Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Fiddler's Green: Edwin S. FitzHenry
Edwin Sawtell FitzHenry was born in Dublin, Ohio on July 24, 1835. He worked as a blacksmith prior to the Civil War.
Edwin was enlisted into Company B, 6th U.S. Cavalry on August 5, 1861 by Lieutenant Wade in Columbus, Ohio. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 6 ½” tall and 25 years old, with black hair, gray eyes and a sallow complexion. Interestingly, he signed into the regiment as Edwin S. Henry, dropping the “Fitz” from his name.
Private Henry trained with the new regiment at Bladensburg, Maryland and Camp East of the Capitol, Washing ton, D.C. through the fall and winter of 1861. He accompanied the regiment to the Virginia peninsula in March 1862 for the start of its first campaign as a company farrier.
Edwin seems to have avoided the disease that struck the regiment heavily after its arrival in Virginia. His first and only injury appears to have occurred at the battle of Hanover Court house on May 26, 1862. After the war he claimed to have been wounded in the left hand by a saber during the fight. There is no record of him in the regimental returns, either in the monthly return for June or the annual return for 1862. He did serve on detached service from his company at Cold Harbor with the regimental trains and hospital later that month, however, so there could be some credence to his claim. If he was injured, but not seriously enough to see one of the regiment’s assistant surgeons, there would not be a record of his injury. Regardless, he was back to duty with his company the following month.
Farrier Henry served through the rest of the campaigns of 1862 and 1863 without incident. He was one of the few soldiers in Company B who wasn’t killed, wounded or captured during the Gettysburg campaign in the regiment’s engagements at Fairfield or Funkstown. He continued to serve until the expiration of his term of service on August 6, 1864 at Light House Point, Virginia. The only change to his description is that his complexion had changed from sallow to ruddy, undoubtedly due to the many months outdoors and in the saddle during his enlistment.
The attached picture is courtesy of the Fitz-Henry family collection and shows Edwin at some point during his service. The person on the right is most likely Francis Riggs Chapman, another soldier from Company B. Chapman was also born in Dublin, Ohio, and enlisted the same day as Edwin at age 23.
After his return from the war, Edwin married Sarah Jane Burns on October 30, 1866. They had seven children over the next eighteen years. They moved to Illinois in the spring of 1875, where they lived on a farm two miles north of Gibson City until mid 1883. In 1883, Edwin moved his family to Fairbury, Nebraska. The family lived in Nebraska only six months before Edwin died from heart disease on January 12, 1884. He is buried in the Fairbury cemetery.
Sarah Jane and her children returned to Illinois. At the age of 34, she was a widow with children ranging in age from 5 months to 15 years. She received a widow's pension from the War Department for Edwin's service in the Civil War. Mrs. FitzHenry died of pneumonia on March 21, 1911.
Special thanks to Ann FitzHenry for starting me down the path of Edwin’s career and to her and her family for allowing me to post Edwin’s photo.