Sunday, July 14, 2013

crossing over

william h. cross and lucy boardman married and had seven children; six sons and a daughter.

no, no, no. ok, wait. i was GOING to say that, but then i was checking facts and i discovered they had a TRUCKLOAD of kids. thirteen or fourteen of them. i say thirteen OR fourteen, because there appears to be an emma l. cross born in 1838 and an emma s. cross born in 1851.


barely a month after the civil war broke out, the second son, amos, 24 years old, enlisted in the army at seneca falls, new york. he was mustered into company K, 33d NY infantry on may fifth, 1861.

the 33d infantry for a time was mostly employed in northern virginia building forts and bridges and was engaged in some small skirmishes with no casualties.

in september of 1861 amos's father, william h. cross sr., went to the enlistment office in seneca falls and signed up, mustering in two days later on september 18th with company K, 50th NY infantry. william's service record states a muster in of september 28, but the regimental histories all give the muster in for that company as the 18th AND the unit left for training in washington on the 20th.

it is maybe a lot to assume, but a man forty-three years old with a wife and children still at home is unlikely to run off early to join that war unless he has strong feelings about union, or abolition. the draft hadn't been started yet, and if it had he would have been low on the list because of his age and family.

william's unit arrives in washington a few days before amos's unit, the 33d infantry, sees its first small skirmish. the unit takes no casualties, and moves to its winter quarters in camps outside lewinsville, VA.

on october 22d a special order of the war department redesignates william's unit a unit of engineers, and they begin specialized training in construction and demolition. engineers typically did not come back from war all covered with "glory" and their regimental histories are comparatively dull reading, but if the army needed a road to travel, the engineers went and built it, sometimes under fire. if a river needed crossing, the engineers went and built a bridge, often while being shelled. and in the rare moments where they weren't needed to build or dig or mine, they could be pressed into service as regular infantrymen.

here's a nice essay on the general history of engineers in the civil war, if you're interested, and it does touch on william's unit and their recruitment.

through the fall and winter of 1861 the 50th engineers are busy with bridges, forts, earthworks and escort duty. they are attached variously as needed to different battles and projects.

meanwhile the 33d infantry is involved in a series of small battles and skirmishes, and still have no casualties. so far it's still a pretty good war for them.

in the spring of 1862 the war hots up a little bit and both the 33d infantry and the 50th engineers are involved in the month-long siege of yorktown VA and still neither unit sees any casualties until the 33d engineers take their first casualties at the battle of willliamstown, where 3 are killed and 7 wounded.

i'd like to pause here and tell you that in the adjutant general's reports they make a distinction between "killed" and "mortally wounded", and they make a point of counting dead officers separately from dead enlisted men. for my purposes they are all dead the same. i have grouped the totals for the telling of this story simply as dead, wounded, and missing.

after yorktown the 50th engineers are still sent in detachments to various places they are needed, but in may they are also building and maintaining at white house landing, VA one of the union army's largest supply depots.

the 33d infantry fight at mechanicsville and are involved in the seven days' fighting. the 50th, according to their service record, transport the army across the chickahominy on 1 june. it doesn't take much detective work to figure out that this is the battle of seven pines.

according to record, the 50th engineers take no casualties in that operation, but on 12 june william is discharged from the army for disability from fairfax seminary hospital. it is hard to know exactly why a soldier becomes disabled; we can only guess based on the action of his unit and the place from which he is discharged.

we know that roughly 2/3 of civil war fatalities were from disease and not battle, but for a sick soldier to be sent to a hospital he had to be very, very sick and even cholera or typhoid didn't get you discharged. if you lived, you went back to the war.

so i'm going to take a flyer and say that when william is sent to the fairfax seminary hospital, he is injured. somehow it just makes sense that a man in his mid forties doing heavy labor under fire might have been injured too severely to continue that work, or to continue soldiering at all.

so they sent him home.

he's not so disabled that it puts much of a dent in his fathering of children. after the war there are three more cross children born.

that i know of.

on saturday 9 august 1862 james cross enlists at seneca falls and the following tuesday lemuel follows suit. james is 21 years old and apparently single, but lemuel is 23 and already has two young children.

