the charges but the stockade did not get the paperwork and he was held in jail for six weeks until he wrote the Judge Advocate asking to be told why he was being held. The Captain found he was acquitted and ordered his release to be sent home to be Mustered out as his enlistment had expired.

He enlisted again in the 174th OVI in Sept 1864 the 174th was combined into the 183rd OVI in Oct 1864 and he was appointed First Sergeant then one month later he was replaced as First Sergeant and reduced to Sergeant. He fought in the Spring Valley-Franklin-Nashville battles and later joined Sherman in the Carolina’s till the end of the war. He Mustered out in July 1865.

He returned to Cincinnati, Oh . He was admitted into the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton Ohio in 1880 and received a pension of $10 a month in 1897 later increased to $12 a month for rheumatism and heart problems. He died in the National Home and was buried in the Military Cemetery at the home in Dayton Ohio.

Submitted by Keith Schuch

Escapes at Oglethorpe as documented by Morris Cooper Foote

Escapes at Oglethorpe

During Foote’s Macon, GA confinement, he reports five escapes: June 27th (1 man), July 15th (3 men), and July 16th (1 man).  He even references an escape on June 27th through the use of an elaborate tunnel system.  Amazingly, he reports some 100 Union soldiers escaping on July 28th as they were being taken to Charleston via the railroad. That single tunnel-escape resulted in more free men than all the successful combined escapes from Libby prison.

86th Illinois soldier writes of 1864 election and suppressing Forrest raids

Second Lieutenant Peter W. Wikoff of the 86th Illinois Infantry

Head Quarts Detchmt
86th Ill Vol Inft.
Atlanta, Ga. Nov 6th 1864

Wikoff writes of his regiment’s successful attempt to suppress the daring raids of General Nathan Bedford Forrest on Union supplies along the Tennessee River:

…I wish you to know my sentiments & for whom I would vote and give my influence for, if I had the privilege of voteing. According to the views of the Democratic Legislature of our State, Ill. soldiers are not entitled to vote for a President. other State Legislatures that have a union majority say that their soldiers shall have a vote, this showes which party is the friend of the Soldier…It is the only party in the country, but what has furnished to the country all the copperheads and armed rebels that we have. They are all from the Democrat party…Our Div. has been on another chase. First by way of R.R. to Florence, Ala & back, & from there to Rome, Ga. Thence up to Kingston…”

Source: eBay, March 2011 auction

Peter W. Wikoff mustered into service on 27 August 1862. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 17 January 1863 and mustered out on 6 June 1865 at Washington, D.C. The 86th Illinois Infantry suffered significant losses at Kennesaw Mountain and participated in the Atlanta Campaign.

John W. Boston, 81st Ohio Infantry, writes from Pulaski, TN

Sims Mills

Pulaski, Tennessee

1 January 1864,

I do believe that in a few more months that this cruel war will end and there will be peace restored once more to our distracted country and peace and tranquility once more reign…but I can’t tell when that glorious day will come and there is one thing that I cant get right into my head and that is this that our government is a going to be so mean as to keep us new recruits for three years when we was all enlisted and mustered into the service of the United States to fill up the old 81st Regiment, one year of which has expired…last night I was on picket and while I was on post there was 3 men tried to what appeared to me to be their intention to pass me and to get inside of our lines for the purpose of burning the mills at this place. We hold military possession of the same and if they were to be destroyed the government is responsible for the same…I challenged them to halt…I had my gun cocked before I challenged them and I immediately fired my gun at them as best I could but I think that I did not hit any of them, but the way they run was a caution to a snake. I reloaded my gun right in the spot where I stood and saw no more for the night…

John W. Boston of the 81st Ohio Infantry, Company G

Boston mustered into Company G on 6 September 1862 and mustered out on 13 July 1865. The 81st Ohio Infantry formed the center of a decisive charge during the Battle of Atlanta that destroyed Confederate resistance.

Source: eBay, March 2011 auction


Who Shot General McPherson? The Fifth Confederate at Bald Hill

The following guest article was written by Damian Shiels. Damian lives in Ireland and publishes a blog called The Irish in the American Civil War.

