Civil War Saturday – Witnessing the Carnage

The Story of a 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Surgeon

We all know the warmth and love of family. We carry it with us daily and many times read of its abundance in a friend’s obituary at their passing. It’s not as common to find a father and son so loved by their community that words don’t truly represent the admiration and respect felt for them by their peers. This is the case of the Curtiss family.

Dr. Charles CurtissCharles L. Curtiss was born on June 21, 1840 in Akron, Summit County Ohio. He was the son of Dr. Elijah and Flora F. Hanchett Curtiss. Charles had one sibling, a sister Mary Elizabeth, known as Libby, that was eight years his junior.

Charles grew up in eastern Ohio living there until his family moved across the state to Lima in Allen County. Lima was still a very small village when the family settled there about 1854. Dr. Elijah Curtiss was one of the first physicians in the area and considered one of the town’s early pioneers. Curtiss the elder, became a well respected and prominent man in the community.

No doubt the high esteem awarded Dr. Elijah Curtiss impacted the young Charles. The younger Curtiss chose to follow his father’s footsteps and studied medicine at Oxford. He also took a course of lectures at Cincinnati and mentored under his father. Charles first set up practice in Decatur, Indiana but eventually partnered with his father in Lima in 1875. Yet before Charles practiced medicine with his father, while still in his early years as a physician, his medical skills would be put to use in an entirely different area than family practice.

With the country thrown into civil war, Curtiss enlisted with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) on August 19, 1862. He is listed as a member of both Co. F and Co U (unassigned). He was only 22 years old.

As a member of the 4th OVC and one who served nearly the duration of the war, Charles saw much blood shed. From Stones River to the Tullahoma campaign, Chickamauga to the fall of Selma his medical experience was needed. Charles skills were pressed into service aiding his regiment as a surgeon. His medical knowledge invaluable to comrades who had fallen. Witnessing the carnage, repairing the injuries he could, Charles undoubtably was affected by all the misery he witnessed. With a lifetime of hands-on experience during those war years, Curtiss mustered out June 24, 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee with the rest of the 4th OVC at the end of the war.

Once back home in Ohio and settled into postwar life, Charles married Mary Luella Lipsett in 1880 and had four children. William, Dwight, Edgar (Who followed in his father and grandfather’s foot steps. He was a physician in Lima for 31 years.) and Charles Curtiss.

Living in Lima the remainder of his life Dr. Curtiss was known throughout the city as a kind and genuine man. He was a highly regarded physician and surgeon. A member of the GAR and so active in his community that many newspaper accounts extolled the virtues, abilities and achievements of Dr. Charles L. Curtiss over the ensuing years.

A few months shy of 55 years old, Charles passed away at his home on March 3 1895, following a brief illness. His obituary mourned the loss of such a prominent and well loved citizen.

As a member of the Allen County Medical Society, Dr. Curtiss was so well thought of that at his death the medical society appointed a three person committee to draw up a resolution of respect for the late Dr. Curtiss. In fact the entire Allen County Medical Society attended his funeral service.

Also a member of the Lima I.O.O.F. Lodge 581, Charles was remembered at his death. They drew up a resolution as well commemorating their dearly departed brother. A newspaper article in The Lima News dated March 14, 1895 read:

Where as, it has seemed wise for the supreme ruler of the universe to remove by death from Lima Lodge, No. 581, I.O.O.F. brother Charles L. Curtiss, one of its truest and best members, the lodge as a mark of the friendship and love it bears him, passed, at a regular meeting, the following resolutions:
Resolved, that in this dispensation of an all-wise Providence, which so saddens our hearts, we bow in humble submission, believing that “He doeth all things well.”
Resolved, that in his lost we recognize that a true and faithful Oddfellow has ceased his labors, an able expounder of the principles of our order has passed away, and that it-may well be said of him, his deeds of kindness and charity will long be treasured in the hearts and minds of those who knew him best; and that his family has lost a kind and loving husband and an indulgent father, the lodge a true and devoted brother, a loving and dear friend and an enjoyable companion who spent his life in ministering to the wants of others that he has for the last time met us in fraternal counsel no more will his kind words comfort and cheer us in our labors and the cause of Friendship, Love and Truth.
Resolved, that to his family this lodge extends its profound and heartfelt sympathy in this hour of their great bereavement.
Resolved, that these resolutions be made a part of the records of the lodge; that a copy duly signed to be sent to the family of the deceased brother; that the chapter of the lodge be draped for a period of 30 days, and that these resolutions be published in the daily papers of the city.
Leonard Walthers, J. N. Hutchinson, Wilbur Fisk, Committee.

