CivilWarTalk's (Mike's) Civil War Ancestry Research

civilwartalk

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#1
Welcome to my personal ancestry research thread. During the American Civil War, at least three of my relatives served in the Union Army.

imgvassar-jpg.jpg

Rev. Thomas Edwin Vassar, D.D.
1834 - 1918
(Post-War Photo, circa 1872-1880, Flemington Baptist Church)
  • Thomas is my 3rd Great Grandfather
  • Son of William and Mary (Hageman) Vassar
  • Born on December 3, 1834 in Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Ordained as a Baptist Minister on January 19, 1857 in the First Baptist Church of Poughkeepsie, Age 22.
  • Married to Tamma G. Sackett on October 7, 1861
  • Chaplin of the 150th New York Volunteer Infantry
    • Service Duration: 10/11/1862 - 8/6/1863
    • Participated in the Battle of Gettysburg at the Trostle House (7/2) & Culps Hill (7/3)
  • Post War Vocation as a Traveling Minister, traveling as far west as Kansas City, Missouri before finally settling in Elizabeth, NJ
  • Children: Clarence, Thomas, Anvenette ('Nettie'), Frances, Harvey
  • Thomas is the Author of Uncle John Vassar: The fight of faith, published 1879
  • Died on July 2, 1918 in Elizabeth, NJ, likely of natural causes, at age 84
  • Buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Elizabeth/Hillside, NJ
    • Coord: 40°41'38.6"N 74°12'46.5"W (40.694051, -74.212906)
  • Thomas' name is listed on the front of the 150th NYVI Monument at Culps Hill, Gettysburg, PA

James Hervey Vassar
1839-1925
  • James is my 4th Great Uncle
  • Son of William and Mary (Hageman) Vassar
  • Born on October 20, 1839 in Poughkeepsie, New York
  • Corporal, 150th New York Volunteer Infantry, Co. A (10/62 to 6/65)
    • Participated in the Battle of Gettysburg at the Peach Orchard (7/2) & Culps Hill (7/3)
  • Married to Henrietta Rice
  • Post War Vocation was as a Clerk at the U.S. Sub Treasury in Boston, MA
  • Died on July 28, 1925
  • Buried at Worchester Rural Cemetery, Worcester, MA

Adrian H. Vassar
1836-1864
  • Adrian is my 4th Great Uncle
  • Son of William and Mary (Hageman) Vassar
  • Born in 1836
  • Married to Dency Olmstead
  • Pvt/1st Sgt, 176th New York Volunteer Infantry, Co. B (9/62 to 9/63)
    • Enlisted on September 23, 1862 at New York City, NY as a Private at age 26
    • Captured by Confederates on June 23, 1863 at Brashear City, La
    • Paroled August 17, 1863
  • Promoted to First Lieutenant, Regimental Quartermaster of the 16th Corps de Afrique Infantry September 17, 1863 (Later known as the 16th Louisiana, or 87th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry)
  • Died on February 6, 1864 near Brownsville, Texas by drowning while crossing the Boca Chica Inlet via horse after visiting Playa Bagdad, Mexico, swept out to sea by the tide going out
    • Body recovered February 10th on Mexican shoreline about 7 miles South of the border, Funeral at Camp on February 13th
  • Buried at Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Adrian's name is listed on the African American Civil War Memorial, Washington, D.C.


In addition, the following notable civilian of the era is in my family tree:

uncleJohnVassar.jpg

John Ellison Vassar
(a.k.a. Uncle John Vassar)
1813-1878
  • John is my 5th Great Uncle
  • Son of Thomas Vassar and Joanna Ellison
  • Born on January 13, 1813
  • Married to Mary Lee in 1838
  • Tract Society's Missionary
  • Civil War Connection: Captured shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg by Stuart's Confederate Cavalry, he was suspected of being a spy, and when he was confronted by General Stuart himself, he identified himself and his mission, and then John asked: "General, do you love Jesus?" A suggestion made by Stuart's men was heeded: "Take this man's promise that he will not tell of our whereabouts for twenty-four hours, and let us see him out of our lines, or we will have a prayer-meeting from here to Richmond." Uncle John was allowed to return to the Union lines.
  • Burial: Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Poughkeepsie, NY
20yr75CL.jpg
 
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civilwartalk

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Rev. T. E. Vassar writes to the Amenia Times as follows in regard to the action of our County Regiment in the battle of Gettysburgh [sic], and the sepulture of those who fell in their country's defence:

The uniform testimony of those who witnessed the fight is that the Duchess regiment deported itself nobly—so nobly as to earn the warmest commendations from officers whose opinions are regarded as of the highest worth. Twice for more than two hours each time it stood without flinching under the hottest fire, and from the number of dead gathered up opposite that point on the following morning, there is reason to believe that they left their mark.

Saturday night, at the request of our Brigadier-General, I superintended the burial of the dead of the 150th. Your readers doubtless know that we had seven killed. Close by the edge of the woods we dug their graves. The flicker of the dying camp fires streamed up amid the deep darkness as we wrapped around our heroes their blankets for a winding sheet, and silently laid back earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and dust to dust. It lacked not much of midnight when we rounded up the last mound, and as I turned away I thought of that coming hour when every sepulchre should restore its trust, and the slain of both armies again stand face to face.

Location of New York Regiments.—The One Hundred and Fiftieth New York regiment is at Monocacy Junction, Md. The Sixty-ninth, Eighth and Sixth New York Militia are doing duty in the Baltimore fortifications. The Seventh have detachments at Long Bridge, crossing the Patapsco, and at Locust Point; and a company is detailed each morning as provost guard in Baltimore.

The discipline which is exercised in the Seventh is marked by such discrimination and prompt punishment that the organization fully maintains its character. The regimental bulletin board at Fort Federal Hill yesterday contained the following notice:

"[Extract from General Order,]

"Private W. E. Kidder of Co. A, having violated his pledge to return on the expiration of his furlough, is hereby dishonorably dismissed from further duty, and will not be allowed to rejoin his company during their present term of service."