General James McPherson

Near Atlanta on the afternoon of the 22nd of July 1864, General James Birdseye McPherson, Union Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, was in a hurry. He had just been proved right- despite the doubts of General Sherman, he had feared a Confederate attack on his position, and that attack was now in full swing. Rebels under General William Hardee were currently smashing into his flank while other forces threatened his front. A dangerous gap existed between his XVII Corps and XVI Corps positions, and he was riding hard to make sure that gap was plugged. Accompanied only by his orderly and a signal officer, he galloped down a little wagon road towards what he thought were his own lines. He was suddenly confronted not by his own soldiers, but a line of men from the Fifth Confederate Infantry Regiment, a unit of mainly Memphis Irishmen serving in General Pat Cleburne’s Division.

The ninety-one men of the Fifth Confederate had started their day early. Their march around their enemy’s flank had taken place during the night, but the difficult terrain they encountered meant it was afternoon before they could attack, finding the gap between McPherson’s two Corps. Captain Richard Beard was amongst them, and describes the scene as the Union General suddenly appeared: ‘He was certainly surprised to find himself suddenly face to face with our line. My own company and possibly others had reached the road when he discovered that he was within a few feet of where we stood. I was on the very verge of the road, and McPherson checked his horse for a second just opposite where I stood. I could have touched him with the point of my sword. Not a word was spoken. I threw up my sword to him as a signal to surrender. He checked his horse slightly, raised his hat as if he were saluting a lady, wheeled his horse’s head to the right, and dashed off to the rear in a full gallop.’

Among the group of Fifth Confederate soldiers who witnessed the incident was one of Beard’s Company, Corporal Robert Coleman. Captain Beard noted that he was as gallant a young soldier as he had ever seen on a battlefield, but very excitable. He describes what happened next: ‘Corporal Coleman, who was standing near me, fired on him, whether some one ordered fire I do not remember. It was his bullet that brought Gen. McPherson down. He was shot as he was passing under the thick branches of a tree, and as he was bending over his horse’s neck, either to avoid coming in contact with the limbs or, more probably, to escape the death dealing bullets that he knew were sure to follow him. A number of shots were also fired at his retreating staff. I ran up immediately to where the dead General lay, just as he had fallen, upon his knees and face. There was not a quiver of his body to be seen, not a sign of life perceptible. The fatal bullet had done its work well……When I got up to the body of the dead General I found a man lying on his back near him, who, if at all hurt, was but slightly wounded. I noticed only a slight spot of blood on his cheek. Pointing to the dead man, I asked him: “Who is this lying here?” He answered, with tears in his eyes : “Sir, it is Gen. McPherson. You have killed the best man in our army.”

Corporal Robert Coleman, Fifth Confederate Infantry: the man who shot General McPherson

The Fifth Confederate’s good fortune in encountering the isolated General would not last, however. As they pressed on with their attack, they succeeded in assaulting and lodging in the enemy’s works, but the difficult ground meant the attack was uncoordinated and many of the men were isolated. A determined Union counterattack took place in which 10 officers and 36 men were captured along with the regimental colors, the latter becoming the prize of the Fifteenth Michigan Infantry. The Fifth Confederate was a broken force. They participated in another attack later in the day in which they could furnish only twenty-two men. Captain Richard Beard was not among them; the by now captured officer instead found himself describing the circumstances of General McPherson’s death to one of the dead commander’s staff.

The actions of July 22nd were Beard’s last of the war, but they were certainly memorable. Writing in 1903, he was able to state: ‘This is the last tragedy that I took part in during the war, and it is as vividly and as distinctly photographed on my memory as if it all had occurred yesterday.’ The fateful day saw not only the death of General McPherson but also the virtual destruction of the Fifth Confederate Regiment. The Rebel attempts to drive back Sherman’s men failed, and Atlanta would fall on the 2nd September. The Fifth would remain with the Army of Tennessee until the bitter end in 1865. James Birdseye McPherson would be the only Union army commander killed during the American Civil War.

References & Further Reading

Beard, R. 1903.  ‘Incident’s of General McPherson’s Death: Account Given By Captain Beard’ in Confederate Veteran

Castel, A. 1992. Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864

Frazer, C.W. 1886. ‘Fifth Confederate’ in Lindsley, John Berrien (ed.) The Military Annals of Tennessee

Warner, Ezra J. 1964. Generals in Blue

Official Records 38, Pt. 3.  Report of Captain Aaron A. Cox, Fifth Confederate Infantry, Polk’s brigade, of Operations July 20-22

Official Records 38, Pt. 3. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick S. Hutchinson, Fifteenth Michigan Infantry, of Operations May 6- August 3

The monotony of the siege at Petersburg

August 14th, 1864


Everything in our front is very quiet. Only a little shelling. Nights sometimes we have to turn out five or six times in a night. They cannot get one with our Camp our Breastworks are so high.