Curtiss Family plot

Dr. Charles L. Curtiss was laid to rest in Woodlawn cemetery in Lima.

Curtiss was the middle of three generations of physicians in Allen County, Ohio. Not only did he follow his father’s foot steps professionally, his integrity and compassion were a legacy too. They are well documented in the area’s newspaper archives and serve as a wonderful tribute to his life to this day.

Civil War Saturday Special report: Was Bigfoot Ever Spotted During the Civil War?

Big FootMost of us are familiar with Bigfoot, a huge hairy half-man, half-animal creature that is tremendously strong and leaves gigantic footprints. Most Bigfoot sightings are in the Pacific Northwest but recently he’s been seen on T.V. commercials advertising beef jerky. Yet beside all this did you know Bigfoot sightings took place during the Civil War? Yes you read that right, Bigfoot was seen during the Civil War. With tongue in cheek let me explain.

Some of the very earliest and most frequent sightings of Bigfoot were recorded in the south, especially Arkansas. Referred to as the “Wild Man of the Woods” many 1840s newspaper accounts document several sightings of Bigfoot as he roamed that region of the south. Reported as a huge animal that looked kind of like a human, he was very tall in stature, body covered with hair and his head sporting long locks of hair that hung passed his neck and shoulders. The creature could move swiftly, had incredibly quick reflexes and ran with tremendous speed. His strides were more like leaps of 12 to 14 feet at a time leaving footprints that each measured well over 13 inches. This wild man preyed on young calves and goats. He’d grab them up and tucking them under his arm he’d bound away. Leaving all who saw glimpses of the creature so shocked, so surprised they were dumbstruck.

But what about the Civil War you ask? There are accounts of a similar beast making appearances throughout the war.

One such incident was described in a letter by Pvt. James More of Co. K 67th Pennsylvania Infantry. Pvt. Moore was on guard duty in Harpers Ferry on February 26, 1863. In a letter sent to his wife Ida, living in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, More wrote:

” … Ramsey and myself were charged to guard company accoutrements along the railway. Very cold still night…

…the boys started raising a ruckus from the garrison. Some were yelling aloud, that a man- beast was on foot. There was rifle fire towards the river. We continued our duty as the yelling and shots continued…

… the Corporal queried the witnesses from the Company. I was told that the devil raided the food stores after climbing the wall…

… it was covered in thick layers of dark hair…

… maybe 8 foot from head to toe.”

There is also a report of a young soldier returning home from the Civil War in very poor health to Washington County, Virginia. He never recovered from the illness he contracted during the war and after lingering for a few years finally died. Knowing his time was short, the young soldier had told his family he wanted to be buried near their home, on a mountain where he had hunted before the war. Now this same area had several Bigfoot sightings in the past.

It was only a few days after the burial that the young man’s father went to his son’s grave to build a fence around it. When he got to the burial site the father found his son’s body had been dug up and the flesh stripped away, down to the bone. The father was well aware of the Bigfoot sightings and immediately knew his son’s body had been decimated by the monster.

There were stories of a 7 to 9 foot tall creature, part beast, part man that roamed the area snatching livestock from farms. Usually only seen at dusk or nightfall it grabbed anything from goats, to chickens, to horses with many half eaten carcasses left for farmers to find the next morning. The monster man had big footprints over 20 inches long, his body covered in white or light gray hair, and for those unfortunate ones who were within close range, it had a terrible odor.

The soldier’s father and several men from the community searched the area for days. Many thought the creature lived in a well concealed cave on the mountain. Yet they could never find Bigfoot. They were never able to deliver justice for the young soldier’s decimated body.