CASUALTIES AT GETTYSBURGH.—450 Officers and privates wounded in the late battle had arrived at Baltimore on the 6th. They are mostly but slightly injured. Among them we observe the following:

Edward Free, Co. I, 150th N. Y.
S. Vranderburgh and John H. Plair, Co. C., and A. W. Lamoreaux, Co, E., 124th N. Y., from Orange Co.

E. Meeker, Co. A., and Adolph Braw, Co. _., 20th N. Y., from Ulster Co. A. E. Vandeman, Dan. D. Smith, and Lieut. J. Wilkinson, Co. C.; John U. Myer, Co. I., and E. D. Cline, Co. F., 120th N. Y., also from Ulster.

We also hear that the colonel and major of the 124th were killed, and the lieutenant colonel wounded.
 

civilwartalk

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We observed our friend Mr. Thompson, Adjt. of the 150th Regiment, in town yesterday. He has resigned his commission in consequence of ill health.
The Rev. Thomas E. Vassar, Chaplain of the Regiment, has also resigned on account of ill health. Mr. Vassar has not arrived yet. Mr. Thompson states that the regiment is now encamped near Warrenton Junction on a beautiful spot of ground. He represents the boys to be in first rate condition.
 

civilwartalk

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We find the following letter from Rev. Thos. E. Vassrr [sic], late chaplain of the 150th regiment, in the Poughkeepsian. It refers to the articles sent from here for the use of that regiment in July, which have at length reached their destination:

BALTIMORE, August 14, 1863.

MRS. THOMPSON—Madam: The day after my arrival in this city my uncle, John E. Vassar, came on direct from the One Hundred and Fiftieth with an order from Col. Ketcham to get and bring on, if possible, some of the hospital stores that were in Mr. Pudney's charge. Although scarce able to sit up I at once went down to the store and spent the whole day in unpacking and repacking the supplies lying there.

All the bedding, clothing, bandages, lint, &c. were turned over to the Christian Commission, while everything eatable and drinkable that was in a condition to use I had put up for our boys. In order to insure their safe carriage I hired a man used to packing glass and china-ware to assist, and have a hope that unless too roughly handled they will reach the Rappahannock in pretty good order. Four barrels and eight boxes were thus filled, not an article being put in but what will add to the comfort of the men in their present condition, a hundred fold.

Your two boxes were all that were left unopened. I took it for granted that their contents were all right. I have paid all charges on them as far as Washington, from thence the New York Relief Association has promised to forward them to Rappahannock Station or Bealton, and at either of these two points our brigade wagons can get them. I do most devoutedly hope they will reach the regiment for they were a very choice lot and never could come at a more acceptable time. The goods leave Baltimore this morning and will reach their destination, I trust, early next week. Many a sick soldier will silently bless the friends who have provided them. My uncle will meet the things in Washington and from thence go on with them. I told him to get them through regardless of expense.

Respectfully yours,
T. E, VASSAR.
 

civilwartalk

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Headquarters 150th Reg't N. Y. S. V.,
Belger Barracks, Baltimore, May 5th, 1863.

Friend Dutcher—Another of those great struggles the progress and result of which the nation is watching with such anxious heart-throbs is while I write you going on, and but little else is talked of—thought of here. The bulletin boards down town are besieged by eager, excited crowds, the loyal gather around the offices of the American and Clipper, read the brief telegrams, and speculate as to what will come next, while rebel sympathizers looking worried or chagrined hang around the Sun Buildings, to see if their organ will not throw out a crumb of comfort to keep hope alive.

I trust that next week's TIMES will be able to convey to its readers the intelligence waited for so long, that over the rebel Capitol the Stars and Stripes wave. Of one thing we all feel sure, Hooker will go into Richmond, or the Army of the Potomac will hardly have a fragment left.
I was on board of a gunboat yesterday, the Mahaska, that returned not long ago from service on the James River; her engineer said that she had laid within six miles of the city where Jeff. at present has his throne. She has been brought hither for repairs, having been pierced in numberless places by balls. Near by, another, the Eutaw, is being finished up. To know the strength of one of these craft, of which all read so much, it is necessary to see it on the stocks. In about two months it is expected that she will be ready to report for duty, but the Captain very confidently predicted that before that time the Southern Confederacy would entirely have collapsed. I wish that I felt a like assurance. That it must come to this, no one, unless blind, can for a moment doubt, but while the issue is certain the time cannot yet be accurately fixed. From the day the war began we have all again and again erred by setting its termination near. Let us restrain our impatience, we shall not have to wait forever.

The trouble along the line of the Baltimore road still keeps away a part of the forces that have been stationed here. Some five or six bridges up on the route have been destroyed, and portions of the track torn up, but the directors are out in a card this morning announcing that on Monday next trains will run as usual, all damages by that time being repaired. This company has frequently suffered from rebel raids, nor do I greatly pity it, for some largely interested in it have been strongly suspected of lending the enemy a helping hand, and indeed have been publicly accused of complicity with treasonable schemes.

I took a little trip last week to Westminster, a quiet, old-fashioned place, the shiretown of Carroll Co., about thirty miles Northwest of Baltimore. At this point a detachment of our men, under Lieut. Bowman, are doing provost duty. Through that region and up along the Pennsylvania line a disloyal organization has sprung up, that humourously, satirically, or vulgarly is called wooden-horse men, but if the members that I saw were specimens of the fraternity, I think that by putting the word head in place of "horse" you would more nearly describe them. The special work of the guard just now, is to break up this interesting brotherhood. The oath taken at initiation pledges members to atrocities against Union men almost equal to those of the old Romanish Inquisition. Several arrests were made while I was there. The village (or rather city, for it goes by that name) has about twelve hundred inhabitants and just now as Summer is comming [sic] on, wears a pleasant face. You see no marks however, of that enterprise or thrift which characterizes such towns in the North or West. Very evidently Westminster is taking a Rip Van Winkle nap. It was taken by the rebs the week before the South Mountian [sic] fight but only held a single night. Burnside the next morning came dashing in with a band of cavalry, and succeeded in grabbing a few of the rear line, as the fugitives skedaddled at "double quick." There are some staunch Union men there, and I think some Union women too, for on the evening that the rebels were in the town a company of female loyalists stopped in front of their quarters and serenaded them with the "Star Spangled Banner," "Red, White and Blue," and other National airs. Cool, wasn't it?

