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.

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The Martyrdom of Capt. Shepley

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Injured in the First Charge at Vicksburg

John Caskey Hall (1842-1907) served in the 16th Ohio Infantry from 1861 to 1864, during which time he worked his way from a private to sergeant in Company C. He fought in the June 3, 1861, Battle of Philippi, W.Va., considered by some as the first land battle of the Civil War.

Hall went on to participate in the Vicksburg Campaign. He suffered a concussion in the May 19, 1863, assault on the formidable defenses of Vicksburg—the first of two failed attacks by the Union army that prompted Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to ay siege to the fortress city.

Hall also served in the 102nd Ohio Infantry.

After the war he returned to his home in Wooster, Ohio, where he operated a coal business. He wed in 1874 and started a family that grew to include a daughter and two sons. His wife died in 1897, and he remarried.

This image by Reeve & Watts of Columbus, Ohio, is new to my collection and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
Injured in the First Charge at Vicksburg

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.

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The Yankee Yell

A Civil War POW’s Story in 8 Quotes

John McGregor, the surgeon of the 3rd Connecticut Infantry, was captured during the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. The story of who he was as a man, and of his Civil War experience, can be glimpsed in these eight quotes from the “Life and Deeds of John McGregor:”

“He was educated, believed, and acted, according to the political principles of Abraham Lincoln.”

“When a man in the doctor’s position, was ready and willing to leave his home, his friends, his large practice, and almost everything which makes life desirable, to enter the army, and to be subjected to all the sufferings and hardships of war, others were ready to follow his example. He never would encourage men to do what he dared not do himself. His motto was, “Men, follow!’”

“The morning of July 21st, he went with his regiment to the battle field, and there stopped at a house which was to be used as a hospital for our wounded. He remained there through the day, faithfully attending his duties. When the retreat was ordered, I rode up to the hospital. The doctor came to the door, all besmeared with blood. I told him that a retreat was ordered, and for his own safety, he had better leave at once. He asked me if there was any preparation for removing the wounded men. I told him there was not. He then turned and went into the hospital. As he turned, he said, ‘Major, I cannot leave the wounded men, and I shall stay with them, and let the result follow.’ That was the last time I saw him.”

“At last, I was taken from the prison pen at Salisbury, and left upon the banks of the James river, completely destitute. For what purpose I was left there, in that condition, I can assign but one reason, and that is that they left me there to die. I took survey of my situation, and while doing so, these words flashed through my mind; ‘Hope on, hope ever.’”

“As the steamer slowly moved up the river, something seemed to say, ‘Now is the time for you to make an exertion.’ I at once began to do everything which I could to attract their attention. Soon I was overjoyed to see the steamer stop. I could see that they were lowering a boat, and soon I saw them pulling for the shore. At first they thought that I was placed there as a decoy to entrap them; but after the captain had viewed me through his glass, he thought otherwise, and ordered his men to come and see what I wanted. I told those men that I had been a prisoner a long time, and wished to get once more within the Union lines.”

“I had an interview with the President and Secretary Stanton. At that time all the reliable information which could be gathered concerning the rebels’ movements, was highly prized. I was constantly surrounded by reporters, but after I had given the President and Secretary Stanton all the information which I could concerning the South, I closed the doors upon the reporters.”

“As he entered the village, the bells in the steeples commenced ringing out the glad tidings, and at the same moments many familiar voices broke the stillness of the evening by singing one of his favorite hymns, ‘Home again, home again.’ He then discovered that he was surrounded by the village people, who had turned out in a mass to receive him. He was then escorted to his home, the multitude dispersed in a quiet manner, and he was left to enjoy once more the presence of his family friends. He arrived home on Saturday evening, August 3d 1862.”

“At times he was almost afraid that he would become demented. His experience in the fourteen months seemed more like a horrid dream than a reality; but as time passed on, his flesh and strength returned, his mind became more clear, and he was ready to go at them again.”

McGregor died in 1867.

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A Civil War POW’s Story in 8 Quotes

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

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.

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An Englishman in Union Blue

Drum Major of the Fourth Massachusetts

The period ink inscription on the mount of this carte de visite indicates that this drum major served in the Fourth Massachusetts Infantry. The regiment was organized for a three-month enlistment in 1861 and a second enlistment for nine months in 1862. The individual who held this rank in 1861 was George W. Pope.

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Drum Major of the Fourth Massachusetts

A Navy Officer Who Captured Confederate Infantrymen

John Clark Dutch (1821-1895) served in the Union navy from 1861 until 1866 as an acting master. Perhaps his finest moment in uniform occurred on April 9, 1863, at Edisto Island, S.C. As commander of the bark Kingfisher, he learned from two “contraband” slaves that rebel pickets were stationed on Edisto Island, where they reported on federal army and navy activity in the area. About 6 p.m., he and 35 of his men, and 10 contrabands, left the Kingfisher in two boats and rowed to the island. There they surprised and captured nine Confederates from the Third South Carolina Infantry and made them prisoners of war.

About a year later, the Kingfisher grounded and wrecked on Combahee Bank in St. Helena Sound, S.C.

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A Navy Officer Who Captured Confederate Infantrymen

An Officer in Three Illinois Regiments

John H.J. Lacey, a resident of Effingham, Ill., started his Civil War service in April 1861 as a lieutenant in the Eleventh Illinois Infantry. After his three-month term of enlistment expired, he became adjutant of the 98th Illinois Infantry. He spent the majority of the war with this regiment and participated in numerous engagements throughout the South, including the Battle of Chickamauga and the Atlanta Campaign. In February 1865, Lacey left to become adjutant in the newly-formed 155th Illinois Infantry. This regiment served primarily in Tennessee, and mustered out of the Union army in September 1865.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
An Officer in Three Illinois Regiments

A Maine Teenager Fights for the Union

Albert Crockett of Durham, Maine, joined the army as soon as he turned 18, which was in 1863. He enlisted as a private in Company E of the Thirtieth Maine Infantry. The regiment played an important part in the failed 1864 Red River Campaign in Louisiana. According to The Union Army, Vol. 1, “It participated in the Red River campaign as a part of the 3d Brigade 1st Division, 19th Corps, and took an honorable part in the battles of Sabine cross-roads and Pleasant Hill on April 8 and 9, respectively. It lost in the two engagements 11 killed, 66 wounded and 71 missing, and during the retreat of the Union forces to the Mississippi river, it took the most prominent part in the dislodgment of the enemy at Cane river crossing, which was perhaps the most gallant action of the disastrous campaign. Its loss here was 2 officers and 10 men killed, 2 officers and 67 men wounded, and 7 men missing.”

Crockett survived the war and lived until 1915.

This carte de visite is new to my collection, and is available on PinterestTumblr, and Flickr.
A Maine Teenager Fights for the Union