Welcome to my blog about the 65th NY Volunteers, also known as the 1st U.S. Chasseurs. I am launching this blog to go along with my recently published “No Flinching From Fire: The 65th New York Volunteers in the Civil War,” the first history of the regiment, which fought with both the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah during the Civil War. The book is available at Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/No-Flinching-Fire-Volunteer-Infantry/dp/1794636617/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2ZO38WKY1263H&keywords=no+flinching+from+fire+book&qid=1572563625&sprefix=no+flinching+%2Caps%2C375&sr=8-2
It made sense for me to go to Gettysburg first. Having secured an opportunity to return to Tiffin, Ohio, the place where Company K of the 65th NY Volunteers was largely raised, and where several of the men of the regiment are buried, a way to break up the drive out to Ohio was needed. This time I was honored to do a talk about my book, No Flinching From Fire: The 65th NY Volunteers in the Civil War, at the Seneca County Museum, whose director, Theresa Sullivan, was doing yeoman work in restoring a place which had declined in previous years. Theresa had found Chasseur graves for me, even charting them on a cemetery map she sent to me, and she greeted me with her father at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Tiffin when I traveled there last year. Having purchased two copies of the book last year, she graciously invited me to return, this time to talk about the book for an audience at the museum. It was an offer I happily accepted, eager to get back to doing book talks after the long Pandemic layoff.
But driving to Tiffin, as I had learned last summer, is a long trip. So I broke up the trip even more than last year, staying one day in Gettysburg, a place I generally visit annually with my AP US History class but had missed for a Pandemic-induced two year hiatus. My plan was to stay right in town at the Brickhouse B & B, centrally located but also a short jog from East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. For the day’s visit I chose to tour parts of the battlefield which are not on the class tour I have done for nineteen years. So, a stop at the observation tower at Oak Ridge, a trip out to Barlow’s Knoll, a key spot from the first day of the battle but a place I had never visited, and a pause on East Cemetery Hill near the statue of 12th Corps commander David Slocum were in order for the day. A stop at the impressive New York state monument to its generals not honored elsewhere on the field was new for me. This is a place on Cemetery Ridge I had driven by countless times on the bus without noting its significance. I looked for and found the names of Generals Alexander Shaler and Joseph Hamblin, the Chasseurs’ brigade and regimental commanders, respectively. An evening walk behind Cemetery Ridge revealed a fantastic view of the monument to General Winfield Scott Hancock, a hero of the battle, along with the iconic gatehouse to the cemetery.
Of course a visit to the 65th NY regimental monument on Culp’s Hill, where my great-great grandfather Corporal Timothy Carroll had fought, was also in order. But this time I took the time to walk along the Union line to the right flank of the Chasseurs’ monument, and to admire the monuments to some of the other regiments on General Alexander Shaler’s 6th Corp brigade.
As I hoped on this trip to locate and honor with flags the graves of nineteen members of the 65th NY Volunteers, along with the grave of General Henry Terry, their division commander from the fall of 1863 until the Spring of 1864, I decided of course to pay a visit to another part of the Gettysburg battlefield which I normally visit with my classes, the national cemetery. Two Chasseurs are buried there, each already honored with flags as I visited on July 5th.
On the trip’s second day I began with a morning run up Culp’s Hill from my B & B in Gettysburg, the Brickhouse. Situated right in the middle of town, and yet only a minute’s jog to the battlefield on a quiet back road which headed up East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, the Brickhouse Inn was a perfect place for me. The fact that they served a slice of shoo fly pie AFTER the apple pancakes and bacon only added to its allure. It was a good thing I ran up Culp’s Hill past the 65th NY monument before breakfast!
Then it was time to get off to my night’s destination, a lovely AirBnB stay in Somerset, Ohio, where I had stayed on the last night in Ohio of last year’s trip there in search of Chasseur graves. The trip went smoothly, and I arrived in time to relax a bit, walk out to dinner at the Clay Haus, where I had eaten last year, and enjoy a nice repast of saurbraten.
Day Three of this trip would take me to the Tiffin environs. A chance to revisit the nice AirBnB log ranch north of Upper Sandusky where I had stayed last year, was a treat, and the fact that the Seneca County museum comped my two day stay was also appreciated. And staying in one place for two nights was also welcome after the long drive from Mamaroneck, NY to Upper Sandusky was completed. My plan was to rest up there the night before my book talk. But my daughter had found two new graves of Chasseurs since last year’s trip out which were on the way, one just down the road from the beautiful AirBnB house in Somerset where I stayed, in Lancaster, Ohio. The fact that this was also the site of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s childhood home made a stop in Lancaster doubly welcome. The home had been closed to tours last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, so I welcomed this second chance to get there.
I found Sergeant Standish O’Grady’s grave within ten minutes upon arrival at the Forest Rose Cemetery in Lancaster. Already bedecked with a flag, I added mine to thank O’Grady for his service. Then it was on to Sherman’s home. Probably my favorite item in the house was the set of chairs from Ulysses S. Grant’s home which was featured in the home, but the house as a whole was well worth the one hour tour. Then it was back on the road, with a stop in Kenton, Ohio’s Grove Cemetery, where the cemetery map made it very easy to find Private Elhanan Conant’s grave site.
Finally it was time to finish the day’s drive and make it to my unique AirBnB stay on the Hereford ranch north of Upper Sandusky. Some rainstorms made for a tricky drive on rural roads on the way to the ranch, but I soon recognized the entrance, pulled in, and I was glad to be back, and at the end of the day’s drive.
The next day, day #4 of the trip, was book talk day, and the lack of internet access at the ranch meant I traveled into the Seneca County museum to get some work done after finding two of the three Chasseur graves I was seeking; the third, Private Charles Lambertson in Tiffin’s Greenlawn Cemetery, proved elusive. Private James Shetenhelm’s grave in Green Springs I found quickly, with the aid of the grave location in Green Springs Cemeery, if not a photograph on Findagrave.com. I did also revisit two graves in Tiffin’s Egbert cemetery. Private Charley Crockett’s grave was a meaningful one for me. Killed at The Wilderness, his letters from early in the war were among my first sources as I began work on the book over ten years ago. Crockett’s grave was well bedecked with flags, so I spared him another, having left one there last summer, but Private Jackson Michael’s grave, which I had happened upon last summer when I stopped to look for Crockett’s grave, was without any flag so I left one there for him, even though it was my second visit and I had left a flag there last year which had since been removed. Lt. Colonel Leroy Crockett’s grave, in the beautiful little Lowell School Cemetery outside of Tiffin, was an easy find as I knew the cemetery from last year’s trip. Crockett, whose letters home were a nice source for me for 1861’s events, transferred to the 72nd Ohio and was promoted to Major and eventually Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. He died of disease outside Vickburg in 1863.
The book talk went well; the audience of about 30 people were warm and welcoming, and I managed to sign and sell several books as well. After a dinner out in Tiffin with the Seneca County Museum director Theresa Sullivan and her husband, I headed back to the ranch in Upper Sandusky for the night.
The fifth day of the trip started with a stop in Findlay, Ohio, to find the grave of Musician Jacob Gassman. He served two and a half years before mustering out in September 1864. Though the Maple Grove Cemetery was huge, I was armed with the plot of the grave, and a friendly and helpful worker there steered me towards the correct area. After walking a bit I found it, and planted the flag. Then it was on to Winameg, in rural Ohio west of Toledo. With my phone GPS not picking up a signal, I was glad I had written down directions. I still had to stop at a garage sale, where I bought a children’s book about Gettysburg for 25 cents in payment to the girl who gave me directions to the cemetery. Those directions were not quite right though, so it took another stop at a house where a husband and wife out in their yard working steered me to the beautiful little Aetna Cemetery in Winameg. “Oh is that what it is called?,” smiled the man as he gave me excellent direction with his wife’s help. I found Hummel quickly, placed a flag, and moved on back to Federal Route 20 west, heading towards Indiana.
A turn northward brought me, finally, into Michigan. The small roadside South Allen Cemetery in Allen, Michigan was where I found, with the help of my daughter Rachel who I reached by phone, the grave of Private Edgar Sparks, who served three years in the war. Rachel also helped me by phone as my service was limited in Kalamazoo. Looking at the picture on Findagrave.com of Private George Way’s stone, and searching for hints in the photograph’s background, Rachel helped me as I walked through the huge Riverside Cemetery after parking the car in an older section of the cemetery. With no grave site listed, I had to use Rachel’s keen eye for background detail, along with my own sense of where the early 20th century era graves were located. It was with great pleasure that I found the grave, a satisfaction which Rachel and I understand, especially when locating a veteran of the 65th NY in a very large cemetery with not much to go on as to its location.
With plenty of time left to try and locate Homer Stryker Field, where the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team played in a college summer league, and where I had arranged to meet my old friend and college roommate Paul to watch a game, I left Riverside Cemetery and headed to the ballpark. Paul and I enjoyed the game from behind the plate in the grandstand, along with a buffet of hamburgers, hot dogs, and delicious local micro-brews. The quality of the pitching in the game we saw was just horrendous, but it is always nice to see a minor league ball game. After the game we headed up to Paul’s house outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I would stay two nights.
Day Six of the trip included a search, which Paul graciously agreed to not only join but drive us on, for four more Chasseurs buried in the area. We headed out first to Monterey Center, to the small and beautiful Poplar Hill Cemetery. Paul knew the area well, as it was on one of his cycling routes. He was impressed with how quickly we found Private Zopher Cornell’s grave site. Cornell, originally of the 67th NY, transferred into the 65th Ny with the rest of his regiment on September 1, 1864, and served out the war with the 65th. Then it was off to Orangeville, where we found Private Jason Collison of Company I in the Oakhill Cemetery. Again, it was a short search aided by a Findagrave.com photograph. Collison joined the war late in Auburn, NY in March 1865, and served a few months until the end of the war. Grand Rapids is where the Oakhill Cemetery is located, another Michigan cemetery named for the trees adorning the cemetery hill. I had a good picture of Lewis G. Dudley’s grave, and after a bit of driving around the large cemetery, I found Dudley’s grave, honored it with a flag, and had Paul take a picture of me there.
We were a relatively easy three for three today, in term of successful searches, and as we headed to Muskegon for our last grave of the day we were confident. Oakwood (again, the trees!) Cemetery was very large, however, and though the map in the cemetery had an explanation of how to translate the three numbers used to describe each grave site location, it took Paul, a math professor, to finally locate the area of Private Newell Brow’s grave after a long fruitless search around the entire cemetery by both of us. Ironically I had likely walked right by his grave over an hour earlier. But we finally found him, left a flag, and left Paul a bit more impressed with the potential for difficulty in this activity. Still, we had found our four graves for the day, and now we were off for Indian food at a Grand Rapids microbrewery. No complaints.
The trip’s Day #7, which began my drive eastward towards home, was the day of the Michigan mosquitoes. A rainy day had seemingly brought them out in force, and every single grave stop would include a battle with the pests as I walked around trying to locate the Chasseur grave sites. The day would start with me going in the wrong direction after mishearing Paul’s quite adequate directions, but once I got my bearings I was off to Lake Odessa, Michigan, for the first of five graves slated for the day’s search. Though I had two fine photographs of Hummel’s distinctive grave, and the Lakeside Cemetery was not that big, the mosquitoes swarmed around me a I left my car, a few forcing their way into it as I quickly retreated back to the car to try to find the grave by driving. With no luck in this endeavor, I realized Hummel was likely one of the stones in the back of the cemetery, where I would have to walk to find him. Meaning no disrespect, I grabbed a flag and proceeded to run along the back row of graves, where, indeed Private Hummel lay. Saying a quick thank you for his service and planting my flag in front of the stone, I swatted mosquitoes as I jogged back to the car, closed the door behind me, and killed the second mosquito today which had entered that sanctum.
After a very quick stop for lunch, I was off to Bath, near Lansing, Michigan, to visit a grave which had special meaning for me. Sergeant William Sleight, buried at the aptly and correctly named Pleasant Hill Cemetery, had written a brief memoir of his time in the war which was one of the best sources I used. His account of his serious wounding at 2nd Fredericksburg is gripping, and though he had recovered and then received a commission as an officer in an African American regiment, his time spent in the 65th NY, recorded in the memoir I had read and used in my book, gave me a special connection to him. Pleasant Hill’s older section was small, and the mosquitoes were not quite as bad, and I found Sleight’s small stone fairly quickly. Thanking him for his service and his memoir, planting a flag by his stone, I next headed South for Mason, where the grave of Private Frank Anson awaited me. Though Anson had only served from late March 1865 until war’s end in July 1865, I had at least an excellent photograph with some key landmarks in the background. I spotted his Maple Grove Cemetery grave fairly easily after a drive around the main road of the cemetery, but once again, upon exiting the car to plant my flag at his grave, the mosquitoes were menacing and plentiful. Needless to say, my stop before Anson’s grave was brief, but his grave now has two flags honoring it, not just the one that was there.
The next leg of the drive took me to the Detroit environs. Though Brigadier General Henry Terry was never a part of the 65th NY regiment, he did command their division during the underrated Battle of Rappahannock Station in November of 1863, and also commanded the division in the winter and early spring of 1864, when the Chasseurs’ division was sent to Johnson’s Island off Sandusky, Ohio, to guard a prison for Confederate officers. So, knowing I would not necessarily be in the Detroit area anytime soon, I made a point of visiting the Clinton Grove Cemetery to the northwest of Detroit. Again, my phone signal failed me so I could not look up the photograph of General Terry’s grave, but another call to Rachel helped to guide me, and also made me feel as if she was sharing in this search like she has done so many times before. Her directions from looking at the photograph’s background helped bring me to Terry’s grave within minutes. I left the car to plant the flag; again, mosquitoes swarmed. I was expecting this by now, but I did not linger too long, especially since it had already been a long day, I had one more grave to find today, and I had my AirBnB reserved in Toledo, Ohio for the night, so I had to get that far.
I had worried in planning the trip that this long day would be punctuated by bad traffic in the Detroit area; I was pleasantly surprised to find the traffic moved well as I drove through the fringes of the city towards Belleville. The latter was a small place; the grave of Maynard Babcock was in the most isolated area of the day, down a dirt road. Luckily my GPS actually worked here, and late in the day I pulled up to the Martinsville Cemetery, where Babcock, a late enlistee in the regiment, lay. Though the gate looked closed, a friendly woman across the road told me when I got out of the car and looked at it that it was open. It needed only a lifting of the gate bolt to get into the small cemetery; moments later the inevitable mosquitoes appeared. Again, I had a good photograph whose chain link fence in the background I now saw. Grabbing a flag, and jogging along the inside of the fence perimeter, I found Babcock’s grave in an overgrown corner, planted the flag, and retreated from the mosquito onslaught as quickly as I could. Happy to be back in the car, happier to have found all five graves I sought for today, I drove back up the dirt road, and, led by the working GPS, made my way towards Toledo as the rain picked up again.
