Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cory Letters - September 1863

Note: Cory’s discharge for disability finally came through in June 1862. His war wasn’t over, however. In August 1863 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a “landsman,” and was assigned to the gunboat USS Signal.

The USS Signal was a 190-ton steamship acquired by the US Navy in St Louis, Missouri on September 22, 1862. She was a wooden-hulled, stern-wheel steamer equipped as a gunboat, or “tinclad.” After the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, the Signal served as a dispatch vessel patrolling the Mississippi River to interdict Confederate shipping.

In this last letter of the series, he writes home about life on board ship and the relative beauty of the shores of the Mississippi River around Island No. 10 and Fort Pillow.

On Board the Gun Boat
Signal Sept 12th 1863

Dear Mother,

We left Cairo Thursday and are on our way to New Orleans. I thought I should not write untill I got there but as it is a good ways yet I will write you a note any way. The ship is in motion, the men are busy cleaning guns filing saws too. I am sitting so close to the engine that I can feel it in my back it is the only place that I can find sit-down. I will not attempt to describe the scenery along the Mississippi, let it suffice that it is the most deserted looking country that ever I have seen. Log cabins will average one in five miles. We came through from Chicago to Cairo on the Ill. Central R.R. & I had a pretty good chance to see that portion of the state that is termed beautifull. Bah. Give me my own clean native land, as someone name forgotten once wishes remarked.

I have had two different Billets since I came aboard. I expect a better one still. First I was Purser’s steward or Paymasters clerk. I am now acting as yeoman, I have charge of all ships stores, the magazine & co. I do not have to stand guard nor do work of any kind excepting keeping accts. We passed Island No.10 & are now approaching Fort Pillow. It is getting pretty much hot here & I will wind up by sending much love to all everyone.

Affectionate son
James Cory

James H. Cory
U.S. Gun Boat Signal
Cairo, Ill.

Aftermath: James apparently continued to have issues with his arm, because he was discharged again “in accordance with a medical survey” on December 15, 1863 from the receiving ship “Clara Dotson.”

His discharge may have been fortunate, for the USS Signal was burned and her entire crew captured while supporting the Red River Expedition on May 4, 1864. The crew was held as prisoners of war at Camp Ford, near Tyler, Texas, until they were exchanged.

Sadly, the war ended tragically for the Cory family. George Cory never returned home to Michigan. He was killed in Chicago, Illinois on August 28, 1865. His brother Nathan Cory enlisted in Company G, 3rd NY Infantry as a private in Albany, New York on May 14, 1861. He died on Hilton Head, South Carolina on October 27, 1863.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Enlistment oaths

My good friend Patty Millich turned up an 1861 version of the army oath of enlistment in the July 11, 1861 edition of The Alleghenian of Ebensburg, PA. I thought it might be interesting to list the oath as it was then and compare it to the same oath administered to enlistees today.


The following is the oath which all volunteers and regulars mustered into the service of the United States are required to take before their final enrollment into service: “I do solemnly swear that I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America; that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all enemies or opposers whatsoever; that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and of the other officers appointed over me, according to the rules of the armies of the United States, so help me God.”

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
The 1861 oath depicts the wording first adopted in 1789. The oath was modified under Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960, with amendment effective 5 October 1962

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mecum, Mecum and Mecum, 6th US Cavalry

In my ongoing exploration of the enlistment documents and muster rolls of the 6th US Cavalry, I’ve come across several sets of brothers and cousins recently. The natural assumption would be that these relatives would initially enlist in the same unit to be together. What I have discovered in the case of these three brothers, however, was a reunion from other units into the 6th Cavalry during the war.

Richard H. Mecum was born on April 6, 1839 in Lycoming Co. PA. He enlisted as a private in Co. C, 11th Pennsylvania volunteers on April 16, 1861 and was honorably discharged at Harrisburg PA on August 15, 1861. He then enlisted in Co. F, 84th PA Infantry and was immediately made a sergeant. On October 25, 1862 he transferred into Co. L, 6th US Cavalry as a sergeant. He was sworn into the regiment by Lieutenant Ira Claflin near Knoxville, Maryland. Richard was discharged at the end of his term of service at Cedar Creek, VA on October 25, 1864 as a private. After the war, he settled in La Porte county, Indiana, where he married and settled down. He died there of heart disease on May 18, 1909, and was buried in Paltous Cemetery, La Porte, IN.

Jared M. Mecum born in Muncey, PA in 1839. He enlisted as a private in Company H, 5th PA Reserves on June 21, 1861. He deserted from this unit on October 28, 1861, and was sworn into Company A, 6th US Cavalry by Lt Claflin the same day. His 6th US Cavalry enlistment documents describe him as 22 years old, 5’6” tall, with dark hair, hazel eyes, and a light complexion. He was discharged at the expiration of his term of service as a private on June 22, 1864 at White House, VA. After the war, he returned to Pennsylvania, where he married and settled. Jared Mecum died on April 4, 1901 in St. Mary's, PA.

Charles W. Mecum was born on January 15, 1843 in Muncey, Lycoming County, PA. He enlisted in Co. F., 84th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry on 7 October, 1861. Lieutenant Claflin enlisted him into Company A, 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 27, 1862 at Knoxville, MD. His 6th Cavalry enlistment documents describe him as 19 years old, 5’4 ½” tall, with dark hair, hazel eyes and a dark complexion. Charles was discharged at the expiration of his term of service as a private at Harrisonburg, VA on October 7, 1864. After the war, he settled in Tioga County, PA, where he married and settled. He died on May 25, 1926 in Elmira, NY, and was buried in Hart Cemetery, Liberty, Tioga County, PA.

