Thursday, January 1, 2009

Civil War Years

“One must fight to preserve a natione”

There were 132 men who fought in the Civil War whose military records list them as having come from Granby. The first of these to enlist was Everett Griswold, 1st Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, on April 19, 1861, only seven days after Fort Sumter was fired upon. Other enlistments quickly followed, some men enlisting independently, but the majority enlisting in groups of five or more, often mustering into the same unit.

The first of our ancestors to enlist was David H. Holmes, the son of Robert Holmes Jr. and Eliza Ann Barrett. David enlisted as a Private in Company E, 10th Regiment Connecticut Infantry on October 14, 1861. He was wounded in the thigh by a rifle ball at the Battle of Kinston, NC on December 14, 1862. Unfit for service for 30 days, the company surgeon suggested he be, “permitted to go North.”

He was promoted to Full Sergeant on February 7, 1864; Full Sergeant 1st Class on November 1, 1864; and Full Sergeant 2nd Class on January 27, 1865. His letter of resignation was signed at camp in Richmond, VA on May 30, 1865:

“Sir, I have the honor to herewith tender my resignation as 2d Lieut. 10th Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, U.S.A. for the reasons hereafter noted. I have a small farm in the state of Connecticut, which at the present time is in a very ruinous condition from the fact that I have no one to attend to it except a widowed Mother who is entirely dependent upon me for support, and is suffering severely at the present time in a pecuniary (sp?) sense from my absence. Also for the reason that I have a title to other property now in litigation to secure which my presence is absolutely necessary. I certify on honor that I am not indebted to the U.S. on any account whatsoever, and that I am not responsible for any government property except that I am prepared to turn over to the proper Officer on the acceptance of my resignation and that I was last paid by Major Dorman (sp?) U.S.A. to include the 24th day of January 1865. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, David H. Holmes.”

10th Regiment Infantry Service
  • Organized at Hartford, CT October 22, 1861.
  • Left State for Annapolis, MD October 31 and duty there until January 6, 1862.
  • Burnside's expedition to Hatteras Inlet and Roanoke Island, NC, January 7-February 8.
  • Battle of Roanoke Island February 8.
  • At Roanoke Island until March 11.
  • Moved to Newberne March 11-13.
  • Battle of Newberne March 14.
  • Duty at Newberne until October.
  • Expedition from Newberne October 30-November 12.
  • Action at Rawle's Mills November 2.
  • Foster's expedition to Goldsboro December 11-20.
  • Kinston December 14.
  • Whitehall December 16.
  • Goldsboro December 17.
  • Moved from Newberne to Hilton Head, SC, January 26-29, 1863.
  • Camp at St. Helena Island, SC, until March 27 and at Seabrook Island, SC, to July 6.
  • Skirmish Edisto Island June 18.
  • Expedition to James Island July 9-16.
  • Battle of Secessionville July 16.
  • Assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, SC, July 18.
  • Siege operations against Forts Wagner and Gregg, Morris Island, and against Fort Sumter and Charlestown, SC, July 18-September 7.
  • Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg September 7.
  • Operations against Forts Sumter and Charlestown until October 25.
  • Moved to St. Augustine, FL, October 26, and duty there until April, 1864.
  • Ordered to Gloucester Point, VA, April 20.
  • Butler's operations on south side of the James and against Petersburg and Richmond, VA, May 5-28.
  • Occupation of Bermuda Hundred, VA, May 5.
  • Port Walthal Junction, Chester Station, May 7.
  • Operations against Fort Darling May 12-16.
  • Battle of Drewry's Bluff May 14-16.
  • On Bermuda Hundred front May 17-July 21.
  • Action Bermuda Hundred June 2.
  • Petersburg June 9. Walthal Junction June 16-17.
  • Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
  • Demonstration on north side of the James July 27-29.
  • Deep Bottom July 27-28 and August 1.
  • Strawberry Plains August 14-18.
  • Duty in trenches before Petersburg August 25-September 27.
  • Movement to north of James September 27-28.
  • Chaffin's Farm, New Market Heights, September 28-30.
  • Darbytown and New Market Roads October 7.
  • Reconnaissance on Darbytown Road October 13.
  • Battle of Fair Oaks October 27-28.
  • Johnston's Plantation October 29.
  • Detached for duty at New York City during Presidential election of 1864, November 2-17.
  • Duty in trenches before Richmond November 17, 1864, to March 27, 1865.
  • Movement to Hatcher's Run March 27-28.
  • Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9.
  • Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2.
  • Pursuit of Lee April 3-9.
  • Rice's Station April 6.
  • Appomattox C. H. April 9.
  • Surrender of Lee and his army. Duty at Richmond, VA, and in the Dept. of VA until August.
  • Mustered out August 15, 1865.
Regiment lost during service: 13 Officers and 109 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded; 5 Officers and 155 Enlisted men by disease. Total 282.