Day #8 of the trip was a straight shot towards home. I had booked another AirBnB in Clarion, Pennsylvania, merely to break up the trip, but the initial plan at least did not have me searching for any graves or historic sites. It was time to go home. However, Theresa Sullivan, the Seneca County Museum Director, had already made the effort to find the grave of Private Charles Lambertson in Tiffin’s Greenlawn Cemetery, after I told her my own search for him the day of my book talk had been fruitless. She sent me a picture, along with a description of where his grave was located, and since Tiffin was on the way back from Toledo, with less than an hour expended to get out there and then back on track towards home, I took the exit south at Fremont from the interstate and took the by now familiar route 53 south back to Tiffin. Arriving at the Greenlawn Cemetery, my fourth time there in the last year or so, I parked my car, and headed up the hill near the back gate, where Theresa had told me that she found the grave and planted a flag there. After about a ten minute search, there was Lambertson’s grave, which was badly covered with lichens such that it was hard to make out his name, and it was a small nondescript gray stone as well. But there was Theresa’s flag. I planted my own, making this small gray stone as decorated as it had likely been in many years, thanked Private Lambertson for his service, and headed back to the car, happy that I had made it back to Greenlawn Cemetery one more time, as it had been the place where I had started this crazy idea of visiting the Ohio soldiers of the 65th NY, and it had led to this great connection to Tiffin and its lovely Seneca County Museum.
Now it was the long drive home in earnest. I had picked out an AirBnB in Clarion, Pennsylvania jut to break up the trip home, and it worked out well. The place was a nice room in a house with its own separate entrance, and it was walking distance into town. The latter fact was my favorite feature, given how much time I had been spending in the car all week. Clarion was a nice college town, featuring a most impressive courthouse and an imposing civil war monument directly across the street from it. I had a delicious steak dinner with a nice pilsner beer at the Clarion River Brewing Company. It was the best meal of the whole trip. I walked home and got to bed to rest up for the last leg of the trip. The drive home from Clarion to Mamaroneck was happily uneventful and with light traffic.
And at the end of the trip, I had visited a total of 159 graves of members of the regiment. Rachel has found over 300 graves around the country, so the quest will continue. With a few new ones discovered in Arlington National Cemetery of late, as well as in the Baltimore National Cemetery, it seems clear a trip back to Maryland and D.C. awaits. I hope this time Rachel will join me again. And seventeen Rhode Island graves which she found also need honoring with flags. It is a kooky activity, I readily admit, but placing flags at the graves of men who fought alongside my great-great grandfather Lt. Timothy Carroll helps connect with me to the regiment. And since some of their letters helped me in writing No Flinching From Fire, like those of Private Lafayette Burns and Sergeant William Sleight, I can make a connection to the physical presence of these men who went through so much. So I will keep doing these trips.
They had a few things in common. Though they ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s, the men from the Sodus area who enlisted in the 65th NY Volunteer regiment, joining Companies I or K, all joined in Auburn in mid-March 1865. Hence, they all served at the very end of the war. Whether they made it for the April 2nd, 1865 Breakthrough at Petersburg, or only for the regiment’s last battle, at Saylers Creek on April 6th, 1865, none of the men served in the regiment for more than four months. So they shared a short service together. Whether they were induced to enlist by a local or state bounty, or both, needs to be researched. However, what is clear from visiting their grave sites in Wayne and Cayuga Counties is that the men took pride in their service with the 65th. Many of their gravestones reference the 65th NY Volunteers.
In a four day period of early April 2020, my daughter Rachel and I managed to visit sixteen cemeteries in the beautiful area around Sodus, locating eighteen members of the regiment. Rachel’s research cross referencing the regimental roster with Findagrave.com, had located these soldiers. Having now taken several previous trips together in search of 65th NY soldier graves, Rachel and I have gotten very good at not only locating on line the sites of the men’s graves, but also at finding the graves themselves once inside the cemeteries. Though in this case we couldn’t find two of the men we looked for, to find eighteen of them and place flags at the grave to honor them, was fulfilling. Moreover, we enjoyed the beauty and history of these rural cemeteries, as well as driving through this scenic county filled with apple orchards and scenic views of Lake Ontario. The deep blue color of the lake, even when a stiff Canadian wind blew up huge whitecaps and made wearing several layers a requirement for our work, was breathtaking for one like me who had rarely seen it.
Day one of our journey north featured snow squalls on the highway from Cortland to Syracuse, and we visited the two cemeteries in Wollcott, New York while it snowed sideways amidst a stiff wind. We managed to find four of the five graves we sought, with Private George Johnson remaining elusive, even though we found a number of Johnson graves in the Glenside cemetery. Disturbingly, we also found many stones had been tipped over, vandalized in the previous summer by unknown persons, who damaged 65 graves, including the grave of one 65th NY veteran, Private William Brockway.
Day two of the trip started out encouragingly clear and blue, though still cold and windy. This was our busy day, with nine graves on our list, in eight cemeteries. Though all were in Wayne County and not so far from each other, we had a lot of driving to do along the lovely rural roads. All but one cemetery were small, and though a couple of the graves had no pictures on Findagrave.com, we wanted to try to find them given that the searches in these relatively small cemeteries might bear fruit even without a photo. And the peaceful, tranquil beauty of these places made it worth the trip even if we didn’t find our soldiers.
Day three of this trip was easier, and we took our time getting going, Rachel sleeping in and me reading the biography of William Seward I was working on. With only four graveyards to visit today, three of whose graves had photos on Findagrave, we had perhaps half the work to do as we did yesterday. All of today’s graves were east of Sodus Bay, and knowing that Chimney Bluffs State Park was nearby and featured scenic lake views, we put that on our day’s itinerary as well. Our first grave of the day, Private Jabez Carter, had no picture, but Rachel has figured out that sometimes one can find a photograph of a spouse or other relative, and sure enough in this case his wife Elizabeth Carter’s grave had a picture. Moreover, the Livingston Cemetery was tiny, located in one of the most rural settings of all we visited on this trip, and even if our search for Jabez’ grave proved fruitless, it needn’t take long. After a few minutes we found Elizabeth Carter’s stone, and happily as we rubbed off lichens from the stone we found Jabez’ name on it as well. A good start to our day. And the other three graves, located at three other nearby cemeteries, were each easily found. Most of the Wayne County veterans’ graves feature Grand Army of the Republic flag holders. These distinctive metal GAR stars help one to navigate through a cemetery and home in on veteran graves as one searches. They also are ready-made to hold the flags we brought to honor the members of the 65th NY regiment.
As it was nearing the end of the day, and we had been busy this afternoon and were a bit tired from our hike, we decided to head back to our cottage in Sodus Bay and get dinner rather than visit our last grave, at Palmyra Cemetery, today. We made plans to visit Private Loami Ford’s grave on our way home the next day. The Palmyra Cemetery was by far the biggest of all those we visited on this trip, but happily the picture of Ford’s grave on Findagrave.com had a reddish fence and a gray building in the background which we hoped would help us find it. Wanting to take one more drive along the shore of Lake Ontario amidst the seemingly endless orchards, and feeling emboldened by our luck in finding graves with no photos to help us, I decided we would visit Pultneyville on our way out, and visit the large Lakeview Cemetery to try and locate Private John DuBurck’s grave before we went to Palmyra. The day was warmer and sunny, and indeed the view of the lake from the cemetery was stunning. Seeing that much of the cemetery featured recent graves, we homed in on the center sections, where the old graves were, and Rachel and I fanned out in opposite directions. After perhaps twenty minutes of wandering, seeing that many of the graves had been worn down to the point that any names on these stones were illegible or gone, I was ready to leave and head to Palmyra and then home. Rachel approached as I neared the last row of graves I hadn’t seen yet, and as Rachel joined me, she saw the next grave was Private DuBurk’s! It was one of the most satisfying finds of the trip, and a beautiful stone to boot, with a GAR flagholder ready to do its job. Abutting an apple orchard, and overlooking the lake, DuBurck’s grave was in a lovely place. A short drive south featured a stop at a farm stand with incredible tomatoes and strawberries for sale on the honor system, where one just leaves payment in a slot at the stand. Upon finding and entering the Palmyra Cemetery, we saw the red fence and gray building immediately, which was a good thing as the cemetery was vast, and finding Loami Ford’s small stone with no location could have been a significant challenge.
One last impulsive stop in Palmyra at the Moroni Monument, a gold statue on a high hill denoting the contact supposedly made between Moroni, a messenger from God, and a young Joseph Smith which began the founding of Mormonism, and we were on our long drive home. It was a fulfilling trip, and we enjoyed the lovely small town of Sodus Bay as well. And by honoring eighteen more 65th NY soldiers we were continuing the attachment we had made to the regiment, which started many years ago when I began my research which culminated in the regimental history I finally wrote, No Flinching From Fire: The 65th New York Volunteers in the Civil War. Having visited the bloody places where they fought in the Civil War, our current trips to visit and honor the men’s grave sites continue to bring satisfaction and connection to me. And I hope all these trips will be lifetime memories for Rachel, even if unusual ones.
I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season, even if the Pandemic has put a damper on travels and family visits. With some time off from work this week, I have been tweaking a chapter of what I have been calling “Book #2.” The working title is “Following the Chasseurs: My Life with the 65th NY Volunteers.” Part of the need for tweaking is that a nice gentleman who is completing a book on The Battle of Fair Oaks shared some of his work with me, as well as a letter from 65th Captain William Halsted, of Company D, about his experience of the fighting. The letter, part of the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection, is currently for sale by Heritage Auctions for $1500. It also contains a hand drawn map of Fair Oaks. Though the price is far too rich for me, the letter has been partly transcribed, and it is an excellent source on the battle and especially the role of Company D of the 1st U.S. Chasseurs. Part of my first chapter concerns the trip I took up the Peninsula in 2012, in researching for “No Flinching From Fire,” and a visit to the Fair Oaks and Seven Pines area, now mostly lost to development. Adding in some excerpts from the letter will definitely enliven the description of the battle. So I am working on that project this week. Here is a brief excerpt, along with a map of Fair Oaks which Confederate General Gustavus Smith drew after the war, and a photo I took of Capt. Halsted’s grave a few weeks ago. Thanks to Vic Vignola for alerting me to both the map and the letter.
“On our march a musket ball knocked a small splinter against my nose. Soon after a shell burst a few feet over my head on a tree & showered leaves & wood over me & my Co… Our Regt. was immediately ordered into line on the edge of a wood. We had just taken our position when a terrific fire was opened upon us. Someone knocked me head foremost in the mud to my elbows. We loaded & laid low… I lost in killed & wounded more than 1/5 of my Co. Our Regt. lost in killed & wounded 32 [31 in fact, 9 killed and 22 wounded]. My men have covered themselves with glory. Not a man flinched in the field…. We held our post for nearly two hours under a terrific fire. Not a cartridge was wasted. We went to work with 60 cartridges & my Co. averaged 40 left at night. They picked their men… One of my boys took the colors from the woods last night. It is white with blue stripes across with stars in them. The S. C. Hampton Legion fought us… Not one of our officers are hurt. Capt. Higgenbotham’s Co. and mine took the worst of the fight. Lt. Ellis was hit in the breast by a spent ball, but not hurt. Lt. Cozzens had the ring of his watch shot away & a five cent piece doubled up in his pocket. Too much praise cannot be given our boys. They did admirably.”
I particularly like Halsted’s reference to Capt. Higgenbotham, who would later command the regiment and be killed leading it at the Battle of Cedar Creek on Oct. 19, 1864, as well as the claim that “not a man flinched in the field,” which of course reminds me of the title of my history of the regiment, “No Flinching From Fire.”
With the work on my regimental history of the 65th New York volunteers completed, but for fixing some typos and updating a few small things for a 2nd edition of No Flinching From Fire, it seems clear that a continuing connection to the men of the 65th NY is going to be my lot. At least until I start the research for the General John Cochrane biography in earnest (I think not until my retirement starts), it seems that searching out the resting places of the 1st U.S. Chasseurs will be a continuing quest. I do feel strongly that placing flags in honor of these veterans of the worst conflagration in American History, our own Civil War, is a cause worth pursuing. But I also admit the detective work in finding their graves, both in researching online and in driving to and tramping through many beautiful and sometimes largely forgotten cemeteries, is fun for me. And having written a book about their exploits and travails, I feel a connection to them. Most especially, the fact that my daughter Rachel seems, at least for now, to take as much pleasure in this research and in the travels to find these men’s resting places as I do, makes me think we will keep it up.
The trip we took on a Sunday afternoon to Rockland County, just across the Hudson River from us in Westchester, was another surprisingly fruitful one. Rachel’s own research with the 65th NY regimental roster and on Findagrave.com has located over 120 Chasseur graves around the country to this point, and two epic trips to upstate New York in recent months have allowed us to visit many of them. Whether we get to see the several graves in Michigan is open to question. But Rockland County is local for us, and the fact that Private Edward Weiant’s grave at Mount Repose cemetery in Haverstraw is right next to Saint Peter’s cemetery, where my grandfather Captain Michael Barry is buried along with my grandmother Loretta Barry, made a trip there even more desirable. Rachel had never visited the graves of her great-grandparents, and I had not been there since childhood.
We had a photo of Private Weiant’s grave in Mount Repose cemetery for a Findagrave volunteer. But no gravesite was noted, and it was clear from my perusal of Google maps that the cemetery was vast. I thought this grave would certainly take time to find. However, there were hints in the graves and marks in the background of the photo. We drove and walked for about ten to fifteen minutes around Mount Repose. Leave it to Rachel to find the large and notable obelisk with the unique shape at its top which was in the Findagrave photo background. And what I thought was a drainage ditch in the photo may well have been the roadbed of the very cemetery path we were on. We figured we had located the correct general area; after that it was a mere minute or two before we had Private Weiant’s grave located. Weiant served from January to August 1863, and thus likely fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, two of the battles where the 65th were at key spots and took casualties.
After our surprisingly easy locating of Private Weiant, we headed north for a few minutes to Stony Point. Scene of a successful Revolutionary War battle against the British; it was the gravesite of 65th New York soldier Corporal Leonard Brooks we were after. Brooks, who had enlisted in July 1861, when the Chasseurs were first organized, served until November 1862, when he died in a hospital in Washington, D.C. Buried in the beautiful Mount Rest church cemetery, surrounded by woods and steep hills, his resting place was a scenic one. We parked next to the First United Methodist Church, abutting the cemetery, and, using our Findagrave photograph, managed to locate Brooks’ gravesite in a minute or two. Having forgotten my phone in the car, I walked back up the hill to grab it so I could get a photo. As I got back to the car, Rachel called me and gestured in a by now familiar wave down to where she was. In Arlington National Cemetery, upon discovering Division commander General Frank Wheaton’s grave, she had waved me over in the same way. I knew it was a good thing. Sure enough, she had discovered the grave of Private James Leet, who had served three years with the Chasseurs from August 1861 to September 1864. This was an unforeseen bonus of the trip.