A fourth brother, William Mecum, enlisted into Company H, 5th PA Reserves with Jared on June 21, 1862 as a private. He didn’t survive long enough to “jine the cavalry” with his brothers, however. William died on July 27, 1862 of wounds received during fighting at Charles City Crossroads, VA on June 30, 1862.

Back in the Saddle

Yes, at long last, I'm back to a normal schedule, with normal hours and, hopefully, a regular posting rate once again. Washington was nice, but it's much nicer to be back in warmer temperatures where one can see more than one mountain at a time (no disrespect intended to the absolutely stunning Mount Rainier).

So, I am now more or less firmly aboard my mount, with the fall semester started, my next to last MA class underway, and piles of research to process and organize. Partial posts have been accumulating over the last couple of weeks, so there should be a good bit new to read here in the near future. For those of you who have stayed faithful through the long summer of infrequent posting, thank you for your patience.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cory Letters - April 1862

Note: Although James’ arm is slowly mending, he doesn’t seem very confident that he’ll be returning to duty. This letter offers poignant insight into the deteriorating situation at home, as his mother appears to be attempting to foster out one of James’ brothers. I believe his problems receiving his pay rise from the fact that he wasn’t with his regiment.

Kalorama Hospital, Apr /’62

Dear Mother& Sister,

What is the reason that I dont hear from you, I have had no answer to my last two letters. I hope you will write soon & tell me how you get a long.

I can sit up now & I am going to ask the Doctor for my clothes in a few days so that I can go out doors. Where is Fred Myers, I have not see or heard from him. If I have no drawbacks I will be able to leave here in a month if not before.

My Regiment went to Fortress Monroe. I have not heard from it yet, I shal send you my money when I do. The first of may I have six months pay coming to me with that which the Lieuteant has. It is so pleasant so pleasant out doors that I can hardly stay in the house.

My arm is getting along famously I can raise it so as to touch my chin. It does not discharge any more. Have you heard from George yet or Pa or Nate. I would like to know what Regiment George belongs to.

Have you found a place yet for Frank. I feel that you have not. Please tell me the next time that you write. If I were to tell you that I had hopes of getting discharged I presume you would stay & wait my coming but get Frank a place & go a visiting for fear of being disappointed. If I get discharged I will come and see you. Besides it will save a great deal of expense I should not stay at home of course if I was able to earn my board on a farm. I wont be confined in a store or house if I can help it. It is three months since came here. My love to all & I am hoping you & Kate will write soon. I remain

James Henry Cory

Mrs. B.M. & Miss Kate Cory

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Brothers Oby

Among those who enlisted in the 6th Cavalry during the summer of 1861 were the Oby brothers. Born in Jefferson County, New York, they were working as sailors when they were enlisted into Company B by Lieutenant James F. Wade in Cleveland, Ohio.

George W. Oby was born in January 1841, and 21 years old when he enlisted on June 29, 1861. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8 ¼” tall, with hazel eyes, black hair, and a fair complexion.

His younger brother, David E. Oby, was 18 when he enlisted two days later on June 31st. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8 ¼” tall, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion.

George was captured while a corporal on July 6, 1862 on the Peninsula, with privates Croishant and E.J. Headley. He was soon paroled and rejoined the company. He was serving as the first sergeant of Company B at the battle of Funkstown on July 7, 1863, where he was captured again. David was killed in action July 7, 1863 at the battle near Funkstown, Maryland as a corporal. George was discharged as a sergeant on July 29, 1864 at the expiration of his term of service.

George Oby married Louise Speaker in 1870. She was born in Pennsylvania in December 1840. They had two children, William J. (born 1871) and Eva S. (born 1875), both born in Ohio. The family settled in the Cleveland and Canton area of Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

George W. Oby died in Cleveland, Ohio on February 7, 1915, and is buried in the Alliance City Cemetery, Alliance, Ohio.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Land Warrants and Rations

Land Warrants

I had noted in the last posted Cory letter that I hadn’t noticed anything about government land warrants for service during the Civil War. Patty Millich turned up the following information from the Ebensburg, Pennsylvania newspaper The Alleghanian in the May 16, 1861 issue:

"Every man who offers his services to his country in the present crisis and is mustered into the service will be entitled to Land Warrants, in addition to his regular pay, even if the war is closed in thirty days. Privates will receive 160 acres each; officers, larger tracts, in proportion to the rank they hold."

So now I know. Thanks, Patty!


The same day’s newspaper lists the following description of the composition of a day’s ration:

“What is a Ration?

For the information of numerous inquirers, we give the following list of articles constituting a ration from the army regulations:
20 oz. Fresh and Salt beef or 12 oz. Pork
18 oz. Soft Bread or Flour, or 12 oz. Hard Bread
2 2/3 oz. Beans or 1 3/5 oz. Rice
1 5/6 oz. Sugar
1 oz. Coffee, ground
¼ oz. Candies
2/3 oz. Soap
½ oz. Salt

This must answer for the subsistence of a soldier during the day and properly husbanded, it is enough.”

I've read several accounts that dispute this last statement, but the reporter couldn't be expected to know that at the beginning of the war.