One Man’s Loss is Another Man’s Gain

Subtitled; Nothing is sacred, even a man’s underwear.

Sixteen year old Adam Furniss volunteered, along with 974 other Ohioan’s, and joined together to make up the 103rd O.V.I. The regiment was organized in Cleveland, Ohio in Aug. 1862. The unit served the year in Kentucky, then in 1863 moved to Tennessee and served there with the Army of the Cumberland. In May of 1864 they joined in the movement against Atlanta under Sherman’s command. The regiment lost heavily during this campaign. After Atlanta had fallen the unit’s effective force numbered 195 men. One of the missing was Adam Furniss who had been captured on Aug. 28, 1864 at Atlanta.

Private Furniss was soon exchanged and was returned to his unit in time to participate against Hood’s Army during his Tennessee Campaign in November. The badly depleted unit was serving as General Schofield’s headquarters guard. As the 103rd moved into Spring Hill it was briefly engaged against the enemy. The Union Army was moving north with urgency, trying to reach Nashville to join with the army there. The army’s train had halted at Spring Hill and rather than attempt to run it north through the confederate cavalry (Nathen Forrest’s) along the tracks it was decided to set it afire. The attempt was not a total success and some of it eventually fell into enemy hands. However, Adam Furniss was at the depot when the trains were fired. What is the saying; one man’s loss is another’s gain? Personal baggage from two newly arrived regiments, the 183rd Ohio and the 44th Missouri, were aboard the trains. Adam Furniss later recalled picking through some of the officers effects searching for undergarments because he was in need of some. Furniss said he filled a substantial satchel with underwear and was soon on his way. (1)

After Hood had been routed at Franklin and Nashville the tiny 103rd was sent first by ship to Cincinnati, then by rail to Washington, D.C., and then again by ship to Wilmington, North Carolina to join Sherman’s Carolina Campaign. Records suggest that 185 men mustered out at Cleveland, Ohio on June 22, 1865.

IMG_0354 (640x480) (2)

Adam Furniss was born 1846 and with his father William and Brother William (1839-1889) resided in North Royalton, Cuyahoga County, Ohio at the time of the Civil War. Corporal William Furniss also served in the war with the 7th O.V.I., Co. E, in fact he and his brother served near one another in the Tennessee Campaigns of ’63. William was transferred to the Invalid Corp in Jan. ’64. Adam and his brother both married “Granger” girls in North Royalton. Adam married Mary A. Granger (b. 12/11/1847 in North Royalton) in July of 1874. Their children were: William Arron b. May 16, 1875, d.1958, James Bird b. Nov. 13, 1879, d. 1918, Jessie Eliza b. July 12, 1877. William married Martha Granger (b.1842) in 1865 and they had three daughters; Josephine, Hortence, and Maud. Adam died in North Royalton in 1902. His brother had died earlier in Pennsylvania in 1889.

  1. Source Baptism of Fire by Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp



A Hero, as Defined by Lt. Col. Mervin Clark

Heroes? We all can name some that we’ve had. When I was young I played baseball, therefore men like Yogi Berra got tagged. Seems to me some heroes are made, some are born, some are just “there,” ready, at a certain moment in time.

As an amateur historian and blog-writer I make good use of dictionaries. If I am going to write about a hero I better make sure I know what one is, other than a definition from my youth. I looked; and now I am really confused. If a hero is a person who is admired for great or brave acts then there is no doubt in my mind that most of the over 3,000,000 men and boys who fought in our nation’s Civil War were heroes, regardless their cause.

So, how do I define and write about Captain Mervin Clark? I looked deeper in the dictionary to Medal of Honor recipients, who among other things showed resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance. Mervin Clark went unrewarded for his actions, at least not awarded a decoration so enduring.

In my view Clark was born a hero, just as I think WWII General Douglas MacArthur was. MacArthur’s legacy was born in Tennessee. Clark’s legacy was born aboard the Mayflower.

Now that I have your attention; here is the story. First, MacArthur’s was born at Missionary Ridge where his father Arthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and as a daring nineteen year old, when he was shot early in the Battle of Franklin. As a member of the 24th Wisconsin he was part of Opdyke’s units that came forward and helped push back the confederate troops that broke the main line at Columbia Pike. He survived his wounds to go on and experience more wars and a life full of service.

