Posts from the ‘Biography’ Category

Historian: Civil War regiment endured much

By CHRIS SHOLLY, Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News

At the start of the Civil War, hundreds of Lebanon County men enlisted in the military, but many of them didn’t return, and many that did had the scars of battle to bear.

Local historian Greg Keller, dressed in a Union uniform, presented a history of some of these men during a program at the Lebanon County Historical Society on Sunday. Keller explained how the 93rd Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers were formed and what role they played in the war.

Local historian Greg Keller, right, talks with Ronald and Patricia Kaullen of Harrisburg about the Civil War following a program at the Lebanon County Historical Society on Sunday. Keller, dressed in the uniform of a Union soldier, presented the history of the 93rd Regiment, formed in the county in 1861. Patricia Kaullen is a descendent of Dr. William Henry Stoy, a Revolutionary-era physician in Lebanon County and in whose home the historical society is located. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS CHRIS SHOLLY)

“They suffered quite a bit. They suffered numerous engagements, and we see many, many men wounded and killed. Some of these men suffered from their wounds the rest of their lives,” Keller said during his talk.

The 93rd Regiment was formed by the Rev. James M. McCarter, a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church who was stationed at Lebanon. He had been chaplain of the Fourteenth Regiment for three months prior to being discharged. Keller said McCarter and Capt. Eli Daugherty wanted to continue their service to country, and in the fall of 1861, McCarter sought approval from the secretary of war to raise a regiment of infantry.

They held meetings around the county, and within the first week enlisted 500 men, Keller said. By the end of the second week, McCarter had 700 men to form a regiment.

One of the recruits was a 12-year-old boy, who wanted to be a drummer. Keller said they enlisted him but later discovered the boy was really a girl. She was discharged from the service.

Once the regiment formed, it camped at what was then the fairgrounds. The encampment was located in what is today Monument Park on South Eighth Street in Lebanon. The men drilled daily, and often citizens would come out to watch them or bring them food and other items they might need.

Keller said the camp was “quite festive” at times. Most people then believed the war wouldn’t last very long.

“They thought they would go out, fire a few shots, and it would be over,” he said.

On Nov. 20, 1861, the regiment of 1,020 soldiers headed to Washington, D.C., by train. When they arrived at the nation’s capital, the soldiers were put to work setting up fortifications.

Throughout the war, the regiment would see action in key battles, including Gettysburg, Yorktown, Antietam and Appomattox. In fact, there are two monuments at Gettysburg marking the participation of the regiment in battles at Little Roundtop between July 2 and July 4, 1863.

Keller related several stories about the soldiers who served in the regiment. One of the more famous tales is that of Capt. Eli Daugherty. In late May 1862, the 93rd regiment fought at Fair Oaks, Va. Daugherty narrowly escaped death when a bullet pierced his vest pocket, hitting a gold pocket watch and passing through 600 pages of the Bible he was carrying. The bullet wounded him, but the watch and the Bible had taken the brunt of the bullet’s force, saving his life.

The 93rd Regiment served until June 27, 1865. In total, the regiment lost 274 men, and hundreds more were wounded.

The Historical Society at 924 Cumberland St. has a number of items from the Civil War and the 93rd Regiment, including two of the original flags given by G. Dawson Coleman, the key sponsor of the regiment. Among other items are the Bible and pocket watch that saved Daugherty’s life.

The society’s next program will feature a talk on toys, trains and holiday trees at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20. The free program is open to the public.; 272-5611, ext. 151


In Memory: Senator Edward Dickinson Baker (1811-1861)

Edward Baker was born in London, England. his family moved to the United States in 1815, and Baker spent the next ten years of his life in Philadelphia before his family moved to Indiana and then Illinois. While still a teenager, Baker studied law and was admitted to the Illinois bar at the age of nineteen. At twenty-four, Baker moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he became over the next seventeen years a prominent attorney and political figure. During his time in Springfield, Baker became close friends with another rising young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. Abraham and Mary Lincoln named their second son after their close friend Baker.

Senator Edward D. Baker

In his early political life, Baker was a Whig, although he did not always follow the party line. At the age of twenty-six, Baker entered the Illinois legislature and served two terms in the lower house before moving to the state senate in 1840. In 1844 he defeated his good friend Lincoln for the district’s Whig nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives and won the election. While in the House beginning in 1845, Baker broke party ranks by supporting the expansionist policies of President James K. Polk.

At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Baker traveled from Washington to Illinois to raise a regiment. he became colonel of the regiment and took it to serve under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico. Baker returned briefly to Congress at the end of 1846 and, wearing his uniform, urged the Congress to vote more funds for the maintenance of soldiers at the front.

