Monday, November 30, 2009

Brigadier General Edward Harland

At Antietam, Colonel Edward Harland's Ninth Corps Brigade, composed of Connecticut and Rhode Island troops, suffered some of the highest casualties in the entire Army of the Potomac. At the Lower Bridge and on the left of the Ninth Corps line during the afternoon advance against the Confederate right flank, Harland’s four regiments lost more than 600 men killed, wounded, and missing. Bearing the brunt of General A.P. Hill’s devastating flank attack, Harland’s men were forced from the field. While attempting to rally his troops and stay the retreat, Harland had a horse shot from underneath him, and he fell hard to the ground. In the afternoon, only a fraction of his command remained. His men were so used up that in his Official Report Harland stated: “At the bridge I collected the shattered remnants of the brigade, in hopes of making a stand, but owing to the large loss of officers and the failure of ammunition, it was impossible to render the men of any material service.”[1]
Possessing neither a West Point education nor experience in a pre-war militia unit, Edward Harland nonetheless served in high command with quiet competence throughout the four years of the Civil War. Born in 1832 in Norwich, Connecticut, Edward Harland was descended from an English watchmaker who immigrated to the colonies just a few years before the Americans declared their independence. Graduating from Yale University in 1853, Harland next took up the study of law and was admitted to the Connecticut bar two years later. Practicing law in his native town, Harland quickly became a leading citizen of Norwich. Thus, when the war broke out in the spring of 1861, Harland helped recruit and was mustered into service as captain of Company D, 3rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. At the First Battle of Bull Run, Captain Harland, the lawyer-turned-warrior, proved himself an able battlefield leader and when the regiment’s term of service expired later that summer, he was commissioned to lead a new three-year unit. Mustered in as colonel of the 8th Connecticut in October 1861, Harland led his new command to the shores of North Carolina where they formed part of General Ambrose Burnside’s expeditionary force, seeing action at Roanoke Island and New Bern. After Burnside’s command was transferred to Virginia in the summer of 1862, Colonel Harland was assigned brigade command. Leading his brigade throughout the Maryland Campaign, Harland was only lightly engaged at the battle of South Mountain. Three days later, however, he and his men witnessed savage combat and suffered heavy losses at Antietam.

Traveling along the east bank of the Antietam on the morning of September 17, Harland’s Brigade was minus one regiment as it searched with the rest of Rodman’s Division for a ford south of the Lower Bridge. Earlier, the 11th Connecticut was detached in order to serve as skirmishers for George Crook’s Brigade as it made the first of what was to be several attacks against the bridge. Charging straight for the bridge, the 11th Connecticut lost more than thirty percent of its number in their vain effort. Among the killed was the regiment’s commander, Colonel Henry Kingsbury, whose brother-in-law, General David R. Jones, commanded the Confederate division south of town, including the Georgia troops posted on the high ground west of the three-arched bridge.
Sometime around 1:00 p.m., and while Edward Ferrero’s men were storming across the bridge, Colonel Harland’s other three regiments finally crossed the Antietam at Snavely’s Ford, and took up a position on the extreme left of the Ninth Corps line, which eventually stretched one mile in length. With the town of Sharpsburg and the possession of the Harper’s Ferry Road their objectives and the thinned ranks of D.J. Jones’s Division their only obstacle, the Ninth Corps moved forward around 3:00 p.m. However, things had gone astray in the ranks of Harland’s Brigade from the start. While the 8th Connecticut moved out as ordered, aligning on the left flank of Harrison Fairchild’s Brigade, Harland’s other two regiments—the4th Rhode Island and 16th Connecticut—remained in their position. Then, off to the west, Colonel Harland and division commander Isaac Rodman noticed an approaching column of Confederate infantry. A.P. Hill’s Confederate Division had arrived from Harper’s Ferry almost entirely undetected and was heading toward Harland’s exposed left flank. Galloping to warn the two lagging regiments of this threat and to reposition them to meet it, Harland fell to the ground after his horse was shot from underneath him. At roughly the same time, Rodman fell with a mortal wound. Command of the division then fell to its senior brigadier, Colonel Edward Harland. As the 4th Rhode Island and 16th Connecticut finally advanced, they were met by the vigorous attack of General Maxcy Gregg’s brigade of South Carolinians. Confusion reigned among the stalks of corn in Mr. Otto’s Forty-Acre Cornfield, especially in the ranks of the Connecticut regiment. These men were fighting in their first battle and had been in the service for less than three weeks. With men falling by the score, Harland’s shattered New Englanders were finally driven from the field, retreating toward the high ground immediately west of the bridge. The number of men lost that day in Harland’s four regiments exceeded six hundred. The 16th Connecticut alone lost 302 men killed, wounded, and missing, the highest number of casualties in the entire Ninth Corps.
Harland reverted back to brigade command following the battle of Antietam. Promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to date from November 29, 1862, Harland led his men at Fredericksburg, which proved to be his last major battle of the war. Transferred to southeast Virginia in March 1863, he commanded a brigade in the Seventh Corps for four months before being transferred, yet again, to General George Getty’s Eighteenth Corps Division in the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. He remained with the Eighteenth Corps throughout the duration of the war, but spent the final year and a half of the conflict in command of various districts and posts. In March 1864, he was given command of the Subdistrict of the Pamlico, a position he held for just two months before sent to command the defenses of New Bern, North Carolina. Remaining here until January 1865, Harland briefly held command of the Department of New Bern before finishing out the war in command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, District of Beaufort. After more than four years of service, General Harland tendered his resignation from the army on June 22, 1865.