Big Foot

Probably the strongest Bigfoot report comes from the Chickamauga battlefield due to the number of people who witnesses him. As daylight edged away on September 20, 1863 near Snodgrass Hill, dozens of wounded soldiers were laying on the battlefield waiting for medical help. Some locals, women and farmers had ventured out to give what assistance they could to these injured men.

Both civilians and wounded soldiers described their fear as a human-like, ape-like creature stepped out of the woods at dusk. It was very tall, covered from head to toe with light colored hair, it had visible fangs that jutted from its lower jaw and glowing greenish-orangish eyes. It was the eerie color of the beast’s eyes all witnesses stressed when retelling the experience. From soldier to civilian, each froze in place at the sight of the creature. It seems after viewing the carnage of the recently ended battle Bigfoot slipped back in the woods from where he came. His only deed that day was to frighten the scores of people who looked on him in horror just moments after living through one of the Civil War’s bloody battles.

So there you have it. There were Bigfoot sightings from Harpers Ferry to the deep south during the Civil War. Documented evidence that this elusive half-man, half-animal is not a modern day phenomenon but as old as the hills themselves. This wild man did make appearances during the greatest struggle in our country’s history. Thankfully he didn’t enlist on either side. Who could come up with a uniform that size!!

In an Instant the Happy Shouting was Changed to Cries and Shrieks for Help From Beneath the Shattered Cars

This week’s Civil War soldier’s story comes from Kevin Walker. Kevin is a scholar who is most comfortable in small rural towns with people with old time values.

His family research is documented on his blog: Who We Were, Are & Will Be Our Family. Kevin describes his writings as “Obtuse genealogical studies into the Walker-Casattas family tree. This also includes the surnames of Chelsey, Needham, Gibson, Surpluss, Frank, Molfino, Mack (Mach) and Derfler, among many others.”

Kevin’s Civil War ancestor is his great great grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. Henry’s story ends tragically and is certainly one to honor today on Civil War Saturday.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001 Telephone: 1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001

In January of 1865, in Springfield, Illinois, Henry Martin Walker enlisted in Company A, 33rd Regimental Infantry, Illinois Volunteers, Union Army. He was dead six weeks later due to a tragic accident.

Henry probably enlisted at the behest of his brother-in-law Harvey Dutton who was the Captain in charge of this particular company. The consensus at the time was the war was winding down, and this was a chance for Henry to come in at the end of the fight and qualify for benefits.

In those early months of 1865, the 33rd Illinois was stationed along the Opelousas Railroad outside of New Orleans to prevent guerrilla attacks and keep supply lines open. This was all swamp, and illness took its toll on the men. By the end of the war, all totaled the regiment suffered many more deaths by disease than they did by battle, and that includes the siege of Vicksburg of which they were a part. But that is not how my g-g-grandfather died. Here is the account taken from HISTORY of the Thirty-Third Regiment Illinois Veteran Volunteer Infantry IN THE CIVIL WAR: 22nd AUGUST, 1861. to 7th DECEMBER, 1865 by GENERAL ISAAC H. ELLIOTT, published in 1902. –


After staying at Brashear and along the railroad for nine months and thirteen days, we received the welcome order to join the expedition to operate against Mobile, and on the morning of Thursday, March 2nd, 1865, the companies were picked up at the several sta-tions, beginning at Bayou Boeuf. I was in command of the regiment, Col. Lippincott being absent. The train was a mixed one of flat and box ears, carrying all our baggage and horses. Many of the men were on top of the box ears. After Company B had been taken on at LaFourche and Des Allemandes there was only left Company H at Boutee, some seven or eight miles distant.

We were now considerably behind time, and the train from New Orleans was nearly due at Boutee. I inquired of the conductor if he could make that station before the other train was due to leave it. He replied that he could, and we went ahead at quite a high rate of speed. I had some anxiety about meeting the train from New Orleans, and was leaning from the door of the baggage car near the rear of the train looking forward. Suddenly I saw a horse running close alongside the track, and then dart in front of the engine. Instantly the second car from the tender left the track and was thrown broadside around, and those behind it crashed into it and each other cars were crushed to fragments, and the rails of the track torn up and driven through them. The whole train, except a few cars at the rear, filled and covered with men, was a horrible wreck.

