Sunday, April 03, 2016

War booty: A confiscated 28th Georgia muster roll

Close-up of 28th Georgia Company H muster roll, part of Connecticut Historical Society collection.
Oliver Wood in 1898: He "found"
the 28th Georgia muster roll
in 1862 in Stafford Courthouse, Va.
(National Archives via
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Like soldiers in other wars, Civil War combatants sought souvenirs from their war-time experiences. A photograph found on a fallen enemy18th-century legal documents from a Virginia courthouse and bullets or pieces of artillery shell -- all such war booty found its way back home with soldiers. Even a Bible wasn't off-limits for a 107th New York corporal. After the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, Nathan Dykeman snatched the sacred book from the pulpit at the Dunker Church. (It wasn't returned to the church's congregation until 1903, 41 years later, and is now on display at the battlefield Visitors' Center.)

And so it's not surprising that a muster roll from Company H of the 28th Georgia ended up in the hands of an 18-year-old 1st Connecticut Cavalry private named Oliver Ellsworth Wood. According to writing found at the top of the document in the Connecticut Historical Society collection, Wood "found" it in 1862 in Stafford Courthouse, Va., and apparently later gave it to his father, a pastor at a church in Guilford, Conn.

What is surprising is how it finally ended up in a manila folder at the CHS in Hartford among other Civil War muster rolls and the typewritten account of a Vermont captain's experience at the Battle of Cedar Creek. But that's a little mystery to solve another day.

Let's investigate the document to see what we can learn about Company H, one of 10 companies in the 28th Georgia. (Click on all images to enlarge.)


There are lots of names, dates and numbers on both sides of the 42-by-36-inch document, which took up more than half my large desk Saturday afternoon in the Connecticut Historical Society research room. (I found the fragile muster roll folded several times and handled it with great care.) Armies needed to know how many soldiers they had to wage war. A muster roll not only accounted for soldiers present for duty -- from lowly privates to officers -- but for pay distributed, a unit's perceived worthiness to fight and more. This muster roll was filled out by the company adjutant, probably an officer in the regiment.


A cropped enlargement of the muster roll shows the accounting dates: April 30, 1862-June 30, 1862. Known as the Ohoopee Guards, Company H was mainly recruited from rural Washington County (Ga.) towns such as Davisboro, Riddleville and the county seat of Sandersville, where Sherman's army briefly skirmished with Rebels and then burned the courthouse and several other buildings during its March to the Sea in 1864. Assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia, the Georgians were quite busy during those two months. The regiment help defend Yorktown (April 5-May 4, 1862) and Willliamsburg (May 5), fought a severe battle at Seven Pines (May 31-June 1) and saw action in the Seven Days' battles near Richmond from June 25 to July 1.


The document was signed in a camp "near Richmond" on June 30, 1862, by Captain William Johnson, who noted the discipline of the company ("good"), level of instruction ("well instructed"), military appearance ("ordinary"), condition of arms ("good") as well as status of accoutrements ("generally good") and clothing ("ordinary"). That same day, the Confederates defeated George McClellan's Union army at the Battle of Glendale, the fifth of six Seven Days' battles near the Rebel capital. The next day, the Army of Northern Virginia was bludgeoned nearby when it advanced into the teeth of expertly placed Union artillery at Malvern Hill, where the 28th Georgia suffered three killed and 37 wounded.

Johnson would remain with the company a little more than a month after he signed this muster roll -- he resigned his command because of rheumatism on Aug. 9, 1862, (He served as a private later in the war with the state militia and a Georgia cavalry regiment.)


Among the 64 soldiers accounted for in Company H were 52 privates -- five of those soldiers were sick, seven were on furlough and one was absent without leave, probably not unusual figures for this early in the war. Of course, the grimmest numbers are the ones at the bottom right: four soldiers had died of disease and two from wounds in battle.