it's here that i run into my first real problem in the sequence of the story. if i were writing historical fiction, i would just have to pick one version of the story and tell you that. but there's a change of mood here and how these men moved in their world changes depending on which date is the true one.

what we know for certain is that amos cross dies. we know where he dies, and we have two sources that give conflicting dates.

the headstone under which he is buried tells us that he died on 11 september 1862 in newark, NJ. if this is true, he dies between the time his brothers enlist and when they are mustered in. if it is true, we also have no good explanation for how he comes to be evacuated, by train, to (probably) ward hospital in newark. they typically didn't bring guys there if they had a little  wound that was going to heal up fine. it was largely a huge depot where men with horrific injuries were treated until they died or could be sent home.

so i'm going to tell you that i think the headstone date is incorrect, and that he fights with the 33d infantry in the battle of crampton's gap on 14 september, which is coincidentally the same day his brothers james and lemuel are mustered into company A, 148th NY infantry.

in the next week, on 17 september, the 33d infantry suffers serious losses at antietam. the 33d infantry is right in the thick of the fighting, and 9 men are killed, and 38 wounded. two men of the unit are awarded the medal of honor for their courage.

it makes sense to me, then, to think that amos is wounded here and eventually shipped to ward hospital.

five days after the battle of antietam on the 22d of september the 148th infantry, with james and lemuel, leaves new york and takes up garrison duty in suffolk, VA.

by october the 148th infantry has garrison duty in norfolk.

amos dies in ward hospital, newark, NJ  on 11 november 1862.

in 1863, asa cross is 28 years old and living in rochester, probably with a wife and possibly a child. he enlists in the army in rochester on 6 june and on the 21st musters into the 11th NY artillery, later designated M company, 4th heavy artillery.

george cross is 21 years old and on 30 april 1863 he enlists and is also mustered into the 11th Ny artillery on 6 june.

the 11th artillery has an interesting history, and a whitewashed one. you should compare the regimental histories with the newspaper clippings.

on 1 july the 11th artillery is involved in the shelling at carlisle PA, a small skirmish that delays confederate troops on their way to gettysburg.

13 july the unit is sent by train to new york to put down the draft riots. on 25 july an order of the war department redesginates four companies of the 11th artillery as new companies of the 4th heavy artillery. asa and george are among those men who are transferred.

in october 1863 james and lemuel move with the 148th infantry to yorktown for garrison duty there. on 18 november they have their first small skirmish at gwynn's island. there are no casualties in their unit.

on 6 may 1864, the second day of the battle of wilderness, asa cross is reported MIA. the adjutant general's report says he is never heard of again. later on there will be clues of what happened to him, but not yet.

starting on 9 may 1864 the 148th infantry begins to fight the bermuda hundred campaign. during this three weeks the unit has 20 men killed, 47 wounded, and 2 missing. they move on immediately to a skirmish at white house (near the supply depot), a precursor to joining the battle of cold harbor on 1 june. the battle goes on until 12 june, but the heaviest of the fighting is on 3 june.

the 148th infantry has 36 killed, 86 wounded, and 2 missing. lemuel is among the wounded. we don't know when, but he returns to his unit and the active duty later.

on the tenth of may the 4th heavy artillery enters the spotsylvania courthouse campaign. somewhere between here and the end of the war george is wounded, but since no date is given and because he is discharged for disability very late in the war, i am going to write this story as if he is wounded nearer the end of the war than now, but the truth is he could be wounded and spend the rest of the war in a hospital at any time from here forward.

during the month of may the 4th heavy artillery marches and fights its way toward cold harbor where the 148th infantry will also be fighting. both units sustain moderate casualties.

three days after cold harbor, on the 15th of june,  the both the 4th heavy artillery and the 148th infantry are among the units fighting in the petersburg assault. james cross, along with 23 other men from this unit, is taken prisoner. it is probable that lemuel is not among the captured because of his wounding at cold harbor.

it's easy to forget completely that a sixth brother, norman, also enlisted in the army, but i am unable to find his service record. there's at least one source that says norman came back from the war, but none i can find that record his actual service.

