Thursday, February 18, 2010

After a long timeout

Well friends, its been a long time since I posted on this site.

We returned to Florida, and now live in The Villages.

I have an upcoming minor medical procedure to correct a problem with my hand which will keep me from posting much for the next six weeks, but after that I hope to be back in the swing of things.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wilderness Battlefield stressed

Walmart plans to build a supercenter in Locust Grove, Va. That's right on the path that the Union Army took as it left winter camp in Culpeper Virginia and marched toward its encounter with Robert E. Lee in the Wilderness.

I have driven and walked that path down Virginia Route 3!. It was bad enough that a gas station / convenience store was located almost on top of the site of the old Wilderness Tavern. But to think of a megachain Big-Box store is a bit more than I can deal with.

More on the plans are here:

Please consider joining in the effort to stop Walmart's ill considered plan. Surely they can locate elsewhere, perhaps closer to Culpeper?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Page 158, Farnham diary entry for 3/14/1863 reads "cut bullet matches for my rifle" and should be "cut bullet patches." The original entry was "cut -atches for my rifle" and the writer went back and placed an insert mark at the dash and wrote "bullets" as a superscript, leading to my confusion. The character at the dash was a p rather than an m. Thanks to a sharp eyed reader for pointing this out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

1863-1864 Winter Camp Sharpshooters

In "No Word of Them" the Stearns diary notes that the winter 1863/4 encampment was 1 mile NW of Culpepper [sic] Virginia. He further notes in several places that he can see the snow on the Blueridge from time to time. The first photo was taken on a side road off Sperryville highway at a location where the mountains could just be seen in the distance. I guessed this was the approximate encampment for the sharpshooters.

Later two drawings were discovered made by sharpshooter Private George Lawrence confirming the general location of my photo, although I would guess the sharpshooters were more toward the right hand side of the image. The picture below is of an overall sketch Lawrence made showing their nearness to "Rebeldom."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pvt. James Stearns, 1st Battalion, 7th Company

Both photos taken in late 1862 or early 1863 in Suffolk, Va. Soldier on left in second photo is not identified.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

New York Sharpshooters Letter

I have recently found a May 15th 1863 letter written by Private James D. Stearns. The sharpshooters were posted in Suffolk, Virginia. Here is is small clip of the military news he reported:

"It appeared that the 165th and 166th Pennsylvania conscript regiments were sent out as scouts & then coming near each other in the flanking position, they supposed each other Rebs & fired into each other and each run or fell back with the loss of 3 killed and 5 wounded. There is not much dependence to be put on the conscript regiments."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

First Battalion Sharpshooters Book

NO WORD OF THEM: First Battalion New York Sharpshooters, 1862-1865
by John Bennett
ISBN: 978-1-4357-1138-9

Available for order by your local bookstores if you prefer that method.

Online retailers such as Amazon, B&N, etc will be listed soon as well.

For immediate purchase please click on the link "Paperback version" at the left. You may choose to buy either a regular paperback which will be mailed to you or a computer readable pdf file (at substantial savings I might add) for instant download.

Incredible, but the item appeared on Amazon on July 4th, 2008, about fifteen weeks since this posting. Cover art, I'm told, will take two more weeks to make it to the site. We shall see. This is a much, much longer process than I expected.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sharpshooter Diarists

Who were the diarists whose work forms the underpinning of what really happened to the First Battalion New York Sharpshooters?

Private John Farnham was the son of Dr. Charles Farnham of Clarkson, New York. Clarkson is just a bit north of Brockport, New York. John's mother was Lucy, his sister's name was Cordelia, and his brother's were Alonzo, Harvey, and Edward according to the 1860 U. S. Census. We have drawn on John's complete 1863 diary for details of the formation of the battalion and experiences of the unit in Suffolk, Virginia.

Private James Delamater Stearns was the son of Amory Stearns and lived near Jamestown, New York in the far western part of the state. His mother was Maria Delamater. After the war, James served for nine years as the police chief of Jamestown. James' full 1864 diary gives us an excellent picture of the actions of the battalion during the Wilderness campaign, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg.

Private George Lawrence was one of several sons in the large family of Alonzo Lawrence of the town of Ellington, also in the western portion of New York. George's 1863 and 1864 diary extracts provide much information on the group's actions during the Mine Run period, as well as the Wilderness and Petersburg campaigns. George's penciled overlay in the diary during 1865 allow us to glimpse the horrors of life as a Civil War prisoner.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rifle Purchase

Farnham's diary notes his purchase of his rifle. He describes his testing of it, a problem he found, and the type of sight mechanism it has. He notes what appears to be its serial number.

I just read recently that civil war sharpshooters often purchased their own rifles with the expectation that they would be reimbursed by the Union government.