Mervin Clark was born November 5, 1843 in Cleveland, Ohio. According to family historians a great-grandfather, a few times over, was a pilot and mate on the “Mayflower” that sailed in 1620. He made several crossing of the Atlantic and was held captive in Havana and Madrid in 1611 and 1616. That man was named John Clark and his son. Thomas Clark, born in Middlesex, England, arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in July of 1623 aboard the “Ann.” He was a master of many trades; carpenter, yeoman and merchant. He was taxed in 1632 and in 1633 he took the oath of a Freeman. In 1643 was listed as one able to bear arms.

Needless to say, if true, Mervin Clark was born of stock that laid the first blocks that built our country, so to preserve it was born in.

At the age of 17 Mervin enlisted in the 7th Ohio Infantry in June, 1861, just weeks after the firing on Fort Sumter. After a three-month enlistment spent, for the most part, in training at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati he reenlisted for three years. The 7th had an honorable record of service at such places as Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, and Mission Ridge. It was ordered home to be mustered out, which was done on July 8, 1864, at Cleveland. During its term of service 1,800 men had served with the regiment, and now only 240 able-bodied men remained to bring home their colors. After his training and at the very beginning of his three years’ service Mervin was promoted to 1st Sgt. He was discharged as Captain!

Mervin Clark decided that he was not through serving his country and its cause. Shortly after returning home he volunteered again, as a private in the infantry. However, his previous service did not go unnoticed. The Governor of Ohio appointed him second in command of a new regiment being formed at Camp Dennison, the 183rd O.V.I. Lt. Col. Clark would now lead a new regiment of green, untested recruits, hastily assembled near Cincinnati, into battle in Middle Tennessee about six weeks later.

During the Battle of Franklin the 183rd was positioned to the west of the main line’s center, in reserve. However, one company was moved forward to fill a gap in the works. When the Confederate Army rushed forward to meet their enemy on the afternoon of November 30, 1864 that one company, in fear and confusion, turned and ran. As the enemy began to climb through the hole left Mervin Clark ordered his men on the reserve line forward. As they rushed ahead the color bearer fell to the ground, shot in the arm and leg. Clark gathered the colors from the ground and stood up, flag in one hand, and called out to his men to retake the works. As his men responded to his call a single bullet ripped through his head and killed him instantly. Inspired by Clark’s leadership the 183rd continue to rally and helped withstand the attack and turned the enemy back.

As the fighting subsided Lt. Col. Clark was wrapped in a blanket and buried on the battlefield. Eric Jacobson, in Baptism of Fire, writes that his grave was carefully marked in a manner that his body was able to be exhumed by family in the spring of 1866 and taken home. He was buried at Woodland Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

Clark Grave Woodland Cemetery Grave Stone

Most of the Union Army troops killed at Franklin were removed from the battlefield and reinterred at Stones River National Cemetery nearby. To this day records at Stones River indicate that Mervin Clark is buried there. Recently, through no real intended action on my part, I was able to connect persons at Stones River and Woodland together to make correct the National Cemetery records. It is possible that he was taken to, even buried at, Stones River and gathered by family there.

Near the end of the war numerous forts were built around Louisville, Kentucky to protect it from invasion. In recognition of Mervin Clark’s valor on the battlefield one of them was named for him. It was located at (now) 36th and Magnolia Streets.

As a country we have taken to recognize that in 1620 a group of people landed on our shores with a cause and purpose. Our country grew from that landed place. From those causes men like MacArthur and Clark, (and I do acknowledge millions more) decided that preserving what was built was a worthy thing that demanded resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.






What Were You Doing at Fifteen?

Where were you and what were you doing at age fifteen? Personally? Let’s see; I was in the 9th grade, Rock & Roll was in its infancy, even in its place of birth, Cleveland Ohio. Baseball was my game and my music tastes, which would soon change, was Glenn Miller music. Parental influences were pushing against the teen in me. They weighed heavy and kept me safe despite myself.

William Wesley Gist, born in 1849, volunteered for service with the Union Army in 1864. Fifteen. What were you doing at fifteen?

William was born on February 28th in Starr, Hocking County, Ohio. Bears, and other like wildlife, probably outnumbered humans in this county southeast of Columbus, Ohio. In 1864 his older brothers Nathan and Cornelius were serving in the army and it can be assumed William wanted to join them; be part of the excitement. In March of that year he lied. Said he was eighteen and joined the 26th Ohio Volunteer Regiment. He was assigned to Company D and served until the regiment mustered out in August, 1865.

