My Collection Begins

I’ve studied the Potomac Home Brigade for years now and my studies have taken me to libraries, battlefields, and cemeteries throughout the Upper Potomac Valley. I’ve combed through plenty of pictures, seen a few artifacts, and of course browsed through thousands of pages of documents. Now, for the very first time, I actually own something related to the Potomac Home Brigade. Thanks to eBay I know have a company return from 1864 to begin my collection. Trying to collect Civil War materials (or any other historical artifacts, for that matter) on eBay can be daunting. There’s a ton of stuff out there for one, and some of it may or may not be legit. Still, I always keep an eye out for PHB stuff – as well as other items relating to Union soldiers from Maryland – and this time I got lucky.

The document is a monthly return for Company G, 3rd PHB Infantry, taken in October 1864. These types of forms were routine for any company officer during the war. They basically enumerate how many men and officers are present or absent from duty for the month. If absent the document gives an area to explain why, complete with typical categories like “without leave,” “sick,” and “In arrest, or confinement.” There was space for notes on men who were captured or wounded or on detached duty. Monthly returns were imperative for officers to know what kind of shape their regiment was in, but they are also useful for historians interested in the everyday operations of a Civil War regiment. In this post we’ll take a closer look at this return and what it can tell us. We’ll start at the top…

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As I said the return is for Company G of the 3rd PHB Infantry, which was under the command of Baltimore native Henry B. McCoy in October, 1864. McCoy had been promoted to captain of the Company following the Siege of Harpers Ferry. The then 38 year old Baltimore native took over the post from the ill-fated Captain Jacob Sarbaugh, who was killed skirmishing on Boliver Heights. Despite frequent bouts with malaria Captain McCoy remained in command of Company G through the rest of the war.

Just below is the accounting of all the men and officers absent and present for duty.

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Here we see three officers present, as well as 57 enlisted men. In an ideal world a company was supposed to number 100 men, but that number often dropped quickly due to disease, desertion, battle, and other forms of attrition. I don’t have numbers in front of me right now, but I have a gut feeling that by 1864 standards this might be seen as a fairly large company, and may serve to show how a Home Brigade company would compare to a more “front-line” unit.

Moving on we have the absent men…

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All of the officers are present, but we do have 22 enlisted men absent – 10 sick, 6 under arrest, and 6 prisoners of war. For a more detailed breakdown of what’s going on let’s take a look below…

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Here we have the full list of the sick, wounded, and prisoners. The sick include the following men:

Sgt. William Eck (Carroll County, Md)

Cpl. Joseph Patterson (Baltimore, Md)

George Bell (St. Mary’s County, Md)

Summerfield Bowers (Frederick County, Md)

Abraham Fike (Allegany County, Md)

Celias Poole (Carroll County, Md)

Squire Fike (Fayette County, Pa)

The two Fikes were first cousins, and were among the seven Fikes serving in Company G. By the time this report was submitted Squire Fike was dead – he passed on October 14th at the US Hospital in Baltimore from Typhoid fever.

Three other men are listed among the sick, but they were hospitalized due to wounds. Charles Mason is listed as being sick since July 7, when he was wounded at the Battle of West Frederick. During the sharp skirmishing that day Private Mason was shot through the left thigh, with the ball eventually lodging in his “cervex femoria” – I had to look that one up but it sounds like the top ball joint of the hip so any doctors out there please correct me! Like Squire Fike Mason would also be dead by the end of October. The 16 year old lingered in the hospital in Frederick before finally dying on the 22nd. His family took his body home to Jarrettsville in Harford County for burial.

The other men were wounded two days after Mason during the Battle of Monocacy. During the Battle Company G was posted on the east bank of the river in support of a 24 pound howitzer. From their rifle pits the men of Company G covered the railroad bridge and also served as a rear guard for the Federal retreat that afternoon. John Claybaugh was wounded in the hand and was admitted to the hospital in York, Pa. There he contracted diarrhea and on November 6th the 22 year old died there of apoplexy (1). His body wasn’t brought home to Bridgeport, in Carroll County. Instead it lies in York’s Prospect Hill Cemetery under a monument to the hundreds of sick and wounded soldiers buried there in a common grave.  His comrade Jacob Settlemyer was far luckier. The 44 year old German immigrant was also shot in the left hip, and was sent to Philadelphia to recover from his wounds (2). He survived the war, returned home to Emmitsburg, Md, and died in 1896.

Of the remaining absentees five were captured at Monocacy:

Michael Donovan (Ireland)

Henry Magness (Baltimore. Md)

George Nalls (Loudoun County, Va)

Samuel Slayman (Pennsylvania)

Jacob Stedding (Frederick County, Md)

The prisoners were all sent off to Danville, Virginia. Stedding and Nalls would both die there from the diseases that ran rampant in prison camps. The other three men survived long enough to be paroled on February 22, 1865.

The sixth prisoner on the list, John Carter, was captured eleven days after Monocacy. His service record reports that he was taken near Leesburg, which is a bit of a mystery. In the aftermath of Monocacy the 3rd PHB Infantry was part of the force pursuing Jubal Early back into Virginia, but by the 20th the main Confederate force was well into the Shenandoah Valley. During this time, however, JOhn Mosby and his 43rd Battalion were active in harassing the Federal supply train and rounding up stragglers in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties (3). It’s entirely likely that Carter got caught up in one of these partisan attacks. The 18 year old Baltimore native was soon on his way to Danville as well, where he died of chronic diarrhea in January 1865(4).

