Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
On June 14, 1861, a little more than five years after being forced out of the army, Scammon was named commander of the 23rd Ohio Volunteers, a unit known to history as the “President’s Regiment,” for in its ranks served a young Rutherford Hayes and a young William McKinley. The 23rd was assigned to what became known as the Kanawha Division, which initially served in the mountains of western Virginia. Scammon must have impressed his superiors, for in the fall of 1861 the forty-five-year-old professor was given brigade command. In the spring of 1862, the Kanawha Division, under the command of General Jacob Cox, was transferred to John Pope’s Army of Virginia, and then, in the early September reorganization of the Army of the Potomac, was attached to the 9th Corps. Scammon’s brigade was heavily engaged at South Mountain on September 14, 1862. During this battle, Lieutenant Colonel Hayes, leading Scammon’s 23rd Ohio, fell grievously wounded, and General Jesse Reno, commanding the 9th Corps, was killed. Command of the Ninth Corps devolved upon General Jacob Cox upon Reno’s death. Succeeding Cox in command of the Kanawha Division was Colonel Scammon, the division’s senior brigadier. Scammon thus held divisional command for less than three days before the battle of Antietam.
Although Scammon held command of the Ninth Corps’s Kanawha Division, his role at the battle of Antietam was minimal as he was left, essentially, without a command. His first brigade, under Colonel Hugh Ewing was attached to Isaac Rodman’s Division, which crossed Snavely’s Ford and supported the advance of Rodman’s two brigades during its attack on the afternoon of September 17. Scammon’s second brigade, under Colonel George Crook, made an aborted attack against the Lower, or Burnside’s Bridge, and later supported General Willcox’s Division in its advance toward Sharpsburg. The two brigades were thus separated. Total casualties in Scammon’s Kanawha Division at Antietam numbered 255, a figure that included 37 killed, 191 wounded, and 27 missing.
Despite his limited role at Antietam, Scammon was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers less than one month later, but was soon detached from the Army of the Potomac with the rest of the Kanawha Division and sent back to the mountains of western Virginia. Here Scammon served as both the commander of the Subdistrict of the Kanawha in the Department of the Ohio, and as the commander of the 1st Brigade in the Kanawha Division. In the early spring of 1863, he was once again given divisional command in this department. On February 3, 1864, Scammon was captured by Confederate guerillas while sleeping onboard on the SS Levi, a steamer that was anchored in the Kanawha River near Red House Shoals, West Virginia. Scammon was held as a prisoner of war for six months until exchanged on August 3, 1864. Upon his exchange, it was evident that Scammon’s health had greatly deteriorated during his months of imprisonment. In an effort to restore his well-being, Scammon was sent to South Carolina where, in October, he took command of the Northern District, Department of the South. Remarkably, a little more than two weeks after his arrival here, the hard-luck Scammon was once again taken prisoner. His time in confinement this time, however, lasted just five days. After his second exchange from a Confederate prison camp, Scammon was sent further south, where he served out the duration of the war as commander of the District of Florida, in the Department of the South.
Eliakim Scammon was mustered out of United States service on August 24, 1865. After the war, Scammon continued to serve his country, but this time in a diplomatic role. In 1866, he was made U.S. Consul to Prince Edward Island in Canada, a position he held for four years. Scammon then settled in New Jersey, where, in 1875, he once again entered the academic world, becoming a professor of mathematics at Seton Hall College. Retiring ten years later, Scammon spent the final years of his life in New York City. On December 7, 1894, ten days shy of his seventy-eighth birthday, Scammon succumbed to cancer. His remains were laid to rest in Long Island’s Cavalry Cemetery.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Yet I have always had a tough time truly understanding Stuart.
Was he the exceedingly brilliant commander he is most commonly portrayed as being? Or did his (well-cultivated) image as a dashing cavalier--the beau-ideal of a soldier--help to mask his shortcomings as an officer? Stuart turned in a number of incredible battlefield and campaign performances; take, for example, his command of the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, after Jackson fell mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, and his famed rides around George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac. Yet at the same time, his reputation remains mired in controversy as he is often blamed for failing the Confederate army during the Gettysburg campaign by conducting a fruitless raid and leaving Lee “blind.” His performance during the Maryland Campaign of September 1862, during which he repeatedly provided bad intelligence and left South Mountain largely undefended by cavalrymen, also left much to be desired.
Thus conflicted in my estimation of this legendary cavalryman, when asked whether I would be interested in reading and reviewing Cavalryman of the Lost Cause: A Biography of Jeb Stuart, by esteemed Civil War historian Jeffry Wert, I agreed.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
At Antietam, the 48th Pennsylvania suffered a loss of 8 men killed and 51 wounded. But not all the regiment's casualties fell on September 17. Indeed, the following day, several companies of the 48th remained on the advanced picket line on the southern portion of the field and at least two soldiers, nineteen-year-old Private John Robinson, a laborer from Pottsville, and nineteen-year-old Sergeant Alexander Prince, a laborer from St. Clair, both of Company B, were killed on that otherwise quiet Thursday.