What were you doing at fifteen?

Young William was quickly introduced to battle, serving with Sherman’s Army from May to September during the Atlanta Campaign. Brother Cornelius was in Louisiana with the 114th O.V.I., but I wonder if William was, at the time, aware that brother Nathan was also in Georgia and Atlanta with the 31st O.V.I.? Both regiments participated in numerous major battles before Hood’s Confederate Army left Atlanta behind and Sherman began his march east.

The 26th had been formed during the early summer months of 1861. During the summer of 1864, while in Georgia, the three-year enlistments of the original volunteers ended. They were mustered out and headed back to their Ohio homes. What remained after Atlanta, about 120 men, (have also read about 200) was assigned to Lane’s Brigade, Wagner’s 4th Corps Division. The Corps was part of an army charged with defending Nashville from Hood’s Army. Hood, indeed, had plans.

Soon, this now small regiment would be tested again at Franklin, Tennessee.

During the preparations that preceded the Battle of Franklin, General Wagner made a huge error and with it put two divisions in harm’s way, isolated in open fields against Hood’s 20,000 man army. When the Confederate Army advanced on Franklin, the men of the 4th Corps out in those fields ran for their lives. The finish line in their run was the Union Army’s main works and the only path to those works was Columbia Pike. As William and the 26th Ohio crossed the finish line and passed beyond the works the rebels were only 50 yards behind. Within seconds they breached the main works at the pike and were in battle with an advancing Union Regiment, the 44th Missouri. One of the heroic regiments on that November afternoon, the 44th found new company. A fifteen year old and his brothers of the 26th had melted into their company and were also in combat with the enemy. In that situation it was only the color blue that mattered. David Bragg and John Worley were captured, and Joseph Kern went missing in the melee. William would later write:

“I jumped over the works just east of the locust grove near … the Carter house. Finding the works practically empty, we stopped, and as soon as our men seemed to be in we began to fire as rapidly as possible. The batteries on both sides began to fire with great rapidity into the advancing ranks. Soon a cloud of smoke hung over us and nothing was distinct in front. …

 “Some of the Confederates were on the opposite side of the works from us. When a lull would occur, some of these would offer to surrender. We would cry out, ‘Drop your guns and climb over.’ This they did, and this was repeated a number of times. Some of them crossed the works so close to me that I could have touched them with my hand.

“In the part of the line where I stood were men of many commands…….

Well, that is the short story of a longer one about a fifteen year old Ohioan in Tennessee in the year 1864. Later William Gist would contribute many newspaper accounts, magazine articles, and a book about the actions of the 26th Ohio at Franklin. Visit  and in the reference list of the written word about the regiment there are many listed. I found that if I google the title portion of those articles many of them are available online. Also visit  a website dedicated to the regiment.

Wm. Gist William Wesley Gist (photo from Chris Burson and find-a-grave)

In 1876 William Wesley Gist married Lillian Jeanette Hurlburt of Ashtabula, Ohio. He was a teacher and school superintendent in Willoughby, Ohio; a professor of English literature at Coe College , Cedar Rapids, Iowa; a pastor of the Congregational church of Marion, Iowa and then of the Congregational church of Osage, Iowa; a member of the faculty of Iowa State Teachers College at Cedar Falls, teaching English literature, rhetoric, and Bible. He was elected Commander of the Department State of Iowa, G.A.R. at Fort Dodge on June 6, 1923, dying two days later at his home in Cedar Falls.

William and Lillian had eleven children and they and four of their children are buried at Oak Shade Cemetery, Marion, Iowa. For more details, particularly about Lillian, see

Teachable Moment – Civil War “Impressed” Blacks

“Impressed Laborers” – by definition this is simply taking men into service by force,

with or without their consent. Spend time, read the names, listen to their stories.

During the Civil War the Union Army’s supplies were delivered by rail and water. Not unlike our highways fueling our economy today, the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers’ were highways fueling Grant, Sherman, Thomas and other Union Generals in our country’s mid-section. A recent post was about the Union Supply Depot at Johnsonville, Tennessee (see; Josiah Meigs and the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery, Battery “A”). The Nashville-Northwestern Railroad was the connecting road from that depot on the Tennessee River to Nashville and railroads to Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Decatur (AL).