As printed covering some 73 pages, Farnham's diary contains much detail.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Goldberg Location

For those of you who have downloaded the electronic version of the book (and those who have ordered a hard copy), one of the issues arising from the soldier's diaries is the location of a place called "Goldberg" in the Virginia wilderness area. There were two candidates: one a gold mining operation north of the Wilderness Tavern, and the other a settlement called Gold Dale about two miles east of Mine Run.

I have created a FREE download of a map showing the location of Gold Dale and its proximity to Mine Run. The link is at the left and should download a jpg image with the area in question highlighted in light yellow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Independent or what?

It is common to hear that any of the four sharpshooter companies were "independent." Usually that bit of information is passed on in something of a 'sorry about that' tone of voice. So were they independent?

Well, to a modern understanding of the word -- autonomous, or outside the authority of -- they were not. They weren't just some extra men who went along for the ride with their local regiments and showed up in Washington saying "Hey, we're here too."

To understand why the term is used, we need to go back to its military recruiting usage in the mid-19th century.

Specifically, the men for these New York sharpshooter companies were enlisted along with men for regiments from their areas. The meaning of the term is that the sharpshooters were mustered (or sworn) into service along with them, but were organizationally not part of or 'independent from' the local regiment.

There were other plans for the organization of the sharpshooters - a potential regiment of their own.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Captain Joseph Silsby Arnold

I was reading a message board post which stated that Joseph Arnold, the battalion's first field commander, held the rank of major. I have never found that rank associated with him. In fact, in post-war news articles, he is referred to as 'Captain' Arnold.

It may be that, in executing field command, both Arnold and Perry -- who each held the rank of Captain -- were granted some of the authority of the rank of major (like certain non-judicial punishment authority) because they were in command of four companies.

I actually experienced a situation like that in my own brief military career when a squadron which needed a field grade officer (major or above) to command it was temporarily left under the command of a captain. For that short period, special orders were cut granting the captain some of the authority, especially regarding disciplinary actions, of a field grade officer.

Perhaps that situation is what led to an association of Arnold with the rank of major.

1898 New York State Adjutant-General's Report

While NO WORD OF THEM contains a roster of battalion members, by company number and then soldier name, as stated in the book there are minor discrepancies with the 1898 NYS AG Report, which is alphabetized by soldier name only.

I have made an electronic download available of the portion of the New York State AG report relating to the 1st Battalion Sharpshooters available. Click on the paperback option at the left to see the listing of this item.

Alternatively, the AG report is available from the NYS archives as a pdf download. The archives software will find that report in a discrete search session which times out -- so I cannot give you a direct link. But here is the process to find it.

First - go to this URL

Then I press the button for "Search Digital Collections"

Next leave "Metadata Search" highlighted and type in the search term "1898" and press the "Search" button

This should return a list in which the several portions of the 1898 NYSAG report are listed.

You'll want to select the one titled: Annual Report... for the Year 1898, V2. Registers of the 1st, 15th, 50th Engineers and 1st Batt. of Sharpshooters - VP4

VP4 contains the First Battalion Sharpshooter information. When you select the title, it will open a separate window to display the pdf data (which is images of the pages). I was able to save the file from that window. I hope you can too.

Friday, October 26, 2007

1st NYSS Name Confusion

In NO WORD OF THEM I have culled as much historical data as I could find which addresses why this unit of New York State Sharpshooters has been confused since at least the late 1890s as being part of Berdan's United States Sharpshooters. Last night I came across this comment: "Berdan assumed command of J. H. Hobart Ward's brigade when the latter was wounded, and led it throughout the rest of the campaign, as well as during the subsequent Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns."

This is perhaps another source of confusion, since the First Battalion New York Sharpshooters were engaged at both Bristoe and Mine Run. They were organizationally part of Gen. Lysander Cutler's "Iron Brigade", not J. H. Hobart Ward's brigade. The OR does not indicate that the NYSS were ever under the command of Berdan.

By the way, in the 1850 US census, Hiram Berdan, of New York, was located in Kenosha Wisconsin working as a machinist.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Culpeper Va 1864 First Battalion NYSS 7th Co

Click image to enlarge slightly

This is a portion of a very damaged photo of the First Battalion's 7th company in winter camp, early 1864, at Culpeper Virginia. At this time they were part of Gen. Lysander Cutler's "Iron Brigade." Photo is from the private collection of the Stearns family.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Undated 112th Reunion Jamestown

Click on image for larger version

I doubt I will use this photo for either No Word of Them or its study guide.

Its an undated photo, probably mid 1890s of a reunion of the 112th Regiment and the 7th company sharpshooters. The white bearded gentleman standing by the cannon is Sharpshooter James D. Stearns who died in 1899. Photo is in the private collection of the Stearns family

If you are interested in the history of the 112th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, here is their link: