The Year Was 1864

The year was 1864. The American Civil War was in its third year, and the fighting was intense. As the newly appointed General Grant advanced on Richmond, Virginia, some of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought at: The Wilderness (17,666 dead), Spotsylvania (10,920 dead), Drewry’s Bluff (4,160 dead), Cold Harbor (12,000 dead), and Petersburg (16,569 dead). These five battles alone cost 61,315 lives.

In the South, General William Tecumseh Sherman led a force of 110,000 from Chattanooga, Tennessee, into Georgia to begin the Atlanta Campaign, which would last until the city was surrendered on 2 September 1864.

After ordering the evacuation of Atlanta, he burned most of the city and from there Sherman began his infamous “March to the Sea” as he set his sites on Savannah. Cutting a wide path through Georgia, his troops took food and other supplies, and left a devastating trail of burned plantations and crops. On 22 December 1864, he reached Savannah, where he would remain until January 1865 when he continued his “scorched earth” campaign north into the Carolinas.

In the Midwest the year opened with severe cold and snow. The high temperature for January 1st in Chicago, Illinois, was sixteen degrees below zero and Minneapolis, Minnesota, was even colder with a high of twenty-five below. 

In England, the Dale Dyke Dam burst, causing the Great Sheffield Flood (or the “Great Inundation” as it is also known). The failure of the dam sent tons of water through central Sheffield washing away bridges, destroying 800 houses, and killing 270 people.

The American Civil War was having a devastating impact on the textile mills of Lancashire, England. Union blockades of Confederate ports halted the exportation of cotton that was needed in the Lancashire mills, resulting in a “cotton famine.”

Prussia and Denmark were involved in the Second Schleswig War, fighting for control of the duchy of Schleswig. This matter wouldn’t be entirely settled until after World War I.

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14 thoughts on “The Year Was 1864

  1. Horace Edward. Bright, a youngster from Annapolis, Maryland, ran away from home when only fifteen years of age, and enlisted in the Third Maryland Battalion-Infantry, Veteran Volunteers, under Captain Joseph F. Carter during the latter years of the war. He participated in many engagements during the time he was a member of the Third Maryland Infantry, including the following engagements:

    Wilderness, Virginia, May 6th, 1864
    Spottsylvania, Virginia, May 12th, 1864
    North Anne, Virginia, May 22nd, 1864
    Cold Harbor, Virginia, June 24, 1864
    Petersburg, Virginia, June 17th, 1864
    Fort Steadman, Virginia, March 25th, 1865

    It was during the siege at Petersburg, Virginia on July 2, 1864 where he was severely wounded by a rifle ball through his right lung. He survived his serious wound and was relocated to the 420 bed Stanton Hospital in Washington, D.C. where he was confined for several weeks. Perhaps he was lucky enough to have met the famous poet Walt Whitman or other famous Washingtonians during their many visits to the sick and wounded soldiers in Washington area hospitals during the civil war. He was later relocated to the U. S. Naval Academy Hospital in his hometown of Annapolis, Maryland to continue his recovery (the hospital at the Naval Academy location was operated by the Army during that time, as the Naval Academy had been relocated to Newport, Rhode Island during the Civil War). It is likely his family was able to visit and help care for him during his stay here. Before his complete recovery he left to rejoin his unit for the remainder of the war. The date he returned to his regiment is not known; however, it is likely he missed the infamous Mine Explosion at Petersburg on July 30, 1864 that was chronicled in a movie production in recent years. The last major battle in which they participated was at Fort Steadman, which was Lee’s desperate and unsuccessful attempt to break the stranglehold at Petersburg in March, 1865. Shortly thereafter Lee fled Petersburg and began the march which would end at Appomattox Court House. The Third Maryland moved to City Point, Virginia April 20-24 and to Alexandria, Virginia April 26-28, 1865. They participated in the Grand Review of Union Troops, a massive pageant of marching troops through downtown Washington, D.C. on May 23, 1865, where it is said that Pennsylvania Avenue was alive with the magnificent sight of the returning armies. Their final duty was in the Washington, D.C. area wrapping up their final weeks of service guarding the railway lines between Laurel and Hyattsville, until disbanded on July 31, 1865. Horace Edward Bright was honorably discharged from service on July 31, 1865. It is interesting to note that his regiment, like most at those times, lost more to illness than to casualties of battle due to deplorable sanitary conditions of the time. The Third Maryland lost 8 Officers and 83 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded in battle and 4 Officers and 130 Enlisted men by disease, for a total of 225. The regiment never lost their colors, and five members received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

    This civil war veteran, my great-granduncle, who never married, died early in the morning of January 5, 1897, at the residence of his father, John Henry Bright, Sr. (my second great-grandfather), 26 Market Space, Annapolis, Maryland. He was one of 11 children, a brother of Annapolis City Alderman John Henry Bright, Jr., and was always an active Democrat. He had been ill for some time, suffering from the complications of several diseases, with consumption (tuberculosis was called consumption in the day because it seemed to consume people from within, with a bloody cough, fever, pallor or abnormal loss of skin color, and long relentless wasting) being the immediate cause of death. Horace Edward. Bright was buried in St. AnneÂ’s Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland.