We had found our two Chasseur graves, along with my grandfather Michael Barry’s, and here was an unforeseen bonus. And it was a beautiful, sunny, cool early fall day. The Mount Rest cemetery crawled up the hillside into the woods, with some few graves actually now within the woods along the cemetery’s fringe. With several more Civil War veterans’ graves visible around the cemetery, marked by Grand Army of the Republic flagholders holding American flags, and with the afternoon still young despite us already finding all the gravesites we had come for plus one, Rachel and I decided to walk around the lovely cemetery to see what else we would find. After finding several civil war veterans’ graves, and walking up to the edges of the cemetery where it abutted the woods, Rachel and I made our way back down on our way back to the car. With experience we knew that any veterans’ graves marked with flags were worth checking out. Heading down the hill and almost done, having scouted out graves of veterans of the 95th New York, the 6th Artillery, and a few other New York regiments, Rachel spied another decorated small grave near the woods.
Sure enough, Rachel had found another Chasseur grave! A veteran of the entire service of the Chasseurs, and a musician to boot, Albert Rose achieved “Principal Musician” and veteran status by the time he mustered out. Between our last trip upstate and this brief trip to Rockland County, Rachel was en fuego. I was so glad we decided to do this trip, and that we both sought to walk the rest of the lovely Mount Rest cemetery, as finding not two but four Chasseur graves on this beautiful fall afternoon made the trip well worth it. I am very happy Rachel came along with me again; she has a gift. And she had given me yet another one too.
My daughter Rachel is something. She spent 4 days traveling with me over the Memorial Day weekend this year, while socially distancing, to find the gravesites of 65th NY soldiers who are listed on a database made by the NY State Military History Museum as being buried across the state. Finding the graves, we would plant a flag there to honor them. It was a long trip with a lot of driving, taking us from Bath to Redfield, NY, with a lot of places in between.
Upon returning home, Rachel devoted herself to doing her own research to find more graves, Knowing that Findagrave.com has a huge database of gravesites all over the world, most of them with photographs, and having already spent time combing through the regimental roster as part of her research in support of my first book, Rachel decided to cross reference 65th NY soldiers with Findagrave, developing systems to narrow down the search so that she was able to make a definite match between a Findagrave post and a 65th NY soldier’s resting place. To date, she has found over 120 graves. My encouragement of paying her for her work has incentivized it, but she truly enjoys the search, and is so smart that she has become highly successful at it.
As a result, we now have a list of 20 or so soldiers buried in NY state. A few are local for us, so a visit to the beautiful Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, for example, is easily made. But enough are upstate that we made plans at the end of this weird summer of 2020 to follow where her research led and repeat the process of a trip to visit the gravesites again, plant flags, take photographs, and honor the courage and sacrifice of these men who helped save their country. It was up to me to look though the spreadsheet she had created and figure out an itinerary for another trip. With time constraints, we had three nights. So some graves would have to be saved for future trips. However, with a big circle around the Southern Tier, Western New York, and the western Finger Lakes region, we had the means to visit over a dozen graves, or so I thought.
I enjoy the preparation process for our trips, both finding AIrBnB places to stay, and charting the routes between cemeteries. Having done it back in May, I knew that many of upstate New York’s rural roads are quite scenic, but that after days of driving and searching, one does get tired. So, I went into the planning for this second trip with two assumptions: 1. After a longish drive to get up there, we would try to limit how many hours we would be on the road for the middle of the trip, to make each day a little less exhausting and leave us something left for a long drive home with a few stops on the fourth day. 2. We would only visit gravesites which had photos on Findagrave.com. It is so much easier to look for graves, especially when we do not have a plot site, when one has a photograph as a reference while one is scouring the cemeteries for the Chasseur’s burial site. The Memorial Day weekend we found six graves over our first two days, but on day three we only found one of two graves we searched for, and even that second grave was so worn down that we only found it because we had a plot listed for it. And we searched the first one for over an hour before giving up and realizing that 65th NY soldier John Beine’s stone had either been buried or destroyed. The drive to find the second grave was a long one, and a frustrating search at the wrong cemetery before figuring that out and finding the worn out grave of William H. Corey at the second graveyard near the end of a long day was trying. We would try to make an easier trip this time, with shorter drives to cemeteries with graves which Findagrave.com volunteers had already photographed.
For our first day’s goal, we would drive back to the Bath National Cemetery, sight of a Soldier’s Home and a current Veteran’s Administration hospital. We had made that our first stop back in May, when we found two graves of Chasseurs there who were on the NY State Military History Museum list. This time, we were seeking the graves of three or perhaps four Chasseurs buried there who Rachel had found in her research. We knew the drive, knew how beautiful the cemetery was, and knew that it was a great cemetery in that not only were the sections and rows of graves well marked and organized, but that most of the stones there had the soldier’s unit on the gravestone. It was special to find a grave which said 65th New York right on the stone, as this removed any doubt that this man was a member of the regiment which I had studied so long and wrote about in No Flinching From Fire.
The drive up to Bath was uneventful but for a little spotty rain, and this had cleared up by the time we revisited the cemetery, driving through the now familiar campus of the Bath Soldiers’ Home. It had become a sunny and warm day with big cumulus clouds occasionally covering the sun and giving us some relief as we searched for the graves. We managed to find the four graves we came to see with little difficulty, and determined that one of the soldiers may or may not have served with the 65th NY; as there remained doubt, we chose to not decorate that grave.
The author’s daughter Rachel, searching for Chasseur graves with flags ready to plant there (photo by author)
Pvt. Andrew Rising enlisted in March 1865 at Lockport to serve one year, and thus likely saw action in the Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns before war’s end. He deserted in July 1865, only days before the regiment was mustered out of service. (photo by author)
Cpl. Leon Doerr joined the regiment at the end of March 1865 and mustered out in July 1865 (photo by author)
Pvt. Michael Manahan mustered in as a 1st class musician in January 1862, and mustered out with the rest of the band in March 1862 (photo by author)
Having found the graves we had come to see, Rachel, who enjoys searching in the graveyards for Chasseur graves as much as she enjoys finding them through her online research, proposed that we search the cemetery for other Chasseur graves by sweeping through the rows of civil war graves looking for any stones which denoted the 65th or 67th NY, the latter regiment having consolidated into the 65th on September 1, 1864. We still had some time left in the afternoon before we needed to head to our first night’s AirBnB stay in Alfred, New York. So, I agreed to walk under the strong sun and scan the rows, despite the large numbers of graves we walked through. Within minutes, we found more 65th New York graves, until by the end of the day we had found no less than thirteen of them. It was clear, knowing our plans for the next three days, that we would need more flags! We left Bath with a tremendous sense of accomplishment, having found eleven Chasseur graves there in addition to the two graves which we revisited and honored with new flags, the flags we had left in May having been removed. It was an auspicious start to the trip.
Pvt. Thomas Teer transferred into the 65th Ny on Spet. 1, 1864 and served out the war with the Chasseurs (photo by author)
Pvt. Theron Lapham enlisted in Yonkers and served the entire war (photo by author)
Private Phillips served three years in the regiment (photo by author)
The grave of Private Charles Kiessell (photo by author)
Pvt. Richard M. Franklin transferred into the 65th NY from the 67th NY on Sept. 1, 1864 and served out the war (photo by author)
Pvt. John Baker enlisted in February 1864 and was wounded at Spotsylvania on May 15, 1864 (photo by author)
Private James Kelly was a transfer from the 67th who was wounded in action at 3rd Winchester of September 19, 1864 (photo by author)
Pvt. James Callahan served the entire war (photo by author)
Sgt. Hugh McClusky transferred in with the 67th NY and served out the war with the Chasseurs (photo by author)
Rachel and I knew that we had less driving to do today since we had made it upstate, but with six stops before we arrived at the end of the day in Newfane, New York, northeast of Buffalo. I knew Newfane as the home of a strong high school cross country program whose boys had finished one point behind the team I coach in Irvington in the fall of 2018 at the New York state championship meet. We planned on getting chicken wings for dinner since we were close to Buffalo, the birthplace of “Buffalo” chicken wings. But we had work to do first. We headed west from Alfred to our first stop in the Southern Tier of New York, the Fairlawn Cemetery in Scio. We looked at the photograph we saw, figured out together where the blue house in the background was, and found Private Edward Canfield’s grave quickly. Canfield was a transfer from the 67th NY who died of disease on February 3, 1865, at the Haddington U.S. General Hospital in Philadelphia. As it says on his gravestone, he was “a brave soldier and true patriot.”
Edward Canfield (photo by Rachel Barry)
The drive west and north to Sugartown took us over a mountain in the Allegheny Range once we got off of Interstate 86 and ended at a cemetery that had no parking or auto access on a busy rural road, but we got over the mountain road then parked roadside with the hazard lights on as I hoped it would not take too long to find Private Clark Bowen’s grave in the small cemetery. His grave was near the road, and we did not linger long as we placed the flag and took a picture and moved on to a safer place to leave the car.
Private Bowen enlisted in March 1865 into Company K (photo by author)
We safely got on the road, hoping to avoid precarious parking spots and steep mountain roads on our way to the East Otto Cemetery to find Private Abraham Woodruff’s grave. Woodruff was a late-war transfer from the 121st New York Volunteers who only served a few weeks in the 65th. The East Otto cemetery was not on Google Maps, but over time I have figured out that small rural towns often have their cemeteries on a hill, so we moved uphill through town and, sure enough, found the cemetery on the right of the road. We found Woodruff’s grave quickly, left a flag and took our picture. Then, it was back on the road. The three little rural cemeteries were lovely, but not too hard to search and find and honor our Chasseur veterans. Now we were on to Buffalo’s huge Forest Lawn Cemetery to find Private Abram Verplank’s gravesite.
Pvt. Abraham Woodruff (photo by author)
Rachel is a great partner on these road trips, not only working the navigation, but humoring me as I continually guess how many minutes we have, according to Google maps, until we arrive at our next destination. Getting into Buffalo went smoothly, and as we drove around the perimeter of the Forest Lawn Cemetery searching for the main gate we could see its vastness. Comprising 269 acres, it is a beautiful nineteenth century cemetery of the rural cemetery era, with huge trees and a lovely landscape. We had the section of Abram Verplank’s gravesite on Findagrave.com, but we definitely were happy to get a map from the friendly gatekeeper when we asked him where Section K was in the cemetery. A small section on a little hill, Section K was not too hard to search, but the worn down and nondescript status of Verplank’s gravestone made it just a little tricky. Rachel found the grave, as she has spotted most of the graves on this trip so far, and we planted our flag and took the picture. With some time remaining in the afternoon and only two more stops left before we finished our planned itinerary, Rachel looked over the cemetery website to see if the cemetery contained any graves of people we felt it important to visit, and we found two.
1st Lt. Abram Verplank served two years with the regiment. (photo by author)
President Millard Fillore’s grave was in the next section, so close we need not get in the car despite how big the cemetery is. As we had visited his home in May during our first trip upstate, I thought it was appropriate to visit him in his last resting place as well. Fillmore’s grave was simple and well maintained, the American flag there helping us to spot it quickly. Protected by an iron fence, the gravesite revealed the importance of its occupant, even though no one would pick Fillmore as a particularly important President, and his political career was marred by his 1856 Presidential run for the nativist American Party.
President Millard Fillmore’s grave, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York (photo by author)
Before leaving, there was a grave in the cemetery’s Birchwood mausoleum, which Rachel knew was a must-visit. Representative Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American Congresswoman and a 1972 candidate for President, rests there. We stopped by and took a picture of the site before heading out. Chisholm was an inspiration for American women, black and white, and for any Americans who look for social and political progress.
The grave of the Honorable Shirley Chisholm (photo by author)
Since we were nearby anyway, in plotting the itinerary for this trip, Rachel and I had agreed a trip to Niagara Falls was in order. So we were headed there next. Driving along the Niagara River north and over the two very steep bridges which linked Grand Island to the mainland was scenic, and I was excited that Rachel would be seeing the Falls for the first time. We were turned away at the full lot in the park but easily found parking a few blocks away. Walking past some of the beautiful but now boarded up art deco buildings like the Niagara Hotel, one could see that the city was struggling, but on this nice summer day there was a decent crowd eating outdoors at restaurants despite the Pandemic. The walk along the section of the river called “Hell’s Half-Acre” was awesome, and reaching the edge, and the Falls themselves, was still impactful even for one who had been there years before. Nature’s power is of course readily evident in Niagara Falls, and I was glad we got a glimpse of Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side as well, even though a crossing into Canada was not possible under current circumstances.
Rachel at Niagara Falls (photo by author)
After a walk back to the car it was on to our last cemetery of the day, in Lockport, New York. We were tempted by the smells from the Indian food stand as we walked to the car, but we had decided last night that since we were in the Buffalo area we would be having chicken wings for dinner, and we stuck to our guns. The drive out of the city of Niagara Falls took us through an old industrial area, but gradually the development gave way to another nice rural road. Lockport itself, centered on the Erie Canal, was a surprisingly vibrant and nice town with a great old housing stock which was well maintained. The Cold Springs Cemetery in Lockport was large, but we had a section number and a photo and we managed after about five to seven minutes to find the last Chasseur grave of the day, that of Private Oliver Stafford. Stafford was another late-war recruit, signing up in February 1865 and mustering out in July 1865.
Private Oliver Stafford’s grave on a sunny summer day (photo by author)
After a long but highly successful day, it was a short drive due north to Newfane, where our AirBnB apartment awaited. Newfane was a smaller place than Lockport, but our place was located right in the middle of town, and we managed to find a nearby restaurant from which we could order out buffalo wings, which were delicious. I walked a few blocks to pick them up, having had enough car time for the day and wanting to stretch my legs. We enjoyed a simple dinner in our cosy and very clean apartment, delighted at how smoothly our day had gone. We had found another five Chasseur graves today, making the two-day total eighteen. And we had also seen graves of a President and a towering figure of the late 20th century in Representative Shirley Chisholm. And Niagara Falls was an awesome place and I hoped a lifetime memory for Rachel. I was tired, but highly satisfied. Tomorrow would bring another drive, this time to Lake Ontario, then eastward and southward into the Finger Lakes country, where we would be staying in a room on a farm.
A quick drive north from Newfane the next morning took us to Lake Ontario, an impressive sight. We drove along the lake for a time, then we lost sight of the lake. When we pulled onto the firm grass next to the tiny Sawyer Cemetery just outside Somerset, New York, surrounded by fields of corn, we were perhaps cocky to think how easy it would be to find Private Johnson Aldrich’s grave. We had a photograph of the grave from Findagrave.com, and the cemetery was easily the smallest we had been in. It was another lovely day. But something was not right. We could not find the grave, even despite the clear picture. It simply was not there. We scoured the little cemetery, going over it twice. We both looked into the nearby rows of corn, wondering if the fields had been allowed to grow over a part of the cemetery. We looked under the two or three evergreen trees in the cemetery in case one had grown over the grave since the Findagrave.com photograph had been taken. I had to convince Rachel that there was clearly a mistake and we had to give up looking. Perhaps after our two days of smooth sailing we were due for a challenge. Findagrave.com was not always perfect; mistakes do occur. We got back in the car and headed into Somerset. A few miles up the road, the Somerset Cemetery beckoned. I wondered if in fact Private Aldrich’s grave could be there, so we pulled in. It was a larger cemetery than the Sawyer Cemetery, but not large. As we drove around the loop within the cemetery, Rachel spotted it. Aldrich had enlisted in early March 1865, and served through the end of the war. We were pleased that our streak continued, and that we had figured out the puzzle ourselves. I made sure later that day after we arrived at our third AirBnB to update the Findagrave site for Aldrich to help others who may follow.