With the exception of Alexander Pattison, each of our Civil War soldiers spent some time in New Bern, North Carolina [called Newberne back then]. During their stay, they may have taken a break to enjoy some entertainment at this opera house. Located on the lower floor of St. John's, it was occasionally used by the Union troops for homemade productions.

As you can see from this May 24, 1864 playbill, the troops gave old St. John's a name more to their liking!

John Burns II was the husband of Delilah M. Holmes (daughter of David Holmes and Melinda Phelps). He enlisted as a Private in the 16th Regiment Infantry on August 6, 1862 and received a disability discharge on March 4, 1863.

Robert James Holmes was the son of James Holmes and Mary McRoy. He enlisted as a musician in company B of the 16th Regiment on August 14, 1862. He was captured at Plymouth, NC on April 20, 1864 and held prisoner at Andersonville, SC until December 11, 1864. On July 7, 1865 he was given an Honorable Discharge at Annapolis, MD. [For his full biography, see Civil War Years Part II.]

Joseph J. Jones was the husband of Nancy J. Holmes (daughter of David Holmes and Melinda Phelps). He enlisted as a Private in Company B, 16th Regiment Infantry on August 24, 1862 and was wounded at Antietam, NC less than a month later on September 17. Joseph was captured at Plymouth, NC on April 20, 1864 and taken to Andersonville, GA where he died on September 2, 1864. He is buried at the Andersonville National Cemetery. [Ref. Page 230, Code 17570, Grave #7570]

16th Regiment Infantry Service
  • Organized at Hartford August 24, 1862.
  • Moved to Washington, DC, August 29-31.
  • Maryland Campaign September-October, 1862.
  • Battle of Antietam, MD, September 16-17.
  • Duty in Pleasant Valley, MD, October 27.
  • Movement to Falmouth, VA, October 27-November 17.
  • Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
  • Burnside's 2nd Campaign, "Mud March," January 20-24, 1863.
  • Moved to Newport News February 6-9, thence to Suffolk March 13.
  • Siege of Suffolk April 12-May 4.
  • Edenton Road April 24.
  • Providence Church Road and Nansemond River May 3.
  • Siege of Suffolk raised May 4.
  • Reconnaissance to the Chickahominy June 9-17.
  • Dix's Peninsula Campaign June 24-July 7.
  • Expedition from White House to South Anna River July 1-7.
  • Moved to Portsmouth, VA Duty there and at Norfolk January, 1864.
  • Skirmish at Harrellsville January 20 (Detachment).
  • Moved to Morehead City, thence to Newberne and Plymouth January 24-28.
  • Skirmish at Windsor January 30.
  • Duty at Newberne February 2 to March 20, and at Plymouth, NC, April.
  • Siege of Plymouth April 17-20.
  • Captured April 20, and prisoners of war March, 1865. Those not captured, on duty at Newberne and Roanoke Island, NC, June, 1865.
  • Mustered out June 24, 1865.
Alexander Pattison was the husband of Eliza Ann Barrett-Holmes (widow of Robert Holmes, Jr.). He enlisted as a Private in Company E, 25th Regiment Connecticut Infantry on August 2, 1862. Alexander was wounded at Irish Bend, LA on April 14, 1863 and again at Port Hudson, LA on June 15 1863. He mustered out in Hartford, CT on August 26, 1863.

