The Civil War Story
George N. Sherman
George N. Sherman, son of Harvey and Lucinda (Clark) Sherman of Marion, Wayne County, NY, served in the Civil War from 1862 to 1865. He was a volunteer in the 111th Vol. Regiment, Company A, NY Infantry. Records received from the National Archives (about forty pages) show that he mustered into the army July 23, 1862 as a volunteer for three years in Auburn, NY. His listed hometown was Marion, NY, and he enlisted in Palmyra. He was described as twenty-five years old, five feet five and one half inches tall, had florid complexion, and blue-gray eyes and brown hair.
George N. Sherman's military and pension records show that he was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, PA on July 2, 1863. Then later he was reported AWOL until it was discovered that he was a prisoner of war. He was captured on September 15, 1862 at Harper's Ferry, and was sent to Libby Prison in VA where he suffered from severe diarrhea. Later, on August 25, 1864 he was captured again. This time he was caught in Reams Station, VA, and then sent to Richmond, VA where he was imprisoned on Bell Isle on the James River. He was not paroled until the winter of 1864. At one point in late 1864 George was granted a twenty-day furlough to return to Marion, NY. When he again became ill with severe diarrhea while at home, Amasa Stanton, a family friend and local notary, notarized a doctor's request to extend George's leave. George then returned to the service January 11, 1865, and was sent to Camp Distribution in Virginia on January 14, 1865. Records show that he seemed ill and unable to work ever after that. He was honorably discharged from the military on June 4, 1865 after serving three years in one of the most historical of times in the history of the United States.
Several times during his last years in MI George tried to get his military pension increased, as he was unable to work full time. In one of his requests, he wrote the following in his own words and his own handwriting.
"While I was held a prisoner of war in Libby Prison and on Bell Island in the James River in the Fall of 1864 I was taken prisoner while on duty at the Battle of Weldon R. R. in front of Petersburg, VA about the last of August 1864 and I suffered extremely from hardships and exposure which caused my aforesaid difficulties with which I was suffering extremely when I was paroled and sent home in December 1864 and have suffered from said difficulties ever since."
These requests were sent in to the War Department several times between 1887 and 1896. Prominent Lyons, MI and Wayne County, NY citizens attested to his condition. It is unclear if he was ever given a raise, as the last response from the War Department was dated September 21, 1888. It was a rejection that his war activities had caused his disabilities, and that he had nothing worse than diarrhea. But his military death notice shows him listed as an invalid, so he most probably won out after all.
It should be noted that in many of George's military records there was confusion over his middle initial. Sometimes it was an "A" and sometimes it was an "N". Army officials concluded in writing that he was one and the same saying that it could be no one else. A later deed of Clark Sherman buying his brother George's inherited portion of their father Harvey Sherman's land listed it as an "N." But one only has to consider the confusion, disruption, and chaos that the Civil War caused to better understand why many small details such as middle initials, may have been incorrectly recounted.
The Civil War took many young men of Wayne County, NY off to war. After President Abraham Lincoln put out the call for 300,000 new volunteers in July of 1862, each state was given a quota to meet. Marion, Wayne County, NY raised two Volunteer infantry regiments in August of 1862. George Sherman and other Wayne County men were volunteers in the 111th Volunteer Regiment, Company "A." They represented the 25th NY District, and were combined with other volunteers from Cayuga County. The 26th district was comprised of Ontario, Seneca, and Yates Counties.
Military records show that all of the battles that the 111th regiment fought were under the direction of Brigadier General Alexander Hays. They were attached to the Army of the Potomac, under Major General George Meade, Commander; Third Division, under General Alexander Hays; and Third Brigade, under Col. George L. Willard, Col. Eliakim Sherrill, and Lt. Col. James M. Bull.
It seems that the call to volunteers was done at a time of chaos and confusion. The government seemed unprepared and disorganized at the time that the 111th mustered into service on August 20, 1862. For example, on August 21 they were all put onto railroad cars and sent to Washington D.C. where they were to begin basic training. They had no weapons on them at that time. Then on August 22, without any training whatsoever, they were all transferred to barges and taken down the Hudson River to New York Harbor where they were again transferred to steamships. From there they went to Amboy, New Jersey, where they were once again transferred to rail cars, and then taken to Philadelphia and then on to Baltimore.
