Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fiddler’s Green: John Savage

Another of the lesser known officers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry was Captain John Savage of Company H. He is yet another cavalry officer native to Philadelphia, a city that spawned many prominent cavalry leaders during the Civil War. He remains a mystery in many ways. While many “wants” have been found, there are precious few “whys.” Thanks to Jim Jones for permitting me to edit this and post it here.

John Savage, III came from a very prominent Savage family line who settled in Philadelphia during the late 18th century. His great grandfather was Edward Savage, who became a famous painter and engraver. He painted the first panorama in Philadelphia, The Congress Voting Independence, and many other political and historical paintings. His grandfather, John Savage, was a shipowner and through his trades became a very wealthy merchant. He settled in Philadelphia, and was very active in his community, including service as a chief justice and a manager of the Almshouse.

John Savage, III was born in 1832 in Washington County, Maryland. His father, John Savage, II of Philadelphia and his mother , Adelaide H. Hughes of Maryland, were married in Washington County, Maryland on December 30, 1830. According to census records, by 1850 the family had moved to Philadelphia, along with nine other person sin the household. Savage’s father died in 1853, leaving his entire estate to his son, minus an annuity for his wife.

John, III married Isabella Swift Fitzhugh of New York in 1855. Isabella was the daughter of Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh, who was a surgeon in the fleet of Commodore Perry at the battle of Lake Erie, and also a pioneer of Bay City, Michigan. Prior to the Civil War, the couple had two children: John Savage, IV in 1857 and Anne Dana Savage in 1859. In 1860, his mother Adelaide was living with him along with eight other persons, who held such job titles such as domestic, waiter, and coachman. John’s occupation was listed as “Gentleman,” and his total estate value was $250,000 dollars! (a hefty sum by 1860 standards).

At the outbreak of the Civil War, John secured himself a commission as a captain in the newly forming 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment (later to be renumbered the 6th) on May 14, 1861. He immediately began recruiting for his Company H at the Girard House on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. He quickly obtained his quota of men, and, therefore, was also the first company to reach the regiment’s second camp at Bladensburg, Maryland. At Bladensburg, he was officially assigned to and took command of his company on August 21, 1861. As the first two companies to complete recruiting, his company, along with Captain August V. Kautz’ Company B, was denoted the 1st Squadron. They were also selected as the flank squadron, which was the only squadron in the regiment initially equipped with carbines and acted as the advance squadron during regimental movements. The remaining squadrons were armed only with pistols and sabers.

Captain Savage trained with his regiment through the winter of 1861 at Camp East of Capitol, D.C., near the Congressional Cemetery. He accompanied the regiment upon its initial campaign in March 1862, and served uninterrupted until July 21, 1862, when he took five days of leave. His company, under the squadron command of Captain Kautz, literally led the advance of the Army of the Potomac on its advance from Yorktown toward Richmond as the advance squadron the army’s advance guard. After his return from leave, he served during the remainder of the Peninsula Campaign. On September 9, 1862, as the regiment departed the peninsula, he took sick leave. In October and November, he was listed as “supposed to be in Philadelphia,” and in December, he was listed as “absent without leave since October 10, 1862”on the regimental returns. What the regiment was unaware of was that Captain John Savage resigned on December 23, 1862. The reason for his resignation is a mystery, as he doesn’t appear to have distinguished himself in an overly positive or negative fashion during the campaign. A third child, Daniel Fitzhugh Savage, was born to the family at some point during his service. Perhaps he simply didn’t care for the rigors of active campaigning in the cavalry. The regiment didn’t learn of his resignation until February 1863, while at winter camp. His name doesn’t appear again in records during the war. His mother released her claim to her annuity to John in December 1863.

In 1868, John sold his inherited estate. By June 10, 1870, according to census records, the family moved to Bay City, Michigan – the city her father helped create – and settled at 412 North Jackson Street. John was listed as “without occupation,” and a net worth of $11,000, which if not invested in property likely did not reflect the money from the sale of his estate. A fourth child, Adelaide Hughes Savage, was born in 1867, perhaps named after his mother.

By June 1880, John and his family, along with his mother were living together. His youngest daughter, Anne, died on January 5, 1879. John also employed one elderly servant lady. John was listed as “retired.”
In 1890, John was living at 908 North Jackson Street and employed as the county register. He is listed on the Veteran’s Schedule of Bay City as a captain in the 6th U.S. Cavalry. Interestingly, it listed him as having been captain of company B, and having served a full three years, from May 24, 1861 to May 24, 1864.

John, III died in Bay City, Michigan on April 18, 1896. His wife died in the same city seven years later, on October 27, 1903. John Savage, John II and his wife Adelaide, John III and his wife Isabella, and their daughter Anne Dana Savage, were all buried at Ronaldson’s Philadelphia Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This cemetery was removed in the 1920s to Forrest Hills, 101 Byberry Road, Philadelphia, and denoted the Philadelphia Cemetery.

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