Rachel at the graveside of Private Johnson Aldrich, in Somerset, New York (photo by author)
Millville, New York was our next destination. The Millville Cemetery was one of those small church cemeteries on a rural road which is beautiful, peaceful, and quiet. We found Private William Hunt’s grave from the car, walked to it and took our photo after planting our flag. We had brought up twenty-one flags, and we were now down to our last one. We were so pleased with our success in this venture to this point!
Private Hunt joined the 65th NY in February 1865 and served until the end of the war. (photo by author)
A quick stop in Batavia netted us ten new flags at the Home Depot. Made in America, they were right near the entrance and of course Rachel spotted them immediately. We were now well supplied for the remainder of the trip, and it was off to the Batavia Cemetery. Private Damon Yates had only transferred into the 65th NY from the 121st New York in late June 1865, just before war’s end, but he did have the 65th NY appellation on his gravestone, small as it was. Rachel was in favor of finding the grave physically, having found it on line. I was skeptical when we drove into the rather large Batavia Cemetery, especially given the small, humble, and commonly designed stone at Yates’ grave. But leave it to Rachel, she found him within five minutes while I was taking a phone call from an old friend.
The humble grave of Private Damon Yates (photo by author)
The drive out of Batavia was easy; our next stop was the lovely little village of East Bloomfield. We drove through Avon on the way–we had stopped to honor two graves there on our Memorial Day weekend trip a few months before. Upon arrival, the East Bloomfield Cemetery was larger than one might expect for a small town. We drove the now familiar inverted U-shaped roadway which went through the cemetery, searching for the simple but classic grey square stone which marked the grave of Private Asahel Totman. I was pleased to spot it myself, right next to the roadway. Though not a competition, Rachel had found each of the graves thus far today, and I wanted to make sure I could pull my weight. Besides, Totman had easily my favorite name of any of the Chasseurs of the trip.
Private Totman enlisted in September, 1864 and served until the end of the war. (photo by author)
East Bloomfield’s village green was right near the cemetery, and its Civil War memorial was most impressive. We took a photo before leaving town, with me wondering how often people of the village paused and considered how lucky they were to have such a spectacular memorial in the center of their village to their veterans of the Civil War. Marked with the names of battles in which the local men had fought, along with their names and units, it was a fitting tribute to their sacrifice.
The impressive Civil War Memorial in East Bloomfield, New York (photo by author)
From East Bloomfield, we were off to Naples. Now entering the Finger Lakes region, we were now starting towards home. But more gravesites beckoned first, and we knew we could make it to two more sites before arriving at our farm in Bradford if we were willing to push it a bit. Given that we still had plenty of light, and that the several stops today had broken up the driving, and knowing that tomorrow was a long trip home with a few key stops and taking on one more grave today would make tomorrow’s driving a little shorter, we embraced the idea of making two more stops today before calling it a day.
The drive to Naples was gorgeous. The rolling hills of the Finger Lake country, with wineries noted on signs along the way, is yet another scenic part of New York state. If these trips upstate have taught us anything, it is that we are lucky to live in a truly beautiful state. Arriving in the surprisingly large Rose Ridge cemetery, armed with no grave site and a closeup picture that did not help us to identify the stone very much, Rachel and I knew that this was our most challenging grave to find of the day. And the fact that it was late afternoon and the biting bugs were out did not make it any easier. We did a thorough search of the cemetery, separating so we could cover more ground. Of course, Rachel found the grave.
Though Lt. Edwin Yaw transferred into the 65th NY from the 67th NY on Sept. 1, 1864, he was already a prisoner of war, having been captured on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness, and remained so until March of 1865, when he was paroled and then discharged. So he was technically a member of the 65th, but he likely never served with the regiment. This did not make the bug bites feel any better, but we knew we were being thorough at least and were not (knowingly, at least) leaving any Chassseurs behind. We took our photographs and headed back to the car. It was getting late, but we figured we could squeeze in one more grave before the end of the day. We were ambitious on this trip. If we found and honored a sixth grave today, that would make 24 graves in three days, an impressive feat.
The author at the grave of Lt. Edwin Yaw in Naples (photo by Rachel Barry)
The Dundee cemetery was on the way to our AirBnB stay on a farm overlooking Lake Ladoga in Bradford. So I messaged our host that we would be arriving late, around 7 PM, and we headed through upstate New York wine country to Dundee. After a drive of almost an hour, which included a stop at a Mennonite farm stand with an abundant array of delicious fruits and vegetables where I am sure we were the customers of the day after we bought enough to resupply our family upon our return home. We searched the surprisingly large Dundee Cemetery and Rachel found our last gravesite of the day in only ten minutes or so. Sgt. Benjamin Slack transferred into the 65th with the rest of the 67th NY on Sept. 1, 1864, and served until war’s end. His small gravestone was much like many in the cemetery, so I was impressed with how easily Rachel found it. We are both getting good at this.
Sgt. Benjamin Slack’s grave needs some restoration (photo by author)
While the room at the “quaint farm” advertised on AirBnB turned out to be a room in a mobile home, the farm itself was in a beautiful location overlooking Lamoka Lake. Raising sheep, ducks, turkeys, cattle, and pigs while holding two full-time jobs, Anastasia and her husband impressed me with how hard it is to make ends meet in parts of our country these days. That said, while she worked as an operator at a nearby Salt Mine on the overnight shift, Anastasia said she slept five hours a night and took a short nap most days and that was all she needed, and that she and her husband were glad not to be dairy farmers, as they had more income options selling meat than they would on a dairy farm, were less regulated than dairy farmers, and they were less tied to the farm. When I asked her what the farm raised, and she said they had just acquired a few piglets to go with the other animals, she described them as “bacon bits.” No romance there. I had a scenic run in the morning before breakfast, and enjoyed the coffee she made for me and the scrambled duck eggs with salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning. Rachel and I had never eaten duck eggs; they have more protein than chicken eggs, Anastasia told me. They were good.
It was a three hour drive to our first gravesite on our way home on this fourth and final day of our trip. With a total of about seven hours to drive this day, we had a shorter list of graves to visit than the other days. However, we also had the key visit of the day, and maybe of the trip—a farm in Fort Plain, next door to the Palatine Church, a lovely limestone structure built by German Palatines in 1770. The farm happened to be the birthplace of General John Cochrane, the first commander of the 65th New York Volunteers. One day I hope to write his biography. The Cochran farm was built by John Cochrane’s grandfather, who was a doctor in the Continental Army. Somewhere along the line the “e” was added to the family name. The website I found indicated that the Cochran farm currently produced goat cheese, but it had not been updated since 2015, and I had no responses to my two queries on the site. So our plan was to simply drive onto the farm and ask permission to take some pictures of the farmhouse. I thought we might buy some goat cheese and put it on ice for the trip home to smooth over things. With a Chasseur lieutenant buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, where Cochrane himself is buried, along with President Chester Arthur, I thought we might stop there since it was on our way home, if we were not totally burned out by then.
A three hour drive north and east began with a scenic route along Keuka Lake north. After a stop for gas in Penn Yan and some more driving, we were back on the New York State Thruway, heading east. Dolgeville was our first stop. The town was a little worn, but the cemetery was lovely. Rachel found the grave within a minute or so of us parking on the roadway within the cemetery.
John Carnwright enlisted for three years in New York city, was promoted to sergeant, June 1, 1863; the same day as the author’s great great grandfather Timothy Carroll was promoted to corporal; he re-enlisted as a veteran, December 26, 1863, with Cpl. Carroll. He was wounded in action on October 19, 1864, at Cedar Creek, Va. and he mustered out with his company on July 17, 1865. (photo by author)
St. Johnsville is very close to Dolgeville, so it was a short drive to the Prospect View Cemetery. Located adjacent to a local school, the medium-sized cemetery was where Private Jerome Countryman is buried. Countryman served a year until discharged for illness and died shortly thereafter. His gravestone is the most interesting of all we saw during this trip, but it took a while to find. As usual, Rachel reasoned it out by looking not only at the picture of his grave on Findagrave.com, but looking at his parents’ grave picture and then studying the background. This did the trick, and Rachel located a grave I had walked by earlier as Countryman’s.
Pvt. Jerome Countryman (photo by author)
The next trip, of less than ten minutes, was the first stop not related to a gravesite that we had visited since Niagara Falls. For me it was the key site of the trip. It was the Cochran Farm in Fort Plain, New York, neighborning the 1770 Palatine Church. Site of General John Cochrane’s birth, it was a treat to visit, especially thinking about the planned biography of him I hope to write some day. Knowing from a study of google maps and an article from the 1920s by the local historical society which I found online, I knew the land was basically adjacent to the site of the Palatine Church. This historic, lovely, and unique limestone structure was worth a visit as well.
The church was, to my surprise, open to visitors, so after taking a few pictures Rachel and I went in and enjoyed the artifacts on display there, as well as a recording of the history of the church which was automatically playing. The church had been spared being burned down during a Revolutionary War British raid due to the loyalist status of the landowner and parish member who had donated the land for it. Donating 50 cents myself for a postcard for my classroom, we headed out to the Cochran farm just down the road.
Palatine Church (photo by author)
Cochran Farm (photo by author)
I was excited to be going to see Cochrane’s birthplace, and I was confident that, having tried twice to reach the farm through its website, that I could explain my research trip to the owners and be able to take a few pictures.
We pulled up the driveway, past a house on the left, then up to the main house, Though a cat watched us from the driveway, and cars were parked there, when we rang the bell there was no answer. So, I took a few pictures of the site, pleased that I had found it online and physically, and Rachel and I got back in the car and headed out, having not met anyone at the Cochran Farm. The farm was founded by Gen. John Cochrane’s grandfather, who had been a respected physician in General George Washington’s Continental Army, and the house is still impressive.
Though it had been a lot of driving, and this was our fourth day of the trip, both Rachel and I were up for just one more stop, at the Albany Rural Cemetery, in Menands just north of the city, where Lieutenant Warren Hedden is buried, as well as General Cochrane. I had visited the cemetery twice to find Cochrane’s grave, as well as visit President Chester Arthur’s. It was not adding too much to the trip, maybe 30-40 minutes, to make the trip. With the start of work looming tomorrow, I was stretching the summer as long as I could.
Lieutenant Hedden’s grave was in a small section near the entrance to the large cemetery, and armed with a paper map which I picked up outside the cemetery office, I was sure given our prowess and experience we would find it quickly. It didn’t work out that way. Since Section Four was a narrow strip near the entrance, and we had a photo of the grave, it seemed to us given our experience the last three days, we would have a simple and quick time of it. As it turned out the hilly and grassy area was trickier than the map showed in terms of walking, with steep sides and high grass throughout. Having walked with Rachel across the entire section, we walked back through our steps and still found no sign of the grave. Several stones were similar to Lieutenant Hedden’s stone. We checked the entire section and looked closely at all such graves, but came up empty. We were baffled, but as Rachel walked the top end of the section, I walked back down along its edge, on the road, trying to figure out what we missed. There it was, just below the edge of the small plateau on top of the hill, isolated along the road on the steep hillside. I was glad to do my part to locate a grave, with Rachel searching the other end of the short section. We planted our flag and took pictures. Hedden entered the regiment a private in June 1861 at the very beginning; he left in September 1864 a First Lieutenant.
Lt. Warren Hedden’s gravesite in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands (photo by author)
The author at Lt. Hedden’s gravesite (photo by Rachel Barry)
Only one stop remained. I could not miss paying a visit and honoring General Cochrane’s grave, and not only did we have the gravesite location on Findagrave.com, but I had found it twice already most recently last year on the way to a family stay at the Bunker Hill Inn in Salem, New York, a favorite B & B which we have frequented over many summers. That was a rainy day, unlike today, and Rachel took a picture of General Chester Arthur’s gravesite. I had the map and a strong memory of last year’s visit, so we made it to the roadway down which General Cochrane lay. The gate was closed, however, but it was a short walk to the grave site to leave a flag and consider how much we had accomplished in four short days. Though three graves on this trip were re-visits, like the one we were making to Cochrane’s grave, we had managed to find and honor the graves of 28 members of the regiment. Plus, we had seen graves of two Presidents and one Congresswoman, with a peak on the way out today at President Chester Arthur’s grave.
General John Cochrane (photo by author)
The grave of President Chester Arthur (photo by Rachel Barry)
As we left the cemetery, and drove along the Hudson River on I-787 south towards home, we passed nearby the impressive New York State Capital building. As always, I was reflective in this spot, thinking about the trip I had taken years ago to the New York State Archives in the early stages of my 65th New York research. I looked then at commissary records and a speech of General Cochrane. I also thought about my one year residency in Albany back in 1992-1993. It was long ago, and where I proposed to my wife, and much had happened since. We drove south onto the Thruway, and I told Rachel we would be home by 9 PM. I suggested we needed some celebratory music on the way home given how well the trip had gone. She suggested Badfinger’s Greatest Hits. End of story. Power pop perfection. We had another smooth trip home. It had been a more productive and fun trip than I had even hoped.
Recently I found among my pile of papers a short narrative from the Longwood High School website with some letter excerpts from a 65th NY soldier which evidently I printed off the internet in 2002 and then forgot about for eighteen years. The narrative came from a collection of brief vignettes on local veterans apparently written by Middle Island, New York’s Longwood High School students in the late 20th century or early 21st century. The letter excerpts in the piece related a wonderful anecdote which involved President Lincoln. In letters to his sisters, Alexander Monsell, who mustered into the regiment on August 24, 1861, told of having “… to briton my butons and plate for to drill everything has to be clean here…” Monsell also wrote about a review of the troops at Camp Middleton by President Lincoln. According to his sister Jerusha, who related the story to local historian Thomas Bayles, Lincoln shook hands with all the troops. “When Lincoln came to Alexander, who was 6 feet 3 inches tall, he asked him how tall he was. When Alexander replied, President Lincoln said that was his own height and that he always liked a tall boy.” In another letter to his sister, Alexander expressed how the Chasseurs felt in the fall of 1861 about the war. “We are all waiting for to fight. I suppose that you might think that strange, but that is what we are all wishing for.” Unfortunately Alexander never got the chance to fight, as he died at Camp Cochran hospital on December 7, 1861. Finding his grave in the lovely Yaphank Cemetery in August 2020, with the help of the information on Findagrave.com, my daughter Rachel and I placed a flag there in his honor, then took a few photos.