In Baltimore they received new orders to board still another train that would take them to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia and, under Miles' command, they were to face the Confederate General, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. During battle on September 13, 1862 the veteran (trained) Union Troops fled the scene, and then pinned the subsequent miserable loss on the new recruits of the 111th who had received no weapons, training, nor support by the time that they were left to face Jackson. They were captured, imprisoned, and then later paroled on September 16. On September 24, 1862 the 111th marched to Annapolis, Maryland to board trains to Camp Douglas near Chicago, Illinois. Their duty in Chicago was to guard Confederate prisoners. On November 19, 1862 they were sent back to Washington D.C. where they finally received training. By June 24, 1863 the Gettysburg battle began to build when the 111th and other regiments were sent.
On June 25, 1863 they were attached to the 2nd Army Corps. And on July 1, the 111th with 390 men reached the battlefield in the late evening. They camped behind the Big and Little Roundtops, and prepared to march into Gettysburg on July the 2nd. On the morning of July 2 they joined the rest of the 2nd Corps at Cemetery Ridge, and were put into the rear as reserves. Ironically, they were used as a priority force to battle the same unit of troops that had beat them so badly when they faced them in Harper's Ferry. Only this time the 111th beat them so badly that they prevented the Confederates from dividing the Union line into separate areas. On July 3 the units were all repositioned with the 2nd Corps at "The Angle" where together they were able to repel the Confederates at "Pickett's Charge."
Easily forgotten is that Civil War soldiers suffered not only from battle, but also from disease and other problems. One of the biggest health problems of that time was dysentery brought on from unsanitary eating utensils and unclean water. A good example of this was that of Ezra Allen Sherman, George Sherman's distant cousin and a grandson of John and Chloe Sherman of Rose, NY. Ezra died on March 27, 1864 of diarrhea after a long and painful ordeal in a Richmond, VA prison. He was a member of the 111th Regiment, Company "E", and had been a prisoner of war since October 2, 1863. He was described as five foot six and one half inches tall, florid complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. He was only 19 years of age when he died.
One can only imagine how the Civil War must have affected the young men who were mostly all farmers and who most probably lived very sheltered lives. The ages of Harvey's sons in 1863 were William H. 33, George N. 25, and Howard 22 at the time. Today, all one has to do is to gaze across the now still field from Cemetery Ridge and imagine the fright that these men felt prior to the impending conflict upon which they were to embark. To those young men the battlefield probably looked no different than any other farm field so familiar to them back home in New York. But upon this field on July 2, 1863 some of them would be wounded and some would soon die.
It was the bloodiest battle of Gettysburg as Union troops waited in their positions to meet the Confederates who were ever advancing toward them on foot. Each man on both sides had to be hoping that somehow he would walk out alive. And, after the two sides met and the challenge began, the loud barking of orders, artillery fire, shouts and cries of the wounded must have filled the air in deafening clamor. It was not a day to be soon forgotten. And still the job was not over for the 111th. After Gettysburg they had other battles that included such action as chasing General Lee to Manassas Gap, VA, and many others. The 111th was mustered out of Service June 3, 1865.
Today the bloody battlefield where the 111th and other regiments fought so long ago lies in quietude with only the monuments eulogizing those heroes who volunteered to fight for their beliefs. Gone are the bloodstains, the spirited horses, and the chaos of war. Today it is a most moving and provocative experience to visit. Among the many markers located near Cemetery Ridge are three that honor those men of the 111th and other New York Gettysburg battle veterans. George N. Sherman was one of those heroes.
Sources: Actual military pension records of George N. Sherman
Dyer, Frederick H. 1959, A compendium of the War of Rebellion; Regimental Histories. Thomas Yoseloff, Publisher.
Scott, Robert N. 1889. The War of Rebellion of the Union and Confederate Armies, Washington Government Printing Office.
Murray, R.L. 1994. The Redemption of "Harper's Ferry Cowards." Wayne County, NY
Partial extract from the book written by Margaret Sherman Lutzvick, Going to Palmyra; Sherman Deeds, published 1997 by Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD. It should be noted that this book is the 1998 winner of a prestigious "Award of Excellence" in the Anna Ford Family Book Contest presented by the Heart of America Genealogical & Library, Inc., Kansas City, MO.
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