When the war started 24 miles of rail had been completed from Nashville to Kingston Springs to the west. It would be the Union Army that would complete the line to the Tennessee River.

Federal troops camped at Johnsonville oversaw the construction. Much of the labor came from free blacks and escaped slaves joined by Irish immigrants. Many of the black laborers became members of the United States Colored Troops and some stayed behind after the construction to guard the railroad.

The paragraphs above is the story, quite compressed, taken from articles written to document the building of the railroad and the place it and Johnsonville had during the Civil War. Much more compelling to the actual events and people are original documents from the period. I must confess that despite the passion to learn, I am quite short on the technical ability to (literally) inset a document here and must lead you to complete the task of looking at, and appreciating its historical value, a treasure found online.

  • Go to “Zoom To Engagement”
  • Down arrow and go to Johnsonville (11/4/1864)
  • On the detail panel to the right open the document “N&NWLabor_1863.pdf”

Fifty-seven (57) “impressed blacks” names written onto this Roll of Negros Impressed for Service on the North-Western Railroad, the majority from Montgomery County and Clarksville, TN.

Spend time, read the names, listen to their stories.

Finding Their Footprints – Nashville and Decatur Railroad

Ed. Note – This post is as much about the maps as it is about the detail behind them. Eric and Richard don’t need me to retell stories.

Where did your ancestor walk?

One of my later life thrills has been being able to walk where my Civil War ancestor walked 150 years ago. Think of where you stand at this very moment. Who stood there before you; a president, a Native American, your great-grandfather? Our (my wife’s and my) great-grandfathers’ were in Columbia, Tennessee in 1864 and one of them, with the 175th OVI Co. K, may well have been assigned to help protect an important Union Army supply railroad in middle Tennessee. We find that if he was so assigned he was able to come out from that duty assignment to continue on with his regiment and their future assignments. What of your great-grandfather?

No official records exist regarding the Blockhouses, camps, and, or stockades that were built and manned to protect the Nashville to Decatur Railroad before and after Hood’s Tennessee operations. General Grenville Dodge had been put in charge of building these defenses prior to 1864. Records that he kept with locations and a series of corresponding numbers do not match up with what we now know. The latter is, in large part, attributed to Eric Jacobson and Richard Rupp and their exhaustive research for their book Baptism of Fire. Thanks to them we are able to better follow our ancestor-soldier’s foot-steps through Tennessee’s landscape.

Apparently there were as many as thirty-six of these posts manned between Nashville and Decatur, twenty-five in the state of Tennessee. For the purpose of this article we concentrate on those between southern-most Pulaski and Spring Hill to its north. Again, thanks to Eric and Richard for doing what they do so well; telling history.

When the 175th Ohio Volunteer Regiment arrived in Tennessee in October, 1864 they were immediately tasked with helping protect Columbia and some of those rail-line posts nearby. The following is what we know, or don’t – the names listed are known to have been at these locations. Obviously they are but a small few of those that were actually there. History, in most cases their deaths’ or capture, has written their names into its pages.

#5, Carter’s Station; On Oct. 1, 1864, in a raid by Nathen Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry the blockhouses at #5, 4, and 3 were burned to the ground.* Soon after Forrest withdrew and men from the 175th Co. C were assigned to #5, replacing Pennsylvania’s 7th Cavalry there. Google Map address 2998 Carters Creek Station Rd., Columbia Tennessee. The old blockhouse, saw mill and water tank were at this intersection, likely near the creek. Cross the railroad tracks and Carters Creek is at the small bridge…..Pvt. Garner Hinshaw.

*report A. Kramer 68th NY Regt. Or. Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, pp 507-508

#6 Carter’s Trestle; Thirteen men from the 175th Co. G were posted at #6 in April, 1865. Located north of Columbia where Carter’s Creek crosses the rail-line – there are about four such locations so the exact place cannot be determined. Google Map address 282 Carters Creek Pike, Tennessee and you are at one of the intersections – the southern-most and most likely….Lt. Samuel Jolly (it seems that Lt. Jolly was in charge of at least #6 and #8).

#7. Unable to determine and not mentioned. Again there are about four track crossings that could be the location.

#8. Unable to determine, but somewhere near #6, and before the Rutherford Creek posts #9 through #12 that follow. Again, there are a few possible locations. Thirteen men from the 175th Co. E, along with men from Co. G, were posted at #8 in April, 1865….Lt. Samuel Jolly, in charge, Pvt. Silas Wardlow (Co. G).