Twelve years later, on September 18, 1874, Oliver Christian Bosbyshell, former major of the 48th, penned the following account of Prince's death, which appeared in Pottsville's Miners' Journal:
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(Position held by the 48th PA skirmishers at Antietam on September 18, 1862. . .Fence lines the Otto Farm Lane, looking west toward Branch Avenue, where Confederate pickets from A.P. Hill's and D.R. Jones's divisions exchanged shots with the 48th's skirmishers. The monument on the far left is the 48th's.)
The Story of Alexander Prince, Company B, 48th Pennsylvania
Miners' Journal, September 18, 1874
By Oliver C. Bosbyshell
"Who of the old members of the 48th regiment can ever forget Alex Prince, that noble Sergeant of Company B? He was a grand soldier and the embodiment of all the virtues that go to make up the true man. Handsome in person, tall, well built; a compact rounded figure straight as an arrow, a fine, clean, honest continence with large light lustrous, frank eyes. Foremost in the manner of the duty, strict in the discharge, but kind without fault, a soldier to be proud of, a friend to cherish and his nature to emulate. We read of a being who came to earth and took upon himself the nature of man, who lives a pure, spotless life and died ignominious of death for what that and through the sacrifice of humanity could gain eternal life. He gave his life a ransom with a reverence be it said. Prince gave his life a ransom, but let me recall the incident.
The work of the bloody 17 September 1862 at Antietam closed only with the dark shadows of night. The bridge so tenaciously held and so staunchly assailed, that we wrested from the enemy. A whole afternoon was spent in stubborn fighting on the summit of a shallow hill, yes I write to the boys of the 48th, remember the spot? The 48th under [Lt. Col. Joshua] Sigfried with the 51st under [Col. John] Hartranft determined to hold the line with cold steel before yielding. We picketed the same ground all that night and in the morning of the 18th found us still on the same line. During the day we shifted our position further to the left. The main body of the regiment covered by a corn field. This corn field and the clearing to the left was occupied by our skirmish line. Constant firing was kept up through the whole day and between the opposing skirmishers. Prince occupied a small rifle pit burrowed in the ground in a clearing to the left of the corn field. The regular sharp crack of his rifle evidenced his alertness. The ground between the lines fought over the previous day was strewn with dead men, and here and there a badly wounded soldier lay unable to crawl into either line. Relief could not be extended for so close were the contestants, that the least exposure of the person would result in instant injury.
A wounded soldier lay near Prince's position and his piteous cries for water touched to the heart of our gallant comrade. 'Water! Water! For the love of God water!,' begged the crippled man. Prince's warm nature could not rest at the call for help, this wounded probably dying comrade might be saved, if not whether he wore blue or gray, a fellow being suffering within sight and hearing prompted action and Alex, despite the risk, determined to aid him. He knew full well his own danger in the attempt; his strong buoyant spirit could not bear to remain quiet witness to such suffering; relieve him he must. Removing his canteen from his shoulder and fastening the strap clearly to the point of the bayonet, he pushed it out over the top of the pit to the full extent of his arm. Too short his reach, the sufferer could not be aided without a greater effort. Realizing his task and nobly determined to take it, the prize, the saving of a life. He threw himself over the side of the rifle pit, hug close to the ground, the object of his great love eagerly watching the long forth draft, his very eagerness elegantly urging Prince on. He had almost reached with the life saving water, his nearing grasp when bang, whiz, and the death bearing lead sinks deep into the heart of the poor Alex. A wild spring in the air, an earthly shriek that rises above the din of the battle, and Prince falls. A sacrifice. He died to save his fellow man, can anything be more sublime? Prince by name, a very prince by nature.
When the monument rises to commemorate the men of the 48th and give bright and dearing praises to [Col. George] Gowen [killed in action at Petersburg on April 2, 1865], think in the fullest of Alex Prince who gave a ransom. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends."
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Sergeant Prince's body was later recovered by his compatriots in the 48th PA and buried in an open field near the Burnside Bridge. Whether Prince's body was later reinterred and where is unknown.
(Note: Thanks go out to my good friend and fellow Schuylkill County Civil War buff Stu Richards for sending me Bosbyshell's account of Prince's death).
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I truly am one lucky fella
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Pottsville, Aug. 23, 1866
To Lieut. Henry Krebs.
You are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of the late Brig-General James Nagle, on Saturday Afternoon, next, at 2 o'clock. Please reply
N.B. Specially requested to wear uniforms if convenient.
At the bottom of the invitation was a note penned by Bosbyshell:
Gen. Sigfried desires me to state that you are appointed one of his Aides. Please invite all soldiers in your neighborhood to participate in the funeral. See enclosed Programme.
The program included the following:
The following order of Parade will be observed at the Funeral of the late Brig. Gen. James Nagle on,
1st Brig. Gen. J.K. Sigfried Commanding and Staff
2d All mounted Officers in uniform
3d Uniformed Military Organizations--according to rank.
4th Soldiers' Central League of Pottsville, consisting of discharged Soldiers in Citizens's Dress, with Fatgue Cap, White Gloves and mourning badge on left arm.
The order of march from the house to the Cemetery will be as follows: