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

The Yankee Yell

800 federals, including Capt. Spencer W. Snyder (1841-1920) and his comrades in Company D of the 169th New York Infantry, were on the picket line at Foster’s Plantation, Va., when attacked by Confederate troops on the morning of May 18, 1864. The Union troops were initially forced back, but rallied.

A correspondent from the regiment narrated what happened next: “The One Hundred and Sixty-ninth went at the rebels with a yell that I apprehend neither party will soon forget. A grand charge was made by the command. The “rebs” ran like sheep, our boys driving them and gallantly retaking the original picket line.”

Snyder was wounded when a bullet struck him in the shoulder. Initial accounts state the wound was not serious, but later reports note that the bullet became lodged in his shoulder and could not be removed. At his death, he still carried the Confederate lead in his shoulder.

This image is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
The Yankee Yell

Fraternity Boy in the 72nd Illinois Infantry

Elisha J. Morgan Jr., a founder of the Chi chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity (closed 1988), enlisted as a private in the 72nd Illinois Infantry in the summer of 1862. The regiment spent the majority of its three-year enlistment in Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. It was heavily engaged in numerous operations, including the May 22, 1863, assault against the defenses of Vicksburg and the 1864 Battle of Franklin. Morgan survived the war and mustered out as captain of Company K in August 1865.

His portrait, a gift from Photo Sleuth columnist Kurt Luther, is much appreciated. I’ve written about another officer in the regiment, Lt. Col. Joseph C. Wright. His story, “The Last 15 Feet at Vicksburg,” appeared in Disunion.

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Fraternity Boy in the 72nd Illinois Infantry

Two Officers Strike a Pose of Authority

This carte de visite by prolific Tennessee photographer Theodore M. Schleier pictures two Union officers with muddy boots. They stand with swords drawn, a signal of authority over enlisted men. They are identified only as “Capt. Martin” and “Lt. Kile.”

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Two Officers Strike a Pose of Authority

An Englishman in Union Blue

English-born William Chippendale signed and dated the back of this image Sept. 1, 1862. He served as the original captain of Company E, 22nd New Jersey Infantry, during the regiment’s nine-month term of enlistment.

The history of the 22nd, from the Union Army, Vol. 3: “This regiment, composed almost exclusively of volunteers from the county of Bergen, was mustered into service at Trenton on Sept. 22, 1862, and left for Washington seven days later, arriving safely after some detentions and going into camp on East Capitol hill. About the last of November, after being brigaded with the 29th, 30th and 31st N. J., and 137th Pa. regiments, it proceeded by way of Port Tobacco to Liverpool Point, whence it crossed, on Dec. 5, to Acquia creek, the march being one of great difficulty, taxing the endurance of the men to the utmost, their sufferings being increased upon their arrival by a cold and pitiless storm, which continued for two days. Early in Jan., 1863, the regiment was ordered to report to the 3d brigade, 1st division, 1st army corps, and accordingly proceeded to Belle Plain, where it remained for some time. It was slightly engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville and a few days subsequently it proceeded to Centerville and was released from the service. Continuing its march to Washington, it departed thence by rail to Trenton, arriving there on June 22 and a few days later was finally disbanded, after nine months’ service.”

Chippendale died in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1914.

This image is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
An Englishman in Union Blue

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