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William Reiff's articles

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Date: 1895 to 1911
Location: [unknown]
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list of publications

  • 'Do not realize dangers'. National Tribune 1 August 1895, page 3. (Available on Chronicling America)
  • 'His worst scare. Ghastly adventure of a 91st Pa. boy on the Antietam field'. National Tribune 22 August 1895, page 3, column 2. (Available on Chronicling America)
  • 'Lincoln's kindness'. National Tribune 26 December 1895, page 3, (Available on Chronicling America)
  • 'Prisoner by the scalp'. National Tribune 28 February 1895, page 3 (Available on Chronicling America)
  • 'Struggle for the Union. Trials of a boy in the Gettysburg campaign'. National Tribune 6 August 1896, page 3, columns 1-2. (Available on Chronicling America)

'Coffee on Little Round Top, Gettysburg'. National Tribune 19 May 1904.

'A boy hero'. National Tribune 3 August 1905, page 3, columns 1-2.

'Tortured for sleep'. National Tribune 25 May 1905.

'The soldier that was not buried'. National Tribune 17 August 1905, page 3, column 6

'Inquiry for Col Johnson'. Charleston News and Courier (Charleston SC), Monday 3 June 1907, page 2

'A federal prison guard'. Confederate Veteran 19 (1911) 526.

'A straddle bug'. National Tribune 14 September 1911.

'Josie and I at Gettysburg'. Gettysburg Compiler 9 August 1911.


A federal prison guard

[source: Confederate Veteran 19 (1911) 526]

A FEDERAL PRISON GUARD. BY W. C. REIFF, CARLSBAD, N. M. During the months of March and April, 1862, as a member of the 91st Pennsylvania Volunteers, I was a sentry at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, D. C. Mrs. Rose O. N. Greenhow was then held there as a prisoner. She occupied quarters on the third floor, and her little daughter was permitted to be with her. A little body, Harry, perhaps five or six years old, was there part of the time, and they had much freedom about the prison.

[Note: I haven't been able to identify Harry definitely, but an article in the New York Times in 1862 claimed that Mrs Morris had a six-year-old son with her. The accounts I've read claim that the same rules applied to the children as to the parents.]

On account of my youth, being then a bit over sixteen years, I was not allowed to be a guard over her door, although I had a yearning desire to see the lady spy.

One morning while I was guarding the door of a room on the second floor occupied by a Confederate officer named Lee and Lieutenant Colonel Kerrigan, of the 69th New York, the latter being under arrest for alleged misconduct at first Bull Run, a regiment with its band playing martial airs approached the prison. Little Harry ran down the stairway in front of me so he could see the troops and hear the music. The little girl called to him: "Harry, I wouldn't go out to see those nasty Yankee soldiers." But Harry's love for bright colors and music was so strong that he went on down and out.

Recently a daughter of mine ordered samples of the "Photographic History of the Civil War," gotten out by the Review of Reviews. She knew nothing of this Mrs. Greenhow. I opened the package, and the second picture was of a lady with a little girl resting her head against the lady's shoulder. I instantly recognized the little girl as the one just mentioned, recalled Mrs. Greenhow, and a glance at the reading below the picture confirmed my impression.

I would like for the VETERAN to ascertain for me whether or not the daughter and Harry are still living, and where. I heard that Mrs. Greenhow was drowned during the war while trying to go out to or in from the blockade runner.

A straddle bug

[source: National Tribune 14 September 1911, page 7, column 4]

[During Second Bull Run, the 91st escorted a wagon train with supplies for a division of McClellan's army; see Thomas Walter's description of the movement]

[One William Kane served in company H from 1864 until 1865; I have no record of another]

A Straddle Bug. Editor National Tribune: At the time of the Second Bull Run [sc. 29-30 August 1862] Co. H of the 91st Pa. was resting beneath a big apple tree awaiting orders. Billy Cain, one of the company, was always hungry. He kept reaching into his haversack for crackers and pork. Billy was a young Irishman who had just been mustered into the service. I soon spied a large toad near Billy, and grabbed it and took the first opportunity to put it in his haversack. I had the squad posted, and very soon Billy put his hand into his haversack and quickly jerked it out, holding my toad. He held it up and exclaimed:

"Whativer [sic] is this? A straddle bug?"

There were two Billy Cains in the 91st Pa., so ever after he was Straddle Bug Billy.

--Wm. S. [sic] Reiff, 91st Pa.