Shortly after the beginning of 1847, Baker resigned his congressional seat and joined Winfield Scott’s Mexico City campaign. From April through September 1847, Baker fought in all the major battles of the war and commanded a brigade at one point.

After the Mexican-American War, Baker returned to Illinois, where he moved to another congressional district and was elected to Congress. In 1851 Baker left Congress and the following year moved to California. Baker’s Whig and then Republican affiliations meant that he would have little political future in heavily Democratic California. He became, however, a popular local attorney in San Francisco and, in spite of his politics, was much in demand as a public speaker.

His political future bleak in California, Baker accepted the invitation of Oregon Republicans to move to that state and run for the U.S. Senate in 1860. Baker did so and won the election. As senator-elect from Oregon and the only Republican senator from the West Coast, Baker made it a personal crusade to encourage those states, particularly California, to stay in the Union. Some people later credited him with saving the heavily Democratic state for the United States.

On his way to Washington after his visit to California, Baker stopped in Springfield to meet with President-elect Lincoln. Over the next several months, Baker made several stirring speeches urging support for the Union. He refused the offer of a brigadier general’s commission because any commission at the general rank would require him to resign his Senate seat. Therefore, when offered the colonelcy of the 71st Pennsylvania (sometimes referred to as the 1st California because of Baker’s ties to the West Coast), he accepted. Throughout the summer of 1861, Baker divided his time between training his regiment and serving in the U.S. Senate.

In August 1861, Baker commanded a brigade along the Potomac, though he remained at the rank of colonel. On 28 September 1861, Baker commanded his brigade at a skirmish near Munson’s Hill, Virginia. A week earlier he had been offered a major general’s commission but was apparently still considering it and had made no reply.

Colonel Edward D. Baker monument at Balls Bluff

On 21 October, Baker’s commander Brigadier General Charles P. Stone ordered Baker to demonstrate against Confederates across the Potomac near Poolesville. At Balls’ Bluff, without careful reconnaissance, baker moved across the river into a trap. He was killed, and most of his command were killed or captured. he had never replied to the offer of a major general’s commission.

The president deeply mourned the loss of his friend, but the most lasting impact of the debacle was the persecution of Charles Stone. Many blamed stone for the popular Baker’s death. That Stone was a Democrat did not help his cause. He was called before the Committee on the Conduct of the War and eventually arrested without charge. He was imprisoned for 189 days and never held an important command for the remainder of the war.

– David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler [Source: Heidler and Heidler, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A political, social and military history. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 161-162.]

Excerpts from Midnight Rising: John Brown and the raid that sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

A new book on the famed abolitionist John Brown will be released next week (Oct. 25). It is written by Tony Horwitz, who previously wrote the best-seller, “Confederates in the Attic.” Bloomberg recently posted five excerpts in advance of this book, which are made available here. We’ll review this book in approximately 2-3 weeks, once the book is released and we read it fully.

From the author’s website,

The author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the Civil War era to tell the gripping drama of a man and a mission that changed the course of history.

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia before the Civil War. Now, Midnight Rising paints Brown’s uprising in vivid color, capturing a nation on the brink of explosive conflict.

Unlike most abolitionists, Brown was prepared to shed blood in the cause of freedom. After fighting against slavery in Bleeding Kansas, he secured money and guns from clandestine backers called the Secret Six, and convened a guerilla band that included three of his sons, his teenaged daughter, a former slave desperate to free his wife from bondage, and a dashing poet who acted as a spy inside Virginia. Then, late one autumn night in 1859, Brown marched from his mountain hideout into Harpers Ferry, seizing the town’s federal armory and vowing to liberate every slave in the South.

The bloody fight at Harpers Ferry prompted a counterattack by U.S. Marines under Robert E. Lee and shocked an already divided nation. While Southerners branded the raid an act of treason and terror, Brown’s bravery and eloquence made him a hero to many Northerners. The crisis also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure the president once labeled “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

In this riveting book, Tony Horwitz probes the troubled soul of Brown, the desperate passion of his followers, and the spirit of a sundered nation. The result is both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a fiery time that still resonates in our own.