My daughter Rachel has been using the regimental roster and Findagrave.com to locate almost 100 more 65th NY soldier graves around the country. While it will necessitate another trip north to the Western part of New York state to visit up to 20 graves she has located, today I traveled to nearby New Rochelle, NY to find Sgt. Warren Dodge’s grave. Then, to Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx to find Private Elijah Phillips. Though I didn’t have a photo of Dodge’s gravesite, I did have a location on Findagrave, and the map at the entrance to the Beechwoods cemetery told me where Section 8 was. It didn’t take long to find him, and happily the recent damage from Tropical Storm Isaias, which included a large tree branch down over nearby graves, has spared Dodge’s stone. Sgt. Dodge transferred into Co. D of the 65th with the rest of the 67th NY on Sept. 1, 1864, and he served with the Chasseurs until his discharge on June 23, 1865. I laid a flag at his grave, adding to the one already there, and then headed back to the car on a very hot afternoon.
I posted 2 photos of Dodge’s grave for his Findagrave.com page, then drove another 15 minutes or so down to the Bronx to the beautiful Woodlawn Cemetery to find Elijah Phillips’ grave. Marked by a GAR flagholder which is gorgeous in its own right, I found Phillips’ grave in the Fern section of the cemetery, near the lake. Though I walked almost the whole section before I found him, I had parked my car perhaps 100 feet from his grave site so might have done better to look along the roadway first. 🙂 Private Phillips enlisted in January 1864 and served until he was discharged in July 1865.
Though compared to my recent trips to multiple graveyards in Ohio and in upstate New York, this trip today was easy, it was no less rewarding to get a chance to honor two more members of the 65th New York Volunteer infantry. The fact that they are close to my home, if recently discovered, makes me all the more glad to visit and honor them for their contributions to saving their country during the Civil War.
Going to Ohio
Some of the very first letters from 65th NY soldiers which I found, back in 2009, were at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Charley Crockett wrote to Nellie about the early months of training, while flirting with her about the kiss she had promised him upon his return. Sadly, he was mortally wounded at the Battle of The Wilderness on May 6, 1864. LeRoy Crockett, a First Lieutenant in Company K, described the Chasseurs’ first battle experience, a small skirmish at Lewinsville in September 1861. I discovered another treasure trove of letters on line which were indexed by the Ohio Historical Society. Through interlibrary loan and searches through microfilmed newspapers, I found over thirty letters printed in local newspapers like the Tiffin Weekly Tribune and the Seneca Advertiser. A now-defunct website dedicated to the 6th Corps breakthrough at Petersburg included a number of letters of Company K Captain Sam Kisinger transcribed and scanned. Company K of the 65th NY was raised in Tiffin, Ohio, and the fact that these letters were so accessible to me was an early key to getting the amount of primary source information I needed to write the regimental history I envisioned, No Flinching From Fire.
The first captain of Company K, whose letters I used in my book, Thomas Higginbotham, had risen to command of the regiment and had been killed while leading it at Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864. He is buried in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. When I first discovered his gravesite I was surprised that as a lieutenant colonel his body had not been returned to Tiffin, nearby his home. As I finished the book-writing process, and visited all the battlefields and some of the camp sites of the Chasseurs, I began to get more interested in connecting with the soldiers of the regiment through visits to graves in Green-wood, Arlington National Cemetery, Winchester National Cemetery, and elsewhere. Over time, it occurred to me that Tiffin, Ohio was a likely place to find more Chasseur graves. I also had developed a curiosity about the town from reading so many letters from the “Tiffin boys.” Further, Ohio was home to other sites connected with Civil War figures worth visiting. Generals Grant, Sherman, and Custer all hailed from Ohio. So did General James McPherson. And though the COVID-19 Pandemic crimped some of my original plans (a visit to Grant’s birthplace near Cincinnati, for example, was nixed after it became clear that my plan to include a New York Mets game versus the Reds was out, and that Cincinnati had become a hotspot for the Coronavirus), I knew from experience that socially distancing was eminently possible when visiting old cemeteries.
So, I charted a trip to Ohio. It was a long drive, but there was a statue of General George Armstrong Custer in his birthplace of New Rumley, Ohio. It was barely over the eastern border of the state, so within a day’s drive. And nearby Cadiz offered an old inn called the Lincoln Inn, so there was another Civil War connection. President-elect Lincoln had stopped in Cadiz on his way to his inauguration. The next day’s drive from Cadiz to Tiffin would be under three hours, leaving plenty of time for cemetery-sleuthing there. And the AirBnB small cattle ranch north of Upper Sandusky would be a nice peaceful and safe place to stay, and close to Tiffin. Two days there would afford me plenty of time to visit the three cemeteries I knew I would be visiting to look for Tiffin-area Chasseurs, and the other cemeteries which I might discover in the area. Captain Sam Kisinger’s grave is in Toledo’s historic Woodlawn cemetery, and as his many letters home were a key source of my first book I wanted to see Kisinger, so a stay in Toledo looked likely. When my college roommate Paul Fishback offered to meet me there from his place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that sealed the deal for Toledo. An AirBnB tiny house on Lake Erie could be a perfect place for our mini-reunion.
Then the journey towards home would begin. But with President Rutherford B. Hayes’ home in Fremont opened for limited tours during the Pandemic, and less than an hour away from Toledo, that seemed like a stop worth making. I do like to visit U.S. President’s houses when possible, and Hayes had also been a highly regarded general in the Civil War. Heading southeast to get closer to home I could stay in Somerset at a lovely old house right down the block from the statue of General Philip Sheridan, and near the house which Sheridan helped build for his parents in 1859. And rather than drive home nine hours from there, I could swing a little southward and stay a night in Hancock, Maryland, a place to which the Chasseurs had been sent on a march after the Antietam battle in late October, 1862, guarding against a rebel move which never came. There did not appear to be much there to see at this point, but it was on the C & O Canal, and it was one of the few spots where the Chasseurs had stayed which I had yet to visit. Plus it was four and a half hours from Somerset, and about five hours from home, so a great way to break up the long drive. After booking my stay in the cheap but clean and safe Hancock Motel, I had my trip itinerary complete.
In mid-July I was ready to roll. I got on the road by 7 AM and, crossing the grand George Washington Bridge, was in New Jersey before 8 AM. Crossing New Jersey and Pennsylvania was a long but happily uneventful day’s drive, and I crossed the little sliver of West Virginia and arrived in Ohio before 2:30 PM. My check-in time wasn’t until 3:30 PM, so while I was anxious to get out of the car and do no more driving for the day, it made sense to go see the statue of George Armstrong Custer at his birthplace of New Rumley, Ohio before checking in and resting at the Lincoln Inn in Cadiz.
I had brought my old Rand-McNally map, about which I have gotten grief from my more modern friends, but in fact it would turn out that I would lose phone service repeatedly on my trip through the rural sections of Ohio, so having the map as a backup for my GPS was a good idea. The GPS worked here, though, and it directed me northward towards New Rumley. When it turned me right on Country Road, I knew I was getting close. Unpaved, but well maintained, with good weather, it did not conjure thoughts of my ill-fated drive into a flash flood north of the Rapidan River near The Wilderness. At its end, however, the gravel road finished up a steep short hill which connected to New Rumley Road, the paved road I should have taken in the first place. Unfortunately my front wheel drive stick shift car spun its wheels in the gravel and couldn’t move up onto the pavement on the steep hill where I had to stop at the intersection. I did manage to calmly back it down to flatter ground, start up again, and basically drive right onto New Rumley Road blindly, without stopping. Not to worry; it saw little traffic. A left turn brought me to the impressive statue of Custer in the middle of the not-so-impressive hamlet of New Rumley. The statue supposedly stands at the site of Custer’s birthplace, and knowing what I know of Custer’s ambition I could see why he had left the place. It was a beautiful country of rolling hills, but it did not appear to be a place of much action. I was alone. Custer, much remembered for his last action at Little Bighorn where he was overwhelmed by his Lakota and Cheyenne opponents, actually is also remembered as an outstanding cavalry general of the Civil War. So as I read the signage, the inscription of the statue and surveyed the landscape as well as the sculptor’s vision of Custer, I felt that it was a decent place to begin my Civil War-themed Ohio trip, especially since I was definitely ready to rest and ditch the car for awhile.
The statue of General Geroge Armstrong Custer in New Rumley, Ohio (photo by author)
About a twenty-five minute drive, this time on paved roads the whole way, brought me to Cadiz, where I found the Lincoln Inn and saw I would have a whole floor to myself, with a king-sized bed, and adjoining living room and kitchen. The place was very clean and was a gorgeous old brick building with floor to ceiling windows. Though someone had needlessly added a hideous addition on the front of the house with a three car garage, fake brick exterior, and more living space, the original structure was impressive. And for $69 a night, I could not complain given the accommodations I had.
When I walked into town to order my Chinese food, I found a wine-tasting room in an old building with a wonderful metal ceiling which had been revealed when the new owners removed the lower false ceiling which had been installed below the original. The wines I tasted were all flavored with sweet fruit juice. The owners acquire the grape juice from all over to attain different flavors. I bought a pinot noir with a hint of blackberry, as it was the driest of the ones I tasted. The building had been a grocery before being vacant for a long time; the Ohio Valley winery owners had restored the building nicely–the revelation of the original ceiling alone is a laudable result. And I have a soft spot for local business people trying to restore life in the small downtowns of America, which once were the center of things, but now were often marginalized by the big box stores outside town.
And China King in Cadiz, Ohio, is decent Chinese takeout: the curry chicken dinner I had was solid, for a very reasonable price. My dinner at my own kitchen table was fine.
Co-owner Jamie Miller at the Ohio Valley Winery tasting room, with a part of the original ceiling behind the clock (photo by author)
A short morning run revealed that eastern Ohio was much hillier than I had figured. But I slogged through the run, along local streets, finding a small cemetery with Revolutionary War veterans on the top of a hill, and then checked out and was on my way. Ohio flattened as I headed northwestward. The drive northwest on Federal route 250 Uhrichsville to New Philadelphia featured a wholly unexpected and delightful development. This area was Amish country, and I saw more Amish or Mennonite carriages out for rides, or parked in rows, along with folks on bicycles along the side of the road. I also saw small piles of horse manure along both sides on the shoulders of the road, an indicator that the carriage traffic to which I was a witness on this Saturday morning was a common enough occurrence.
An under-three hour drive through pretty farm country brought me to the most important part of this trip to Ohio: the historic Greenlawn Cemetery in Tiffin, Ohio, where I knew that at least five Chasseurs were buried, the locations of which I had marked on a map made for me by a gracious and generous Theresa Sullivan, a member of the board of directors of the cemetery. On the way I stopped at the tiny Rock Creek Cemetery south of town, finding no Chasseur graves but finding a turkey feather. This was a warm-up for the searches to come.
Entering the Greenlawn Cemetery represented a success in itself, as I had come a long way with no significant issues to get here. Armed with Ms. Sullivan’s hand-made map and photos, I found the four graves she had indicated on the map, placing the small American-made American flags at the grave sites, but I was not able to find the one she had also not found. Often gravestones are buried or worn down to the point of being unrecognizable, so I was prepared to put a small flag down in the assumed vicinity of Private John Arnold if necessary. The cemetery itself had been the victim of a 2017 tornado, and the signs remained of the storm, most notably some trees which had been sheared in half, and one prominent grave of a judge with a stone pillar which had been blown out of alignment.
The first grave I found might just be a memorial to Charles McAlister, on his family stone, as a September 25, 1862 letter to his parents from Lieutenant Henry Ellis, which was published in the Tiffin Weekly Tribune on October 10, 1862, reported that McAlister had last been seen on an ambulance ill with fever during the Seven Days battles, and it was feared that he was left behind during a retreat in a hospital at Savage Station, to die under the control of the rebels. William Sneath’s grave was easy to find, as Ms. Sullivan’s photos of the area around it, along with the map she created, made looking for it and locating it relatively simple. And William H. Kisinger’s grave was one I had looked forward to finding, as even though I did not have letters like I did from his relative Sam, I had just recently acquired his signed application to join the Grand Army of the Republic after the war, so there was that connection. Unfortunately Private Joseph Baugher’s grave had a lot of moss growing on it, and it was worn down and thus hard to read his name, though one can discern it, as well as his unit, if one looks closely.
The memorial to Private Charles McAlister in Tiffin’s Greenlawn Cemetery (photo by author)
Private Charles Sneath was reported missing in the fighting of the first ten days of the Overland Campaign in May of 1864 (photo by author)
Sergeant William H. Kisinger served for three years, mustering out of the regiment in September, 1864 (photo by author)
Private Charles Baugher, Greenlawn Cemetery, Tiffin, Ohio (photo by author)
Ms. Sullivan and her father met me at the cemetery shortly after I arrived, and we shared stories about the place and about the research I had done on the Tiffin boys for the first book. Ms. Sullivan had already pledged to buy two copies of No Flinching From Fire, to my appreciation, and knew I would be around during the day. After we chatted for a while, and I signed the two books for her and her father, I told her I would go to the northern part of the cemetery, where she had indicated on the map she made for me that “In this area there are a number of C.W. graves.” They graciously joined me in the search, and I saw several civil war graves with soldiers from Ohio regiments. One row was distinct, and to the left of the row was a grave a bit apart. When I checked it I was not only excited to see it was the grave of a 65th NY soldier, but that it was Private John Arnold’s grave. Arnold had been the one of the five Chasseurs buried at Greenlawn which neither Theresa nor I could find. No longer.
Ms. Theresa Sullivan alongside the grave of Private John Arnold, 65th NY Volunteer Infantry (photo by author)
Having found each of the five Chasseurs buried at Greenlawn, it was time to head northeast of town to try to find Private Charley Crockett’s grave at the Egbert Cemetery. Crockett’s letters at the Army Heritage Center represented my first plunge into primary research about the regiment, and thus Crockett’s grave held sentimental value to me. And knowing that there were other 65th NY men from Tiffin who had likely come back after their enlistments were done, there may well be other graves to find.
The Sullivans gave me directions to get to the Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, also called the Egbert Cemetery. I still had plenty of daylight left, and the more work I did today, the more options I had tomorrow to look for graves. The cemetery was not far, and it was much smaller than Greenlawn, and thus I could wander it looking for Charley Crockett’s grave without a map. Sure enough, within five minutes of my arrival there I had discovered the grave of Chasseur Jackson Michaels, the victim of an accident at division headquarters during the Gettysburg campaign of May 1863.
Private Jackson Michaels was killed in an accident at First Division headquarters on May 27, 1863 (photo by author)
Charley Crockett’s grave at Egberts Cemetery, Tiffin, Ohio (photo by author)
The inscription on Charley Crockett’s grave (photo by author)
I had used Private Crockett’s sometimes flirtatious letters to his friend Nellie for the other book. On December 1, 1861, he had written to her, “Nellie your letters give your humble correspondent the greatest pleasure—they are so home-like—but never mind I’m not trying to flatter.” Crockett was mortally wounded at The Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. The amputation of his leg did not save his life, and he died of his wounds after the battle.