#9. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted at #9, #10, #11, and #12. In some cases the companies are not known. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of these Blockhouses which were located north to south on the four twists of Rutherford Creek where they cross the rail tracks…..Capt. William P. Wolf, age 35, of Co. G was put in charge of these four posts. William mustered in as a Private with Co. A and was promoted to Captain in September.

#10. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted at #10. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the creek (Rutherford Creek) where they cross the rail tracks.

#11. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted here before and during Hood’s operations in Tennessee. Also, Capt. William Wolf’s headquarters was here at #11. Then on Dec. 28, 1864 “what remained of” the 175th Co. G was sent here for duty. Also at some time after the main battles in the area were over men from Co. H were also posted at #11. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the creek (Rutherford Creek) where they cross the rail tracks.

#12. Men from the 175th Ohio were posted here before and during Hood’s operations in TN. Also after, on Dec. 27, 1864 Capt. Jon Hill took thirty-eight men from the 175th Co. H and occupied #12. Google Map address 723 Theta Pike, Columbia, TN and you will be in the midst of the four Blockhouses, #9, #10, #11, #12 which were located north to south on the four twists of the Rutherford Creek where they cross the rail tracks. It was also here that the 44th Missouri and 183rd Ohio Regiment unloaded upon arriving near Columbia on Nov. 28, 1864.

Duck River Station, Google Map 915 Tennessee 7, Columbia, Tennessee. Looking west toward the industrial complex we are as close as we can get to the spot where the old station was, assuming it was even on the river.

Lynnville Station; Lt. George W. Henderson and thirty-nine of his men from the 175th Co. F were posted at a stockade built to protect the rail station there. Google Maps address Church Street / Tennessee 129, Lynnville, Tennessee.

  • Here, a paragraph of “exasperation” is in order. As mentioned earlier, there exists confusion over the locations of some of the posts we are writing about. The author admits some confusion here despite Eric and Richard’s hard work. There is mention of four “blockhouses” south of Columbia, the first through the fourth of many more to the south. The names were Harris, Culleoka, Graces, and Robertson. If I am to take these names in order north to south and also apply some other research I am unable to locate Harris. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. A were assigned to Harris. There is mention of a post “just south of Lynnville Station” and it is possible that is Harris. There is also mention that this post was at Robertson Trestle – barely one-quarter mile south of Lynnville is a crossing of the rail and Robertson Fork Creek. Possibly the list should read south to north, which would make #15 Harris. I will continue to look and hope that I can find Company A someday.
  • It has been established that the four above mentioned locations were not blockhouses, but in fact all were camps of other sorts.

#13. Also identified as Culleoka, twenty-two men of the 175th Co. E were posted here on Oct 25, 1864. Google Map address Columbia Highway / Milky Way Rd., Pulaski, TN. Just to the east #13 is located where the creek and rail track cross. Just to the south of that is #14, where again the cross…..Pvt. Lee Carl Donley, Zeno Donley, Jacob Lafery (wounded and possibly later died). The men here were barely able to escape capture.

Fifty-four men from the 175th Co. I were also assigned to #13.

#14. Also identified as Graces, twenty-two men from the 175th Co. G were posted here on Oct. 25, 1864. Google Map address Columbia Highway / Milky Way Rd., Pulaski, TN. Just to the east #13 is located where the creek and rail track cross. Just to the south of that is #14, where again they cross. On Nov. 25, 1864 these 22 men plus a wagoner named Cusick were all captured……..Lt. William Barrere, Sgt. Matthew Van Eman, Cpl. Perry Hoss, Cpl. Joseph E. Winters and Private’s Benton B. Badgeley, Alva Laymen, Courtland C. Cusick, James H. Shank, Pvt. George W. Eakins, John W. Eakins, Norman Bercaw, George W. Boyd, James H. Burroughs, James Casto, Edward Crossen, Carey Easter, Morris Greeley, James Hudson, Benjamin Monce, Stacy Morris, William H. Oliver. Israel Sidles, Trimble Strain .

Twenty-seven men from the 175th Co. K were also assigned to #14.