His worst scare

HIS WORST SCARE. Ghastly Adventure of a 91st Pa. Boy on the Antietam Field. EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: Our regiment was encamped to the right of the road that leads from Sharpsburg, Md., to the Shepherdstown Ford, where the Corn Exchange Regiment, 118th Pa, did such good fighting, and was handled so roughly Sept. 18 or 19, 1862, the first or second day after the battle of Antietam.

While there, just a few days after the big battle, I obtained permission about dark to go to a certain spring a half mile from camp and fill a number of empty canteens for camp use.

After doing this, I went along near the Potomac, when I came upon a hospital filled with wounded Confederate soldiers. Surgery had been extensively practiced thereabouts, I should judge, from what I soon afterward beheld. It seems that it was convenient for the hospital attendants to take the legs and arms of these unfortunate men, after amputating them, and throw them in ghastly heaps in worm-fence corners, there to be exposed for days to alternate rain and sunshine. The reader can easily judge of the condition of these limbs under such influences.

While having a pleasant chat with these Confederate Surgeons, who had been humanely left there by orders of Gen. R. E. Lee, I heard our regimental taps. This instantly suggested that I had too long deferred returning and that I had better say a quick "good-by" to those gentlemanly Southerners.

Between this hospital and our camp first was a cornfield surrounded by a worm-fence. It was a little moonlight about the time I started. I jumped up suddenly and ran to the fence, and without much thinking and less looking mounted it and jumped off into the field side of the fence.

One of my first realizations was that I didn't know exactly where I was "at" or what I was going to do, for I was sliding, slipping and spreading in every direction.

I had jumped into about one big wagon-load of partially-decomposed arms and legs. I can see those whitened, slimy arms and no less white legs to-day, and I can see myself helplessly trying to get a foot and hand hold in the midst of numberless hands and feet without success.

Finally they and I ended our commotion when some of them and all me landed out in the first or second row of the September corn. I picked myself up and started diagonally as near as I could across the field in the direction of that drum call. I struck every hill in my pathway, but I got into old Co. H just in time to answer to my name. I used to think I was scared when passing graveyards at night when a boy, but those scares were no circumstance to the one herein set forth.

--WM. C. REIFF, Co. H, 91st Pa.

Struggles for the Union

[source: William Coffin Reiff. 'Struggle for the Union. Trials of a boy in the Gettysburg campaign'. National Tribune 6 August 1896.


Trials of a boy in the Gettysburg Campaign.

EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: The Army of Northern Virginia had left its old camp upon the south bank of the Rappahannock, and Lee had headed its columns toward Pennsylvania. The ever-alert commander of that other often-defeated but never vanquished host, the Army of the Potomac, had his scouts and cavlry forces out to give quick warning of this anticipated movement of Lee. The veteran host withdrew from the north bank of the same deep-flowing stream, and moved forward by [illegible word; looks like 'intering'] lines toward the Keystone State. The enemy was forced to go west of the Blue Ridge, then down the Cumberland Valley of West Virginia, in order to cross the Potomac at or above Harper's Ferry; then across Maryland, and into the fertile valleys of a free State.

By the middle of June, both armies were well under way. Severe storms of wind and rain set in, soon followed, however, by clear, sunny, hot days, which made marching anything but pleasant.

Ere the close of June the enemy's column had crossed Mason and Dixon's famous line and reached the land of Pennsylvania. During all those days the Army of the Potomac's movements had been determined by those of a respected antagonist; Washington, as well as Baltimore, had been covered. In other words, well on to 100,000 loyal men had been a walking, living wall during those hot June days, a lively defense between the Nation's Capital and one of its large commercial cities, and a foe bent upon destruction and conquest.

Moses did not make all the mistakes of the world, for it is evident that Lee did his cause harm when he allowed his army to lose its "eyes" for so many days. Stuart and his cavalry were moasing around within the lines of the Union forces, unable to escape for days from within its tightening meshes, and only after such a lapse of time that, when it reached its own army finally, the information brought to its Chieftain was valueless.

Thus Meade was enabled to get upon the heels of his enemy before he was aware of his presence in the State. Once aware of that fact, however, he about-faced his columns and set them in rapid motion toward Gettysburg. The noble and heroic Reynolds, with his own First Corps, ably supported by the Eleventh, had reached, until then, a quiet, unpretentious, old-fashioned Pennsylvania hamlet. Buford's cavalry, the eyes of the Union army, were quickly advanced beyond Gettysburg upon the Chambersburg road to find the enemy.