Driving to my AirBnB stay at a small farm north of Upper Sandusky that evening, I felt a great deal of success. In my first day at Tiffin, I had successfully found all six of the Chasseurs I had been looking for, and I had found Private Michaels’ grave as a bonus, planting flags at all seven graves. I had already used seven of the dozen flags I had brought, and I knew that Captain Sam Kisinger’s grave awaited at Toledo’s Historic Woodlawn Cemetery. I celebrated my day’s work with an early dinner at MST pub in Tiffin, where I enjoyed a refreshingly cold and locally brewed Tiffin ESB to go with my honey barbecue “chicken chunks,” a local Ohio thing. White meat chicken lightly fried, with one of the twenty-something sauces the pub features, was delicious–much better, I think, than they sound.
As I neared my temporary home, I drove into a little hamlet called McCutchenville and noticed a small roadside cemetery there. I pulled in on a whim, and low and behold, I found yet another Chasseur grave. The name on the gravestone was hard to read, but clearly it said Co. F, 65th NY on it. A text message to my daughter Rachel, who studied the regimental roster and the photo I sent her, and we had identified the soldier as Washington McDurborow, a Tiffinite who had transferred on September 1, 1864 to Company F from Company K after serving in the former from March 1862. Sept. 1, 1864, is when the 67th NY merged into the 65th NY, and thus some shifting of soldiers of the 65th who still served likely occurred. I had found my eighth Chasseur grave of the day, on a whim of pulling over to check out this little McCutchenville Cemetery. I was very happy with my day’s luck.
Private Washington McDurborow, 65th NY (photo by author)
I still had another day’s stay in the Tiffin area before heading to meet my college roommate for a stay at a tiny house on Lake Erie in Toledo, and a visit to the Woodlawn Cemetery there to find Captain Sam Kisinger. Ms. Sullivan had said that Saint Joseph’s Catholic cemetery had some civil war era graves, and that it was much smaller than Greenlawn so should be reasonable to search through. After that, I knew I could go back to Greenlawn in case there were any Chasseur graves we had missed. Also, I planned on visiting Clyde’s McPherson Cemetery to visit the grave of General James McPherson, killed at the Battle of Atalanta and the highest ranking Union officer killed in the war. I had been to the site of his Atlanta death on a graduate class bus tour back in 2000, and I knew McPherson was widely respected as a general and beloved by both Grant and Sherman, so I felt it was worth a trip there, about 25 minutes north of Tiffin. With the successes of the first day, I could add Clyde to my second day’s plans, rather than stop there on the way to Toledo as I had originally envisioned. Though I certainly didn’t hope to find another eight graves, I knew there were a good number of Tiffin Chasseurs who likely came back home and lived and died there after the war, so there was still a chance to find some more members of the regiment before I headed up to Toledo.
I started the day at Saint Joseph’s, a nice, medium-sized cemetery with a decent number of Civil War-era graves. All had been in Ohio regiments, however, and after an hour or so of walking through the older parts of the cemetery, I knew I was done with it. I drove back to Greenlawn, checking out some parts I had not seen the day before with the Sullivans, but in the end I found no more Chasseurs buried there. With plenty of afternoon left, I decided to head northeast to Clyde, to see James McPherson’s grave site.
The very impressive grave of General James Birdseye McPherson in Clyde, Ohio (photo by author)
The drive up to Clyde through farm country was uneventful, and my trusty GPS got me where I needed to go. On a hill in the McPherson cemetery, the general’s grave was hard to miss. I devoted one of my little flags to honoring him before I took a picture, knowing how he had been esteemed by his men and his fellow officers. General Grant and Sherman both thought he would be the overall commander of the United States army before his career was done, had he lived.
Noting at least a few civil war era graves nearby the general, I poked around for a few minutes just in case. And, lo and behold, a Chasseur grave! Veteran Private Henry Rinehart had been mortally wounded in the charge which the 65th New York had been a part of known as Upton’s assault at the Battle of Spotsylvania. I was glad I had come to Clyde to see McPherson! Another Chasseur was visited and honored with a flag.
Private Henry Rinehart’s grave, McPherson Cemetery, Clyde, Ohio (photo by author)
Circling back to the area not too far from McPherson’s own grave, there lay Francis Metcalf. His name was familiar, and indeed on his stone there was the 65th New York reference. Frank Metcalf’s to the Fremont Journal were a good source for the Chasseurs’ first days in Washington D.C., and he described the details of life in camp including building crude shelters which had to be moved repeatedly, serving as pickets on the Union line in northern Virginia, the first encounter with the enemy at Lewinsville, and even witnessing Professor Albert Lowe’s reconnaissance balloon in use near camp. It is hard to describe the connection a historian of the regiment feels when reading multiple letters from a soldier to try and craft the story of their experience. One does feel attached to these correspondents, and as much of a thrill it is to find a stone with a reference to the 65th New York oniot, finding a familiar name like Frank Metcalf’s is particularly special. Those letters were penned by a real person, and he had ended up here, buried in Clyde, Ohio, not far from the towering grave of General McPherson.
Frank Metchalf’s grave, in the foreground with the small flag, near his family’s stone (photo by author)
The trip to Clyde had proved productive beyond my hopes. Though walking the grounds of Saint Joseph’s cemetery and re-visiting Greenlawn cemetery had yielded no new finds, I was so glad that in planning the trip I decided late in the game to include a stop in Clyde to see McPherson’s grave, as I would have missed the graves of Privates Rinehart and Metcalf. I had now found ten Chasseur graves, and, with General McPherson included in my ritual, was down to my last flag of the dozen I had brought for Chasseur graves. And I knew Captain Sam Kisinger in Toledo, a key source for No Flinching From Fire, was yet to be visited tomorrow.
I headed back to Tiffin, with plans to try their highly rated pizza at Reino’s restaurant. As I returned to the now-familiar route 101 heading southwest, I spied a little cemetery on the side of the road called the Lowell School cemetery. Having had success in McCutchenville, I figured I would pull over for a look around. By now I was familiar with the fact that Tiffin’s veteran’s graves were almost always decorated with a flag–the local Ohians clearly do an admirable job of honoring their veterans. However, in this case I was sloppy. A cursory search of the few graves with flags found no Chasseurs. It had been a long hot afternoon of driving and searching. What I did not know is that Colonel Leroy Crockett, a relative of Charley’s whose letter on the skirmish at Lewinsville was one of the first Chasseur letters I found and then used in the book, was buried there. His GAR flag stand had been damaged, and hence no flag had been placed near his grave. When I found the site of his grave on Findagrave.com after my return home, I was bitterly disappointed in myself for my sloppy work. However, happily, Theresa Sullivan was more than willing to visit the cemetery and find Crockett’s grave (she is the one who found the damaged GAR flagholder), and she sent me a great picture. So I did visit this small cemetery, but I cannot claim to have actually found Crockett’s grave myself. It is always good to have kind people like Theresa who are willing to help, and who share my opinion that the process of honoring these civil war veterans is a worthy one.
Colonel LeRoy Crockett, who had been 1st Lieutenant in Company K of the 65th NY Volunteers before becoming Colonel of the 72nd Ohio (photo by Theresa Sullivan)
Reino’s pizza was deep dish style, not my favored New York thin crust pizza, but it was not bad. I brought two extra slices home for my AirBnB host in Upper Sandusky, and took a walk outside that night to admire the incredible night sky over the farm fields. With much less ambient light than I live with in the suburbs of New York City, the number of stars to admire overhead was worth the short walk. A run the next morning between the soybean and cotton fields on the quiet back county road was lovely and mercifully flat, and started my day off right before I drove to Toledo to meet my college roommate Paul.
We had rented an AirBnB tiny house in the north part of Toledo called Point Place, right on Lake Erie, with a firepit. The plan was to order Hungarian hotdogs to take out from Tony Packo’s famous Toledo restaurant and meet for lunch, then visit Captain Sam Kisinger’s grave in the historic Woodlawn cemetery there. Then, back to Tony Packo’s to take out their signature chicken paprikash for dinner at the tiny house and a fire by the lake.
Paul picked up the hot dogs, which Maxwell Klinger references multiple times on M*A*S*H*, and they were indeed delicious. They were a sort of cross between a hog dog and a kielbasa, with a flavorful chili sauce and onions. We met at Toledo’s Wildwood Park, west of downtown, and ate outside in this huge park which is a mecca for runners and cyclists, with many paths through the wooded park. Then it was due east to Woodlawn Cemetery, a beautifully planted cemetery in the 19th century rural cemetery movement tradition. I had been sent a map of Section 41 of the cemetery, with Sam Kisinger’s grave location, so we parked and walked over the lake into the heart of the cemetery. I found Kisinger’s marker quickly, and I placed the last of my dozen small American flags there and we took some pictures. “All I can say is that we have done very hard fighting,” Kisinger wrote home on June 4, 1864. His many letters home and to the Tiffin Weekly Tribune were one of the best sources I had for No Flinching From Fire, so of course honoring his gravesite was extra special for me.
After, we looked over the G.A. R. graves nearby, but found no Chasseurs. Paul and I then walked around the cemetery, admiring the architecture of some of the more prominent graves, and the old trees growing there.
Captain Sam Kisinger, 65th NY Volunteers (photo by author)
Paul and I then picked up our takeout dinner, chicken paprikash, again from Tony Packo’s. The chicken was tender and the sauce and dumplings were fine, though I preferred the Hungarian hot dog. Paul and I spent the night in our tiny house on Lake Erie, setting up our chairs next to the firepit on the lake. Though the biting flies around my ankles left their marks, the bald eagle that flew in front of us along shore back and forth was a treat, and being on the lake catching up about our college days was enjoyable.
The next morning, before I headed off to Fremont, 45 minutes away, for a scheduled tour of President Rutherford B. Hayes’ house and then a three and a half hour drive to Somerset, Ohio, where I would spend my last night in the state, I took a walk north from our tiny house, through the gritty neighborhood of working class homes and marinas. At the turnaround point I reached my goal: the Michigan border. I crossed the state line into Michigan, then retraced my steps home for a goodbye to Paul, a quick shower, and a return to the road.
The marker denoting the border between Ohio and Michigan in northern Toledo (photo by author)
The drive to Fremont was unremarkable and smooth. I was looking forward to the tour of the Rutherford B. Hayes house. Though an unremarkable President elected after a contentious and controversial 1876 election, Hayes had also been a very solid civil war general who had served in some of the same places as the Chasseurs. Hence, visiting his house not only added to my “collection” of President’s houses visited, but it fit in with the Civil War theme of the trip, if indirectly.
With my tour not scheduled until 1 PM, and my arrival at the Spiegel Grove grounds before noon, I had time to peruse the museum there, where people were wearing masks and staying distanced, and where the number of visitors was small enough for me to feel very safe. The museum had some excellent artifacts not only of the Hayes’ life at the White House but also of their son General Webb Hayes’ military career in the Spanish-American War, and in the Philippines and China. I also purchased a postcard for my classroom, to hang on the wall alongside the other Presidential house photos and postcards I have up on display there.
Finally it was 1 PM, and the couple on the tour with me and I were greeted on the porch of Hayes’ beautiful house for the tour. It was well-led by the docent, who was knowledgeable and friendly. And in talking about my trip, the couple I was touring with revealed that their own daughter was an active Findagrave member. They even expressed interest in my own trip, and in the 65th NY story, and bought a signed copy of my book; I have learned to travel with a box of books in my car trunk. The house itself had been gifted to Hayes by his rich uncle, and Hayes and added on it to it multiple times, to make the huge but nice house it had become. My favorite room was the library; I wish I had one like it at home. A visit to Hayes’ grave seemed appropriate given this trip’s theme, and after that I was back on the road for the last part of the trip.
Spiegel Grove, the home of President Rutherford B. Hayes (photo by author)
The library at Spiegel Grove (photo by author)
The drive to Somerset was the beginning of the road home. However, I had chosen Somerset as my last stop in southeastern Ohio as it had its own Civil War connection. Notably, it was where General Philip Sheridan had lived, and where the 1859 home he had helped build for his parents still stood. Finding the nicest of my AirBnB stays of the week here, in a lovely nineteenth century brick home just up the block from the main square of the town, and from Sheridan’s house as well, Somerset turned out to be a great last taste of Ohio. My host Catherine not only made me a great breakfast of french toast casserole and bacon, my best breakfast of the trip, but our conversation about the state of politics in Ohio and in America in general was interesting and provocative. She gave me a view of the racism and provincialism which remained a factor in Somerset life, all the while giving me faith in people everywhere through her own progressivism, insight, and thoughtfulness. And she directed me to the best place to run in Somerset, a soft gravel path around the town park, which offered nice views of the countryside as well as a chance to stay away from the surprisingly busy traffic which converged on the town square.
The statue of General Philip Sheridan in Somerset’s center (photo by author)
Phil Sheridan’s house (photo by author)
My last day of the trip started with a four and a half hour drive to Hancock, Maryland, where I had discovered in a letter from a soldier correspondent that the 65th NY had been sent in late October 1862 on a march to thwart a rebel offensive that never came. The Chasseurs, after a difficult march through mountainous country, briefly guarded the town, then marched back to Williamsport. It was not much in terms of the overall history of the regiment, but it was a place I had never visited, it was on the famous C & O canal, and it would break up my trip home nicely. The Hancock Motel, where I stayed, was simple and cheap, but clean and safe. And the town of Hancock was small but historic.
Crossing the Ohio River into the sliver of West Virginia which precedes Pennsylvania when one drives east out of Ohio, I drove slowly through Wheeling, whose road construction, traffic, and tunnel made the drive a bit harrowing. Exiting Interstate 70 at Washington, Pennsylvania, and then taking the old National Road, current Federal Route 40, would be even more so. Washington, Pennsylvania is a significant town which I had never visited, or even known about. It is hilly with a lot of traffic lights–not so fun in traffic when driving a stick shift, as I was.
The National Road is no joke, and driving up and down the hills on the curvy path was a reminder of the major significance of this road when it was built in the early 1800s. Crossing the Appalachian Mountains was one of the biggest challenges to American development at the time, But driving along the old National Road, even with the improvements which were made to it in the building of Federal Highway 40 in the 1920s and 1930s, is still an impressive undertaking. Curves and hills abound heading east even before Uniontown and the beginning of the most significant mountain ridges to cross. A tollhouse or two is still visible along the road. Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison, pushed for the development of this road, continuing the route that General Braddock built and took during the French and Indian War leading to his ambushing by French and Indian soldiers and his death. The overlook on the road at the summit of Chestnut Ridge offers a fine prospect and a sense of the challenge of crossing the Appalachians, and, according to the register at the nearby Summit Inn Resort, which dates to the 1930s, it has been visited by Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein and Henry Ford, among others.
Though it was nearing the end of a long trip, and frankly I was anxious to get over the mountains, into Maryland, and to Hancock and my last night of the trip, the signs for Fort Necessity National Battlefield drew me in, and I did make a quick stop to see the site. I reference this ill-fated battle of the French & Indian War as an example of a big mistake made by George Washington early in his career, in an attempt to bring some reality to the portrayal of our national heroes. Seeing the reconstructed fort (the French burned the original after taking it) where Washington lost about thirty percent of his men in casualties, with the woods’ edge only sixty yards from the fort and offering great cover for the French and their native allies to fire on Washington’s men, it was clear to even an ill-trained eye that its positioning was a big mistake. Having read and talked about the palace for years, it was fun to briefly walk the museum about it, take the short trail to see it, and to snap a quick picture. Then, back on the road over the mountains.