#15. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. B were assigned to #15. On Nov. 24 thirteen of the men were captured and taken prisoner. Also men from the 175th Co. E were assigned there and six of them were taken prisoner. Google Map address 5662 Columbia Highway, TN. Just to the west #15 is located where the rail-line crosses Richland Creek……..Co. B; Lt. Thomas J. McKeehan, Sgt. Joseph Tener, Pvt. Lewis Fry, Pvt. Sommers Conover, Pvt. George W. Conover, Cpl. William Beekman, Cpl. Luther McClelland, Pvt. Henry Butler, Pvt. William Earhart, Pvt. George E. Mattox, Pvt. Charles Moberly, Pvt. Jacob R. Slagle.

From Co. E; Private’s John Barnes, Thomas J. Gray, John Marconette, Thomas Easton Hemings*, John Moore, and George H. Washburn were captured. Pvt. Lee Donley was able to escape.

*Thomas Hemings grandmother has been identified as Sally Hemings who lived at Jefferson’s Monticello. A story for another time. (E, Jacobson – Baptism of Fire)

#16. Twenty-one men from the 175th Co. D were assigned to #16. We are unable to determine exactly where, but the post is “a few miles south of Pulaski at Richland Creek Trestle.” The railroad seems to now run parallel with the creek here. Google Map address 1195 U.S. 64, Pulaski, TN and follow the rail-line and Richland Creek as they run south. Commended by Lt. Francis M. Harover, the post was very isolated. At least twenty of the men were captured and taken prisoner on Nov. 24, 1864……Harover, Cpl. Jerimiah Paul, Pvt. James Reed, Pvt. John Hetherman, Pvt. Lawrence Schlitz, Pvt. James D. Howard, 1st Sgt. David Flagher, Sgt. James Graham, Cpl. Timothy Pancoast, Privates’ James Bayne, Benjamin Botts, William Carroll, Samuel Holmes, William Little, Timothy Mahaney, John Rains, William J. Richmond, William Shelton, Joseph C. Sroufe, Othello Timmons.

Josiah Meigs and the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery, Battery “A”

A couple months ago a photograph traveled the Civil War web-site and blog scenes. There were captions, but never a story that told more. The captions were things like “colored artillery,” “Battle of Johnsonville,” or 2nd Light Artillery.” I looked upon that as a challenge; here is the rest of the story, but first, of course, the photo.

 02101rJohnsonville, Tenn. Camp of Tennessee Colored Battery – Library of Congress

A report by Col. R. D. Mussey, Commissioner for the Organization of Colored Troops, dated October 10, 1864, stated “Josiah V. Meigs, a native of Tennessee, received permission in January to raise a battery of Light Artillery at this place (Nashville). This is Battery A, 2nd U. S. Colored Light Artillery.” The report continued “The battery is full, and has been stationed here. It has but recently gotten horses. The men are pretty well advanced in the school of the piece and have had a few mounted drills.” See the end of this article for the short, but full, report.

During its service it performed garrison duty at Nashville and in Middle Tennessee, until January, 1866 and was at the Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864. It was mustered out January 13, 1866. At Nashville it was assigned to Steedman’s Brigade on the far left of the Union’s lines. They were posted near the rail-line to Chattanooga and during battle were pitted against Smith’s Brigade, led by Col. Olmstead and his Georgia troops.

All but a few of the black volunteer units that served during the Civil War belonged to the United States Colored Troops. One hundred thirty-seven infantry regiments comprised the bulk of these black troops, but they also included 6 cavalry and 13 heavy (or foot) artillery regiments, along with 10 light artillery batteries. More than 25,000 black artillerymen, recruited primarily from freed slaves in Confederate or border-states, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. “Remember Fort Pillow!” became a battle cry of the U.S. Colored Troops. Combat for the black artillerymen, in this case heavy artillery, was rare, but four companies from the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery were serving at Fort Pillow, Tennessee in April 1864, when Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest attacked. The ensuing “massacre” of almost two-thirds of the black soldiers, many of them after they had surrendered, was decried in the North, and “Remember Fort Pillow!” was born – from Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War One by Roger D. Cunningham

On Nov. 1, 1864 a call from the quartermaster forces at Nashville called for volunteers to go to the reinforcement of Johnsonville. Listed as part of the force that volunteered was “one section Battery A, Lt. Meigs, two Napoleon guns, 30 men.” Col. Mussey reported: “the behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. A section of Meigs Battery made excellent practice, dismounting one of the guns of a battery placed by the rebels on the opposite shore, causing the battery several times to move its position.”