Fast day was universally observed in this city, so far as a suspension of business was concerned, although I believe the market-men affirm that their sales were unusually large the night before. Perhaps the people celebrated it like those of whom we read—
"The monks of Melrose they made good kail
When they fasted on Friday."

Be this as it may, however, the streets wore a Sunday look, save that the cars ran, and every church was opened. I attended four services during the day, and heard eight or nine ministers; and while most of what was said was very true, there was more that was'nt [sic] said which would have been just as true. There was not an expression savoring of disloyalty, yet truth compels me to say, that the clergy of Baltimore, as represented by these bretheren [sic], does not yet come to the mark. With one person to whom I listened I was partly amused, partly disgusted, and partly mad. He was striving to show that the nation was suffering for its sins; a proposition undeniably true. He even went so far as to affirm that wickedness had been indorsed and made respectable by legislative enactments, and after a deal of pious eloquence, proved his point, by showing that our national legislators had sunk to such an awful depth of infamy as to authorize the carrying of government mail bags on Sunday!!! And was this all? All. No intimation that we had trampled upon Christ in the persons of his poor, and weak, and needy. No intimation that we had seen right fall into the hands of thieves and robbers, who had stripped and beaten it, and left it half dead, and passed by without lending help, like the lordly priest, or the indifferent Levite. No intimation that a large part of each session of Congress was consumed in devising means for propping up an institution founded in the most monstrous injustice and kept alive by enactments in quiet conflict with the laws of God; No intimation that we had been building a house upon a volcanoe's [sic] side, and that the convulsions of the times was but the fierce glowing of its pent up fires—Nothing of this kind. O no; the unpardonable sin of the American Republic in this nineteenth century is, that it has ordered the carrying on certain routes of a Sunday mail! And for this the Govenor [sic] of nations is passing us through such blood and slaughter. O labor of a mountain to bring forth a mouse. O straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. O wretched attempt to cover up with a minor sin a mighty crime. O impious endeavor this to misinterpret the divine judgments or misread the divine dealings.

T. E. V.
 

civilwartalk

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From the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle.
Headquarters 150th Reg't N. Y. S. V.
Gettysburg, July 5, 1863.

EDITORS EAGLE.—I have the opportunity of sending by special messenger (all mail communication being suspended) a brief account of the desperate battle just fought here and the part borne by the One Hundred and Fiftieth in the same. After a fatiguing march we reached this place on Thursday morning, July 2d, and found heavy skirmishing going on. About the middle of the afternoon the general engagement came on, opening with a furious artillery charge. An hour or two before sunset our corps (the Twelfth) was called out. The Dutchess boys, though weary, responded at once, but by the time we reached the position assigned us dusk was coming on and the tremendous fire which had been for hours incessantly kept up was slacking down and soon after altogether ceased.

We drove the enemy more than a mile, however, and recaptured and brought off three cannon which they had taken. While the regiment halted, awaiting farther orders, I strolled over the field, and fearful was the sight. All around the Union wounded lay thick, and pitiable were their cries for help. The ambulances soon arrived and commenced gathering them up. As it was too late for anything further that night, our brigade (General Lockwood's) was ordered to return to its camp.

We rested upon our arms—At two o'clock the following morning we were again aroused and soon after formed in line of battle, the enemy having massed i n the woods upon our right. About six or seven o'clock the 150th marched up to face the foe with three rousing cheers. A breastwork of fallen trees afforded them partial protection and over this they poured upon the rebels a telling fire. Till nearly noon the entire line was one continuous sheet of flame. Experienced officers declared that our men fought admirably and commended them in the strongest terms. One distinguished general said: "If that is the fire of a new regiment, I wish all our regiments were new!" Not far from noon the rebels fell back, some fifty or sixty coming in and giving themselves up.

This ended our fighting for the day. Our wounded were removed to a large stone barn near by, where they were attended to, and then transferred to the Twelfth Corps general hospital. Our regiment suffered less than almost any other of which I have heard, notwithstanding rebel sharpshooters posted in the trees picked away constantly. I append a list of killed and wounded, which I believe is correct:

Co. A.—Killed—Corp. John Van Alstyne. Privates, Charles Howgate, Levi Rust, John P. Wing. Wounded—Corp. George Wilson, slightly in the forehead. Private James L. Place, slightly, in the hand.

Co. B.—Wounded—Privates, Valentine Jones, slightly, head; James M. Chambers, slightly, neck; Owen O'Neil, slightly, leg; Nelson P. Shafer, lost an eye; Charles Weaver, slightly, hand.

Co. C.—Wounded—Sergeant A. Seely, slightly, head. Private Tallmadge Wood, mortally, in the chest.

Co. D.—Wounded—Corporal Richard ..mond, slightly, head.

Co. E.—Killed—Private Judd Murphy. Wounded—Samuel Clement, very slightly, face.

Co. F.—Wounded—Private Stephen H. Ryners, in the hand.

Co. G.—Killed—Private Barnard C. Burnett.

Co. H.—Wounded—Private Michael McGinn, severely, abdomen.

Co. I.—Killed—Private Henry Barnes. Wounded—Edward Hart, severely, in the hip; Alexander Rodgers, lost a finger.

Co. K.—Wounded—Corporal George W. Buck-master, slightly, neck. Privates, Patrick Cane, reported wounded; L. E. Dutcher, leg; F. Potenburgh, arm; James Lynch, leg; Thomas Way, arm; Alfred Woodin, hand.

Total—Killed, 7; Wounded, 22.

There was no fighting yesterday. A few of our men are missing, but it is supposed that they are straggling. None are known to have been taken prisoners. I gathered up our dead yesterday, and saw them interred.

Yours respectfully, T. E. VASSAR, Chaplain.
 

civilwartalk

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On the march through Boonsboro Valley,

July 9th, 1863.