The view from the Overlook at the Summit of Chestnut Ridge on the Old National Road (photo by Joel Brewton, Herald-Standard)
Fort Necessity National Battlefield (photo by author)
Route 40 continued to be hilly right into Maryland, where I confess I was relieved to see it intersect with Interstate 68, where the driving would be easier. It was still about an hour to the Hancock Motel, but it would be smooth sailing from here.
The motel was a sort of throwback to the 1960s, family-owned, simple but clean, and within walking distance to the center of Hancock. It was inhabited mostly by a few cyclists who rode the nearby bike path along the canal which had been a former railroad. Quiet, if snug and unfancy, the place was affordable and met my purpose of breaking up my trip home perfectly. The barbecue pulled pork sandwich I got from a quirky place on Main Street called Buddylou’s Eats, Drinks, and Antiques, to eat in my room to be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, came with homemade macaroni and cheese and baked beans, and it was excellent. And though the mattress on the bed was a bit soft, for the bargain price I was very pleased with finding this nice old place to stay.
Though the village itself is small, Hancock’s main street made up a part of the old National Road and hence was the likely route into the town of the men of the 65th New York in 1862. Between the National Road and the C & O canal, it would be possible for me to have a strong sense of retracing the steps of the Chasseurs, including those of my great-great grandfather Private Timothy Carroll. Carroll would go on to become a 2nd Lieutenant, and the challenging and pointless march to Hancock in October 1862 was one of many formative experiences for him.
In late October 1862, Newton’s division of the 6th Corps, including the Chasseurs, left their camp on a march to the northwest. According to a letter home from Tiffin, Ohio Private Lafayette Burns, “After two days of hard marching through a rough and mountainous district,” the regiment arrived in Hancock, following reports of an enemy force there threatening a second invasion of Maryland. “On arriving however, we found everything quiet, and no signs of any force of the enemy in that quarter… The Chasseurs were detailed to act as provost guard for the town…But our duties in this capacity were of but short duration, we were just getting ourselves into comfortable quarters when we again received marching orders, and were soon once more on the road, and moving off down the river in the direction of Williamsport again.” This seemingly pointless march was why I found myself in Hancock for the night; that and it was a good half-way point for the drive home from Ohio.
Before leaving Hancock, however, I figured a morning walk along the C & O canal was in orderThe Cumberland & Ohio Canal, begun in 1828 and completed in 1850, was another way to meet that challenge of crossing the Appalachians. By the time of the completion of the last section to Cumberland, Maryland, railroads were already overtaking the canal’s technology and efficiency. But the canal, with its 74 locks and eleven aqueducts, was an impressive feat, and walking along the towpath today in Hancock, looking at the ruins of one of those aqueducts, over Tonoloway Creek, one can still see the impressive feat that was the C & O canal.
The Western Maryland rail trail, with a trailhead at its middle point in Hancock, is a popular 22 mile paved bike trail which clearly is bringing business into Hancock, judging by the cyclists staying at my hotel, parking in the lot at the trailhead in Hancock, and the folks eating at the place I got my takeout barbecue sandwich. But I crossed the canal on a bridge to the towpath, between the canal and the Potomac River. I knew the towpath well, at least the section which passed through Bethesda, Maryland, as I coached the Landon School cross country team in the mid-1990s, and we used the towpath for training quite a bit. Here in Hancock, though, the towpath was very quiet compared to the rail trail. Not so heavily used, I passed only one runner as I walked alone along the path to the east and back. A little over a mile in I reached the Tonoloway aqueduct, thought about this engineering challenge, and took a picture. I had told myself upon seeing a mile marker shortly into the walk that I would go to the next one and turn around, knowing I had a five hour drive home. But seeing the signage near the aqueduct just beyond the next mile marker, I crossed the wooden bridge over the aqueduct and admired it. Turning around, I headed back.
The remains of the Tonoloway Creek aqueduct of the C & O canal, in Hancock, Maryland (photo by author)
The drive home to New York featured the classic traffic delays on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Cross Bronx Expressway; nothing worth reporting here. It was a long haul to Ohio and back, but I had found a lot to be excited about, in particular connecting to the men of the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry. And I had met some nice folks along the way who shared my interest in and passion for history. The trip was a little crazy, and I knew I now faced a fourteen day quarantine back in New York before I could fully emerge from the experience, but it did give me time to write about it.
My daughter Rachel and I embarked last Memorial Day weekend on a 3 day upstate tour in search of 8 graves of members of the 65th NY Volunteers, who we were honoring with flags this Memorial Day weekend. On the way home we also visited the grave site of the 121st NY commander, who briefly served as the 65th NY’s brigade commander during the tumult of the Battle of Cedar Creek, on Oct. 19, 1864.
The trip started with a picnic lunch at Binghamton University, so Rachel could hang out where she is going to school next year. My nephew had clued us in on a sandwich shop in downtown Binghamton, Alexander’s Cafe, which serves wonderful paninis. They lived up to the hype. After filling up on a delicious chicken panini with spinach and feta cheese, washed down with a chocolate milkshake, we hit the road towards our first two grave sites, in the Bath National Cemetery.
2 members of the 65th NY Volunteers were buried at the Bath National Cemetery after their time living at the Soldiers’ Home located there. Privates Erastus Owen and Theron Lapham’s graves were easily found at the beautifully located cemetery, with its clearly ordered rows of graves. Private Owen mustered in at Auburn, NY as a 25 year old in March 1865, near war’s end. Private Lapham, on the other hand, enlisted at Yonkers, NY in July 1861, re-enlisted as a veteran, and served with the regiment all the way to the end of the war. Possessing the known sites of the graves before we went in, using information gathered by researchers at the NY State Military History museum, and knowing the cemetery layout from study beforehand made quick work of finding the two graves. We took some pictures of the graves, along with the impressive 1893 obelisk erected to honor the Civil War veterans buried there, and then we were on to Arkport.
It took a bit longer to find Private Charles Bartlett’s grave, as we had no location other then the cemetery itself. Rachel and I have gotten skilled from experience at figuring out which part of a cemetery is most likely to find the graves of Civil War veterans, but Bartlett’s grave eluded us despite the relatively small size of the Heritage Hill cemetery in Arkport, outside of Hornell. In time, though, I stumbled upon Bartlett’s uniquely lettered grave stone, and its reference to his service with the 65th NY Volunteers. Private Bartlett transferred into the 65th when the 67th NY merged into the regiment on Sept. 1, 1864. He would thus shortly see battle in the Shenandoah Valley under Sheridan, at 3rd Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek.
As we were traveling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachel and I knew that we needed to stay socially distanced. Visiting rural cemeteries of course helped make that possible. We stayed at AirBnB sites where we knew we would have our own space without other guests nearby. In Hornell, it was a small house which backed up on a lovely woods, with large picture windows revealing the lush nature, and birds twittering away all around us. The family which owned the house did some farming and maple sugaring, and we bought a quart of maple syrup. The owner also generously gifted us with a bag of organically grown shitake mushrooms. I brought them home and sauteed them with garlic and olive oil, like my father used to do when I was a kid.
The next day we drove to Cattaraugus, in the western part of New York’s Southern Tier area. Route 86 goes through some beautiful countryside there, and we were thrilled to see two bald eagles in a tree adjoining the highway. Some country roads north and west of the Seneca reservation at Salamanca brought us to the Liberty Park cemetery in Cattaraugus. This pretty little cemetery featured more nature spotting for us, with a deer in the woods just beyond the cemetery’s edge, and a bluebird flying onto a large grave stone right near us. Rachel had never seen this state bird of New York, and we were each excited to spot it. Shortly after, we found Private Albert Sherman’s grave, and decorated it with our little flag, adding it to the flag already placed there for the holiday. Sherman enlisted at Hornellsville, near where we stayed the previous night, in Oct. 1864 and was wounded at the Petersburg breakthrough on April 2, 1865.
We were happy to be four out of four so far in terms of our grave searches, and seeing that East Aurora was close to our path to the next two graves in Avon, New York, we decided we would stop there for lunch and a quick visit to President Millard Fillmore’s home. I like to collect Presidents’ houses, and it was not that far out of our way, so even considering Fillmore’s relative insignificance, it was worth a stop. And the pulled pork tacos with mango slaw dressing which we got from Mikey Dee’s cafe were excellent.
Then to Avon Cemetery and St. Agnes Cemetery in Avon, NY, for our last two graves of the day. Driving along scenic old Federal Highway 20A, and on country roads to Avon, we admired New York state’s rural beauty. At the Avon Rural Cemetery Rachel spotted Surgeon John W. Gray’s grave early on, which was a godsend as we lacked a grave location and it was a bigger cemetery than I had figured. Having a photo of the grave from Findagrave.com was a big help. Gray was appointed to the regiment in Dec. 1864 after serving as an assistant surgeon in another regiment. We took more photos, and planted our flag, then it was on to the other side of town and St. Agnes Cemetery. A photo from Findagrave.com helped again, and we found Private Thomas Kelly’s grave quickly. Kelly joined the regiment in Auburn, NY on March 31, 1865, only days before the April 2, 1865 Breakthrough attack at Petersburg, and Lee’s subsequent surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865.
It was a relatively short drive on small rural roads to our AirBnB stay on the first floor of a lovely circa 1860 farmhouse in Mendon, New York. We liked the chickens and the two goats, and I even took a walk among the graves in the old graveyard across the street, as if I had not been in cemeteries enough for the past two days.
Day three of our trip was harder. Partly, the reality was setting in that we had spent a ton of time driving, and even as beautiful as upstate New York is in late May, I think we were both wearing down a bit. Having found all six of the graves we were looking for in the first two days, perhaps we were due for a challenge. I had purposely planned the trip with a shorter drive for this third day, anticipating just such fatigue. We had only two more graves to find, and we had no picture of either. Private John Bain’s grave, in the Fairville rural cemetery north of Newark, New York, was only about forty-five minutes away from where we stayed in Mendon. We saw a turtle crossing the road on the way there, and upon arrival at the cemetery we divided up and started scanning the graves, focusing on the older section of the cemetery where the grave was most likely to be located. Bluebirds flew among the graves. After a while, however, it became clear that there were many unmarked graves, or graves laid flat in the ground which the grass had grown almost completely over. In short, we never found Bain’s grave site, but we did leave a flag at another civil war veteran’s grave, likely close to the site of Bain’s own grave.
We were now not that far from Lake Ontario, which Rachel had never seen and I was not sure of ever having seen. So, as the road to our next grave took us nearby, we decided to lunch in Oswego, New York, the scene of a key battle of the French and Indian War, and view the lake. The drive took us past countless apple orchards with the white flowers in full bloom. Upon arrival in Oswego, we found a nice spot with some historical signs overlooking the lake, and we picnicked on local submarine sandwiches near the mouth of the Oswego River.
Our last grave was located in Adams Center, northeast of Fairville, and east of Lake Ontario. Unfortunately the information I had was vague enough that we searched fruitlessly in the wrong cemetery in Adams, New York even though we had the grave site information. Rachel figured out before me that we must have been at the wrong place, and luckily it was a short seven minute drive to the correct cemetery. Rachel, skillful grave searcher that she is, found the exact site of the grave according to the New York Military History museum information we had. But another larger grave was clearly not William H. Corey. However, a nearby small pair of worn grave stones was in the right place. No writing was legible on the stones, which was disheartening given our earlier struggles to find John Bain, but we planted a flag there and hoped that we had the right place. A relatively short drive to a lodge near the Salmon River reservoir outside Redfield was our place to stay for the third night. The night sky there was amazing given the lack of ambient light in this part of New York state. And I saw many goldfinches flying about as I sat outside the room the next morning as Rachel slept, and I heard the distinctive call of a loon as well.
It would be a long drive home to Mamaroneck, where I live, from Redfield. But knowing that the grave of Colonel Egbert Olcott was on the way home, if off the New York State Thruway for a while, made me ask Rachel if she was willing to make one more stop before ending this crazy trip. She was up for it. I love my girl. Olcott was actually the commander of the 121st New York Volunteers, which was brigaded with the Chasseurs (as the 65th NY soldiers called themselves, as members of the First United States Chasseurs) in late 1864, but he had stepped up to command the brigade when General Joseph Hamblin, the regular brigade commander who had moved up to that post from command of the Chasseurs, was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek. With ninety Chasseurs killed, wounded, or captured at Cedar Creek, including their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Higgenbotham killed, and my great-great grandfather 1st Sergeant Timothy Carroll wounded, it was a day fraught with havoc and death, and honoring Colonel Olcott on Memorial Day itself seemed appropriate even given how ready we both were to be back home. And the fact that I had a photo of his grave in the Cherry Valley Cemetery meant that we could, I hoped, avoid the frustrations of the previous day’s cemetery searches and end this trip on a high note. Sure enough, we found Olcott’s grave within five minutes of arrival in the lovely Cherry Valley Cemetery, whose local citizens had decorated veterans’ graves carefully with flags. Rachel and I closed out our trip with a few more pictures, and the knowledge that we had honored at least seven veterans associated with the Chasseurs with flags at their grave sites, and we hoped eight. And we had honored Private John Bain’s resting place in Fairville as well, after much searching, even if less exactly as the others.
It took 4 days of driving, with 3 nights spent at beautiful places scattered all across New York state. We had honored the Chasseurs over this Memorial Day weekend, and had paid our respects to the already so-honored Colonel Egbert Olcott. We drove over 950 miles. Rachel and I both wanted a road trip to break up the monotony of the COVID-19 quarantine, and we got one. And we stayed safe as well. We saw Lake Ontario from Oswego, and President Fillmore’s house, and so much of New York State that there was not much left in the state unseen to us. It had been an epic trip, one I hoped Rachel would never forget.
Andersonville on August 17, 1864 (Library of Congress)
A trip to the site of the Andersonville prison camp, along with the sites of other, lesser known camps at Millen, Georgia and Florence, South Carolina, is a unique civil war trip for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, a drive from my home in Westchester county of New York state to Southwestern Georgia is a very long haul. Secondly, though I have walked literally dozens of Civil War battlefields, seeking to make meaning of the places and what happened there, a visit to Andersonville is to a place whose events were harrowing in distinctive ways.
I had in fact visited the site of a Civil War prison in the past, but in a very different light. Johnson’s Island, Ohio, near Sandusky, was the site of a prison for Confederate officers. I visited many years ago, before I started writing about the Chasseurs but after my desire to visit spots associated with the regiment had developed. After a brief summer stint taking a class at the Ashbrook Institute in Ashland, I swung northwest to Johnson’s Island in order to visit the place where the 65th New York Volunteers, along with the rest of General Henry D. Terry’s 6th Corps division, served as prison guards in the winter and early spring of 1864. The prison was long gone, but a small cemetery with the graves of Confederate officers who had died while in captivity at the prison was a testament to the prison’s onetime existence. I had since read a few books and articles on Johnson’s Island, and I had written a chapter in No Flinching From Fire on the Chasseurs’ time there.