25th Regiment Connecticut Infantry Service
  • Attached to Grover's Division, Dept. of the Gulf, to January, 1863.
  • Duty at Baton Rouge until March, 1863.
  • Operations against Port Hudson March 7-27.
  • Moved to Donaldsonville March 28.
  • Operations in Western Louisiana April 9-May 14.
  • Teche Campaign April 11-20.
  • Porter's and McWilliams' Plantation at Indian Bend April 13.
  • Irish Bend April 14.
  • Bayou Vermillion April 17.
  • Expedition to Alexandria and Simsport May 5-18.
  • Moved to Bayou Sara, thence to Port Hudson May 22-25.
  • Siege of Port Hudson May 25-July 9.
  • Assaults on Port Hudson May 27 and June 14.
  • Surrender of Port Hudson July 9.
  • Moved to Donaldsonville July 11.
  • Duty in Plaquemine District until August.
  • Mustered out August 26, 1863.
Regiment lost during service: 3 Officers and 26 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded; 4 Officers and 61 Enlisted men by disease. Total 94.

Civil War Years II

By the summer of 1862, President Lincoln was calling for 300,000 volunteers and announced the first draft in August. The third quarter of that year (July-September) had a total of 33 recruits from Granby. A $100 bounty, which was given to the five who enlisted on August 11th, was later raised to $150.

Of the 31 Connecticut regiments organized for the war, Granby was represented in 21 of them. The regiment in which most Granby men were enlisted was the 4th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry -- there were 23 Granby men in this regiment. Probably the most famous Connecticut regiment that fought in the Civil War was the 16th Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Now known as “Plymouth Pilgrims” [see notes], the 16th was mustered into service in Hartford on August 24, 1862 by Lieutenant Watson Webb.

Robert James Holmes was the son of James Holmes and Mary McRoy. He grew up in East Granby and, at the age of 21, enlisted as a musician in Company B of the 16th Regiment on August 14, 1862. The 16th left for Washington, DC on August 29 where it went into camp on Arlington Heights near Fort Ward. There were 20 Granby men in that unit.

The poorly trained 16th was then moved by forced marches and brigaded at Antietam the evening prior to the battle waged on September 17. The unit fired its muskets for the first time in this battle and suffered terrible losses – it went in with 940 men and lost 432 in killed and wounded. They later marched to Newport News, VA for a stay of 4-5 weeks, allowing some of the wounded to heal and get some rest.

Robert’s regiment then marched with the rest of the Connecticut Brigade to Suffolk, VA where it suffered more casualties in the battles of Edenton Road on April 24, 1863 and Providence Church Road on May 3. They moved to Portsmouth on June 16 where they engaged in an expedition called the “Blackberry Raid”. After this battle, the 16th had several months of quiet near Portsmouth when the men were taught the discipline and military skills they so greatly needed.

The regiment was ordered to Plymouth, NC on January 21, 1864 and arrived there on midnight of January 24. There the regiment made several raids against rebel camps and destroyed large quantities of cotton and tobacco.

On March 3 they were ordered to New Bern, NC which was being threatened by Confederate attack. They camped near the Neuse River and, on March 20, were ordered to return to Plymouth.

The following portrayal of the Battle of Plymouth – provided by Curtis L. Holmes – is a composite of three handwritten letters by Robert J. Holmes: one addressed to his daughter, Alice … the other two not addressed or dated. Curtis notes that some of the text was not legible and therefore required interpretation. Although it may not always be a direct quote, Curtis believes it accurately describes the battle as Robert intended:

“On the 20th of March 1864 in a wet and drizzling rain we left our quarters at Newberne and went aboard the steamer, Thomas Collyer [pictured below], for Plymouth, N.C. As we sailed down the Neuse River into Pamlico Sound the storm increased with a heavy downpour of rain and a strong northwest wind until it began a perfect gale. The steamer pitched and tossed in the heavy waves till it seemed that the vessel could scarcely live. The vessel was filled with soldiers and to shelter ourselves as much as possible from the storm we persisted in keeping to the leeward side of the ship. The weight being located on one side of the vessel kept her out of trim which made her unmanageable. The Captain came up repeatedly to make us get over to the other side. He wouldn’t much more than get out of sight before we all moved back again. He finally came up screaming as only a Sea Captain can and said that if we didn’t get to the windward and stay there the whole damned lot of you would go to the bottom and it would serve you right. Some of the boys asked him if he thought it was any worse down there than it was up here.

