Thursday, August 21, 2008

Major General Napoleon J.T. Dana

Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana
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With his father an officer in the regular army who fought in the War of 1812, his grandfather a veteran of the Revolution, and being as he was named after three of the greatest military leaders of the Nineteenth Century, it seemed only logical that Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana would himself make a career out of the military. A graduate of West Point, Dana was severely wounded during the Mexican-American War, and during the Civil War was struck down with a serious wound at the battle of Antietam, keeping him out of service for the next ten months. Upon his return, Dana was assigned to backwater command posts along the Gulf Coast. Fearless and highly competent as an officer on the field of battle, Dana nonetheless remains as somewhat of an overlooked figure in Civil War history.
Napoleon J.T. Dana was born on April 15, 1822, in Fort Sullivan, Eastport, Maine, where his father, Nathaniel Dana, a West Point graduate and officer in the 1st U.S. Artillery, was then stationed. Sadly, Nathaniel Dana died when his son Napoleon was just eleven years old. While Dana’a paternal grandfather, Captain Luther Dana, served as a naval officer during the Revolution, his maternal grandfather, Woodbury Langdon, served as a member of the Continental Congress alongside his brother John Langdon, who would later become first President pro-tempore of the U.S. Senate as well as governor of New Hampshire.
Five years after his father’s death, at the age of sixteen, Napoleon Dana entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, and four years later, in 1842, graduated twenty-ninth in a class of fifty-six. West Point’s Class of 1842 remains as one of its most illustrious, for in addition to Dana, a number of other soldiers who later gained distinction during the Civil War graduated that year including James Longstreet, Daniel Harvey Hill, William Rosecrans, John Pope, John Newton, George Sykes, Richard H. Anderson, and Abner Doubleday. Upon graduation, Dana was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 7th U.S. Infantry and assigned to garrison duty at Fort Pike, Louisiana, where he spent most of the next three years.
In 1845, with war clouds looming, Dana was sent with his regiment to Texas where they formed part of Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation. When hostilities finally erupted, Dana turned in commendable performances during the battles of Fort Brown, Texas, in May 1846, and at Monterrey in September. Promoted to first lieutenant the following February, Dana then traveled south and under General Winfield Scott took part in the siege of Vera Cruz. During the battle of Cerro Gordo on April 18, 1847, while charging the entrenched Mexican position on Telegraph Hill, Lieutenant Dana was struck in the hip and fell gravely wounded. So severe was Dana’s wound that he was left for dead on the field of battle, and lay there for some thirty-six hours until rescued by a burial detail. Brevetted captain for his actions at Cerro Gordo, Dana next served two years on recruiting duty and as Assistant Quartermaster at the rank of captain in Boston. Transferred to Minnesota late in 1848, Dana served for six years at Fort Snelling at Fort Ridgely before resigning from the army on March 1, 1855. Following his resignation, Dana settled in St. Paul and became a banker. Unable to keep away from the military life, Dana also served as brigadier general in the Minnesota State Militia from 1857 until civil war erupted in 1861.
Offering his service to the United States, Dana was commissioned colonel of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers following the promotion of Willis Gorman to brigade command on October 2, 1861. Leading his regiment at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, Dana assumed command of the Second Brigade of Charles Stone’s Division following the Union fiasco there. On February 3, 1862, Dana was promoted to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers and one month later was given command of the Third Brigade, Second Division, in the Army of the Potomac’s Second Corps. During the Peninsula Campaign and Seven Days’ Battles in the late spring and early summer of 1862, Dana saw action at the battles of Yorktown, Seven Pines, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill, all the while earning a reputation as a solid and dependable officer. Shortly after the latter battle in early July 1862, however, Dana fell ill and sought medical treatment. His doctors determined that he was suffering from a serious case of remittent fever and sent him to Philadelphia, where he spent the next six weeks recovering from his illness. He returned to his command at the outset of the Maryland Campaign.
At the battle of Antietam, Dana’s Brigade suffered heavy loss in the fierce fighting in the West Woods. Sometime around 7:30 on the morning of September 17, Dana’s men crossed the Antietam at Pry’s Ford and marched to the support of the First and Twelfth Corps on the right of the Union line. Second Corps Commander Edwin Sumner arranged his Second Division, under the command of John Sedgwick, into three parallel lines of battle, with Dana’s Brigade constituting the second line. Planning to push this division due west and drive what remained of the Confederate forces to his front through the village of Sharpsburg and toward the Potomac River, Sumner led his men through the East Woods, across the Hagerstown Turnpike, and into the West Woods. Dana’s Brigade, marching some fifty yards in rear of Willis Gorman’s lead brigade, came under artillery fire as they neared the Turnpike but continued to push forward. Dana’s New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan volunteers entered the West Woods at about the same time as Gorman’s Brigade became engaged on the western edge of the woodlot. Just moments after the last of Dana’s troops entered the woods, however, his left flank was struck by the advancing Confederate troops of McLaws’s and J.G. Walker’s Divisions. Struck hard on the flank and in danger of being surrounded, Dana scrambled to meet the oncoming threat and get his men to safety. Being the middle of Sedgwick’s three brigades, however, it was tough for Dana to maneuver his troops. Sometime during the fight, he was struck in the left leg by a musket ball but he remained with his command until they reached the relative safety of the Miller Farm. By this time the pain in his leg had become unbearable. Dana turned command of his brigade over to Colonel Norman Hall of the 7th Michigan before being carried from the field and to a Union field hospital.
Sedgwick’s Division had lost nearly half its number in just thirty minutes of combat in the West Woods. Casualties in Dana’s Third Brigade equaled 900 men killed, wounded, and missing, with the highest loss occurring in the 59th New York and 7th Michigan. Dana was himself cared for in a field hospital for two days in nearby Keedysville before being sent first to Washington and then to Philadelphia to recuperate.
Although promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862, Dana did not return to duty until July 1863, when, during the Gettysburg Campaign, he commanded the Defenses of Philadelphia and a short time later the Second Division of General Darius Couch’s Department of the Susquehanna. After General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was turned back at Gettysburg and retreated across the Potomac, General Dana was sent to the Gulf of Mexico where he saw limited action at Fordoche Bayou and in the expedition that landed at Brazos Santiago and marched to Laredo, Texas. Given divisional command in the 13th Army Corps, Department of the Gulf, in September 1863, Dana subsequently commanded the District of Vicksburg from August 19 to December 8, 1864, when he was named head of the Department of Mississippi. Serving in this capacity until May 14, 1865, Major General Napoleon Dana tendered his resignation from the army two weeks later and returned to civilian life.
In the years following the Civil War, Dana engaged himself in a variety of occupations and endeavors. In 1866, he was named as a general agent for the American-Russian Commercial Company of San Francisco and for the next five years worked for this company in California, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. Dana next entered the railroad business and became superintendent of a number of lines, mainly in Illinois, including the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. In 1885, he was named president of the Montana and Union Railway Company. Retiring from his work on the railroads in the 1890s, General Dana next served as Deputy Commissioner for the United States Department of Pensions. In 1894, in a Special Act of Congress, Dana was commissioned back into the army at the rank of captain and then placed on the retired list so as to enable him to receive a pension.
Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana lived out the final years of his life in peaceful retirement in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His death, attributed to apoplexy, came on July 15, 1905. The old soldier was laid to rest in Portsmouth’s Harmony Grove Cemetery.