The Confederate Cemetery at Johnson’s Island, Ohio (Library of Congress)
But despite the poignance of the small cemetery with two hundred sixty-seven Confederate graves, visiting the infamous site of the worst of all Civil War prisons, where over 13,000 graves of Union dead are a record of the horrors there, was different. A dozen identified Chasseurs lay among the dead at Andersonville, with perhaps more lying unidentified, and likely more among the three thousand unidentified dead at Florence National Cemetery. In reading several memoirs and accounts of life at Andersonville, Camp Lawton (in Millen, Georgia), and Florence prison camps, the slow death there due to dysentery, scurvy, or diarrhea was incredibly grim and moving. Knowing how deep the suffering at these places was, and how uniquely horrifying they were, made a trip there take on added meaning for me.
As an American history teacher for thirty-one years, I have a tendency when I travel to visit Presidents’ houses; I have built up a “collection” of them over the years. In fact, in the two times I studied in Ashland, Ohio, I managed to get to see Warren G. Harding’s house as well as James Garfield’s. So, knowing I could stop by and see Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Warm Springs, Georgia retreat on the way to Andersoville, the long drive became more appealing. There was also the chance to retrace the April 1865 march which the Chasseurs had to make to Danville, Virginia after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Danville was a great halfway point, and a lovely room in an old home there was available on AirBnB. And they had a low A-level minor league baseball team, the Danville Braves. Federal route 360 largely paralleled the old railroad which the Chasseurs had marched along as they moved to Danville, and on which the end of war “Danville Train” carrying the Confederate government as it retreated from Richmond had traveled.
I reached Danville after the drive from Burkeville through tobacco fields was complete, and the room in the house I stayed at was lovely. I even got a foul ball at the Danville Braves game. The eight and a half hour drive was long, but at least tomorrow’s drive to Americus, Georgia was likely to be an hour shorter if all went well. And I could visit Warm Springs and add a Presidential house to the collection. And the relatively obscure march of the 6th Corps to Danville after Lee’s surrender was something I had now retraced, at least in a general way.
The car traffic getting around Atlanta was more than I had anticipated, however, and as I sat in bumper to bumper traffic it became clear that making it to Warm Springs in time before they closed was going to be tricky, and the extra time for my excursion there might not be worth it. So, I gave up that part of my itinerary, and headed straight for Americus, near Andersonville, when I finally broke free of the Atlanta-area traffic jams. The Windsor Hotel, in the middle of Americus, an old 19th century inn, was my destination, and I was looking forward to getting off the road after so much driving. Sure enough, though the smell of farm fields was palpable even in the center of town, the grandeur of the old hotel was apparent upon arrival in the lobby. Though the room was a bit musty, the restored hotel was beautiful, and the cold Sweetwater 420 pale ale, locally brewed in Georgia and served in the lounge of the hotel, was refreshing and delicious.
The Lobby of the Windsor Hotel, Americus, Georgia (photo by author)
The next day I drove the short twelve miles northwest to Andersonville National Historic Site, through cotton fields and some peanut farms. Knowing that my book chapter on Andersonville was the last planned for No Flinching From Fire had me excited. But visiting the site of all the horrors I had been reading about in primary accounts over the preceding months was also exciting. Pulling into the site and touring the museum there on POWs in American history was interesting. But it was the prison site itself, along with the huge cemetery with its thousands of graves and beautiful monuments built by the states for their dead, which was what I truly needed to see.
Andersonville (photo by author)
The large grassy hillsides sloping down to the Prison branch of Sweetwater Creek, the misnamed stream which served as both drinking water supply and sewer for the prison camp, was empty and peaceful now. I had it practically to myself as I parked my car and got out to walk the grounds. Thinking about the famous photographs which showed the overcrowded prison in August 1864, and walking in the heat of July 2017, it was not so hard to evoke the horrors which the men experienced here. For one thing, the stockade is marked by white posts around the perimeter, with one of the gates and one corner of the stockade reconstructed. Also, the “deadline” is marked by the same type of posts, so one can get a picture of the confines of the prison, as well as a reminder of the deadliness of life there. I walked along between the deadline and the stockade line, able to do in 2017 what no Union soldier in 1864 would dare to try unless contemplating suicide. Any soldier venturing across the line was liable to be shot by the guards overlooking the stockade. A number of states have built monuments to their soldiers here by the prison site; others have built monuments within the national cemetery just down the road. One particular monument near the stockade worthy of note was the monument to Clara Barton, who along with the prisoner Dorance Atwater, who kept a list of prisoners who died while he was working in the hospital as a prisoner, managed to preserve the record of who had died at Andersonville, so that the vast majority of the thirteen thousand dead buried at the Andersonville National Cemetery have stones denoting their grave sites. This epic job of preserving the record of who died there and where they rest is not only of great interest to researchers like me, but it also provides a fitting memorial to each individual victim of this horrid place. Barton’s monument is certainly well deserved.
The deadline on the left, the stockade line on the right, with the Michigan memorial in the background (photo by author)
The Clara Barton Monument (photo by author)
Reconstructed North Gate, Andersonville (photo by author)
Andersonville (photo by author)
I drove around the prison grounds on the road with circles the stockade site, getting out in spots to walk around and read the signage, visiting the lovely structure built over “Providence Spring,” a source of fresh clean water which emerged during a violent thunderstorm on August 16, 1864 near the stockade. It was a tremendous relief and godsend to the men. Then it was time to do the next thing I had planned. Down the road a half mile or so from the prison site itself, 13,000 men lay buried, victims of the conditions there. Twelve of them were members of the 65th New York Volunteer Infantry, and I had come to visit them and reflect on their suffering, as well as to take photographs of the graves themselves for my first book. The last chapter of No Flinching from Fire is an appraisal of the experience of the Union prisoners at Andersonville and Millen, Georgia, and at Florence, South Carolina. I took the pictures of the men’s graves, hoping to bring some humanity to those dozen men among the 13,000 graves. I also noted and photographed the lovely New York memorial within the cemetery. It is a wonderful and well executed tribute to New York’s victims of the horrible prison at Andersonville, Georgia.
Andersonville National Cemetery (photo by author)
New York Monument, Andersonville National Cemetery (photo by author)
One can have an interesting debate, as I generally do in the class on the Civil War which I teach, on whether the Confederates can be blamed for the poor conditions, inadequate diet and water supply, and lack of shelter for the Union prisoners of war at Andersonville, given their own lack of the basics by 1864 as they strained to sustain a war effort against a more industrialized and much better organized foe. The suspension of the Dix-Hill cartel for exchanging prisoners between the two sides, a suspension which doomed Union prisoners to stay at Andersonville and other rebel prisons, and which hurt the Confederate war effort more than the Union side as Union soldiers could be replaced much more readily than Confederate, is often pointed to as a cynical Union effort, led by General Grant and President Lincoln, to allow its own men to die in rebel prison camps so that the Confederates could not get their own prisoners back. But it is crucial to remember that the Dix-Hill cartel was suspended only after the Confederates refused to treat African American Union soldiers as prisoners of war. Treated as captured slaves to be forced back into slavery, rather than the fighting men that they were, these men deserved to be treated as any other Union soldier did, and for this reason Grant, with Lincoln’s approval, suspended prisoner exchange. The graves at Andersonville National Cemetery, alsong with thousands of others at places like Florence National Cemetery, are a testament to the human cost of this policy. The Union men who died in prison camps, among them at least a dozen Chasseurs, were ultimately victims of the white supremacy, racism, and inhumanity of Southern policy, more than of cynical Union war calculations.
Jimmy Carter Childhood Home, Plains, Georgia (photo by author)
I did take a swing over to Plains, to add to my collection of Presidential homes, since it was only fifteen minutes from Americus. The center of town is a sort of throwback to simpler times, and I bought a few political campaign buttons in the general store there, which has an impressive collection of such political relics. I also spied Jimmy Carter’s former peanut processing plant, which he sold before becoming President in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. In these days of the corrupt Trump administration, Carter’s actions seem particularly quaint. His boyhood home was similarly simple and void of any ostentation whatsoever. The farm around the house, still working on a small scale, featured chickens and rows of pecan trees planted by the President’s father.
After two days lingering at Andersonville, and staying in the lovely old Windsor Hotel in Americus, it was time for me to move on to the lesser known site of Camp Lawton, where many Union prisoners were held for several weeks, before the advance of General Sherman’s army made it untenable and forced Confederates to transport the Union prisoners there to prisons at Charleston and Florence in South Carolina. A little over three hours from Americus, and just north of Millen itself, Magnolia Springs State Park contains the site of Camp Lawton, where in early September 1864, the healthiest of the prisoners from Andersonville were moved in an effort to put some distance between the thousands of prisoners held there and Sherman’s army.
Though Camp Lawton only briefly served as a prison camp, and Sherman’s men burned it to the ground upon arriving there too late to rescue the Union prisoners held there, I planned to visit in the interest of historical accuracy, continuing to follow the Chasseur prisoners even though I could not positively identify any particular members of the regiment held there. Knowing that at least a dozen Chasseurs had died and been buried at Andersonville, logic told me that at least some 65th New York soldiers saw the inside of Camp Lawton. With one report of a Chasseur buried in Florence National Cemetery, the remains of what was once Florence Prison, the place where many Andersonville prisoners were taken from Camp Lawton, it is almost certain that at least some Chasseurs lived at Camp Lawton in its brief existence. Magnolia Springs was worth visiting for the trails there, and the small history center which contained some interesting artifacts from the prison which had been discovered from archaeological research which was ongoing and conducted by students from Georgia Southern University. The trails were good to walk and explore after the many hours of driving that this particular trip entailed. The trail that roughly followed the perimeter of the stockade location was basically walking on an open field on a hot day, but I walked most of it. The remains of a rebel fort which guarded the prison can be seen here. The wooded trails away from the stockade location offered shade and more nature. They also allow visitors to see the site of the artesian spring which was a prime reason for the siting of Camp Lawton here, and which offered a far superior and safer water supply for Union prisoners than that afforded by prison Branch of Sweetwater Creek, the fetid and sluggish stream at Andersonville. Today the spring offers a home for numerous turtles, and I spotted one alligator as well, the first I had seen in Georgia.
The remains of Fort Lawton, which guarded the prison camp (photo by author)
Artesian Spring at Camp Lawton (photo by author)
Find the alligator? (photo by author)
The B & B at nearby Waynesboro which I had booked turned out to be magnificent. The antiques decorating Wisteria Hall were gorgeous, the breakfast I had was delicious, and Nancy, the owner, was friendly and warm, and also interested in history. We talked about civil war history as she served me breakfast, and also a bit about how she had come to own Wisteria Hall. The sounds of a freight train rolling through town that night was not intrusive as much as it was a reminder of how much railroads still matter, a good reminder for a Civil War historian/traveler like me.
It was a little less than a three hour drive to Florence, South Carolina, the sight of the third and last Confederate prison of my visit. Though a walking trail led to the site of the stockade, which had been reconstructed in some small sections, the bulk of my visit was to the national cemetery there, confined within the by now familiar brick walls which are standard at the national cemeteries I have visited, an attractive and respectful feature which denote, I think, the seriousness and permanence of these sights. Almost 3000 Union prisoners, many of them former prisoners at Andersonville who were transferred to Florence in a severely weakened condition, are buried there. Sadly, the vast majority are in trenches of unknown graves. At least one Chasseur is buried there, according to The New York Times, and it stands to reason that there are more. So, a visit to this place was important to me as I finished up my research for the last chapter of my book, on the conditions of Union prisoners of the Confederacy, among them 65th New York soldiers. Though Andersonville is much more widely known, and no doubt gets many more visitors than Florence, the fact that these nearly 3000 victims were almost all unknown made the walk through the cemetery feel more tragic and sadder.
Florence National Cemetery (photo by author)
This unique Civil War trip was nearing its close as I pulled away from Florence, and headed into North Carolina. Though the next stop, about two more hours up the road, did not concern any actions or places in which the Chasseurs are associated, I did think that a visit to the Battle of Bentonville, the last battle between General W.T. Sherman’s army and General Joseph Johnston’s forces, was worth a stop since I was going through the area anyway. The rural roads passed through tobacco fields, a change from the cotton fields I had gotten used to in Georgia. I had done some reading on the Bentonville battle before the trip in preparation, so that I was somewhat oriented. Though touring a battlefield where the 65th New York Volunteers played no role lacked the import or intensity of most of my battle visits, it was a pleasant distraction from my normal course, and of course was a noteworthy battle on its own. The rebels did relatively well here, near the end, and General Sherman chose not to push the pursuit too strongly in the aftermath, feeling that the end was near and wishing to avoid needless bloodshed.
General Joseph Johnston Statue, Bentonville Battlefield (photo by author)
A drive to nearby Goldsboro completed my day. Sherman had stayed in Goldsboro for a time after the Bentonville battle, before continuing the pursuit of Johnston which would end on April 26, 1865, at Bennett Place, North Carolina. I had a simple but clean room, with a nice breakfast of fruit provided in the fridge, within walking distance of the Goldsboro center. Like many small cities, Goldsboro featured a downtown which had seen better days. However, a revival already seemed underway, and as I sat at Goldsboro Brew Works, founded the year before, and saw the number of visitors come in to fill a growler or purchase other craft beer, I saw an economic future for our country featuring high quality, locally made items sold in venues in traditional downtowns with great service. The place appealed to me, and I was glad to see the entrepreneurs in Goldsboro experiencing success.
The next day would feature a very long eight and a half hour drive home to New York. All good trips must end, and I knew the decision to drive all the way to Andersonville from home was an ambitious one. My wife was understanding and, perhaps a little worried about the planned drive, told me to stop for the night if I got tired along the way. The drive up route I-95 is in my view one of the worst, least satisfying or appealing routes to drive in our country, so it was a slog home. Traffic in Maryland was also very heavy, and I crawled along in bumper to bumper traffic from the Baltimore area north. Finally, wearied of the stop and go traffic, I decided to pull off the road at Aberdeen, knowing there was a Class A minor league baseball team there, the Aberdeen Ironbirds, an affiliate within the Baltimore Orioles minor league system. I pulled off the road, found a nearby hotel, and planned to hit the game. However, a bad thunderstorm came on, along with my own lethargy, and it appeared the game was off. The storm passed through quickly, however, and feeling a bit stir crazy in my room I made the snap decision to make it to the game, which was right up the road. As always, I enjoyed the vibe at the minor league park, which had a brick hotel beyond the outfield wall designed to mimic The Warehouse beyond the wall at Camden Yards. I even enjoyed a National Bohemian beer in a can. “Natty Bo,” I knew, was an old local favorite, and though much superior local craft brews were available at Cal Ripken stadium, I decided to taste some traditional cheap local beer, and save a few bucks to boot.
The return to New York on I-95 was not bad, and certainly the cars moved better than they had been moving the previous night in Maryland. My wife had been right to have me rest to be safe. She is always right. And driving the nondescript route on the New Jersey Turnpike for hours, as always I thought about whether such crazy long civil war research trips alone are worth it. For me they are.