“With his customary blend of rich archival research, on-location color, and lyrical prose, Tony Horwitz has delivered a John Brown book for our time. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry Raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown’s tragic place in American history. Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller’s verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was-and still is-so troubling and important to our culture.”  -David Blight, author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

Bloomberg’s excerpts are in five parts, which you can find in the links below:

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 1)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 2)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 3)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 4)

John Brown, the Antislavery Entrepreneur (Part 5)


Douglas Hancock Cooper biography

Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper, CSA (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

Born November 1, 1815, to a Baptist minister and physician, Douglas Hancock Cooper attended the University of Virginia from 1832 to 1834. He returned to Mississippi to marry Martha Collins of Natchez. The Coopers raised seven children on their plantation, Mon Clova. He was elected as State Representative in the Mississippi State Legislature in 1844, where he organized the Mississippi Rifle Regiment. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis. When the War with Mexico began, Cooper was commissioned as a captain under Davis and they became close friends. Cooper was cited for bravery and gallantry in the battle of Monterey.

Through his close connections with Davis, who was appointed Secretary of War in 1852, Cooper secured an appointment as U.S. Agent to the Choctaws in Indian Territory. In 1855 he successfully negotiated a treaty that defined the governing boundaries between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. In 1856 Cooper moved his office to Fort Washita where he organized a militia unit among the Choctaw and Chickasaws. On April 16, 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Colonel William H. Emory removed his U.S. troops to Fort Leavenworth and abandoned Fort Washita to Cooper and his militia. Cooper was commissioned a Colonel of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles CSA.

Cooper’s troops were involved in engagements at Round Mountain on November 19, 1861, Chusto-Talasah on December 9, 1861, and Chustenahlah on December 26, 1861. Due to mounting disagreements among the Confederate command and General Albert Pike, Commander of the Indian Territories, Cooper ordered the arrest of General Pike in November 1862, believing Pike to be “partly deranged and a dangerous person to be at liberty among the Indians.” Cooper was then in position to command all of the Indian and Texas troops in the Indian Territory. Due to Cooper’s problems with alcohol the Confederate Senate passed him over in favor of General William Steele.

Nonetheless Cooper led engagements at Newtonia on September 20 1862 and was made Brigadier General. He then led the engagements at Honey Springs on July 17, 1863, Prairie Springs on July 22, 1863, and Perryville on August 26, 1863. Steele was replaced by General Sam Bell Maxey in January, 1864. In July, 1864, the Confederate War Department issued an order that gave Cooper command of the Indian Territory, replacing Maxey. But General Kirby Smith, a good friend of Maxey, delayed the order being carried out until February 21, 1865. In April, 1865, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations surrendered and signed treaties of peace.

Cooper remained at Fort Washita and, working on behalf of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, sued the U.S. government for failed promises that dated as far back as the Indian removals of the 1830s. Cooper died April 29, 1879, and is buried in an unmarked grave at Fort Washita.

[Source: Historic Sites Highlights #5: Douglas Hancock Cooper – Prepared by the Oklahoma Historical Society December 2005]

Biography of the Day: General William Wing Loring, C.S.A.

General William Wing Loring, C.S.A. (1818-1886)

Born to Reuben Loring and Hannah Kenan Loring in Wilmington, North Carolina, William Wing Loring moved with his family to St. Augustine, Florida, when he was a small child. As a teenager he fought in the Second Seminole War and rose to the rank of second lieutenant. His parents then sent him to the District of Columbia to attend Georgetown College. After leaving that institution, he studied law and was admitted to the Florida bar. He was also interested in the new state of Florida’s political situation and was elected to the state legislature in the early 1840s.

At the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Loring received a captain’s commission and commanded a company of mounted rifles. He was promoted to major shortly before Winfield Scott’s Mexico City campaign. On the march to Mexico City, Loring participated in all of the major engagements. He received two brevet promotions and lost his arm in the battle of Chapultepec. At the end of the war, he remained in te regular army and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1848. With his regiment he made a heroic march from Texas to Oregon and assumed command of the Department of Oregon in 1849. He remained there for two years before being transferred to Texas in 1851. He was promoted to colonel in 1858.

Map of New Mexico Territory

At the end of 1860, Loring assumed command of the Department of New Mexico, headquartered at Santa Fe. During March 1861, after the secession of Texas, he grew increasingly concerned for the security of his department. At the same time, he was wrestling with his own decision about whether to follow Florida out of the Union. He expressed views against the doctrine of secession, but apparently the impending secession of his native state of North Carolina decided him on the issue. He resigned his commission on 13 May 1861 and offered is services to the Confederacy. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate army on 20 May 1861.

In July 1861, Loring was given command of the Army of the Northwest in western Virginia. Throughout the remainder of the summer and fall of 1861, Loring led his men in a futile attempt to prevent Union forces from gaining a foothold in that area. In early August, General Robert E. Lee, who had been sent to western Virginia to advise the commanders there, urged Loring to attack the Federal position at Cheat Mountain. Loring resisted. Finally, because of the discovery of a route that would allow a secret approach overlooking the Federal position, Loring, with Lee present as an advisor, advanced on the position. The attack, planned for 12 September 1861, was never completed because of faulty intelligence.