General Dana's Final Resting Place. . .


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gettysburg Scrapbook: The First Day

I woke this morning a little after six o'clock, and after opening a window in my living room I noticed it rained quite a bit over night. By the time I was up, however, the rain had ended and the weather showed all the promise of a beautiful summer morning. Temps were low, a light breeze was blowing, so I figured I'd do something I don't often do. . .tramp around the Gettysburg battlefield. I've been living here for four years already, but it seems I spent more time on the fields before I moved. During the springs and summers at least, I spend five days a week at the Antietam battlefield, and by the time I get home, well, there just isn't that much time. I thought this morning, then, that I would go out and maybe recapture that almost indescribable feeling I got when I didn't live in Gettysburg, but years back when I traveled here on weekends or while on vacation with my family.
It was a glorious morning, and I had my camera along. So here are just a few images I captured early today while tramping north and west of Gettysburg, on the fields where the three-day battle began. . .

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General John Buford's Statue, and, just yards behind. . .
The equestrian statue of General John F. Reynolds.

The McPherson Farm, with the McPherson Woods behind. Reynolds was slain early that Wednesday morning, July 1, 1863, leading his 1st Corps into action.
Another view of the McPherson barn, this time looking north-east from the woodline.
It's soon going to be time for harvest, I suppose. Here is the statue of General Abner Doubleday (you know, the guy who didn't invent baseball) rising above and behind the rows of corn.
And, of course, the famed Lutheran Seminary.
Cannon atop Oak Hill (McPherson barn in far distance, to the right of the barrel).

This picture is looking south-westerly over Gettysburg. . .the heights south of town, where the Army of the Potomac would rally after their reverse on the First Day can be seen beyond.

A rare Whitworth Gun with the Peace Light beyond. . .
Looking north toward Oak Hill from modern-day Howard Avenue, where the 11th Corps would go into position. By the time Howard's men arrived, Rodes's Confederates had already reached Oak Hill and were hammering away on the right flank of the Federal 1st Corps, held by General John Robinson's men. . .two brigades, which, by the way, had seen terrible combat in the Cornfield at Antietam nine and half months earlier.
Another view of Oak Hill (far distance, right. . .you might see the Peace Light). Oak Ridge, where Robinson's men tenaciously held on despite terrible loss before being driven back is to the left. . .This picture was also taken from the perspective of the 11th Corps. Soon after settling into line, Howard's men came under attack from General George Doles's Confederate brigade, which advanced north-to-south, or right-to-left on this picture.
The Monument of the 74th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Schimmelfennig's brigade, 11th Corps.
Francis Barlow (who commanded a New York regiment in the 2nd Corps at Antietam) fell seriously wounded at Gettysburg while in command of a division in the 11th Corps.
A close-up on Barlow's statue has him clutching his kepi as he surveys the ground. . .and Jubal Early's advancing Rebs.

An eagle, with clipped wing, precariously situated atop the small monument to the 27th Pennsylvania along Coster Avenue in town. . .

The 153rd Pennsylvania, recruited from the Lehigh Valley

I could not have asked for a better morning. . .spending two hours on the Gettysburg battlefield on my off-day from work at Antietam.