  2. My G-Great Grandfather’s brother, Edgar Lyman Baker, enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 16, on 12 February 1864. In April 1864 he was taken as a Prisoner of War along with the rest of his regiment, the 85th NY Volunteers, at Plymouth, NC. He was sent to Andersonville Prison, in Georgia, where he died of dysentery on 18 July, 1864, barely two months after his 17th birthday.

    A month later, on August 31, 1864, Edgar’s father, 41 year old Lyman Baker, enlisted in Company U of the 85th NY Volunteers in which he served until the regiment was honorably mustered out of service on 27 June 1865, at New Berne, NC.

    It is very likely that Lyman’s enlistement was a result of his son Edgar’s death at the hands of the Confederates. It is not known whether his enlistment was an angry quest for revenge, or seen as a duty to bring the war to an end.

    If anyone has any information about this family’s life and communications during the Civil War, I would be grateful if it could be shared with me!

  3. My GG Grandfather’s Obituary

    Taps Sound For Gabriel Keimig
    Civil War Veteran Called By Grim Angel
    Well Known Grand Army Man

    Taps sounded for another honored veteran of the Civil war when Mr. gabriel Keimig, a veteran of the 23rd Wisconsin regiment, succumbed to a two weeks illness with la grippe and pneumonia Thursday evening, death taking place at his home, 817 Division Street, at 7:15 o’clock.
    Mr Keimig was 81 years of age. He was born in Germany September 27th, 1834, and came here with his parents at the age of 12 years. The family settled in New Jersey, where Mr. Keimig continued to reside until the middle fifties, when he came to Wisconsin.
    The marriage of Mr. Keimig to Miss Agnes Pospischil of Watertown took place in 1860, and the couple resided in Madison until he answered the call to the colors.
    Mr. Keimig enlisted in the civil war from Madison August 13th, 1862. He served as a corporal and was mustered out of service on June 6, 1865. While stationed at Mobile, Al. during the war, he was badly injured by an explosion of explosives stored in that city in which the destruction was complete for four squares.
    It required forty men to raise up the roof under which Mr. Keimig was pinned at the time of this explosion, and he came near losing his life as the results of the efforts of the rescue party, who, in attempting to chop him out, only increased the pressure of the pins which were being driven into his body by the great pressure. He was unable to speak, but when one hand was uncovered, he managed by motions of his fingers to inform the rescuers that the roof must be raised to save his life.
    Shortly after the war, Mr. Keimig sold his home and sought better climatic conditions for his health in Missouri, but returned to wisconsin in 1871, settling in Watertown, where he has resided ever since.
    Mr Keimig was a member of O.D. Pease Post No 94, G.A.R.
    The widow, three daughters, one brother, one sister, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild survive.The daughters are Mrs. J. Rusy, Mrs. J. Keegan, Chicago, Illinois and Miss Josephine Keimig, at home. The brother is Nicholas Keimig of Madison and the sister is Mrs. Gertrude Morhart of Elizabeth, N.J. Funeral services will be held Monday morning at 9 o’clock at St. Henry’s Church. Internment will be made in st. Henry’s Cemetery. (God bless all those who fought through all the wars)

  4. My great grandmother Sisan Grim McFarland’s first cousin Nicholas Grim, son of Benjamin & Flora Grim of Philadelphia, enlisted in the 28th Regt. Penn. Volunteers in 1861 when he was either 16 or just 17. He served for three years without injury during which time he wrote regular delightful letters to his cousin, Susan Grim. These have come down to me and through reading them I almost feel that I know him. The last letter is dated March 1864. Nicholas was the only casualty on June 20, of that year when his unit was participating in Sherman’s march through George. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Marietta, GA.

    Nicholas had a sister Elisa and a brother Joseph. I am wondering if there are descendants of either sibling who might possibly have a picture of Nicholas. If so I would be pleased to hear from them.

  5. My direct descendent ancestor was Junius Henry Farrar who along with his two sons John and Nicholas enlisted at Fayetteville Arkansas in the 2nd Arkansas Cavalry Union Army, Company F on July 12, 1863. They served the entire war in the Ozarks and southern Missouri scouting and chasing Billy Quantrill, Bushwhackers, and Jayhawkers, They were involved in many skirmishes but no major battles.