The remaining six men absent from Company G were all under arrest.

Jerome Frizzle (Carroll County, Md)

John Cook (Carroll County, Md)

Joseph Ford (Page County, Va)

Steven Knight (Baltimore)

Conrad Rouch (Germany)

Thomas Hatfield (Carroll County, Md)

All six were confined for desertion in some form or another. Frizzle spent nearly 200 days in 1862 -1863 AWOL, and when he was finally caught he was sent to Ft. McHenry for 6 months of hard labor. He clearly didn’t learn his lesson, though, and not long after his return he was in trouble again. In the spring of 1864 he was court martialled a second time and was sentenced to three years of hard labor in the Dry Tortugas. I’ll keep digging on this case because I’d like to know exactly what he did to earn such a steep sentence.

John Cook deserted his company during the Battle of Monocacy and remained on the run for two months before he was returned to the regiment. Rauch (also spelled Rowe) ran off from Boliver Heights in late August – he was found back in Carroll County a month later. Both Hatfield and Knight deserted from Maryland Heights in early September. Knight was arrested two weeks later across the river in Harpers Ferry, while Hatfield was able to elude arrest until October 24th (5).

By far the most interesting case is that of Joseph Ford. Ford was a native of Page County, Virginia that somehow ended up in the ranks of the 1st New Jersey Infantry early in the war. On January 20th, 1863 he went missing and was declared a deserter, though later records reveal that he was captured and paroled at Warrenton, Va on the 24th. With the 1st stationed around Falmouth at the time was he trying to make his way back home when he was caught? Regardless the Virginian enlisted in the 3rd PHB in February, 1864. In the aftermath of Monocacy he deserted his regiment on July 12th at Edwards Ferry on the Potomac, but was quickly returned by the beginning of August. Things took a decided turn for the worse after that.

On August 18th as the regiment camped outside of Harpers Ferry Private Ford got into an altercation with William Fike (another one of the massive Fike family mentioned earlier). Ford struck Fike in the face, cutting him severely. When Lieutenant Samuel Eck arrived to break up the fight Ford turned on him. Lt. Eck asked why Ford didn’t come to him if there was a problem between him Fike, to which Ford replied “do you think I’m a going to make a goddamn prick of myself when anything of that kind occurs in camp and to come and report it to you”(6).

Capture

You can’t make this stuff up (Fold3)

Ford then supposedly threatened to kill Lieutenant Eck and was restrained and confined to the guardhouse in Harpers Ferry. He remained there in confinement for over six months, never receiving a trial. Finally, in the spring of 1865 he was released and returned to his regiment. Since he was never actually tried the charges were all dropped and he was discharged with the rest of the Company in May.

If we look just below this list of absentees we find the Company is reporting from Buckhannon, West Virginia.

The soldiers of the 3rd PHB Infantry were no strangers to Buckhannon. The small river town lies in Upshur County, about 20 miles west of Elkins and 15 miles south of Philippi. Buckhannon’s importance to the US war effort came from its position astride two thoroughfares – the east-west Staunton and Parkersburg Pike and the north-south Buckhannon and Clarksburg Pike. From here a force could counter Confederate guerrillas and watch over the eastern approaches into West Virginia.

Capture

Buckhannon and environs, 1861 (Library of Congress)

In 1862 the 3rd PHB Infantry had spent time in the area hunting rebel guerrillas. Now, in the fall of 1864 they returned as part of Brigadier General John Stevenson’s Reserve Division in the Department of West Virginia. Company G remained in the relatively quiet backwater post until the end of the war.

In this portion of the return we also see the signature of the commanding officer. While the top of the document says the company is under the command of Captain McCoy, that’s not McCoy’s signature, but Lieutenant Samuel Eck’s – the same Lt. Eck who had gotten into it with Private Ford back in August. Although he enlisted in 1862 as a private Eck rose steadily through the ranks, receiving his 2nd Lt. commission on January 1, 1863 and his promotion to 1st Lt. in May 1864. The Taneytown native spent his whole enlistment with Company G, ending the war as its Captain. After the war he returned to Carroll County, where he worked as a carpenter and millwright. In 1903 he was admitted to the Sawtelle Veterans Home in California, where he died in 1910.

The reason Lt. Eck was in command of the company is made clear on the back of the return and it’s a simple one. Captain McCoy was acting as Provost Marshall for the town. No big surprises there. Lastly, the back of the page also lists enlisted men dropped from the company rolls. In this case we have one man – Private Samuel Yates.

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Yates was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, though I can’t find much more information that that at this time.

So I wanted to show off my new treasure, but I hope that was a fun exercise in picking apart a historical document. As you can see there is a ton of information here and we’ve just scratched the surface, and as with any good resource it raises some more questions for future research.

  1. NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0124
  2. NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0126
  3. Keen and Mewborn. 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry. pp 146-149
  4. NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0124
  5. NARA M384. Compiled military service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to the State of Maryland. Roll:0124-126
  6. Ibid.

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