a possible explanation for this is that his service record is simply lost. that's not unheard of, but i think it probably has more to do with him being underage. in 1864 he would have been fifteen years old, and depending on where and when they signed up and tried to serve, fifteen year old boys were either kept on or sent home.

there are some other things we simply don't know. lemuel's 1927 obituary says two brothers "starved to death in libbyville prison", but although at this moment we know one brother is missing and a second is captive, it is unlikely that either starved in libby prison. and there are problems with the idea that "another was never heard from after the war ended".

it's possible that the obit is just plain wrong, that one brother died at newark and two starved to death in prison, but we know mostly what happened to james and we know at least how amos's life ended.

we never do find out what happened to asa after wilderness. it is most likely that he is the brother never heard from again. his service record supports this. if there really are two brothers who starve to death in prison, they would have to be james and amos.

but we already know that amos dies at ward hospital in newark.

although i have told the story as if amos survives with his unit as far as antietam, it is possible that he is among the 20 missing men from the seven days fighting. it is possible he was taken prisoner then. prisoner exchanges were still taking place in 1862 and if he was starved in prison, he may have died after he was paroled and transferred to newark.

it is sadly not unusual for the paroled prisoners to die after they are home of the starvation they endured while in prison.

we can almost certainly dispense with the idea that either brother starved in libby prison. libby prison was for the most part the main processing center for union prisoners in the eastern theater. nearly every captured union soldier passed through libby prison, but was sent to another prison for the remainder of his incarceration. officers were kept in libby prison, and all the rest sent on.

but it was common to say someone had starved in libby; it was kind of a shorthand of the time and libby was famously used in memoirs by veteran prisoners who could not until 1890 receive benefits unless they could show that their imprisonment had made them disabled.

there was a profusion of libby prison memoirs.

what happened to james is somewhat clearer. after his capture on 15 june 1864 he probably was processed at libby. his service record states that he died at florence stockade with no date given. the date of death given on his headstone is 16 september 1864, but i think it's a fabricated death date for the sake of having something to put on the headstone. i'll get back to that later.

florence stockade started taking in its first prisoners three days after construction began on it on 12 september. in order for james to have been there at all, he would have had to have been transferred from another prison since he had been in custody since 15 june.

in fact, many of the first prisoners at florence stockade had been moved from andersonville. when it was feared that union forces might take andersonville, a large number of the prisoners were moved to florence. those who were too sick to make the trip were left behind.

so while james may have been intended for transfer to florence stockade, there is a record of his death at andersonville on 13 september 1864.

here, not for the squeamish, is a photo of a federal prisoner after his release.

it is possible and even likely that the cross family did not learn the date and place of james' death until after they had erected the monument to mark their three dead sons. amos' death date is given because it is more or less known. for both james and asa the date is given as 16 september 1864 even though we know this is an incorrect date for james, and there is no information at all about asa.

so they just picked one.

meanwhile, lemuel cross, still with the 148th infantry is still on the field until the end of the war. george cross, as i have mentioned earlier, is probably also still on the field through the end of the war.

lemuel is present at chaffin's farm, and at second fair oaks. he is there when petersburg finally falls on 2 april 1865. he is there to chase lee's army all the way to appomattox courthouse.

george's unit is active in another wing of the chase to appomattox; it fights nine more battles including weldon railroad where it 38 of the men are killed and 66 are wounded, and ream's station, where 21 are killed, 28 wounded, and a whopping 316 go missing.

george cross is discharged for disability on 25 july 1865 three months after the war ends, but three months before the rest of the 4th heavy artillery musters out.

lemuel b. cross musters out with the 148th infantry on 22 june 1865 at richmond VA.

he returns home to his wife margaret and their children. he is active and well liked in the community. he owns the first automobile in seneca county, and in 1920 he rides in an airplane.

but he never, ever misses a GAR reunion, not until the year he dies.

the local GAR post, when it is chartered in 1868, is named james and lemuel cross post #78, probably because you can't name a post "james and lemuel and amos and asa and william and george and even norman cross post".

here's my timeline of the cross family's civil war service:

and here's my annotated map:

View crosses to bear in a larger map

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