    On the other hand Junius’s three brothers were in the Tennessee Confederate Army Infantry. Uncle Rufus Farrar was in Robinson’s or Walker Legion of the 2nd Tennessee in Company H. He was KIA at the church area of the Battle of Shiloh April 6, 1862.

    My great uncle Lucius A Farrar was in the Confederate Army’s 8th Tennessee Infantry. He was wounded at the Battle of Stone’s river in late December of 1862, captured by Yankees and was paroled after he healed a bit. Uncle Lucius rejoined his unit outside Atlanta before he was totally well. He was recaptured on July 24, 1864 by elements of Sherman’s forces and this time was sent to Camp Chase and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

    I have numerous documents proving the above. If anyone has relatives who were in the Civil War, I highly suggest that you apply for and obtain the pension records of the individual. Even though the prices have changed for this service now, the information you glean from them is sometimes priceless for genealogists and family historians.

  6. My great grandfather William Henry Harrison Lowe (1840-1909) served in the Civil War. He enrolled on August 22, 1862 in Company B of the 50th Mass. Volunteers, commanded by John L. Ward. He was honorably discharged at Wenham, Mass. on August 24, 1863. In January of 1863, he was at Union Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, being treated for “virus and pleursy in the left side,” that was casued “by lying on the ground at Long Island.” Then in June of 1863, at Port Hudson, Louisiana, he contracted malarial poisoning and chronic diarrhea, which developed into disease of kidney, fever, heart, and indigestion. William Low attributed this setback to “a change of climate, sleeping on the ground, and poor water in Louisiana.”

    Following his service in the Civil War, he returned to Rockport, MA. William Henry Harrison Low was a direct descentant of Thomas Low (1605-1677), who settled in Ipswich, MA in 1636.

  7. My relative, John K. Benefiel of Pulaski Co., IN kept a journal for the year 1864. It is held at the IN State Library, and because of copyright laws I have only been able to get about 5 of the 23 page document. It is very interesting, mostly filled with the everyday occurences of the 46th Reg. IN Infantry. One question I have for anyone who might be reading this. John Benefiel refers several times to going to the “carondolet”. I have been unable to find a definition, and not sure from context of the entry. Both times I find this phrase it is written on a Friday night, he is stationed in New Orleans, and simply states “went to the carondolet for a class meeting.”

    Any information would be greatly apppreciated. Of course, I welcome any fellow researchers of the Benefiel(d) line to contact me, so we may share information.

  8. My great grandmother’s brother John McIntosh enlisted in Co D, 1st Michigan Sharpshooters on Feb 16, 1864 at age 23. He resided in Newtow Twp, Calhoun Co, MI. Mustered at Jackson, Michigan. The company was assigned to Camp Douglas(Chicago) to guard the Confederate prison camp. Due to the overcrowded conditions disease was rampant. He caught sick and died a month later. He never married.

  9. The article is good about the American Civil War but I found greater interest in the line about the Schleswig/Denmark War. A story in my family says my great grandfather on my fathers side lived in Germany and the girl he married lived across the street in Denmark. I’ve never been able to find out what city it was in. My Great grandparents came to the United States in 1872 to Iowa. There were other relatives there. I can’t find very much information about the Haderslav area. It’s history was like a yoyo for many years with first one country ruling it and then another.

  10. I was interested in Ken Rogers comment regarding Horace Edward Bright. I have been researching a family of Brights from Baltimore and have established a connection between them and the Brights in Anne Arundel County. Among the connected Anne Arundel County Brights is one Ignatius Bright who owned a farm on the north side of the Severn near Annapolis. Ignatius Bright was in the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812 and fought in the Battle of North Point and again in the brief defense of Baltimore itself. Among his possible offspring is one Henry Bright who enlisted in 1864 in the Union Navy. His enlistment was effected under the name Herman Hales and although he was a Baltimore resident, he enlisted in Cincinnati, having gone there to seek work. I have no idea why Henry Bright would have enlisted under an alias nor why he just didn’t enlist in Baltimore. Among the possible reasons may be that he reached Cincinnati, found no work, and enlisted for the pay. Another possible reason may have been to avoid being drafted into the Union Army. His motives will certainly remain a mystery. Henry served on the gunboats Grampus and Hastings. Another Baltimore Bright who served in the Union Navy was William T. Bright. The only reference I have as to his ship is a poor copy and the ship name appears to be the ‘Resaca’. I cannot find a ship with that name in any of the lists of Union vessels I’ve seen.