At daylight of the morning of the 1st of July, 1863, Buford's advanced picket saw the enemy approaching upon the Chambersburg road, and at 5:30 the first fire came from our side as the dismounted cavalrymen took refuge behind the abutments of the bridge across Willoughby Run.

Lee's most advanced infantry came in contact first with the boys who wore the spherical badge. Soon after the German corps, that were always enthused upon seeing or hearing the name of their canny and former commander, Franz Sigel, came to the active and efficient support of Reynold's own.

The battle was on; with varying success, however, for soon Reynolds falls. My countrymen, what a loss was that for the day and the Union cause! Yet, what an inspiration for the future of our people! Reynolds died not in vain. His boys dropped a tear and pressed on to duty, some to wounds and death.

Hancock arrived, and, wise soldier as he was, recognized quickly the suitableness of that locality as a fit place for slavery and freedom to decide forever which shall have the supremacy in America.

Meade came, and quickly approved the selection. The various other corps, namely, the Second, Third, Fifth, and Sixth, were now either upon or rapidly nearing the scene of the impending conflict. The Sixth was the last to arrive, owing to the greater distance it had to march.

Very little sleep was had by the boys in blue during the night of the 1st and 2d of July. By daylight the work of the day began; troops were dispositioned and redispositioned as the movements of the enemy compelled. Finally the Confederates struck Sickles upon his flank, and before ample reinforcements could arrive his columns were for a time overpowered and forced back.

Sickles fell, the heroic man here gave a leg for the cause of freedom. Parts of the Second and all of the Fifth were soon thrown into the breach. Just then the standards of the Sixth could be seen in the near distance, which encouraged their comrades now in hot conflict.

No one can fully describe the fight that raged for hours within a radius of less, perhaps, than a mile of the Round Tops.

Our command left its camp at United States Ford, upon the Rappahannock, about June 13, 1863. The day was hot, and early that evening a drenching rain set in, which continued all night. Our line of march that ever-to-be-remembered night lay through dense woods of that wilderness region.

Our suffering that night I will not even attempt to portray. Dark as dark could be, the road became one long, deep, and narrow mortar-bed, through which men, officers, and horses wallowed and plunged. This mud-and-water ranged from ankle to waist-deep. Had we been kodaked the next morning, I'm sure our mothers wouldn't have recognized their patriotic offspring.

The following day was intensely hot. We dried our clothes upon our backs as we marched along. Many fell by the wayside, overcome by the heat. The next day we came up to and then marched along the west side of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad toward Manassas Junction. During this day many hundreds of the officers and men succumbed to the effects of heat. Your narrator, among the many, was overcome.

Thus it continued day by day until, with a few days' rest at Aldie, we reached the Potomac and entered Maryland at Edward's Ferry. Our days of marching in the latter State averaged about 35 miles each day. We plodded our weary way, and at last crossed the Pennsylvania and Maryland line near Littlestown, July 1, 1863, and continued our march in the Keystone State all that day, and by 2 a.m. of July 2 we rested an hour or two upon the roadside, within three miles of Gettysburg. Daylight found us upon the now historic field. Run here and run there upon a double-quick all that forenoon to form lines-of-battle, we became wearied indeed.

We thought that at last we were to have at least a short "nooning," as we were ordered under the cover of woods of Wolf's Hill. We could see our artillery briskly engaged in firing from among the tombstones and monuments of the old Gettysburg graveyard. No dinner for us the day before or this day. "Fall in, boys!--Forward!--Right-shoulder shift arms!--Double-quick!" Yes, we must get to the left.

The deafening roar of artillery, the rattle of the musketry, the clouds of rising dust, the hurried movements in vast bodies of infantry, the passing of numerous batteries of light artillery, spoke plainly enough that we had at last grappled with our old enemy. We realized it, and we believe that before the setting of the sun that now held the mercury up in the 90's they, too, had realized that they had more than the "green Dutch Pennsylvania militia" to operate upon for a day or two, at least.

Well, on and on we went toward Sickles. Upon arrival at the base of Little Round Top we started to clamber up its slopes. Just then we were ordered to about-face and double-quicked across Plum Run; thence along or across by the Wheatfield to support or recover a badly used-up battery; then again about-faced, retraced our steps; again went up the east, I think, slope of Little Round Top--some of the boys volunteering to help pull up the guns of Battery D, 5th U.S. Art., Griffin's old battery.