The men had been in a very gale of joy, singing and shouting at the happy release from the pestilential swamps. Now they were to see a more active life and be able to do something to bring the war to an end and go home. In an instant the happy shouting was changed to cries and shrieks for help from beneath the shattered cars. Every effort was made to release the wounded and imprisoned men, each company working frantically to help its own members; and how they did work! Perhaps not always to the best advantage, but with a frenzy that told of the affection they had for their suffering comrades.

It was a horrible scene, worse than any battle, and with none of its honors. Company A, being near the head of the train, suffered the most. Brave, splendid 1st Sergeant Spillman F. Willis, who carried the flag at Vicksburg, and who was loved not only by his company, but the entire regiment, was ground to dust;

Howell, Greening, Walker and Wolf, of A, were killed. Melvin, Walden and Webster, of H, and Barkley of G, were killed; seventy-two of the regiment were wounded, some of them soon died. One young soldier of Co. D had both feet cut off, and I believe is still living at Springfield, Illinois.

There was one spectacle in all this terrible scene that could not but be admired. I know that all members of – the 33rd will remember my own horse with a white mane and tail. No finer styled horse ever wore a bridle. The flat ear he was on was shoved up on the one in front of it, and he stood there quietly and unhurt, high above the wreck. No finer equestrian statue was ever looked at.

It was a forlorn and badly broken up regiment that went into Algiers that night. The wounded were taken to the hospitals in New Orleans, and the regiment across the river and quartered in a cotton press. . . .


Captain Harvey J DuttonHere is a second accounting, same source, but this time the author is Harvey Dutton, Henry’s brother-in-law –

The winter of 1864-65 passed with no other incidents of special moment that I remember, except the accession to the company of the following recruits: Charles Greening, Alphonso K. Smith, Henry W. Smith, Henry M. Walker, Jerome Wolf, Hans Erickson and William J. Hester. All but the last two were from Metamora, ILL., my home. H. M. Walker was my brother-in-law, the others acquaintances. They had enlisted January 10th, ’65, for one year, and had chosen Company A because I was Captain. February 23, 1865, Lieut. Fyffe was sent to Thibodeaux, La., division headquarters, on detached service as Judge Advocate.

Then came the railroad disaster of March 2nd, 1865. As we loaded our effects into that box car, and ourselves into and on top of it, that pleasant spring morning, there was some grumbling about the gorgeous accommodations “Uncle Sam” saw fit to furnish us; still the boys were in good spirits, believing we were to take part in the closing campaign of the war. The make-up of the train brought Company A near the engine, the place of greatest danger in case of accident. They were in the third car; the first was an empty, the second was occupied by B Company. For fear of repetition (as the whole regiment except Company H was concerned in this horrible affair) I will only insert here remarks from the first “muster roll” of Company A made after the occurrence: “March 2nd, 1865, started at 8:80 a.m. by railroad for Algiers, La.; near Boutee Station met with serious disaster; train thrown from the track by running over a horse; five of the company killed ; twenty-one wounded seriously, were sent to the hospital; several others were more or less injured; lost a large quantity of camp and garrison equipage and ordinance stores; arrived at Algiers about seven in the evening; crossed the river at New Orleans and camped in the Anchor Cotton Press. The killed were:

1st Sergt. Spillman F. Willis, Vet.; Private, Chas. G. Howell, Vet.; Private Chas. Greening, Private H. M. Walker, and Private Jerome Wolf.”

A peculiarly distressing feature of this affair to me was not only that Company A had lost its noble, brave and efficient Orderly Sergeant, and another veteran of three and a half years of faithful service, but that of the five new men from my home, as before mentioned, three of them, one my brother-in-law, now lay dead. Upon me devolved the painful duty of sending the unwelcome tidings to loved ones so sadly bereft. Those seriously injured and discharged on account of such injuries were Sergt. S. W. Durrlinger, and Privates W. H. Foster, Harvey D. Garrett and David Shaw. . . .

Thank you Kevin for sharing your Civil War ancestor’s story here today. It’s powerful and one I won’t soon forget.

