The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

Union officer Charles H. Shepley had loaded revolvers on countless occasions. But on March 21, 1862, something went horribly wrong. Shepley was loading it when it suddenly discharged. In one awful moment, a lead slug tore through him.

Shepley was no stranger to firearms. Back in 1856, soon after he and his family had relocated from Vermont to Chicago, 15-year-old Shepley joined the National Guard Cadets, a militia group formed by Col. Joseph R. Scott. The organization was taken over by the young and charismatic Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth soon after and turned into a crack drill team that toured the East. They were met by throngs of cheering citizens impressed with the discipline and precision of Ellsworth, Shepley and the rest of the boys.

When the war started, Shepley became an officer in the 19th Illinois Infantry, a regiment originally commanded by his old senior officer, Col. Scott. This was in the spring of 1861. Shepley started out as a second lieutenant in Company K and soon advanced to captain.

Sent to the South, the 19th was stationed at Murfreesboro, Tenn., when the accident happened. “While quietly engaged in loading his pistol, the weapon suddenly discharged itself, the ball passing into and nearly through his body, producing a fatal wound. He lingered till early on the morning of the 23d, when, despite all the surgical skill and kindly attention out forth on his behalf, Capt. Shepley was compelled to yield up his young life while bright hopes and well-merited honors were clustering around him.”

There’s more. “He had often expressed to his fellow soldiers a desire that if he must lose his life in the war, it might be his privilege to die on the battlefield, rather than in camp or on picket duty. But that wish was not to be gratified; and yet those best acquainted with him know that he died none the less a hero than if his life had been taken by the hand of the enemy amid the carnage of battle.”

His story can be found in Martyrs and Heroes of Illinois.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

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An Able New York Recruit

Albert Kendrick was recruited for the 35th in early 1862, after the regiment had been in uniform for about nine months of their 2-year enlistment. He joined in April 1862 as a private, and was steadily promoted through the year to second lieutenant. The Thirty-fifth participated in the battles of Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg. The regiment mustered out of the army in June 1863—just a month before the Battle of Gettysburg.

His carte de visite is new to my collection, and now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
An Able New York Recruit

Running the Confederate Defenses of New Orleans

English-born Thomas Armstrong (1838-1867) began his navy career in the summer of 1861. His first assignment was on the warship “Pensacola,” a screw steamer dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico to join Flag Officer David Farragut’s newly established West Gulf Blockading Squadron. On April 24, 1862, Armstrong and his crew mates steamed with the fleet past Confederate forts St. Philip and Jackson, which protected New Orleans, La. The next day, the Union vessels engaged batteries below the city, which soon surrendered. Armstrong ended the war as an acting third assistant engineer, and posed for his portrait at the New Orleans studio of Theodore Lilienthal about this time. He died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1867. His wife, Josephine, and a daughter, Mary, survived him.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Running the Confederate Defenses of New Orleans

The Last Commander of the Monitor

South Carolina-born John Payne Bankhead (1821-1867) opted to remain loyal to the Union after the Civil War began. A career navy man, he served on several vessels early in the war—all of which were wood. He requested to be transferred to an ironclad, and in September 1862 took command of the “Monitor.” He had the distinction of being the senior officer in charge when the famed ship sunk off Cape Hatteras, N.C., on December 31, 1862. Bankhead survived the ordeal and returned to active command. He survived the war, but his health failed soon after. He died in 1867.

His image is new to my collection, and his story will appear in my forthcoming book about Civil War sailors.

This image is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
The Last Commander of the Monitor

Union Comrades, Fellow Amputees

Four federal officers pose with their swords, and carry the visible effects of the human cost of war. Three of the men have suffered the amputation of the right arm, and the fourth the loss of a finger or fingers.

The identity of only one of these citizen soldiers is known. William A. McNulty (standing, right) served with the Tenth New York Infantry. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., on Dec. 12-15, 1862. The Tenth, also known as the “National Zouaves,” paid a heavy price at Fredericksburg: 15 killed and mortally wounded, and 53 wounded and missing.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Union Comrades, Fellow Amputees

Wounded at Perryville

Joseph W.R. Stambaugh of the Seventy-fifth Illinois Infantry suffered a wound in the side during his first big fight at Perryville, Ky., on Oct. 8, 1862. He made a full recovery and joined the Pioneer Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland, with which organization he served on detached duty in Tennessee until November 1864, when he joined the First Veteran Volunteer Engineers. He mustered out of the army as a captain at the end of the war. He died in 1890.

I’ve had this image in my collection for years. His story appeared in my first book, Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories. The image came to my attention the other day after trading emails with author and historian Greg Mast, who is working on a new book about North Carolina men who served during the Civil War. Although Stambaugh wore Union blue, he was born in Fayetteville, N.C., according to his military service records. Later census records state that he was born in Maryland and Pennsylvania. It is unusual in my experience to have such confusion about a soldier’s state of origin.

This image is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Wounded at Perryville