Thirty-three-year-old Edward Harland returned to Norwich after the war where he enjoyed great success in a number of endeavors. After first returning to his law practice, Harland next served a number of terms in both houses of the Connecticut legislature, and sat for a time as a probate judge. Continuing a distinguished career as a public servant, Harland also served on the state board of pardons and as the adjutant general of the Connecticut state militia. In 1890 the aging bachelor was named president of the Chelsea Savings Bank. Harland suffered from chronic emphysema during the final ten years of his life; indeed, this affliction was listed as the cause of his death, which came on March 9, 1915, in Norwich, Connecticut. He was eighty-two years of age.

[1] Official Report of Colonel Edward Harland, September 22, 1862, in OR Series I, Vol. 19, Part 51

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Stroll Through Reading's Charles Evans Cemetery & Other Places

Gravesite of Charles Evans,
Reading attorney and philanthropist who established the Charles Evans Cemetery in 1846.
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I had the great privilege yesterday of spending the morning with Mark Pflum, an expert on all things First Defenders and Berks County Civil War; it is remarkable how much this guy knows. We spent the morning hours wandering about Reading's famed Charles Evans Cemetery, which is rich in history. We focused mainly on the gravesites of Reading's First Defenders, members of the Ringgold Light Artillery, which was one of the first five companies of Northern volunteers to reach Washington upon the outbreak of hostilities in April 1861.
The Ringgold Light Artillery, an elite militia unit, was founded by Captain James McKnight. In May 1861 and upon the recommendation of US General William H. Keim, McKnight was elevated to the rank of major and given command of Battery M, 5th US Artillery.
Grave of Captain James McKnight
The McKnight family plot
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Another famous member of the Ringgold Light Artillery was George W. Durell, famed gunner of Durell's Battery, which fought with the Ninth Corps throughout the war.

Grave of Captain George W. Durell
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First Defender Howard McIlvain was a private in the Ringgold Light Artillery and then a 1st Lieutenant in Durell's Battery. He died in November 1862 at the age of twenty-three.
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Perhaps the most famous Civil War burial in Charles Evans Cemetery is Major General David McM. Gregg, famed Federal cavalry commander.

Gregg's grave is the far leftUnion Cavalryman David M. Gregg
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Buried near General Gregg is Joseph Hiester, Lieutenant Colonel of the Berks County Militia in the Revolution and Governor of Pennsylvania, 1820-1823.
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Union Brigadier General William H. Keim, who died of typhoid fever in May 1862, also lies buried in the Charles Evans Cemetery.
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Famed Berk County brewermeister Frederick Lauer was interred in Charles Evans. Although too old to serve, Lauer raised, outfitted, and equipped what became Company H, 104th Pennsylvania volunteers.
Freddy Lauer's Grave
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Colonel Charles A. Knederer of the 167th PA Drafted Militia was brave; perhaps too brave for his own good. He was killed in action while battling with Longstreet's Confederate troops in early 1863 near Blackwater River.
Close-up of Knederer's grave.
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Near the grave of Colonel Knederer is that of Union Eleventh Corps Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig, who died in nearby Wernersville in September 1865 from tuberculosis.
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Scores of Union veterans, including many soldiers who fought in various U.S.C.T. and other all-black units, lie buried in the G.A.R. Plot.

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Buried also in Charles Evans is Matilda Edwards Strong, who died at a young age in 1851. The daughter of a US Congressman from Illinois, Matilda was frequently in Washington during the 1840s where she met and befriended another Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. The two began a relationship and it is even suggested that Lincoln proposed to Matilda, which she rejected. It is also suggested that when Lincoln broke off his engagement to Mary Todd in 1841, Todd blamed Matilda for it.
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Frederick Yeager was a proud member of the Ringgold Light Artillery and later a captain in the 128th PA. He, too, met Lincoln, on the night of April 18, 1861, when the appreciative president made his way to the Capitol and shook the hands of each First Defender, thanking them for their timely arrival in Washington.
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After spending several hours in the Charles Evans Cemetery, Mark took me to Penn Commons, a park where stands a monument recognizing the contributions of the Ringgold Light Artillery.

A bronze plaque explains the place of the First Defenders in the annals of Civil War history.
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In this same park, there is also a pretty impressive monument to William McKinley, commissary sergeant of the 23rd Ohio Infantry. . .oh, and twenty-fifth president of the United States.

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48th Pennsylvania Burials
While wandering about the cemeteries, Mark & I discovered the final resting places of several 48th Pennsylvania soldiers. Buried in the GAR Plot (for Posts 16 [McLean] and 76 [Keim]) at Charles Evans are:

Corporal David T. Kreiger, Co. F.
A teamster originally from Girardville, Kreiger served throughout the course of the war.

Private Daniel Weldy, Co. D.
Weldy, a chairmaker from Berks County, enlisted in 1861 at the age of forty, reenlisted in 1864, and was mustered out with the regiment in July 1865.

Private Charles Goodman, Co. A.
Goodman was a native of Berks County who enlisted in Port Clinton in 1861. A twenty-six-year-old boatman, Goodman served through the end of his term, being mustered out in October 1864.

Private Albert Fisher, Co. F.
Fisher, a twenty-five-year-old native of Germany entered the 48th in January 1865 as a substitute. He was discharged on a surgeon's certificate in June.

Private Thomas Elliot, Co. C.
A native of Schuylkill County, Elliot enlisted in Pottsville in January 1865 at the age of twenty. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed boatman was discharged with the regiment in July 1865.

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At the Aulenbach Cemetery, Mark and I discovered two more 48th PA burials:

Sergeant Daniel Moser, Co. H.
Moser was a nineteen-year-old blacksmith from Pottsville when he enlisted in the summer of 1861. He served throughout the war, rising to the rank of sergeant, and was mustered out a "veteran" in 1865.

Private Peter Trump, Co. D.
Trump was a native of Reading who enlisted at the age of twenty in March 1865. He served four months, mustered out in July.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blog Turns Three

The 48th Pennsylvania's Record Banner
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It is a little hard to believe, but The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry blog turned three years old yesterday. I have had the greatest time keeping this site updated, and I look forward, hopefully, to many more years to come. In the months ahead, I plan on continuing to keep you all updated about my various projects, written or otherwise, which there are quite a few; to present the completion of the Nagle Sword and restoration of the 48th PA monument at Antietam as well as report on the rededication ceremony; and to get back on track, focusing more heavily on the boys of the 48th! I've received so many great new documents, letters, and especially photographs pertaining to the regiment that I can't wait to share.
Thanks to all my readers out there. . .you have made this an incredibly rewarding experience, and I do hope you'll keep coming back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pottsville's Robert Hampton Ramsey: Brevet Colonel & Assistant Adjutant General to George H. Thomas

Bvt. Col. Robert Ramsey
[Hoptak Collection] 

Throughout the Civil War, Robert Ramsey rose to the rank of colonel, by brevet, and served capably as an officer on the staff of Major General George Henry Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga."

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Ramsey was born in Pottsville on May 29, 1838. He was educated at the Pottsville Academy and taught school at the Presbyterian Church before entering upon a career as a printer and newspaperman. After working for six years in the officer of the Pottsville Miners’ Journal, Ramsey moved to Philadelphia where he found work first as a printer in the office of Stein & Jones and then as a clerk in the Corn Exchange Bank. He was so employed when civil war erupted in the spring of 1861. Ramsey’s military service began in the summer of 1863, when Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. Scores of militia units were organized throughout the Commonwealth in response to this threat, including the 45th PA Militia, which the twenty-five-year-old Ramsey entered as Company H's second lieutenant. Although these Pennsylvania militia units witnessed little, if any action during the Gettysburg Campaign, Ramsey and the 45th PA Militia were sent to Schuylkill County to maintain order during the labor unrest and draft resistance that defined the anthracite coal-rich county in the summer of ’63. While back at this home town of Pottsville, Ramsey was chosen by Brigadier General William D. Whipple, commander of the district, to serve as his assistant adjutant general. When the anticipates threats subsided and a sense of order returned to Schuylkill County, General Whipple was ordered to report to General George H. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland. Whipple insisted that Ramsey follow him and succeeded in getting the young officer a captain’s commission, to date from December 5, 1863. After much persuasion, Ramsey was ordered west where he ultimately joined Thomas’s headquarters staff. During the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, Ramsey served as Thomas’s acting aide-de-camp and assistant adjutant general. “Though almost constantly exposed to the fire of the enemy, and several times narrowly escaping capture, he passed through the entire campaign uninjured. . . .Captain Ramsey’s bravery, faithfulness, and devotion to duty, during the Atlanta Campaign, so impressed General Thomas that he lodged with the Secretary of War a strong recommendation for his promotion to the rank of major and assistant adjutant-general, which was done, his commission bearing date January 27, 1865. He was afterward commissioned, by brevet, lieutenant-colonel and colonel. He was urged to take a position in the regular army, but always refused, preferring the life of a private citizen.” (1)

Robert Ramsey
[Hoptak Collection] 
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Robert Ramsey was mustered out of the service in July 1866 and he returned to his native Pottsville. He once again entered the newspaper business, becoming a partner in the Miners’ Journal. Later that year, in December, he married Maggie Lindsley of Nashville, Tennessee, whom he no doubt met with serving under Thomas. In February, 1873, Benjamin Bannan, the long-time editor of the Miners’ Journal sold all his interest in the paper to Ramsey and turned the editorial helm over to him. In describing Ramsey, Bannan wrote, “He has been found faithful in every position he has heretofore occupied, and has met the approbation and friendship of all whom he has served. He is fully imbued with the leading principles which have characterized the conduct of the Journal—he is affable, capable, and pushing in business, and is also a fluent writer; but, above all, he is HONEST, and is governed in all his actions by upright principles; and in these degenerate days, when so much corruption abound among public men, and there is so much plundering by office-holders and office-seekers, an honest editor and proprietor of a newspaper is a jewel. . . .” (2)

Ramsey proved an influential editor and won the esteem of his readership. Sadly, however, he began to suffer from a terrible and painful disease, laryngeal phthsis. “It began with a slight affection of the throat, which grew worse, until it affected his voice, and made speaking more and more difficult.” Within several months, Ramsey died of the disease. He sought treatment in Philadelphia to no avail and later traveled to his father-in-law's home in Nashville, “hoping to find relief under milder skies and balmier air.” Ramsey described his life as tortuous and his sufferings as constant and intolerable. “It was only by the greatest effort that he could force himself to swallow enough food to sustain life, and sleep came to him but for two or three hours at night.” By the time he arrived in Nashville in early May 1876, he was very weak and soon became confined to bed. “He expected death, and was fully prepared to meet it. For a week or two before it came, his pain grew easier, and, freed from suffering, but very weak, he lay and waited for the destroyer—to him, the welcome herald of release from a life too full of agony to be endured.”

Finally, on May 31, 1876, the suffering ended and Robert Hampton Ramsey died, just two days after turning thirty-eight years of age. His body was returned to Pottsville, where he was laid to rest in the Presbyterian Cemetery on Tenth and Howard Streets. (3)

Eulogies poured in for the deceased, including the following testimonials from those who knew him best:
“Colonel Robert Hampton Ramsey is no more. . . .That warm and genial heart that was wont to greet us, to sympathize with us, and to encourage us in the battle of life, is stilled in death. . . .He was a man of rare business capacity, indomitable energy, with a heart mellowed by Christian kindness, though bold in conception, courageous in carrying out his plans, yet never infringing on the rights of others, never exalting himself above his less successful competitors, always cheerfully forgiving and even willing to aid those who wronged him, he put the mildest construction upon the action of others, and deported himself in such a kindly and Christian-like manner as to deserve the esteem of all. His line of duty was marked out, and he went forward in it, never swerving to the right or to the left, with the courage and fidelity of a true hero; and whether in the public school, Sabbath school, the church, the army, or in the field of journalism, his talents, his urbanity, his industry, and sterling integrity won for him the highest meed of praise, and, in death, progressive journalism has received a staggering blow. . . .”

Another wrote, “Colonel Ramsey was so young, so full of life, so endowed with energy, that it seemed as if he had many years of work and progress before him. There is left to us, as a consolation, the knowledge that he died content; that his intolerable pain left him some days before he died; that consciousness did not leave him; that the hard-drawn lines of repressed and well-night conquered physical agony were replaced, on his worn face, by a radiance born of his near approach to that God of Love whom he saw by faith, and into whose hands he entrusted his soul with an unfaltering trust. . . .” (4)

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The Grave of Robert Ramsey
Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville, PA

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(1) Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Tenth Reunion, (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Company, 1876), 202-203.
(2) Ibid., 204.
(3) Ibid., 205-206.
(4) Ibid., 206-207.