Post-Fredericksburg forces disposition and a very interesting CW family heirloom

Woodstock74

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My family has a very interesting Civil War heirloom that I'd like to perhaps pin down better its provenance. A relative of mine was a shoemaker in Lynn, Mass. Post-Civil War, he came into possession of an item picked up off the battlefield from Fredericksburg; an infant/child's shoe. Clearly something someone brought with them as a reminder, very poignant.

With the item is a handwritten note describing how it came into his possession and from whom. About 30 years ago, my grandmother transcribed the information, as large portions of the original letter have gone missing, and she was getting on in age and she didn't want the history to be forgotten (she surely had me in mind, even if back then my interest, while definitely there, wasn't as keen as I wish it was...so many more questions I would have asked!) .

It says, in her handwriting,

"This shoe was picked up from the Battlefield at Fredericksburg by Roland Usher, Paymaster in the Civil War. R. Usher was from Lynn, Mass. 6-3-1863, Battle of Fredericksburg."

What's left of the original note reads,

"This shoe was picked up from the Battlefield at Fredericksburg..."

I've looked up Roland Usher, and to my surprise, Roland G. Usher was a mayor of Lynn post-Civil War, and it verify's he was a Paymaster in the Union Army. This information isn't necessarily new to the family, but it was to me and somewhat explains how my relative came into its possession (I can imagine only a few shoemakers were in town, and perhaps Usher simply didn't know what to do with the somewhat macabre trophy; macabre in the sense that everyone always goes to the obvious question, did this soldier survive? Of course we'll never know.).

The question I have...the date, June 3, 1863, is 6 months post-Fredericksburg, though I can imagine the battlefield was still a bit of a mess. That being said, what do we know of the disposition of Union forces in the region around this time? Is there any way to precisely trace troop movements post-battle? How could I trace what unit Usher was attached to and then link that to where that unit might have been June 3, 1863?

154 years ago, to the day, that awful battle was raging. And one soldier, presumably on the Union side, lost this shoe, given to him to remind him he had a child (and family) at home waiting for him.

20180723_102250.jpg
 

Jamieva

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The AotP did not start moving in response to Lee going north after this, so the entire army was on the north bank of the Rappahannock on that date. Some of Sedgwick's corps did cross the river on the 5th and have a little skirmish with some of Hill's forces.
 

lelliott19

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The question I have...the date, June 3, 1863, is 6 months post-Fredericksburg
Hello @Woodstock74 and welcome to Civil War Talk the best place on the internet for Civil War discussion. That's a nice avatar you've got there. :D Regarding the heirloom baby shoe....I believe you are attempting to associate the discovery of the shoe with the Battle of Fredericksburg that occurred December 13, 1862 while it is likely that its discovery was actually related to the Second Battle of Fredericksburg (May 3, 1863) as part of the Chancellorsville Campaign or, as @Jamieva proposes, the aftermath and perhaps the skirmish he described. Perhaps someone will be able to tell you exactly which divisions of Sedgewick's corps crossed the river and participated in the skirmish. Again, welcome to Civil War Talk.
 

Woodstock74

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Ah, yes of course! Therein lies the reason I posted this, I knew someone would be able to quickly steer me right. So what exactly did a Paymaster do (I mean, I have a general idea, responsible for distributing soldier's pay?)? I'm sort of assuming they were in the rear with the gear most of the time? When the unit was on the battlefield what would they have done?
 

NedBaldwin

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Ah, yes of course! Therein lies the reason I posted this, I knew someone would be able to quickly steer me right. So what exactly did a Paymaster do (I mean, I have a general idea, responsible for distributing soldier's pay?)? I'm sort of assuming they were in the rear with the gear most of the time? When the unit was on the battlefield what would they have done?
He started as paymaster in the 8th Mass, which my great great grandfather was also in - they probably knew each other as they were both in the shoe business in Lynn. At the regimental level, he was part of the Colonel's staff and could have followed the Colonel into battle.
But Usher went on to high staff positions and by the time he picked up this shoe he was not attached to any unit
So who knows why he was there


 

NedBaldwin

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A relative of mine was a shoemaker in Lynn, Mass. .... I can imagine only a few shoemakers were in town...

In the 1800s Lynn was to Shoes what Detroit was to Cars in the 1900s
So yeah just a few shoemakers
The largest labor strike in the US before the civil war started in 1860 when thousands of shoe workers in Lynn walked off the job
The mayor called it the local militia - Lynn Light Infantry - of which your relative and mine were members.
 

Woodstock74

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Thanks for the info! At the moment I'm trying to get more information about my relative, I'm curious if you have a roster of the Lynn Light Infantry? I'm working with little info at the moment; 40+ years ago my grandmother detailed our family history but that resource is with a cousin. I need to implore her to scan it so that the rest of the family can have access to it!
 

NedBaldwin

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Thanks for the info! At the moment I'm trying to get more information about my relative, I'm curious if you have a roster of the Lynn Light Infantry? I'm working with little info at the moment; 40+ years ago my grandmother detailed our family history but that resource is with a cousin. I need to implore her to scan it so that the rest of the family can have access to it!


Lynn Light Infantry was company D of the 8th Massachusetts Militia. Your relative is listed among the staff of the regiment.
So though he, and most of the regimental command, were from Lynn, he was not assigned to the company but regimental staff

Interesting that a few years before he is listed as the lieutenant-colonel of the regiment:
 

James N.

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… 154 years ago, to the day, that awful battle was raging. And one soldier, presumably on the Union side, lost this shoe, given to him to remind him he had a child (and family) at home waiting for him.

View attachment 338303
There's another far less attractive possibility - in at least the Dec. 11-14 occupation by the Federal army during the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Union assault of the 13th was preceded by an orgy of LOOTING and destruction by the Federal troops sheltering in the streets of the largely deserted town in which every sort of vandalism and thievery occurred as depicted in the NPS diorama below. It's just as possible this tiny shoe actually belonged to one of the residents who had fled with their family leaving this behind, where it was picked up as a "souvenir" by one of the Federal soldiers. Or, perhaps it was dropped and lost in their haste to get out of town before the battle started!

DSC05807.JPG
 

Woodstock74

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I wanted to clarify, my relative isn't Roland G Usher, mine is the one whom Usher gave the shoe to. He was my grandmother's great grandfather, so my...great, great, great, great grandfather? Is that how that works? Anyhow, I believe his name was William Nash Whiting.
 

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