At the end of the year, his Army of the Northwest was brought under the overall command of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. From the very beginning, Loring chafed under this arrangement, and when the ensuing campaign produced few results and it appeared his disgruntled army would be spending the remainder of the winter in comfortless Romney, Loring and his officers requested that they be removed from Jackson’s command. To Jackson, such action smacked of insubordination and threatened to tear his entire army apart. It was truly a thorny situation for the War Department. In February 1862, Loring was promoted to major general and shortly afterward was summoned east so that a more suitable command could be found for him. Temporarily placed in command of the Confederate defenses at Suffolk, Virginia, on 8 May 1862 Loring was given command of the Department of Southwestern Virginia.

Through the summer of 1862, Loring defended his department against Union invasion from the Kanawha Valley. In August 1862 he defeated a Union Force at Pack’s Ferry on the New River, and in September he launched a short, though relatively successful, invasion into the Kanawha Valley. On 27 November 1862 he was transferred to the command of Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton at Jackson, Mississippi.

General William Wing Loring, C.S.A.

During the next six months Loring commanded a division under Pemberton in defense of Vicksburg. In March 1863, Pemberton sent Loring north of the city to stop the Federal movement against Yazoo Pass. Loring built Fort Pemberton and repelled the Union offensive. In April 1863, Loring used his division to combat Union colonel Benjamin Grierson’s raid into Tennessee, and on 25 April he prevented the town of Enterprise, Mississippi, from falling to Grierson.

By May 1863, relations between Loring and Pemberton were somewhat strained. Loring disagreed with many of Pemberton’s decisions regarding the defense of Vicksburg, and during the battle of Champion’s Hill on 16 May, he failed to carry out Pemberton’s orders to attack the Union left flank. Loring, charged with guarding the subsequent Confederate retreat back to Vicksburg, managed to separate his division from the remainder of the army and was forced to join General Joseph Johnston’s force outside of Jackson, Mississippi. As a result, Loring missed the siege of Vicksburg and the surrender of the remainder of Pemberton’s army.

Loring served under Johnston for the remainder of the summer, fighting at Jackson after the surrender of Vicksburg. For the remainder of the year into early 1864, Loring and his division were headquartered at Canton, Mississippi. In early 1864, serving under Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, Loring commanded his division in the attempt to stop William T. Sherman’s Meridian campaign. Failing to stop Sherman, Loring moved his division to Montevallo, Alabama.

As part of Polk’s Army of Mississippi, Loring moved into north Georgia in May 1864 to join Joseph Johnston’s efforts to stop Sherman’s move toward Atlanta. He commanded his division in the early phases of that campaign, and when Polk was killed on 14 June, Loring assumed command of the Army of Mississippi, effectively a corps in Johnston’s army.

Loring led his corps through the remaining engagements of the campaign and moved north with General John Bell Hood after the fall of Atlanta. He fought under Hood in the disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville. In early 1865 he took what was left of his army to join Joseph Johnston in the attempt to slow Sherman’s march through the Carolinas. In April 1865 he surrendered with Johnston in North Carolina.

After the war, Loring engaged in various business activities in New York City, but, missing the military life, in 1869 he accepted a brigadier general’s commission in the Egyptian army. For ten years he fought with distinction in several Egyptian campaigns. He returned to the United States in 1879. In retirement in New York City, Loring wrote extensively about his varied military career. He died of a heart attack in New York City on 30 December 1886.

– David & Jeanne Heidler

[Souce: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War]

For further reading:

Raab, James. W.W.W.Loring – A Biography (1997).

Wessels, William L. Born to be a Soldier; the Military Career of William Wing Loring of St. Augustine, Florida (1971).

For further reading:

Mary Eugenia Surratt (1823-1865)

Convicted Lincoln assassination conspirator

Mary Surratt

Mary Eugenia Jenkins was born in Maryland in 1823. As an adolescent she attended a Catholic seminary for girls in Virginia, but at sixteen she married John Surratt, at least ten years her senior, and in 1840 settled with him in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In the early years of their marriage the Surratts prospered as a result of John’s success as a planter, which allowed him to expand his land holdings and open a general store and tavern, making up the core of the community that came to be known as Surrattsville (now Clinton). In 1854, a post office was even established in town, with John as its first postmaster. John’s earlier achievements were undermined, however, by his excessive drinking, which led to neglect of his farm and crops and a steady decline in his fortunes. In August 1862, John died. The Surratts’ eldest son Isaac (b. 1841), having taken a job as a pony-express rider in Mexico, left Mary Surratt alone to care for her two younger children, Anna (b. 1843) and John, Jr. (b. 1844).

