Sunday, December 21, 2008

George D. Sidman: the heroics of a Civil War drummer boy

In June of 1862 George D. Sidman was a 16 year old drummer boy with the 16th Michigan Infantry, Company C. In the midst of an assault at Gaines Mills, Virginia, Sidman volunteered to carry the regimental flag and rallied his comrades in the face of grave danger until he was wounded in the hip. For his distinguished bravery, Sidman was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In recounting sidman's heroics on that day, Captain Ziba Graham stated:

"Well do I remember that December day in 1862, as we stood en masse on Stafford Heights, overlooking Fredericksburg, all ready to cross the Rappahannock, when the first brigade colors for our brigade were brought upon the field. I can see now the eagerness with which this comrade Sidman, a mere boy, with scarce the down of young manhood upon his chin, sprang forward from the ranks and begged of me the permission to carry those colors. It was granted. Colonel Stockton in command, admiring his pluck but deprecating his youth, finally gave his consent. Sidman brought them out of that hell of fire, many holes shot in them, himself wounded. On his breast to-day he wears the medal of honor, a patent of nobility for bravery far above riches and above price."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Battle of Gettysburg: A surgeon speaks of the hospitality of the citizens of Gettysburg

Part 4 in a series of posts regarding the behavior of the citizens of Gettysburg before, during, and after the great battle. In this post, we hear from Captain Louis C. Duncan, Medical Corps, U.S. Army. In the September, 1913 issue of "The Military Surgeon", Duncan writes:

"Allow me here to remark that the stories published, charging the people of the town with a want of hospitality toward the soldiers, are basely false. In those days of suffering I gathered bread from house to house, and the last loaf and half loaf was always cheerfully given."

"During the battle of the first day, when shells were shrieking and bursting around the hospitals, even the women were found in the midst of the wounded men as they were carried in from the field; and from that time on all through the terrible days, and afterwards down to the close, in every hospital, at all times, with a devotion that never flagged, or counted any sacrifice too great, our noble women were found, like angels of mercy, binding up wounds and administering food. Ask the many hundreds of wounded men, who filled the warehouses, halls, churches, and so many of the private dwellings, what they think of the hospitality of the people of Gettysburg."

"The Rebels, though disposed to help themselves, were generally civil, and even respectful toward the citizens."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Battle of Petersburg: an officer speaks of the dead

Theodore Lyman served on the staff of Major General Meade as aide-de-camp with a commission as lieutenant-colonel from Governor Andrew of Massachusetts. Lyman followed Meade until the end of the war from September 2, 1863, to April 20, 1865. During this time, he served as headquarters archivist. He also put his life on the line carrying flags of truce through hostile lines at Cold Harbor and Petersburg. His published letters and notebooks establish him as the preeminent recorder of events and personalities within the headquarters of Army of the Potomac.

Lyman was present at the Battle of Petersburg in June, 1864, wherein the Union forces suffered terrible losses. Lyman's June 25, 1864 diary entry speaks of these losses. In this entry, he writes:

"I recollect sitting on the high bank of the Rapid Ann [sic], at Germanna Ford, and watching the 5th and 6th Corps as they marched up from the pontoon bridges; and I remember thinking how strange it would be if each man who was destined to fall in the campaign had some large badge on! There would have been Generals Sedgwick, Wadsworth, and Rice, and what crowds of subordinate officers and of privates, all marching gaily along, unconscious, happily, of their fate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Battle of Gettysburg: John Burns strikes again?

In an earlier post we discussed John Burns, the "citizen soldier" who at the Battle of Gettysburg picked up his musket in defense of his hearth and home. Now, hidden amongst the pages of A.P. Smith's History of the Seventy-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers we find this reference:

"As the regiments were pushing forward, before the fighting commenced, a gray-haired man, sixty years of age, rushed across the fields, gun in hand, and attempted to reach the front; but being unable to overtake the Seventy-sixth New York, he fell in with the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania, and fought with that Regiment all day. Had all the residents of Gettysburg been equally patriotic and courageous, the result of the first day's fighting might have been more disheartening to the South, and rendered the terrible fighting of the next two days unnecessary."