Friend Butcher—A partial suspension of mail communication and pressing duties of other kinds will account for my tardiness in keeping the readers of the TIMES acquainted with the movements and achievements of the regiment in which many of them feel an interest so deep. When one is on the march from dawn to darkness he feels decidedly more inclined to slumber than to write, but now while we are halting on a hillside for dinner, I place a sheet upon my knee to jot down some incidents of the eventful two weeks past, persuaded that though they may come a little behind time to some they will be welcome still. On Thursday, June 25th, our final marching orders came, and about four o'clock in the afternoon we turned away from Belger Barracks—a place endeared to us by a thousand pleasant memories.

Ten miles of tramping brought us to Ellicott's Mills, a small manufacturing village on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio road, where we rested for the night. Rested I say, though stopped would be a more appropriate term, for soon after lying down rain set in and our bed and its coverings soon became slightly damp, disturbing rest. Through rain and mud we journied [sic] the next day to Poplar Springs, seventeen miles beyond, and camped in a grove which Stuart's rebel cavalry pitched in twenty-four hours after we left. Saturday evening we brought up at Monooacy Junction and spent the Sabbath there. Very unlike a Sabbeth it seemed, however. All day long the army of the Potomac went tramping by as it had been doing for the previous forty-eight hours. At night the scene was perfectly magnificent. Every hill top in the region was a camp, and thousands of lights, with here and there a blazing camp fire gleamed like a city's illuminated streets.

Monday morning early orders came attaching us to the 12th army corps, and bidding us go on to join it. A few hours after we caught up, and on Thursday morning came in sight of Gettysburgh [sic]. Again and again while on the route I wished that those at home who complain of the slowness with which the army moves could look on and see what moving the army really means. Not one person in a thousand at the north has the slightest conception of the magnitude of the work. Ambulances, provision trains, artillery, caissons, ammunition wagons, horses, men, all to be pushed along together, is an undertaking of no ordinary kind. Of course the highways will not give space sufficient for this moving throng, and roads are speedily made through meadows and fields of wheat and corn along which the hosts surge.

But let us come to Gettysburg. It is a pleasant little village of eight thousand inhabitants, lying among Pennsylvania hills. Approaching it from the south there is quite an elevation to ascend. Off to the north, the east, and west, stretch heavy pieces of timber, in which the rebels at the time of our arrival chiefly laid. The northern part of the town they also held, while the other side we yet kept. We found pretty heavy skirmishing going on, but the general engagement for that day had not begun. The corps of which the 150th is a part was ordered to hold itself as a reserve. From the cemetery at the top of the hill I witnessed the skirmishing for two hours, till the balls of the rebel sharpshooters commencing to fly unpleasantly thick there, I returned to our camp. Toward the latter part of the afternoon the corps was called out to reinforce Gen. Sedgwick on the left of the line, a most furious engagement having there set in. The response was prompt. It was sundown, however, by the time our line of battle was formed. A perfect shower of shells fell all around as through the twilight woods our regiment pushed up.

Steadily they advanced, the rebels faltered and fell back. For a mile we drove the fugitives, and then it being too late further to continue the chase, one of our companies laid hold upon four guns which had been captured from us during the day, and brought them off. None that night were hurt. As I went over the dusky, blood-stained field, sad was the sight and sadder still the sounds. Again and again I was stopped by men writhing in their last great agony, and besought in God's name to do something for them if it was only to bring a draught of water. But even dying men I was compeled [sic] to turn away from, only able to promise that ambulances would soon be brought. Our wearied men having regained their camp slept upon their arms. At two o'-clock we were aroused. The rebels had massed in the woods upon the left. Soon after daylight we were called to support a battery for two hours, and after this ordered into the rifle pits. I went down with the men. In the edge of a heavy piece of woods breastworks built of fallen trees had been thrown up for more than a mile, and in front of these the Confederate forces laid with sharpshooters posted in the thick trees. To the place assigned them our men marched with three rousing cheers. Minnie balls buzzed around us like a swarm of bees.

Soon after the commencement of the firing I retired, conscious that my services would be needed elsewhere, and in a large stone barn near the field which was used as a temporary hospital waited the bringing of the wounded in. The uniform testimony of those who witnessed the fight is that the Dutchess regiment deported itself nobly—so nobly as to earn the warmest commendations from officers whose opinions are regarded as of the highest worth. Twice for more than two hours each time it stood without flinching under the hottest fire, and from the number of dead gathered up opposite that point on the following morning, there is reason to believe that they left their mark. It was not long before the services of the attending surgeons were in demand.

Our band had been detailed as an ambulance corps and upon stretchers soon began to bring the victims in—some rebels, some Union boys. After being temporarily attended to, they were placed in ambulances and carried to the hospitals of the different corps. Soon after noon the rebels began to shell the rifle pits where our men laid, and the batteries nearer to the left. Two of the batteries were near the barn where we were receiving the wounded, and of course the missies of death fell round us a perfect storm. Two burst within six or eight feet of me. Language is powerless to describe the fury of this cannonade. One hundred pieces were playing without intermission for hours till the solid earth seemed to shake. But vain were the rebels most desperate attempts. Nowhere could they break our lines, and by night they had fallen back at every point, thousands being taken prisoners, among them a small detachment which surrendered to our own boys. The rebel wounded with whom I had anything to do all admitted heavy losses. Several of them were officers, gentlemanly in their manners, and very grateful for every attention shown.

On Saturday morning I went over the battlefield gathering up and labeling the dead of our own regiment, and looking at the same time upon the slain on the other side. Few if any of their dead had been removed, and at points it would hardly be exaggerating to say that the ground was covered. That portion of the field over which I passed certainly had five rebel dead to one of our own. The scene was too sickening to describe— its memory will remain with me forever. Enough to say that bodies mangled, swollen, discolored and horribly offensive littered that beautiful forest from end to end. Saturday night, at the request of our Brigadier-General, I superintended the burial of the dead of the 150th. Your readers doubt-less know that we had seven killed. Close by the edge of the woods we dug their graves. The flicker of the dying camp fires streamed up amid the deep darkness as we wrapped around our heroes their blankets for a winding sheet, and silently laid back earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and. dust to dust. It lacked not much of midnight when we rounded up the last mound, and as I turned away I thought of that coming hour when every sepulchre should restore its trust, and the slain of both armies again stand face to face.