We finally reached the channel where we passed from the Pamlico Sound to Albemarle Sound around Roanoke Island and up a number of miles in the sound we had a bar to cross. Now the strong wind had driven the water out of the Albemarle Sound till it was a number of feet lower than usual so we ran aground. Every heavy wave that came lifted the vessel up farther unto the same til she rested on her keel. When a wave struck her she would go over one way and then back the other. And every time she made a heave it seemed as if we were all going overboard. We were in this position for twenty-four hours. The storm had ceased and the steamer, General Berry came along side us and took us aboard and carried us to or destination, Plymouth, which we reached about ten o’clock at night. When we left Newberne we had rations for breakfast and dinner and this was all the provisions we had for forty hours.

Plymouth lies on the south side of the Roanoke River, eight miles from Albemarle Sound. It was a fortified position commanded by General Nancy W. Wessell. The following troops were in his command: 85th N.Y., 101st and 103rd Penn., 16th Conn., 1 light battery, two companies of heavy artillery and in all about 2400 men. There were also three gunboats on the river; the Southfield, the Miami and the Burnshell.

The attack was made on us by General R. F. Hoke commanding the Confederate forces. They consisted of one regiment of cavalry, seven batteries of light artillery, three brigades of infantry, in all over 7000 men assisted by the mailed ram, Albemarle.

Our fortifications commenced on the bank of the river at the west end of the town running west about half a mile, then to the east one mile, then to the north about half way to the river terminating with a small fort containing one heavy gun. The rest of the way to the river was without breastworks as the position was such that it could be swept by the guns on the boats. We had four forts, one of which I have mentioned, Fort Merril, about midway of the line of works running east and west, Fort Warren west of the town and outside the breastworks about half a mile, and Fort Gray in a swamp still further west. Both of these forts commanded the river and were built to destroy the ram when she came down the river.

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning April 17, 1864. We had gone through our regular morning of duties and it had got to about noon when we saw the cavalry from the outpost dashing into the town bringing the report that there was a large force of the enemy only two miles out. Immediately there was a commotion at every quarter, drums beating, bugles sounding, and men rushing from every quarter. This confusion was of short duration and soon every regiment was marching to its position at the breastworks.

A line of skirmishers was immediately sent out, advancing carefully until they found the enemy. During the afternoon there was some firing on the skirmish line and some artillery firing but not much real fighting took place Sunday.

Monday morning, bright and early, the ball opened in earnest. The enemy directed its attention to the forts commanding the river. The idea being to cripple or silence them so that the ram might safely come down.

Fort Warren was garrisoned by seventy-five men and two or three pieces of heavy artillery. With this small force she resisted charge after charge of the enemy with more than ten times her number and I presume it safe to say that they killed five times the number of men that the fort contained. The fort was supplied with hand grenades, which they used with terrible effect when the enemy was trying to scale the embankments of the fort. The night of the 18th with the crippled condition of the forts, the ram came down.

She was of peculiar construction. Her hull was but little above the water and her guns and crew were protected by railroad iron set up and firmly secured in the form of the letter “A” lengthwise of the deck. Our two boats being wooden vessels knew that they could not contend with her in any ordinary way so they devised the following plan to meet her. Each boat got as near opposite banks as thy could so that they could then connect themselves together with heavy cables, the object being that the ram would run between them, they would catch her with the cable, steam in the opposite direction, crowd in on her and sink her.