Here is where the writer's serious trouble commenced. The first he knew was that he "knew nothing". He fell for a moment insensible from the effects of the heat of that day and the exhaustion incident to a fortnight's almost incessant marching. He soon came to, however, (I was afterward told that my Captain had thrown water in my face,) then quickly passed on to the summit with his company. I saw a few others going toward the summit.

I soon found myself in line-of-battle with my company, and went to work at once to lighten my cartridge-box. I had "toted" that lead long enough. I put it in my Springfield, an ounce at a time, and sent it down the western slope of Little Round Top. Hood's Division of Texans and Alabamians recevied what reached them. The balance is there yet somewhere, unless the relic gatherers have secured the same. As the sun went down, which I thought it never would do that afternoon, I was so impressed and so tired firing at a foe that didn't seem to know that they were being rapidly annihilated, that I asked aloud to myself, "When will that sun go down?" My gun barrel had become so hot with such continuous firing that I could scarcely hold it.

A sharpshooter marked me for his own, simply helping to brush the hair off my right temple. I returned the compliment, as poor old Capt. Finney would testify if he were alive and asked about it. That fellow was in advance of the Devil's Den. I know he was polite, for after he fired, and while he looked upon his gunbarrel to see whether his bullet had reached its billet, I was looking along mine, too, and as the smoke lifted from the muzzle of his rifle the hammer of my gun fell. He bowed himself toward the ground, and further deponent sayeth not, except peace to his ashes.

Darkness, the blackness of darkness set in, but I failed to state that quite a little while before the above incident came to pass the enemy beat a hasty retreat, and the great conflict of the day had ended in a dearly-bought victory for the Union arms.

The Round Top was ours for keeps. The key, as Lee said, to the whole positoin was in the keeping of the old Fifth Corps. Instead of supper, "Reiff, get ready for picket." I didn't tell anybody that I hated that duty upon that particular occasion, but I did just the same.-- W. C. REIFF, Co. H, 91st Pa.

(To be continued.)

Tortured for sleep

[source: National Tribune 25 May 1905, page 3, columns 3-4] [see 'Josie and I at Gettysburg' for a fuller version of this story] [I have proofread this page]

Tortured for sleep. Editor National Tribune: Most of us have read how Lincoln spared the boy who was found asleep upon his post, because he couldn't successfully fight overworked nature to a finish. Here is the way two boys managed it at Gettysburg, the night of July 2, 1863, following the afternoon repulse of Longstreet's men in the attempt to take and hold Little Round Top. These two lads, with others, were detailed as pickets at dusk, on the western slope of Little Round Top, a little way down the slope. These two were stationed about 125 feet in front of the spot where Gen. Warren's statue is now placed. It was not long after being settled that they tried to look through the darkness, down the slope, toward Plum Run and Devil's Den beyond, to detect by sight and sound any approach of the enemy, should he attempt a night effort. This night watching, when one is tired, hungry and a good deal scared, affects one somewhat hypnotically, and is almost as bad upon a fellow as setting up alone at a wake--and there were many dead within a stone's throw of the spot! Well, the first thing these dozy boys knew was that they were not proving true to their trust. After pinching their bodies awhile, pulling their eyelids apart, putting fresh juice in their eyes, all to no effect, they finally resorted to a strong application of tobacco juice. This self-imposed punishment was only partially effective, for while they sat there behind their little rock protections they had made in silence early in the evening--between the nodding and the bumping of their faces against the boulders, they kept more or less awake until the Officer of the Guard came along, to whom they made known the strait they were in and begged that two less-sleepy men take their place for just an hour, promising that they would then stand watch in a wide-awake, soldier-like way. Their request was granted; the relief came; the lads slept two hours as they had never slept before, and when awakened, about 2 p. m. [sic], stood the watch till the morning sun witnessed the third day's fight at Gettysburg. The writer is the only survivor. --Wm. Coffin Reiff, Co. H, 91st Pa, Carlsbad, N. M.

Josie and I at Gettysburg

ould hear the Alabamian calling for a comrade; the same wail came from the parched throats of Mississipians, North Carolinians, Georgians, and Hood's fighting Texans. These were not the only cries Jim and I and other sentries heard that never-to-be forgotten night. The boys in blue, wounded, bleeding, dying, were intermingled with the sons of the South. Searching parties from the hostile forces were engaged all night in taking off the wounded, (one not interfering with the other). Scarcely a shot was fired by either party during those solemn hours.