Sunday morning I had commenced looking up the wounded at the general hospital, when I received orders to rejoin the regiment at once, as it was about to leave. All however, I ascertained were doing well. Since then we have constantly been upon the march, attempting to intercept lee, and are now said to be within six or eight miles of a portion of hi army. Our men, though tired, are in good spirits, and ready again to meet the enemy at five minutes notice. Our tramp has taken us through the most beautiful sections of Maryland—what a calamity that such a region should be laid waste by the march and the onset of contending hosts.

O, if this impending battle might but be the final blow, what thanksgivings would go up from the land—aye, and from the hearts of homesick, weary soldiers too. While the army is willing to keep at its work till that work is done, I suspect there are few in it but would leap up for gladness could they hear their country say, "you are no longer needed, strife is over, soldier, go home."

God speed the time. T. E. V.
 

civilwartalk

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#9
HEADQUARTERS 150TH REG'T N. Y. S. V., 12TH Corps,
Warrenton Junction, Va., July 27th, 1863.

Friend Dutcher:—We are resting for a day, and I use its leisure moments to acquaint you with our movements, and some of the incidents transpiring by the way. We left Sandy Hook on Sunday, the 19lh, crossed the Potomac and the Shenandoah at Harpers Ferry, and commenced our march southward skirting the edge of the Blue Ridge as we tramped along. This section of Virginia has suffered less by the rebels than almost any other portion of the old dominion, the rebels having never passed through it in force, and our own troops having on all previous visits showed a general respect for private property. This time, however, the memory of Lee's recent raid into Pennsylvania was too fresh, and it, coupled with the fact that attempts were made to capture one of our wagon trains by the way, made the men less careful, and excited them to acts of retaliation. Strict orders, however, were issued against pillaging, and most of the property thereafter taken was by officers duly authorized.

Loudon County grows fine grass and grain, and shows some well cultivated farms, but the tokens of thrift lessen as one gets more and more into Dixie, and by the time Manassas Gap is neared even houses are, many of them, utterly destitute, or only their ruins found. Every foot of soil hereabout is historic. Upon this ground the armies of lee, Jackson, Fremont, Shield's. Banks, Sigel, McDowell have all lain. Remains of old camps dot every piece of woods, and the few springs and creeks in the region have hardly yet recovered from the drain made on them by the soldiers, and horses, and cattle that from time to time have halted here. Warrenton Junction, near which the army of the Potomac is centering again, is but a pile of rubbish, not a single building being left. Trains between here and Washington are constantly moving to and fro, freighted with forage and provision for the hungry "hordes"—as the cavalry would call us—that are here making a temporary stand.

You can hardly imagine how much good it did us to hear the whistle of a locomotive once more. Every one at once thought that he could now get news from home. Since leaving Baltimore our own regiment has never received a regular mail. To-day we hope to send out and get one in. The Papers, too, will now be coming in. The last dailies received are now a week old. On the day after getting them the newsboy attempted to bring on the Baltimore Clipper and American, but was seized between the Potomac and our lines by rebel guerrillas, his papers taken away, fifty dollars in cash demanded, and he then paroled. No effort has since been made to get news in.

Lee is supposed to by lying not far hence. The prevalent impression seems to be that we shall not at present make an attack, but simply attempt to hold the rebels in their present position, and prepare for a forward movement after the conscripts now being drafted shall have arrived, to bring the numbers in our depleted regiments up. This, however, may be a mere camp rumor, having no foundation in fact.

The few inhabitants that we find in this section are thoroughly rebel, and will not yet believe that Gettysburgh [sic] was a Union victory, or that Vicksburg is ours. How hard to credit that which it is to our interest to disbelieve.

T. E. V.
 

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#10
OUR ARMY CORRESPONDENCE.
BALTIMORE, Aug. 12th, 1868.

Friend Dutcher—I hardly know when or where I wrote you last, for days and places get strangely jumbled up when one is constantly upon the march. Weeks have no Sabbaths to give them a distinct bound, but run in to each other like waves coming from opposite ways. As I write you, Belger Barracks lie in full view, and many other points familiar by a nine months acquaintance rise before me recalling most vividly the past. A severe attack of a disease prevalent in the army at this season of the year has compelled me to leave my post a little before the leave of absence granted me by my people expires, and after taking a few days to recover from weakness and weariness I am expecting to turn again toward home.

The 150th came in sight of the Rappahannock on the evening of July 31st, and on the following morning crossed it upon a pontoon bridge which had been laid at Kelly's Ford. Just on the opposite bank we pitched our tents and there remained till the next night, when it was decided to recross and locate our camp upon a higher piece of ground a short distance back from the stream. By the change we got a decidedly better location, and there I left the brigade lying on Saturday, August 7th. It is not thought that the Army of the Potomac will move much further just now. This last campaign has been one of their severest, and the men need rest. A march of four hundred miles straight along under a July sun, a heavy battle, and divers skirmishes, will leave their mark upon the most robust men. Conscripts, moreover, are beginning to come in who will need drilling, so it is not thought probable that there will be any immediate advance.

The rebel pickets and our own have at some points come within speaking distance, and instead of saluting each other from the rifle's mouth have in some instances indulged in a social chat. Once or twice, however, since lying in our present position desperate attempts have been made by the enemy to force their way across the river at points where we had accumulated large commissary stores. The attempts were utter failures, for the boys have no idea of giving their rations up. Since getting near the railroad once more the supplies furnished the men have been more abundant and of a greater variety. Twice a week soft bread now takes the place of hard tack, and dessicated vegetables for making soup were being added to the stereotyped bill of fare.

The water in the vicinity of Kelly's Ford is the most objectionable feature. The supply is very limited and the quality far from fine, though better than what we found at Warrenton Junction. I suspect it would go very hard for our friends at home to swallow what we daily drank. It is no unusual thing to go a mile in search of it, and barrels are eagerly sunk at every point where there is any indication of a spring. The river is scarcely fit to wash in, being so turbid that you can not see bottom where it is two inches deep. Some of our boys while bathing in it found the bottom thickly strewed with shot and shell, some of which evidently had been turned out from the manufactory of our friends Hotchkiss & Co. I suspect they were thrown in a year or so ago to keep them from the enemy.