Additional posts about Kevin’s Civil War ancestors can be found on his blog. Click “Civil War” in the list of labels in the right hand column. Walker examines the effect that Henry, Sr.’s death had on his family. Census rolls show the family was completely broken up, his wife and his three children each went to live with a different relative. Henry, Sr.’s widow married again but to a drunk and physically abusive man whom she quickly divorced nine months later. She would marry again. Henry, Jr. was less than a year old when his father died, and we know already of some of the trouble he got into (shooting his wife three times and going to prison). His older sister Letta married a man almost thirty years her senior! But all in all a case study for how broken homes can lead to broken lives.

You can learn more about Kevin and his family research at Who We Were, Are & Will Be Our Family.



Civil War Saturday: Maggots, shinplasters, and spooning at Libby prison

Gail Dever - Genealogy à la carte

Gail Dever -Genealogy à la carte

Last week’s Civil War soldier’s story came from Gail Dever. Gail is a Montreal-based genealogy news blogger on Genealogy à la carte where she writes daily about family history resources and issues facing the genealogy community. She also manages the website for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. This week is the conclusion to her great-great-grandfather’s story.

More than 40 years after the American Civil War ended, my great-great-grandfather James “Jimmy” Young wrote a memoir about his experience with the 6th Connecticut Volunteers, Company K, and the months he endured in Andersonville prison. He was originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1855, when he was 14 years old, Jimmy immigrated to Montreal, Quebec with his parents Robert Young and Mary Fyvie and nine siblings. On August 21, 1863, at the age of 24, he enlisted in New Haven, Connecticut.

When none of the guards was looking his way, Private Jimmy Young of the 6th Connecticut Volunteers put his hand inside his haversack and wrapped his fingers around the handle of his knife. The guard had just ordered the other prisoners and him to hand over their money to the prison clerk. He pulled out the knife. This was probably his last chance.

Libby prison

Less than 24 hours earlier, Jimmy had been a free man, manning a post that was little more than a mound of earth in an open field at Drewry’s Bluff, south of Richmond, Virginia. Soon after daybreak that morning, he and four other Union soldiers had been captured by the Confederates and transported down the James River to Richmond.

When their boat docked a short while later, the prisoners were greeted by a “motley crowd of men, women and children, white and black.” Some of the women spit in the men’s faces as they marched toward Libby prison.

Libby Prison

Libby Prison, north side, Richmond, Virginia, April 1865. Library of Congress.

Before the war, the three-story prison had been a food warehouse, leased by Captain Luther Libby and his son. Its location on the waterfront made it suitable for holding prisoners. Years later, Jimmy wrote that the building looked desolate.

Upon arrival, Jimmy and his fellow captives were led into one of several large rooms in the prison. The room was filled with prisoners. The only furniture he could see was a row of tin wash basins and a wood trough for washing. Jimmy would soon learn water was scarce.

They were told to deposit their money with the clerk and to prepare to be searched by the examiner who would confiscate their valuables.

Jimmy ignored the order to give up his money. From his haversack, he pulled out his knife and cut through several threads on the waistband of his pants. After making a tiny opening, he tucked $30 inside the waistband and stitched it closed. He still had a bit more paper money, 75 cents in shinplasters, and hid it in his clothing or perhaps somewhere on his body. That was all the money he owned.

Then the order came for the prisoners to go downstairs where the examiner would search them for valuables. Jimmy fell into line and headed toward the stairs.


When it was Jimmy’s turn, the examiner made him remove his boots to check inside for any valuables. He found none. He searched the lining of Jimmy’s cap and examined what he thought was every part of his clothing. He even removed the top of each brass button on Jimmy’s shirt, looking for hidden money. He still found none.

Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, carries a haversack. Library of Congress.

Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment, carries a haversack. Library of Congress.

By the time the search was over, the examiner had confiscated Jimmy’s knife, quart cup, haversack, photographs of friends, rubber blanket, and other small items. But, he had found no money. The examiner remained suspicious and questioned Jimmy. To convince the examiner he only had a small amount of money on him, Jimmy pulled out the shinplasters from some deeply hidden place and handed them over. That was good enough for the examiner. He looked no further.