Surratt struggled to manage what remained of the family’s holdings in Surrattsville, but she found it increasingly difficult, not least of all because John, Jr. showed so little interest in helping on the farm. By fall 1864, Mary Surratt had moved with John, Jr. and Anna to a house on H Street in Washington, D.C., which her husband had purchased in 1853 and which she converted into a boardinghouse. Happily for the Surratts, the boardinghouse did quite well, with a small number of steady boarders and the constant flow of more transient traffic through the federal capital during the war.

As early as 1863, John Surratt, Jr. – a loyal Southerner like his late father – began serving the Confederacy as a courier. In connection with this work, and with his college studies, John brought a number of people home to H Street, some of whom would later become entangled in the assassination conspiracy. In the spring of 1863, John introduced his mother to a school chum named Louis Weichmann, who took up residence in the Surratt boardinghouse in November 1864. By January 1865, John had met and become good friends with the ardent secessionist and actor John Wilkes Booth. Subsequently Booth was a regular visitor to H Street as well. German immigrant and assassination co-conspirator George Atzerodt also stayed at the boardinghouse for a few days in February 1865, until Mary Surratt evicted him for excessive drinking. Posting as a Baptist preacher, Lewis Powell – later found guilty of the 14 April attack on Secretary of State William H. Seward – lodged at the Surratt boardinghouse for three days in March.

Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Maryland (formerly Surrattsville)

It was not long after the shooting at Ford’s Theater that government investigators first descended on the boardinghouse. At approximately 2:30 on the morning of 15 April, several officials arrived and demanded to search the house in connection with the murder of the President. It appears that these men were looking for John, Jr., whom they believed at the time to have been the one to assault Seward. On the evening of the 17th, two detectives and two army officers returned, this time to arrest Mary Surratt and the rest of the people remaining in the house (Weichmann had slipped out on the 15th and was arrested that day; other boarders, disturbed by the crowds gathering around the house, had moved out on the 16th). Of the five who were arrested, all were women, with the exception of Lewis Powell, who arrived in disguise at the last, and for him most inopportune, moment. John Surratt, Jr., was nowhere to be found, and Booth had already escaped across the Potomac.

Mary Surratt and the others were questioned intensively at the headquarters of General Christopher Augur, commander of the Union troops in the capital, and the women were taken to the Old Capitol Prison, where they were incarcerated. Although the other women arrested with her (including Anna Surratt) were subsequently released, Mary Surratt was not. Instead, along with Atzerodt, Powell, and five others (Samuel Arnold, David Herold, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, Michael O’Laughlin, and Edward Spangler) Mary Surratt was charged in the conspiracy to assassinate the president and subjected to a trial by a military commission. The trial began on 11 May and ended on 28 June. All eight were found guilty in varying degrees, and on 5 July, when President Andrew Johnson issued his orders in connection with the commission’s verdict, four were sentenced to hang, Mary Surratt among them. Gallows for Surratt, Herold, Atzerodt, and Powell were swiftly constructed, and on 7 July 1865, despite all expectations that her sentence would be converted, Mary Surratt was executed.

The Assassination Conspirators Hang - from left: Mary E. Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold. Photo by Alexander Gardner.

The legitimacy of a military commission trying a case involving civilians, and the quality of both the investigation and the evidence supplied during the trial (particularly in her case) have continued to be matters of steady debate for well over a century. Doubts about Mary Surratt’s guilt were from the start exacerbated by her own unwavering claims – even to her priest – about her innocence. It does not help the cause of the prosecutors or the commission with its guilty verdict, or President Johnson with his determination to execute Surratt and the others as quickly as possible, that John Surratt, Jr., though finally captured and brought to trial in 1867, walked away free and lived until 1916.

– Elizabeth D. Leonard [Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, pages 1909-1910]

For further reading:

Bryan, George S. The Great American Myth: The True Story of Lincoln’s Murder (1990).

Busch, Francis X. Enemies of the State (1954).

DeWitt, David M. The Judicial Murder of Mary E. Surratt (1895; reprint, 1970).

Eisenschiml, Otto. Why Was Lincoln Murdered? (1937).

Moore, Guy W. The Case of Mrs. Surratt: Her Controversial Trial and Execution (1954).

Trindal, Mary E., and Elizabeth S. Mary Surratt: An American Tragedy (1996).

Turner, Thomas Reed. Beware the People Weeping: Public Opinion and the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1982).

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