A very desolate looking region of country this is. Between the two armies it has been ground like grain between the upper and nether mill stones. A large part of the houses have been destroyed, and those that have not are mostly tenantless, not a growing crop is seen, rarely a conveyance of any sort met by the way. Guerrillas lie thick in the woods and have found employment recently in grabbing sutler's wagons on the road from Washington down, robbing the agents of the Christian Commission of their stores, firing into trains as they passed along, and other outrages of the kind. In consequence of such proceedings Gen. Meade has issued an order holding the inhabitants for ten miles on each side of the track responsible, and under that order quite a number were arrested a few days since and sent to the Federal Capital. It is the intention of the Government to make these men repair all damages to roads and bridges; and in case any obstructions are put in the way of trains, treat them as the offenders. This may seem a stern code but there is no other way of stopping such lawlessness.

On my way hither I stopped in Washington far a day or two. There was not quite the usual number of shoulder straps at Willard's or along the avenues. This to me was a hopeful indication. It seemed to show that while officers in the field are being so closely confined to their duties the hangers on at the Capital were being pushed out to their posts. Everywhere the public pulse beats confidently—all wavering or doubting with reference to the issue of our great struggle seems to have passed; many appear certain that the fall campaign will wind the rebellion up. I wish it might be according to their faith.
Baltimore hardly wears the same look as when we left it. All traces of alarm have disappeared, the barricades have been removed from the streets, and business flows on in its usual channels.

Belger Barracks are now the headquarters of a negro regiment. Last evening I witnessed their dress parade. The regiment is more than half full and its appearance very creditable. On Monday a flag was presented them, and from the throngs of sable-hued ones that went out, I judge that all colordom was there. What would Baltimoreans hare thought of such things a year ago? How this war has educated the people. I am glad that the African race is thus being put into the field. This war is to bring them freedom--it can never stop short of that) and never ought, and they will prize it more highly from having helped with their own blood to procure it.

All day yesterday I worked unpacking and repacking the generous supply of stores forwarded for our regiment from Amenia and Poughkeepsie, right after the battle of Gettysburg, but which had to be left at Baltimore for want of transportation. The clothing, lint, bandages and bedding of all kinds, I turned over to the Christian Commission for distribution among the hospitals, and then filled eight boxes and four barrels with wines, jellies, brandies, dried fruit, condensed milk and coffee, and preserved fruits, which I intend to start for Washington to-day or to-morrow, having the promise that the N. Y. Relief Association will there take charge of them, and see that they are taken to the railroad station nearest the 150th. From thence, a friend of the regiment will see to their farther transportation and delivery.

Though no longer standing in any official relation to the regiment, yet I cannot forbear in their name, returning the most cordial thanks to the noble friends at home for these practical and acceptable tokens of their kind remembrance. Never were they more needed than just now, not even after the late battle, for there is quite a large number on the list of sick, and all that government pretends to furnish is what is absolutely necessary—delicacies it cannot undertake to supply. Many a sick soldier will silently bless their benefactors, while being helped from out their stores.

And now having kept the readers of the TIMES for ten months, posted with reference to the movements of the Dutchess county boys—their glad hours and sad ones, their easy times and their hardships, their undertakings and achievements, leave them to win other victories, enhancing their reputation already gained, and lay down my pen as your Army Correspondent.

T. E. V.
 

civilwartalk

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#11
OUR CAMP CORRESPONDENCE.
HEADQUARTERS 150th REG'T N. Y. S. V.,
Belger Barracks, Baltimore, June 1st, 1863.

Friend Dutcher—Fortress Monroe, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Gosport Navy Yard are all names that during the two past eventful years have been made perfectly familiar to every reader of the TIMES. To some, however, it may be the name only that has become familiar, the places they may never have looked upon, and possibly never have seen described. Let such imagine themselves included in the little company that has just returned from a trip in those regions, and perhaps they will get an idea of the locality tolerably distinct or clear.

Our "passes" having been procured, we step on board the steamer Adelaide—a very comfortable craft—and two hours before the sundown of a charming day in May, cables are slipped loose, and we go drifting out toward the bay. At the mouth of the harbor sufficiently elevated to sweep for miles around, Forts Marshall and Federal Hill—one on the east side of the Patapsco, and the other on the west—loom up, showing their ugly looking sets of teeth, teeth that would chew up the city and everything approaching it terribly quick should such an order be given. Both have been built since the present war began, and would interpose a stubborn obstacle to further progress by water, even should vessels succeed in running up so far. A mile or two further down, as the river widens, we sail past Fort McHenry, erected at a time when foes without, rather than within, disturbed the country's peace. It suffered bombardment during the war of 1812—15, and the visitor passing through it now will be shown balls that were thrown in during the siege. It is not impossible that they may yet be returned to their original owner with interest. It was during this engagement, as you doubtless remember, that Key wrote the "Star Spangled Banner,"—a melody never more popular than now.

Three miles further down, "Fort Carroll" is beginning to rise up from the surrounding waste of waters. It was commenced by Government about four years ago, and will probably take half that length of time longer to complete it. It has already cost considerably more than a million of dollars, as an artificial island had first to be constructed, and this alone is no small undertaking where it is necessary to fill in to such a depth. A little further on, and we glide out into the bay.

Do you see that projecting point to the left with the light-house on it? Well, that is "North Point," where, one September day in 1814, British and American blood flowed together till that sandy beach was red. In front of Barnum's Hotel, on Calvert St., a fine monument has been reared to commemorate the event, covered over with the names of the heroes that in their country's service at that time fell. Dusk is now creeping over the waters, and the moonlight as it strikes them gives a violet hue that deepens as night comes on more fully, to an inky black, save where the vessel leaves in its wake a luminous trail. But sight seeing is the order of the day for to morrow, so lovely as it is on deck, we seek our state rooms and turn in.