The Battle of Johnsonville was without doubt a Confederate “victory,” however it barely altered events that were about to follow. During the evening of November 3, 1864, Confederate General Bedford Forrest’s Artillery positioned their guns across the river from the Federal supply base at Johnsonville. The base was a transfer point for Union boats and the rail line that connected Nashville to the east. Forest was intent on disrupting Sherman’s Atlanta supply line. Forest’s guns bombarded the Union supply depot and the 28 steamboats and barges positioned at the wharf. All three of the Union gunboats were disabled or destroyed. The Union garrison commander ordered that the supply vessels be burned to prevent their capture by the Confederates. Forrest observed, “By night the wharf for nearly one mile up and down the river presented one solid sheet of flame. Having completed the work designed for the expedition, I moved my command six miles during the night by the light of the enemy’s burning property.” (Wikipedia)

During his bombardment of the base Forrest caused enormous damage at very low cost. He reported only 2 men killed and 9 wounded. He described the Union losses as 4 gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of property, and 150 prisoners. One Union officer described the monetary loss as about $2,200,000. An additional consequence of the raid was that the Union high command became increasingly nervous about Sherman’s plan to move through Georgia instead of confronting Hood and Forrest directly.

Josiah Meigs 

Josiah Meigs was born in June, 1840 in Tennessee. He was the son of Return J. and Sarah Love Meigs. Josiah married Eugeina B. Shaffer on Dec. 20, 1864 in Nashville, Davidson County. Quite incidentally, Dec. 20th is immediately after the Union Army defeated Hood at Nashville where Josiah’s men where garrisoned. The roster of his regiment lists Josiah and his younger brother Fielding as Captains of the unit. The family moved to Massachusetts where Josiah later died in 1907 of A Cerebral Hemorrhage. He is buried at Lowell Cemetery and his death certificate was signed by his son, Josiah “Joe” V. Meigs, M.D.

His obituary states that Josiah invented firearms and ammunition and invented steam powered elevated monorail. Army pension records recorded the family’s residence as 22 Cordis Street, Boston, Mass. Cordis St. is a stone’s throw from the Bucker Hill Memorial Monument and Park. As I say below I am unable to make family tree connections, but this fact alone tells me much about the man and his ancestors.

Meigs Family Connections

Try as I might I am unable to confirm these connections, although there seems little doubt. It might appear that our Josiah is the son of Return J. Meigs III. The following from Wikipedia;

Return Jonathan Meigs, born Dec., 1740, died January, 1823, was a colonel who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, was one of the founding settlers of the Northwest Territory in what is now the state of Ohio, and later served as a federal government Indian agent working with the Cherokee in Tennessee. His son Return J. Meigs, Jr. became an Ohio governor and U.S. Senator. A grandson, Return J. Meigs IV, married Jennie Ross, daughter of principal Cherokee chief John Ross, and immigrated to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

Return J. Meigs, Jr. did not have a direct male heir, but two of his younger brothers, John and Timothy, each named a son Return Jonathan Meigs. The first of these, Return J. Meigs III passed the bar in Frankfort, Kentucky, commenced law practice in Athens, Tennessee, and became prominent in Tennessee state affairs before the Civil War. He moved to Staten Island, New York, however, at the time of Tennessee’s secession from the Union in 1861.

Of further interest, particularly to Nashville history; the current Meigs Magnet School is housed in the Meigs Building on Ramsey Street. The building was the location of the first African-American High School in Nashville and James L. Meigs was Superintendent of Schools at the time.

Report of Col. Reuben D. Mussey, One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, relative to action at Johnsonville. HDQRS. COMMISSIONER ORGANIZATION U. S. COLD. TROOPS, Nashville, Tenn., November 14, 1864. CAPT.: ~ ~ ~ The behavior of the colored troops at Johnsonville, Tenn., during the recent attack upon that place was, I am informed by several eye-witnesses, excellent. A section of Meig’s battery, temporarily there, made excellent practice, dismounting one of the guns of a battery placed by the rebels on the opposite bank of the river and causing the battery several times to change their location. The rebel battery devoted its attention to this section, shelling it furiously. The men stood their ground well. Some of the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry, who were at Johnsonville, were upon the river-bank as sharpshooters, and armed with the Enfield rifle, and did good execution. The affair was slight, but it has gained credit for the colored troops. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. D. MUSSEY, Col. One hundredth U. S. Colored Infantry, Commissioner Organization U. S. Colored Troops.      OR, Ser. I, Vol. 39, pt. I, p. 868.