The names of the dead soldiers, shown in the cropped enlargement above, were Irwin Wilson, Alex Bodiford, Dunkin Bodiford,  Lucian Q.C. Martin (privates), Benjamin Forbs (sergeant) and  Andrew J. Young (corporal). According to various records, each died in hospitals in either Manassas, Va., Richmond or elsewhere..

The 1860 U.S. Federal census noted Forbs was a 36-year-old farmer from Sandersville who had a wife named Rebecca, 29, and four children: Robert, 14, Joseph, 12, Eliza, 9 and William, 2. A farm laborer in his early 20s from Sandersville, Dunkin Bodiford died in Manassas in January 1862, but it's unclear why his name appears on this late spring/early summer muster roll. His relationship to Alex Bodiford (also spelled Bodaford and Bedford), if any, is unknown. From Wrightsville, Ga., 18-year-old Private Wilson was the second-oldest child of Milly and John Wilson, a farmer. Details on Private Martin are sketchy, but he is believed to have been buried in Front Royal, Va., perhaps an indication he had relatives in the state.

Let's focus on Corporal Young, who was only 17 when he died of typhoid fever in Chimborazo Hospital No. 2 in early April 1862. A vast complex of nearly 120 buildings in Richmond, Chimborazo included an ice house, soup house, bakery, soap factory and its own farm, in addition to facilities that could handle up to 3,000 patients. As many as 17,000 Confederate soldiers may have been treated there during the war. (For more on the hospital, visit Michael D. Gorman's excellent Civil War Richmond web site.) 

According to the 1860 U.S. census, Andrew J. Young was 15. (
In an effort to ensure that soldiers were identified after death, Chimborazo head surgeon James McGraw issued this order in April, 9 1862, about the time of Young's death:
"Every Hospital shall have a dead house and the Surgeon in Charge shall be responsible for its condition. Every Steward shall be responsible for the non performance of the following rule: the name rank company and regiment shall be placed on the breast of the deceased, pinned or sewed on securely when removed from the ward to the dead house. Every Dead House now in use shall be immediately cleansed and all the cots taken out and beds emptied."
Perhaps McGraw's order led for a properly marked grave for Young so his family in Sandersville, Ga., could find his remains in Richmond. It's more likely that Andrew's body was not recovered by his loved ones and that he lies buried today in a grave marked unknown in Richmond's Hollywood or Oakwood cemeteries, the final resting place of  thousands of anonymous Confederate dead.

28th Georgia Private Andrew Young died at Chimborazo Hospital, a large Confederate hospital
complex in Richmond. (Library of Congress)


28th Georgia Lieutenant Benjamin H. Brantley died of his Antietam wounds at Stephen  Grove's
 farm near Sharpsburg, Md., on Oct. 5, 1862. President Lincoln visited the farm in early October.
(Left photo: Alexander Gardner/Library of Congress)
A grueling war still had nearly three years left, and other soldiers in the company would share the fate of Young and his five comrades. Above, I spotlight three more Company H soldiers in another cropped enlargement of a section of the muster roll:

+ Lieutenant Eldridge Hatcher had died of disease in Richmond on June 10, 1862, the news somehow escaping the attention of Captain Johnson.

+  Lieutenant Benjamin H. Brantley, mortally wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, died as a prisoner of war 18 days later at Stephen Grove's farm, a mile west of Sharpsburg, Md. President Lincoln visited the farm in early October, posing for a now-famous photo with General George McClellan and his staff and reportedly consoling wounded Confederates in Grove's house. Perhaps Brantley was among them. Years after the war, the officer's remains were exhumed from "the northern edge of Stephen Grove's woods" and reburied in the Confederate Cemetery in Hagerstown, Md.

+ Sergeant Evan Parker was lucky -- he survived the war, but not without cost. After he was discharged from the 28th Georgia, he joined the 59th Georgia, eventually rising to second lieutenant. On May 6, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, the 27-year-old officer was shot in an arm, necessitating amputation at the shoulder. Parker died at 76 in Montgomery County, Ga., on April 25, 1913.

Do you know more about soldiers in Company H of the 28th Georgia? If so, e-mail me.

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