When the examiner started searching the next prisoner, Jimmy pulled on his boots and thought about how to retrieve his possessions. Without drawing attention to himself, he walked toward the end of the room. As he passed a window, he saw his photographs, knife, and cup and quickly gathered them up. Thinking no one was watching, he walked over to the pile of confiscated goods, pulled out his haversack, and moved on. When some of the prisoners saw him helping himself, they tried to do the same, but the examiner caught them and ordered them to return everything. Jimmy was lucky. Somehow, he managed to keep most of his money and possessions.

Lively with maggots

Jimmy soon learned that the daily food ration was usually six ounces of corn bread with a small piece of ham that was “lively with maggots.” Despite the dire situation, he was amused at the ingenuity of the men. Since few of the men had plates or utensils, they would take whatever food they could hold in the hollow of their hands or eat it from their boots.

Beans were considered a special meal at Libby and served late in the day. After one of these meals, Jimmy looked inside the kettles that had been used to boil the beans. It appeared that rice had been boiled in them. Upon closer inspection, however, he discovered that the bottoms were covered with almost two inches of maggots. Jimmy could see that the number of maggots varied from kettle to kettle. He figured the amount depended on how deeply they had scooped out the beans.

Spooning at night

Nighttime provided little relief. The room where Jimmy was held was so overcrowded that the men had to sleep on the rough plank floor “dove-tailed in like spoons.” Lice and “other vermin” kept them awake.

After enduring a few days at Libby, Jimmy and other prisoners were transported by rail to the prison in Danville, about 140 miles away. Their departure provided temporary relief to the overcrowding at Libby until the next shipment of prisoners arrived.

Jimmy would remain in Danville for some time until arrangements could be made to transport prisoners to the new Andersonville prison in Georgia.

Thank you Gail for sharing your Civil War ancestor’s story here on Civil War Saturday. May Jimmy always be remembered.

You can learn more about Gail Dever at:

Blog –

Twitter – @geneaalacarte

Genealogy à la carte Facebook group –

Genealogy à la carte on Pinterest –



Young, James. Reminiscences of the Prison Life of James Young. ca. 1920.

Image of Libby prison, North side, Richard, Virginia, April 1865. Prints & Photographs Online Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online <;.

Image of Private Albert H. Davis of Company K, 6th New Hampshire Infantry Regiment in uniform, 1861. Prints & Photographs Online Collections, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online <>.


Research notes

Since I do not own a photo of James Young in civil war uniform, I posted a photo of Private Albert H. Davis. It is possible my great-great-grandfather’s gear looked like Private Davis’ gear.

To see what a haversack looks like, scroll down this auctioneer’s website to see a couple of haversacks or Google the word.

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.



Civil War Saturday – How my Scottish-Canadian great-great-grandfather was captured during the US Civil War

This week’s Civil War soldier’s story comes from Gail Dever. Gail is a Montreal-based genealogy news blogger on Genealogy à la carte where she writes daily about family history resources and issues facing the genealogy community. She also manages the website for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. Gail has yet to find a photo of her great-great-grandfather James Young in his Civil War uniform, but she continues to look.

James Young

James Young, 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Rifles of Montreal, Volunteer Militia, ca. 1862.

More than 40 years after the American Civil War ended, my great-great-grandfather James “Jimmy” Young wrote a memoir about his experience with the 6th Connecticut Volunteers, Company K, and the months he endured in Andersonville prison. Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, Jimmy was 14 years old when he immigrated to Montreal with his parents Robert Young and Mary Fyvie and nine brothers and sisters in 1855.

By the time Jimmy decided to join the Union army in Connecticut, it was August 1863. A few weeks earlier, the Confederates had been defeated at the Battle Gettysburg and the tide of war had turned against the them. Jimmy was 24 years old, an unmarried brass finisher, and had been living in cramped housing in Montreal with his parents and most of his brothers and sisters. Like many young men in the city, he had served with the Volunteer Militia.

Jimmy replaced a conscripted man from New York, who likely paid him between $400 and $1,000. According to his obituary, Jimmy enlisted because he had been “fired with enthusiasm for the Northern cause and ready for the great adventure of life.” In reality, it was probably a combination of adventure, beliefs, and money that helped him decide to sign up.

Within a few months, Jimmy was doing duty at Port Royal in Hilton Head, South Carolina. In April 1864, his regiment was ordered to join the Army of the James under the command of Major General Benjamin Butler, who had received orders from Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to attack west and cut Richmond, Virginia’s supply lines from the south.

March toward Richmond

By early May, tension had risen on both sides of the Civil War. Grant had been moving his army of 120,000 that included the 6th Connecticut Volunteers to face Confederate Robert E. Lee’s army that numbered 64,000. Soon after the Sixth and others landed at the town of Bermuda Hundred on the James River, they started their march toward Richmond. As part of Grant’s plan, they cut telegraph wires and ripped up the track of the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, burning the ties and poles.

Less than a week later, on May 14, the Sixth was ordered to advance to Proctor’s Creek, near Drewry’s Bluff, south of Richmond. When they were unable to move any further, they stayed near the edge of a piece of woods where they could hear the enemy a short distance away. At this point, the war took an unfortunate turn for Jimmy.

Instant death”

During the evening of May 15, while Jimmy was manning a post, Captain Osborne of Company K crept along the ground to order him to change posts. The new post was in full view of the Confederate army. Jimmy told his captain it would be “instant death” for anyone who attempted to reach it. “Well, Cap, I don’t want to disobey orders, but if you will allow me to choose my own men, I will fill the position.” Osborne agreed, and Jimmy took two “tried veterans,” with him, William Gladstone and James Hine.

The three men made a bold dash for their new post. When they reached the post, Jimmy considered they were lucky to still be alive and uninjured. “The Johnnies were so intent firing into the woods where our boys were settling themselves for the night, that they overlooked us.”

The men discovered their post was not much more than a hole in the ground on a slight brow of a hill, built up by a little mound of earth with two rails placed in front. Through the night, they kept watch, staying low to the ground, hidden only by the darkness. Thinking back on the night, Jimmy wrote, “If they had had the slightest idea that we were in such close proximity to them, they would have lowered the muzzle of that gun and scooped us clean out of the ground.” At regular intervals, they heard the enemy fire shot after shot in their direction with many of the shots going close to their heads.

After several hours, three men from the 7th Connecticut Volunteers tried to crawl across the field to relieve them, but a volley of shots forced them to scamper back. Jimmy, Gladstone, and Hine were left on their own.

The attack

Just before sunrise, a thick fog covered the battleground. The rebels gathered their forces and charged upon them, shouting with that “peculiar yell so characteristic of the Johnnies.”

Jimmy wrote, “They were on us before they knew we were in front of them, and when we sprang to our feet I suppose they thought we came out of the ground.”

Because of the sheer number of Confederates attacking them, Jimmy, Gladstone, and Hine surrendered.


By noon that day, May 16, the war was over for Jimmy. The Confederates transported Glandstone, Hine, and him along with other prisoners down the James River to Richmond where they were marched to Libby prison.

Libby Prison

Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia, August 23, 1863, A. Hoen & Co. Library of Congress.

Many thanks to Gail for sharing her Civil War ancestor’s story here today. Jimmy’s experience as a POW will continue with next week’s Civil War Saturday. See you then!

You can learn more about Gail Dever at:

Blog –

Twitter – @geneaalacarte

Genealogy à la carte Facebook group –

Genealogy à la carte on Pinterest –


Sources — Books

Cadwell, Charles K. The Old Sixth Regiment, Its War Record, 1861-5. New Haven, Connecticut: 1875. Reprint, Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Company, 1998. (Online version available through Internet Archive: <>.)

Macdonald, John. The Historical Atlas of the Civil War. New York, New York: Cartwell Books, 2009.

Young, James. Reminiscences of the Prison Life of James Young. ca. 1920.

Sources — Newspaper

James Young dies, aged eight-four, Montreal (Quebec) Daily Star, 5 September 1923, page 2.

Sources — Online

National Park Service, Washington, D.C. 6th Regiment, Connecticut Infantry, Union Connecticut Volunteers, Regiment Details, Civil War. Online < >.

Sources — Photographs

Young, James. Portrait, c. 1861, Montreal, Quebec. Photographer unknown.

Libby Prison. The only picture in existence. As it appeared August 23, 1863. Prints & Photographs Online Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Online < >.

Copyright © 2014, Gail Dever.