Everything worked as it was planned. They had her down until water was pouring in her portholes when a shot fired by the Southfield glanced off from the ram and killed the captain of the Miami. In the confusion some one yelled, “cut the cable”. It was done and immediately the ram was free. She turned her bow into the Miami crushed a hole in her and sank her. The Southfield escaped down the river. The Burnshell, the other small boat was used up Monday. So the morning of the 19th the river was clear with the exception of the ram, which lay down the river firing her heavy shells up into the town.

Now you can see the situation we are in: the loss of sixteen guns from the gunboats, the enemy reinforced by the heavy guns of the ram, and one half of our east line without any protection. The enemy had but one point of attack now and they opened everything they had on the town and from every point at once. Every tent that stood up was just riddled with bullet holes and you could hardly believe that anyone could live through such a shower of shot and shell.

We withstood the heavy and the repeated charges of the enemy all day the 19th and the constant artillery firing all through the night. The morning of the 20th it looked rather dubious for us. General Hoke had sent in a number of requests for us to surrender but received a reply that we expected to fight it out. The final charge was made by the enemy soon after noon of the 20th. They broke through our line at the point where there were no breastworks in the east and fought their way up through the town and took us in as they came to us.

The outcome was that we were made prisoners (which meant death to a large percent of the captured). We lost in killed and wounded about one hundred. The enemy lost in killed and wounded about 1500. Some who had good opportunity of judging thought this is a low estimate of the enemy loss. R.J. Holmes, April 15, 1903”

After Robert’s capture at Plymouth on April 20, 1864, he was held at Florence, SC for perhaps one week before being loaded into a boxcar and sent south with the rest of the prisoners. They reached Andersonville, GA the night of May 2, 1864. The following morning, a large detachment of Union soldiers were marched under heavy guard from the railroad station to the stockade at Andersonville Prison. About 300 enlisted men of the 16th Regiment of Connecticut Volunteers were in this group.

Established in November 1863 under orders of General J. H. Winder, Andersonville was one of the most notorious of the southern prisons. Pressure from Confederate Headquarters in Richmond led to prisoners being sent there before the barracks and other facilities were constructed. Consequently, drainage was poor, the water supply inadequate and food uncooked. Many of its prisoners were ill and fatigued before their arrival. Eventually, disease ran rampant through the prison.

The first group of prisoners was incarcerated February 25, 1864. Within six months, 42,686 cases of diseased and wounded prisoners had received treatment from an inadequate medical staff. 12,912 prisoners are known to have died – of those, 234 were of the 16th Connecticut. It’s said the total number of prisoners reached 52,345 by September 1864, when the prison was largely a hospital. The last of the incarcerated left April 17, 1865.

Robert [pictured here] was released from his confinement at Andersonville, paroled at Richmond, VA on December 11, 1864 and returned to Camp Parole, MD where he was given a furlough at his home in East Granby from December 25, 1864 to January 25, 1865. He was so sick during this time that he requested an extension of his leave from Doctor Sanford, MD at Simsbury, CT. Sanford’s medical statement reads, “Robert Holmes was carefully examined and found suffering by reason of eight months of cruel treatment in Rebel prisons which has caused great emaciation, general debility, a bad cough, a pain in his side and chronic diarrhea.” Robert returned to Camp Parole until March 3, 1865 when he was admitted to the General Hospital at Annapolis, MD as a patient. After his recovery, he was given an Honorable Discharge at Annapolis on July 7, 1865.

Robert J. Holmes is listed as a soldier and musician in military records for the Civil War. He played a flute and carried a Sharp’s Rifle. His discharge papers and flute are held by Curtis L. Holmes. Milton C. Holmes holds the Sharp’s Rifle.

Note: "Plymouth Pilgrims" were Union soldiers and sailors who were engaged and captured during the Battle of Plymouth, NC April 17-20th, 1864. The Battle of Plymouth is not widely known, but the story of the battle and the soldiers involved continues to live on today through their descendants. For further reading go to the Civil War Plymouth Pilgrims Society site at

The Heritage of Granby, Salmon Brook Historical Society
Robert J. Holmes and the Civil War, Curtis L. Holmes