At four o'clock we are astir, and find ourselves at about the widest point in the bay, the Chesapeake here stretching some fifteen miles across. On either side you see a faint dusky line of land, but when the sun comes up it looks like a rich red globe of fire emerging direct from the waters. Soon after, Fortress Monroe heaves in sight. We dispatch an early breakfast, and by six o'clock are alongside the wharf, ready to go ashore.

Fortress Monroe is built upon a neck of land which is washed upon one side by the waves of the Chesapeake, and on the other by the Elizabeth and James Rivers, which empty here together, and through a common channel flow into the deep. On the parapet and in the casemates it will mount about eight hundred guns, more than two hundred of which are now in place. As we approach the walls in passing up from the landing, they appear much higher than when seen from the boat. Around them stretches a moat with a bridge at the main entrance. This moat is perhaps twenty feet across, and from six to twelve feet deep. The walls are faced with stone, and rise probably about fifteen feet above the water in the moat. They are thirty feet deep, or thereabouts, but not solid, as the officers have their quarters here.

The space inclosed I can only estimate by the length of time consumed in walking round upon the parapet. Although we stepped by no means slow, between twenty-five and thirty minutes were consumed in making a circuit of the walls; from which I infer that the distance is from a mile and a half to two miles around. Entering through the sallyport into the Fort, we find ourselves at once in a small village, looking as though it had been set down right in some old orchard. The grounds are covered with trees of a species that we grow in our green-houses at the North, but never in the open air. Under the cool shade seats are ranged, on which we will take a moment's rest while waiting for the "guard mount," that takes place at eight o'clock. The band discourses stirring music, and roses opening in profusion all around scent the morning air.

Near the headquarters of Gen. Dix there is mounted upon the parapet the monster "Union gun," that throws a ball of four hundred pounds. Think of being struck by one of them! Now look over to the right across that little arm of water which sets in. There stood Hampton, which old drunken Magruder burned. That fine building—about the only one remaining—with a cupola upon it, was once a noted Female Seminary, but is known as the "Chesapeake General Hospital." That odd looking pile of stone rising from the waters a mile or two out bears a name terrible to the ears of evil doers in our army—the "Rip Raps"—a sort of Sing Sing to the disorderly. But we cannot linger here all day, passed have been procured for Norfolk, and at ten o'clock we start on the Croton for that place. Keep your eyes open now, for every mile is full of interest.

That bend to the right, where the James river comes in, is Newport News; and here occurred the famous engagement between the Monitor and Merrimac. Look in near the shore and you will discover the tips of several spars rising from the waters, these are vestiges of the sunken Cumberland. On the other side, where the Elizabeth river finds an outlet, you notice a long line of water batteries thrown up, that is Sewall's Point, where the rebels lay intrenched so long; and these are fortifications which they built. Further along is Craney Island, over which the Stars and Stripes once more float, and just below, a bit of an old mast with a small flag attached, marks the spot where the Merrimac, after her heyday career, went down. But while looking at all these objects of interest, we have run our fifteen miles up the Elizabeth, and are putting in to Norfolk. Landing, we find the city wears a deserted look. Before the breaking out of the rebellion it contained from fifteen to twenty thousand inhabitants, but a large part of the males are in the Southern army, and many of the familes [sic] have deserted their homes since the occupancy of the place by the Federal troops.

Everything wears a Sunday look. A sprinkling of the blue coated boys and negroes redeemed the streets from utter lonliness [sic]. At the first glance, you would have thought that the houses were all unoccupied, or else, that death had entered them, for nearly every window was darkened, and scarce a face at any one of them appeared. The city is bitterly, intensely, rebel, perhaps more entirely so than any other point of territory in Secessiondom that we hold. The sun is streaming down with mid-day glare, and being weary we will step into the "Atlantic House" and rest. The National flag floats over it, and once doubtless it was a popular resort, being built in very good style, and almost new. But its reading-room is empty now; its billiard and barrooms quiet as a graveyard vault, and its parlors look as though they did not open often for a guest. While dinner is preparing we stroll out around the markets, to get some strawberries for carrying home. Our baskets are soon filled, and while part of the company goes back to the hotel, declaring that they have seen enough, two or three others of us, whose curiosity overcomes weariness, step on board the ferry, and after a sail of about a mile, land at Portsmouth, on the other side.

The place is hardly as large as Norfolk, yet from some cause or other there seems more life. There is a larger military force here, which perhaps may account for it. But all that we are particularly anxious to see here, is the Gosport Navy Yard, in the outskirts of the city; and toward that we steer. A mile or less brings us there, but what a scene of desolation! Here stand the bare blackened walls of from thirty to fifty splendid buildings, many of which are two hundred feet long. If standing in a continuous row, they would reach probably from one to two miles.

The harbor is full of sunken hulks; the splendid stone piers are cracked and splintered by the fire, and alongside the wharf lies the wreck of the old line of battle ship, the United States, charred down to the water's edge. Ten millions of Government property was here sacrificed in a single night; and that when there was no occasion for it whatsoever. judge that there is a little more of loyal feeling here, as I saw posted notices for several Union meetings, and we were not followed by the ... lent stares and insulting looks that were very common on the other side. I asked the shrewd negro woman in the market, of whom we purchased our berries, whether greenbacks were readily taken in the stores there, "yes, yes, massa"—was her reply—"dey like de greenbacks well enough, but not de greenback men." They need such a man as Gen. Schenck here, whom the Express and World characterize as a tyrant, a despot, arbitrary and cruel. Honest words and pleasant smiles are not the remedies for rebellion.

Returning to Fortress Monroe, we take the, evening boat for Baltimore, after a day spent amid scenes that stamped themselves ineffaceably upon the mind, as they in the future will upon the page of history.

T. E. V.
 

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Biography of the Rev. Thomas Edwin Vassar
Chaplain of the 150th New York Infantry

(From Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske.
Six volumes. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889.)

[Vassar], Thomas Edwin, clergyman, born in Poughkeepsie, New York, 3 December, 1834, is son of William Vassar. His plans for entering college were frustrated by family misfortunes, and he was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1857, without the advantages of a formal education. He has been successively settled as pastor at Amenia, New York, Lynn, Massachusetts, Flemington, New Jersey, and Newark, New Jersey, and is now [1889] in Kansas City, Missouri. He was for one year chaplain of the 150th New York Regiment, and was at several battles, including Gettysburg. He is the author of a memoir of his cousin, John Ellison Vassar, entitled Uncle John Vassar (New York, 1879), of which about 20,000 copies have been sold in America and England. He has received the degree of D.D.
 