Now again to Jim and I. We sat in our little fort, placed our guns in good position for active work, and peered down the slope in front of us and to the right and left of us. We were the gate-keepers at that point. Just where the other watch was at that point we did not know. Time moved on. This along with the continuous peering into darkness beyond enforced silence on our part and thus tended to drowsiness. We meant to keep wide awake as there was a strong probability for a night attack. For Lee had sagacity enough to know that Little Round Top was the key to the whole position and that at sundown he had neither lock nor key. Jim and I were fast falling asleep, for hard upon those granite rocks would come our beardless faces, keep awake we seemingly couldn't. So we talked it over in whispers and this is the way we reasoned it out: This post needs wideawake soldiers, not dead men. Jim had some onions and I, by chance, had some pepper. The onion juice was applied to our eyes without the desired effect. This was followed by the hot pepper which was also a failure. Then we tried pulling apart the eyelids, beating and pinching our bodies, etc., but with no awakening effect. We were almost gone when we thought of Jim's tobacco. This was tried and how it did burn our eyes. And still this was not the panacea for our ills.

It was approaching, however, the midnight hour when the officer in charge of the line ought to come along so Jim and I determined to do our level best to keep awake until Lieut. Joseph T Jones Joseph T. Jones, the officer of our line, made his appearance.. When he came up the proposition made by us was this: "Josie (We all love [sic] him and had every confidence in him, which accounted for our familiarity that night), we are both absolutely worn out; we have tried all the devices we can think of to keep awake, and it's not in us to do it until we get a little sleep. Now, if you find two other boys who have had a little sleep or are less worn out than we are and who will volunteer to take our posts for, say, two hours, Jim and I will lie here and go to sleep. Then when they wake us up at two o'clock, we will relieve them and hold the post till morning, or until withdrawn.

Josie immediately assented to the proposition, left us, but soon returned with Stephen Whinna and George S Phillips Geo. S. Phillips of our own company, who took our places. We were soon asleep. At two o'clock we were awakened and relieved Steve and George. Jim was called off earlier than myself and thus escaped an experience which I had. About 8 a.m. Major Lentz calls to me and says: "Come in Reiffy." The boys in the works heard him and yelled, stay there; don't leave that little fort; you're safe there; if you leave there, those Devil's Den sharpshooters will pin you sure, and so the cries rang out for me to remain where I was. Yet the Major had commanded me to come in, and I felt just incensed enough to go, since I thought that I had been needlessly neglected. So I said, here it goes, Jim, and made a start for the immense bowlder [sic] that helped to form the right wing of our regiment's stone wall. I reached there accompanied by a shower of leaden bullets that seemed to come from every point in the valley below. I quickly mounted the bowlder [sic], jumped to the ground and found defense beside it. I fell asleep there and the boys say that solid shot fell and shells exploded all around me nearly the whole time, but I heeded them not. Whinna, Thompson and Phillips fell in front of Petersburg. [1] Jones is yet alive, a respected multi-millionaire oil magnate and practically the founder of Gulfport, Miss. I, myself, am yet spared.

Carlsbad, N.M. William C. Reiff

Coffee on Little Round Top

[source: National Tribune 19 May 1904.]

Hard Times in Trying to Get Something for the Boys to Drink

W. C. Reiff, Co. H, 91st Pa., writes from Carlsbad, N. M.: "Warren sent Weed's Brigade to the summit of the famous elevation; the boys did their level best until sundown, with other commands, to hold the position, which they did. My company had only 13 men in that battle. [The plaque on the Pennsylvania Memorial lists 6 non-commissioned officers and 17 privates in company H as having fought at Gettysburg.] On the morning of July 3 the officers permitted one or more men from a company to pass down the east slope, to a spring at the base of the Round Top, get water, make coffee and return with it to the boys in line upon the summit. There was a shortage of coffee, just then, in Co. H, and it was determined that for once we would have all things in common, as they did once in New Testament times. Nine little coffee kettles were gathered, and all the coffee was collected and put into the nine little tin cans, holding about one quart each and having iron handles. I was selected to make the trip and the coffee, and started off on the mission. Let me assure you that that wasn't such an easy task as you might think. The rebel sharpshooters were in the tree-tops across Plum Run and in and about the Devil's Den, busy in efforts to shoot and kill off more of Weed's, O'Rourke's, Vincent's and Hazlett's men, as they unhappily did the evening before. I soon secured the water, used a fire already prepared by others at the field hospital, and in a little while I was ready to return to the boys, who had not tasted coffee since they left Hanover, July 1. It was a comparatively easy matter to carry nine empty little kettles down there, though each had a little ground coffee in it; but getting back was the trouble.

