A gent sits with his legs crossed and holds a book, perhaps an indication that he has an interest in literature, or may be an educator or publisher. The approximate date of this image (circa 1862-1864), and his relative youth (military age) increase the chances that he (and maybe his dog) served in the Civil War. This photograph was taken in the studio of G.J. Wood of Syracuse, N.Y., and is new to my collection.
Now available on New York Times Disunion is the story of John James Toffey and how he came to receive the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry when he saved a skirmish line at Chattanooga.
The order to begin what came to be known as the Battle of Orchard Knob (or Indian Hill) was given about 3:30 a.m. Toffey recalled, “We were ordered to charge a very strong position on the extreme right of the rebel line. It was well fortified and surrounded by dense woods, while in front there was an open field over which we had to charge.”
Confederate infantry and sharpshooters concealed themselves in the woods and in rifle pits dug into the banks of Citico Creek, and arranged themselves under cover of a railroad bridge and nearby buildings.
The Southerners opened up a murderous fire almost immediately after the 33rd started forward — no more then 20 paces according to one account. Rebel lead struck the Jersey boys with deadly accuracy. The Confederates, Toffey noted, “were directing their attention to the officers.”
I first wrote about Toffey in my 2004 book, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories.
He and Company K, along with two other companies from the Fifteenth, were assigned as an escort to the headquarters of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who commanded the Army of the Cumberland. A West Pointer who had performed admirably at the Battle of Stones River nine months earlier, he was familiarly known as “Old Rosy.” His flowery nickname belied his punctilious and downright testy nature.
During the two-day Battle of Chickamauga, Rosecrans’s headquarters was a beehive of activity. According to the historian of the Fifteenth, Hine’s comrades were “actively engaged during the whole of this memorable fight, remaining almost constantly saddled. Dispatches of the most vital importance were entrusted to the men by the Commanding General, his staff not being able to take all the messages; all of which were promptly delivered, under circumstances of appalling danger.”
During the second day of the battle, after Confederates under the command of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet broke through the Union lines and threatened headquarters, Hines and the rest of headquarters found themselves unexpectedly in the thick of the action.
Hine’s profile appeared in this month’s print issue of the Civil War News. It is now available on my blog.
Yesterday I received a few copies of a new edition of Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories. It is published by MJF Books in conjunction with The Johns Hopkins University Press, and is available at Barnes and Noble. If you’ve ever wondered how some books make it to the bargain section of B&N, this is how it happens!
There are two big differences in this edition. First is the jacket, which features a different Union soldier. Second is the weight—it’s much lighter due to lesser quality paper. This is reflected in the price, which is much lower than the original edition. Still, the content inside is unchanged.
“I’m Margaret!” are the first words I remember spoken by Margaret Fisher after she appeared at the table where I was signing my books yesterday afternoon. Margaret is a longtime and supportive fan of this page, and regularly comments on posts here. I was absolutely delighted to meet her in person, and have the opportunity to learn more about her Civil War connections.
Margaret is one of many individuals who stopped by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History yesterday afternoon. Anne and I were set up at a table on the main floor of the museum next to the mall exit—so we were the last stop for many visitors as they lingered at the gift shop or prepared to leave after a day of exploring the exhibits.
Among those I met was John (he’s pictured here), who had a particular interest in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Infantry. We had a great chat. A big thanks to everyone who stopped by, and especially those who purchased a copy of one of the books.
Special thanks to manager Brendan McGurk, who made Anne and I feel right at home, and the always energetic and enthusiastic Robin Noonan of Hopkins Press, who made the event happen!
The story of Charlie Clark and his experience in the brilliant, brutal affair at Rappahannock Station, Va., is the subject of my latest New York Times Disunion post. This profile would not have happened without Andrea Solarz, who is Charlie’s great-great granddaughter. She generously shared from his unpublished diaries and letters.
“Charlie Clark basked in the warmth of a budding romance on a cold autumn day in 1863. His friend and fellow lieutenant in the Union Army, Solomon Russell, had fallen for a Southern belle in war-torn Virginia. On the morning of Nov. 7, 1863, the officers left their camp in Warrenton to call upon her. They made their way to the home of the widow Rosina Dixon and found the focus of Russell’s desire: the 15-year-old Anna. Whatever words passed between the Yankee officer and rebel maiden went unrecorded, though Clark referenced the encounter years later in his reminiscences, noting that Russell “was deeply in love” with Anna.”
John James Toffey (1844-1911) of Jersey City joined the Union army at age 18 when he enlisted for a one year term in the 21st New Jersey Infantry. He immediately reenlisted in the Thirty-third New Jersey Infantry when it was organized in the summer of 1863. Toffey and his comrades, distinctive in their Zouave-style uniforms, reported to the Army of the Cumberland for duty and participated in the Chattanooga Campaign. On November 23, 1863, Toffey rose from his sick bed to fight in the Battle of Orchard Knob. His colonel, George Mindil, ordered him in at a critical moment: The advance line of the Thirty-third had wavered and buckled in a charge under Confederate fire. “I ran across the open field and reached the advance line in time to prevent it from breaking. I reformed the line and we again charged … just as we were carrying the position I received a severe wound,” Toffey explained. He was struck by two rebel bullets. One ripped into his right thigh at the pelvis, fracturing that bone and his leg. The second bullet caused a flesh wound to his other leg. The wounds ended his combat service, and he served the rest of the war in the Veteran Reserve Corps. He received the Medal of Honor in 1897. His “superlatively brave conduct,” noted Col. Mindil, “saved the position, and enabled us on the following morning to press forward the entire line” as it surged up and over Lookout Mountain for another stunning Union victory that spelled doom for Confederate forces under Gen. Braxton Bragg.
I wrote about Toffey in my first book, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories.
Max Silberman served a 60-day term of enlistment as a corporal with Company A of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Militia Infantry. The regiment was organized at Philadelphia on July 3, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It mustered out on September 2, 1863. The back of the mount of the image notes that he was a bugler. Born in Bavaria, Germany, Silberman died in Philadelphia in 1914 and is buried in Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, Section J 529.
Estimates of the participation of Jewish Americans in the Union and Confederate military range from 7,200-10,000.
This carte de visite of Thomas J. Martin was taken by photographer H. Bishop in Chambersburg, Pa., at some point during the summer of 1863. Martin served a 60-day term of enlistment with Company A of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Militia Infantry. The regiment was organized at Philadelphia on July 3, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It mustered out on September 2, 1863.
The back of the mount of the image includes Martin’s address, 3000 Richmond St., Philadelphia.
The absence of shoulder straps on their coats indicates that these men were privates, and a hand-cancelled revenue stamp with Morse’s initials on the back of the photograph’s mount dates the image from 1864-1866.