    I’d very much like to establish contact with Ken Rogers. There appears to be potential for furthering each other’s research.

  11. My Gt. Grandparents were Barlett. We have been told we were related to Josiah Bartlett who signed the United States Constitution. But so far we haven’t been able to make the connection.

    My Gt. Gt. Grandfather was George Dexter Bartlett born in 1837 in Vermont. His father was George W. Bartlett who was a stone mason born in 1800 in Mass.

    George Dexter Bartlett was married to Arabelle (or Ira Bell) Dennett born in Vermont in 1839. They had 5 children all born in KS. in the Janesville Township. We are not sure if Dennett was her real last name or that of the family she was left with when her parents had to leave her when they were going to Colorado by covered wagon and she became very ill. They planned on returning for her but never did. So we have no information other than her name when she was married. And no information why they never returned for her.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Sally Bayer Ellinwood, Kansas

  12. My Great Grandfather William Alexander Adams (Alex) served the Union from the very beginning in Missouri. In 1864 his Company, Company M of Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, had been on patrol out of Hernann, Gasconade County for three months. There, in Hermann he had met the love of his life, Mary Elizabeth Gibson. They married in Hermann on the 14th of September 1864, and they had decided that Alex would take leave and they would travel down to Iron County to meet Alex’s parents and enjoy a visit. Unfortunately, the war caught up with them after but a few brief hours visiting Alex’s family. Passing soldiers warned them of the impending dangers from a large force of Confederates under the Command of General Sterling Price with Generals Marmaduke, Fagan, and Shelby were in the area. This was Third Missouri State Militia territory, its main command was but a few miles away at Ft. Davidson, housing about 600 men of the Third and about 400 of the Tenth State Militias, both Cavalries.

    Alex made ready to go, but no amount of dissuasion was argument enough to prevent Mary from joining him. The honeymoon was not without its dangers and adventures as they found themselves part of the Union’s fighting retreat across parts of three counties for sveral days while their small force was being chased by 15,000 Confederates. On the third day of retreat they had made it to Leasburg, Crawford County where they knew a railroad spur was–all they had to do was to cross over an open field without being overrun by the Confederates. General Ewing, commander of the Union forces told Captain Milks of the Third that he wanted to know how far into the woods the enemy was and at what strength. Milks grabbed a bugler to sound “to saddles” and he found himself with sixty men with him (not having a ompany of his own, he was not suire if he would have anybody). Milks orders were to find and engage whatever forces you encounter, to empty two pistols and get back to Command–you are each on your own, “charge!”. Having found that a small, scattered force was all that was close behind them they dashed across the open ground for Leasburg under their protecting cannons. Making safety in Leasburg they soon learned that there would be no escape on a train, as the tracks had been wrecked. After a horrendous battle in the evening in which the Confederates were repelled they settled down for a restless sleep. The next day found reinforcements on the way, and the slinking away of the Conderate army.

    This was but a small portion of the South’s last gasp by order of Jefferson Davis. It was thought that Price would be able to take St. Louis and have command of the Mississippi River and open a new front from the West. Price’s diversion at Pilot Knob and Fort Davidson was time consuming and costly. His armies chasing such a small force was pointless to his objectives. It not only allowed St. Louis to be reinforced, but it also cost him his alternate objective the Capitol of Missouri, Jefferson City, and in the end, the South’s last remaining army as Price’s forces were destroyed by the time he was able to get out of Missouri. His casualties at Ft. Davidson alone was 1500, as compared to Ewings meager 90 caualties. Recommended reading: Pilot Knob, the Thermopylae of the West, by Cyrus A. Peterson and Joseph Mills Hanson, The Neale Publiching Company, 1914. You can also read about the “honeymoon couple” in this book.

  13. My gr gr grandfather Jonathan Hellinger had a big year in 1864! That’s when he served his 3 months and 10 days in the Union army, Co. K, 195 Regiment from Lancaster Co., PA. I believe one thing they did was serve to guard the railroad tracks in or near Baltimore. I’m glad Jonathan got out of the war alive, obviously, but I wonder if he wished he had ever stayed in and made more of himself. As it was, he fought for a pension and finally got $6 a month from a heart condition he said he contracted during the war. I wonder. He was a hard drinker and hard worker. He ended up divorced from my gr gr grandmother. Hard life for all of them.

  14. Comment by Ken Rogers — 25 May 2008 @ 10:46 am

    Horace Edward Bright and John Henry Bright, Jr. Do you have any information on Josiah E. Bright registered from Philadelphia, Pa. and was in the 2nd regiment, 112 that was in those areas during the Civil War.

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