Source notes:

This letter was recently sold on eBay.

Letter written by John H. Frain, 16th Maine Infantry, Co. G. Date is August 1, 1864. He details recent news about the siege of Petersburg. See transcript excerpts below.

Frain was from Madison, ME and enlisted on 8/14/62 as a Corporal. He was taken prisoner on July 1st at Gettysburg (later paroled), then taken prisoner just 19 days after writing this letter, at Weldon Railroad, VA (later paroled).

16th Maine Infantry soldier writes about Petersburg

This letter was recently sold on eBay.

Letter written by John H. Frain, 16th Maine Infantry, Co. G. Date is August 1, 1864. He details recent news about the siege of Petersburg. See transcript excerpts below.

Frain was from Madison, ME and enlisted on 8/14/62 as a Corporal. He was taken prisoner on July 1st at Gettysburg (later paroled), then taken prisoner just 19 days after writing this letter, at Weldon Railroad, VA (later paroled).

August 1, 1864


… our folks blowed up two forts for the Rebels. Our folks dug for one fourth of a mile underground ….

….amount of powder and when they got all ready torched her off and ______ at the same time the whole length of the line of battle.

Burnside’s Negroes charged in it at the same time and took several hundred prisoners and several pieces of artillery. The fight lasted from four o’clock in the morning til noon when it ceased. A great many of the wounded lay dead there yet they are between the two lines and they will not accept a flag of truce so they have to lay there and die in the hot son. We are not in the heaviest of it. Was a little to the right of us. We have been very lucky lately of being up in any fights.

Soldier from 63rd Indiana writes of Franklin-action detail

I recently attended the Civil War Show in Nashville and acquired several letters from a 63rd Indiana soldier named Addison Lee Ewing. Ewing was from Haubstat, Indiana and enlisted on 5/1/62, mustering in to Company C of the 63rd Indiana Infantry with the rank of 1st Sergeant. He resigned on 4/6/65 due to disability.

During his service he saw three promotions: 2nd Lt on 10/2/86, 1st Lt on 6/24/64, and finally to Captain on 10/1/64 (As of Co. I). He transferred from Company C to I on 11/6/64.

The 63rd Indiana became part of the Army of the Ohio in December 1862, staying with that organization until February 1865 when it was assigned to the Department of North Carolina.

The 63rd Indiana saw action at Second Bull Run, East Tennessee, Rocky Face Ridge and Resaca; Dallas, Lost Mountain, the Atlanta Campaign, and Hood’s Tennessee campaign, including Franklin and Nashville.

At Franklin (30 November 1864), the 63rd Indiana served on the far left Union flank with Israel N. Stiles’s brigade, along with the 120th and 128th Indiana regiments. These three Indiana regiments faced the onslaught of the Confederates under Scott and Featherston that fateful day.

120thIN_Franklin_map copy by you.

I’ve written extensively on these Indiana regiments previously on this blog. Hundreds of Confederate soldiers from Alabama and Mississippi lost their lives trying to breach the Union left flank near the Nashville-Decatur Railroad as it buttressed up against the Harpeth River.

By the time of the Battle of Franklin, Addison Lee Ewing was Captain of Company I of the 63rd Indiana Infantry. I’ll say more soon, but here is a partial transcript of the letter Lee wrote to his wife on December 22nd, from Nashville (1864).

. . . Day before yesterday [would have been the Dec 20th], we was up at Franklin where there are hundreds of new made graves filled by the enemy. I went up into the old Breastworks where we lay and all over the front of our Brigade which is pretty well doted with rebble graves at our place there is 14 of Co. K of Miss[issippi] laying in a row. I see one grave marked Lt. J.P. See (sic), 55th Tenn. [This was J.P. Seed]. There are horses laying around almost on our works . . . .

I’m researching this more so come back soon to continue reading more about Lee’s accounts of Franklin and Nashville.

If citing this letter please use: Addison Lee Ewing letter (December 20, 1864). From the Kraig McNutt Civil War Collection.