A Brother Made of Iron; The USS Carondelet

Brothers in war, the USS Carondelet and Bissell’s Missouri Engineers of the West worked together to bring about Union victories and free Union passage along the Mississippi River. It is important to note that the travel taken by the ship down the river was preceded by Bissell’s Engineers who cleared the timber and flooded the swamps, or built fortifications, that provided safe passage past, or into victorious battles with Confederate batteries and forts along the way. See my previous post “A History of Bissell’s Missouri Engineer Regiments.”

The story of this great ship starts with the end of her life. Even in the depths of a river or ocean a ship can find new life; such a story is that of the submarine H.L. Hunley. The Carondelet’s fate was not as heroric or historic.


After her service in the Civil War the Carondelet, a Union Army ironclad river gunboat, was decommissioned in June, 1865 and sold at auction in November. By 1870 she wound up as a wharf-boat on the Ohio River at Gallipolis, Ohio. Just before she was going to be demolished for the iron in her hull, the Carondelet was swept from her moorings by a flood in the spring of 1873. Her hulk was carried 130 miles down-river where she grounded at the head of Manchester Island, about 60 miles southeast of Cincinnati. That was the last record of the Carondelet.

In May 1982, Dr. Clive Cussler of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, went to Cincinnati to hunt for the famous ironclad ship. There is not a good ending to Clive’s trip and search. The following passage is from his account.

“As it turned out, we were right on the money. We were also two days too late. As our boat rounded the eastern tip of the island, there sat the biggest (deleted) dredge boat we’d ever seen in our lives. The thing was four stories high-and she had recently dredged her way directly over the grave of the Carondelet. We didn’t even bother dropping the gradiometer, but headed straight for the dredge where we tied up and talked to the superintendent. He showed us some old wood and rusty hardware his crew had retrieved out of the dredge buckets. They thought they had simply dug over an old barge. They were stunned when I told them they had demolished one of the most famous Civil War ships that ever sailed a river.”

What little remains of her lower hull lies about two hundred and fifty yards east and slightly north off the eastern tip of Manchester Island in the Ohio River. And a hundred and twenty yards off the Ohio shore.

The USS Carondelet was a 512-ton Cairo class boat built in Carondelet, Missouri (now incorporated into Saint Louis) for the U.S. Army’s Western Gunboat Flotilla. She was built by James B. Eads & Co. at Union Marine Works (AKA Union Iron Works or Marine Railway). The works was south of St. Louis near Jefferson Barracks (and the new Missouri Civil War Museum) at what is now the River City Casino.

Commissioned in January 1862, it wasn’t even a month before the ship, one of fourteen Eads’ ironclads he built, would prove its effectiveness, aiding General Grant in the taking of Confederate Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, and again in the taking of New Madrid and Island No. 10. This was followed by operations against Fort Pillow and Memphis, Tennessee. The Carondelet then spent much of the following year in the long campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. On 15 July 1862 she was badly damaged in an engagement with the Confederate ironclad Arkansas on the Yazoo River.

In April 1863, Carondelet was a member of the ironclad force that ran past Vicksburg and later bombarded Grand Gulf, Mississippi. In May she participated in the extensive bombardments of Vicksburg, part of the combined Army-Navy operations that led to that fortified city’s surrender on July 4, 1863.

In Conclusion, the greatest engineer in the world; James Buchanan Eads was born in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, on May 23, 1820. He came to St. Louis when he was 13 years old. In 1842, Eads developed a partnership with Case & Nelson boat builders. Their business involved rescuing wrecked boats and cargo from the Mississippi River. In 1857, he retired from the wreck recovery business because of his poor health.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Eads bought the Carondelet Marine Railway Company and used it to build seven gunboats and seven monitors for the U.S. Navy, as well as for conversion and repair work.  The yard was located at the foot of Davis Street in St. Louis, on the site later used by St. Louis Ship.

Mr. Eads died on March 8, 1887, and the headline in the Augusta Chronicle read “The Greatest Engineer in the World Is Dead.”

Sources for this story include: and blogger Jennifer Koester at