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ency0142.jpg


Matthew Vassar

VASSAR, Matthew, philanthropist, born in the parish of Tuddenham, Norfolk, England, 29 April, 1792; died in Poughkeepsie, New York, 23 June, 1868 His father, James Vassar, of French ancestry, who was a dissenter of the Baptist communion, emigrated with his wife and children and an unmarried brother, Thomas, to this country. He reached New York in 1796, and, after spending a few months in exploring the country, settled in the spring of 1797 on a farm in the neighborhood of Poughkeepsie. Here the Vassar family, having brought the art with them from England, began the brewing of ale first for their own consumption and then to meet the demands of their neighbors. These demands grew so rapidly that in 1801 James Vassar removed to Poughkeepsie and there conducted the brewing business on an extensive scale. His son, Matthew, finally succeeded to this business, and in it acquired the large fortune that he ultimately devoted mainly to the higher education of women. In 1845, after many years of diligent and prosperous labor, he visited Europe and spent nearly twelve months in travelling over Great Britain, Ireland, and the continent. Having no children, he was already meditating as to the manner in which he should dispose of his fortune so as best to promote the welfare of society. Circumstances finally determined him to erect, and endow a college for young women which should be to their sex what Harvard and Yale were to young men. In the execution of this purpose Mr. Vassar was a pioneer in a field that now abounds in imitators. In January, 1861, he obtained from the legislature an act to incorporate Vassar college, and in February following, at a meeting of the board of trustees which he selected, he transferred to their custody the sum of $400,000. At his death this was increased by the bequests of his will to more than $800,000. In the earlier years of his career Mr. Vassar gave much to various charities. A handsome house of worship for the Baptist church of Poughkeepsie, to which he was warmly attached, was built mainly by his contributions. His death occurred suddenly on commencement-day while he was engaged in reading his annual address to the trustees.--His nephew, Matthew, philanthropist, son of John Guy Vassar, born in Poughkeepsie, New York, 11 May, 1809; died there, 10 August, 1881. At the age of twenty-two he accepted a partnership in his uncle's brewing business, and laid the foundation of a large fortune. Though his early education was limited, lie became a well-informed man of sound judgment, positive convictions, and resolute energy, and exerted a commanding influence in the community in which he lived. He was active in various local institutions and charities, but rendered especially valuable service in his care of the college that his uncle had founded. He was one of its original trustees, and its treasurer until the time of his death, devoting, without salary, to the duties of this office and the general interests of the college several hours of each day for sixteen years. He endowed two professorships that bear his name in Vassar college, contributing for this purpose $100, -000, and also bequeathed to the college $50,000 as a beneficiary fund. In conjunction with his brother, John Guy, he built and equipped the Vassar brothers' laboratory connected with the college at a cost of $20,000. In the city of Poughkeepsie r he and his brother erected and endowed the Vassar brothers' home for aged men, the Vassar brothers' scientific and literary institute, and the Vassar brothers' hospital, of which the last named was completed after his death. His various benefactions amounted to about $, 500,000. By his exertions a branch of the New York society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was established in Poughkeepsie, and he became its president. He also gave much to the Baptist church of Poughkeepsie, of which he was a life-long member. --The second Matthew's brother, John Guy, philanthropist, born in Poughkeepsie, New York, 15 June, 1811; died there, 27 October, 1888, was early associated with his uncle in the brewing business, and shared its prosperity. Infirm health prevented his steady application to business, and he spent thirty years abroad, during which he travelled over a large part of the globe. He gave an account of these travels in a published volume entitled "Twenty Years Around the World" (1861). He is one of the original trustees of Vassar college, being selected for that position by its founder. Be sides his joint benefactions with his brother, which are recorded above, he has made a conditional gift of $20,000 to the College that bears the family name. His later years have been earnestly devoted to the completion and equipment of the Vassar brothers' hospital.--The first Matthew's cousin, John Ellison, lay preacher, born near Poughkeepsie, New York, 13 January, 1813; died in Poughkeepsie, 6 December, 1878, was the son of Thomas Vassar. In early life he was employed in the brewery of Matthew Vassar, but, having become a religious man of very earnest convictions, he left the service of his cousin and devoted his entire life to self-sacrificing labors for the good of others. He was employed in 1850 by the American tract society as a colporteur, his first missionary work being in Illinois and other western states. Subsequently New York and New England were his field of service. During the civil war he was at the front, engaged in religious labors of all kinds among the soldiers. Just before the battle of Gettysburg he was captured by General James E. B. Stuart's cavalry, who were glad to let him go to escape his importunate exhortations and prayers. At the conclusion of the war he visited, in the service of the Tract society, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Few men of his day travelled more extensively or were more widely known than " Uncle John Vassar," as he was everywhere called. His extraordinary mental gifts, in connection with his zeal. made him a lay preacher that was rarely equalled. An account of his life has been published by the Reverend Thomas E. Vassar (New York, 1879).--John Ellison's nephew, Thomas Edwin, clergyman, born in Poughkeepsie, New York, 3 December, 1834, is son of William Vassar. His plans for entering college were frustrated by family misfortunes, and he was ordained to the Baptist ministry in 1857, without the advantages of a formal education. He has been successively settled as pastor at Amenia, New York, Lynn, Massachusetts, Flemington, New Jersey, and Newark, New Jersey, and is now in Kansas City, Missouri. He was for one year chaplain of the 150th New York regiment, and was at several battles, including Gettysburg. He is the author of a memoir of his cousin, John Ellison Vassar, entitled " Uncle John Vassar" (New York, 1879), of which about 20,000 copies have been sold in America and England. He has received the degree of D.D.
Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM
 

civilwartalk

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This is just about all the information I've collected about my Great-Great Grandfather (I hope I got the number of "greats" correct). My family has a nearly life-size version of this portrait, as a kid I always wondered who that guy with the long stare was!
 
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