One of the Most Important Civil War Names You’ve Never Heard

The gent standing is David B. Parker and his military service began like so many other young Northerners. In 1861 he enlisted as a private in his hometown company. It became part of the 72nd New York Infantry, shipped out to the South and joined the Army of the Potomac.

This is where the similarity to other soldiers ends. In June 1862, Pvt. Parker was detailed as a mail agent in his regiment’s division, which was commanded by Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker. He was appointed to handle the mail not because he was a poor soldier, but because he was a energetic and possessed a gift for cutting through red tape and making things happen. Before long Parker ran the entire mail service for all of the Army of the Potomac.

Thanks to Parker, mail delivery went virtually interrupted no matter where the army was—Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, the front lines of Petersburg and Appomattox Court House. The work he did kept up the morale of the men as the letters and packages from home flowed into camp literally without interruption.

His career after the war was stellar, including many years of association with most of the Presidents of the U.S. and Bell Telephone.

He died in 1910. Two years letter, his memoir, A Chautauqua Boy in ’61 and Afterward, was published. In it, Parker tells his story and includes anecdotes of the top Union leaders with whom he was associated, including generals George G. Meade and U.S. Grant, and President Abraham Lincoln. For example, here’s one I have not heard about Gen. Meade: “General Meade went to the Adjutant General’s office, which was a Sibley tent, and opened the flap to stoop and enter, as a soldier, who was building a fire in the stove and taking up ashes, was coming out. The pan of ashes struck General Meade’s breast and covered him. he showed a very irascible temper and cursed the soldier roundly. All that I saw of General Meade afterwards, however, was a reserved courtly gentleman. He was not personally popular with his staff officers, but no one could criticize his conduct or his patriotism.”

Parker, standing, is pictured here with Capt. Charles E. Scoville of the 94th New York Infantry. Another photo, from Parker’s memoirs, shows him in uniform as a lieutenant, the highest rank he obtained in the army. Officially he was acting assistant quartermaster for the Army of the Potomac responsible for mail delivery.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
One of the Most Important Civil War Names You've Never Heard

“A. Manley. Peacock”

This inscription can be found on the back of the mount of this photo of an unidentified Union officer by Mathew Brady. Also inscribed is “For Dr. Stanton.”

The image was once part of an album that included other photos inscribed to Dr. Stanton. The photos were portraits of officers who served in the Army of the Potomac—14th Connecticut Infantry, 14th Brooklyn Infantry, 8th Illinois Cavalry, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry and 24th Michigan Infantry. Other images include surgeons and various hospital personnel.

One theory is that the men in the album were all patients of Dr. Stanton, who may have been Surg. Joshua Otis Stanton. According to one source, “He entered the military service in June, 1862, as acting assistant surgeon and served in and about Washington till February, 1865. In 1864 he was appointed surgeon of the First New Hampshire Cavalry, but declined on account of ill health. In February, 1865, he was appointed surgeon of the United States Veteran Volunteers and attached to the provost-marshal general’s bureau and served till October of that year.”

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
"A. Manley. Peacock"

Fighting Across the Rappahannock

charles-clarkThe 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.

An excerpt:

“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.”

Read the rest of the story.

New to My Flickr Photostream: Captured During the Bristoe Campaign

This carte de visite of Lester Douglass Phelps was taken in 1865 after he returned from 18 months as a prisoner of war. Phelps (1838-1910) began his war service in the summer of 1861 as a lieutenant in the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry. The regiment participated in a number of engagements with the Army of the Potomac, including the May 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, where it received high marks for its performance by Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, who commanded the cavalry corps of the army: “The distinguished gallantry of the 8th Pa. regiment, in charging the head of the enemy’s column, advancing on the 11th corps, on the evening of the 2nd inst., has excited the highest admiration. * * * The gallant [Lt. Col. Duncan] McVikar, the generous chivalric [Maj. Peter] Keenan, with 15O killed and wounded from your small numbers, attest the terrible earnestness that animated the midnight conflict of the second of May.”

Phelps survived the fight, but was captured in action on Oct. 12, 1863, during the Bristoe Campaign near Sulphur Springs, Va. He spent the rest of the war in prisoner if war camps throughout the South. He gained his released in March 1865 and returned to his regiment in May 1865 at Appomattox Court House. He sent the last weeks of his military service as Provost Marshall of Appomattox County.

He became a probate judge in Connecticut after the war.

This portrait is now available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr:
Captured During the Bristoe Campaign

My Interview with the Grand Niece of a Gettysburg Veteran

Betty C. SchacherI met Betty C. Schacher, 85, this weekend in Windham, N.Y., and we found a quiet place to talk about her great uncle Simon Pincus. “Uncle Sime,” as she knew him as a little girl, was a kindly elderly gent who was confined to a wheelchair. I captured audio of Betty’s reminiscences of Uncle Sime, who died when she was six. One of her memories was a story he told about his Gettysburg experience. At the time he was a sergeant in Company C of the Sixty-sixth New York Infantry. From the transcript of the audio recording:

He was at the Wheatfield, and, um, I remember thinking, I didn’t know they grew wheat in Pennsylvania (laughter). When we saw pictures of wheat, you know, what was I five years old I was in kindergarten, it was out in Kansas, out in the Midwest somewhere, which to me was a foreign territory.

He told us about this, it was after the battle had quieted down. It was very quiet. I asked him, did the noise frighten him. And he said the silence was worse.

He told us, all of a sudden he saw something move, and it was a Confederate soldier trying to get back to his outfit and he had lost his rifle. And Uncle Sime told him, he better move quick to beat his trigger finger. And Uncle Sime did not shoot him. He let him go back to the unit. And, at first I asked him why, because I was told the Southerners were the enemy. And he said to me, well he was an American, too, and he was unarmed. That’s what he said.

Here’s Betty in the Windham Library. A retired librarian, the setting was most appropriate for our conversation. Uncle Sime survived the war, and mustered out as a second lieutenant. He became a cigar maker in Brooklyn. Lt. Pincus died in 1934.