I started for the summit, and had nearly reached there, with less trouble than one would expect, with such a loose combination of tinware and hot coffee to tote, when I, with others who were tending the same way, were ordered by a very soldierly-looking, auburn-haired Sergeant of Battery D, 5th U.S. Art.--Griffin's old battery--to halt. God bless Griffin's memory forever--for where is a soldier who ever knew him who did not love him? The Sergeant informed us that inasmuch as Lee had commenced shelling our lines the fire from the sharpshooters had so increased that it would be inviting death for any one to attempt to cross the summit and reach the line of battle, which then was and still is marked by a loosely thrown up breastwork. I wasn't itching to reach the boys just then, for the rebels were concentrating a fire of five or six batteries of artillery upon Little Round Top to demoralize and deceive, for this took place just a few hours before Pickett's charge of the afternoon of that day, July 3. Though young in years, I was no novice, and soon set the [?] coffee kettles upon the ground, took cover under and back of [?] the roots and earth and rocks that adhered to the roots of a big tree that lay partially prostrate. Here I took my chances along with a whole division of the Sixth Corps, which had just been hurried up and massed upon this east slope, in anticipation of a possible attack for recapture of the Round Top. It was sinful, the way those boys of the good old Sixth Corps had to lie there and be mutilated by shot and shell of the enemy, unable to return a shot! A shell struck the ground near me, exploded and sent masses of earth and a hail of dirt into the air. At last the firing ceased and the Sergeant informed us that we could make an effort to reach our commands. I seized my kettles, cautiously reached the summit, made a stooping run and arrived at my company's position just about where the monument of the 91st PA. now stands. I was cheered and congratulated by the boys for my success in running the gantlet [?] in safety, going and coming. Immediately I distributed my nine kettles among the boys and they proceeded to do their part: but in a moment or two complaints commenced to come in all around. They said that their kettles had much more dirt than coffee in them, and I had to give an accounting. I did, as best I could, by telling them of the shell exploding and throwing the dirt into the air, which, in part, was drawn by gravitation into the nine little kettles! The boys took it good-naturedly, and imbibed the questionable beverage. They did not smell coffee again until the evening of July 5, when we not only drew rations in plenty, and had not only our hot coffee, but had the news read to us that Vicksburg had surrendered, and we were more than happy.

"Nearly every one of that 13 has fought his last battle."

Prisoner by the scalp

[William C Reiff, 'Prisoner by the scalp', National Tribune 28 February 1895, page 3, Chroncling America

Prisoner by the Scalp.

William C. Reiff, Co. H, 91st Pa., Hagerman, N.M., writes: "During the conflict at Gettysburg it will be remembered that the Union forces took possession of and held both Big and Little Round Tops, which were much coveted by the opposing force. During the third day [presumably 3 July 1863] the enemy's sharpshooters became so annoying that a small detachment of cavalry were ordered out in front of Big Round Top to dislodge them from their positions among the rocks some distance off, and not far from the Devil's Den.

"After getting there one of our cavalrymen seized a Confederate by the hair, and wheeling his horse started at full speed towards our lines. Those of us who witnessed this unusual procedure were thoughtless enough to utter a rousing and prolonged cheer from summit of one Top to the other.

"If the cavalryman who did this is alive, and this meets his eye, let him speak up. If the unfortunate soldier is yet alive that took that forced march, let us hear from him, too."

Do not realize dangers

[William C Reiff, 'Do not realize dangers', National Tribune 1 August 1895, page 3, Chronicling America

Do Not Realize Dangers.

William C. Reiff, Eddy, N.M., was pleased with "The Cannoneer's" remarks on immigration. "I, too, deprecate," says he, "the apparently deep-seated indifference of the rising generation of Americans to matters of present public import. I could wish that every boy and girl in this fair land would carefully study the early history of this country. If they would do this, then, perhaps, they would more fully appreciate the goodly heritage bequeathed them by their grandsires, defended, strengthened and preserved by their fathers, and rendered holy by the patriotic tears and earnest supplications of their mothers."

[The reference is probably to an article published on 4 July 1895, which includes an attack on recent immigrants, comparing them unfavorably to earlier immigrants]

Lincoln's kindness

[William C Reiff, 'Lincoln's kindness', National Tribune 26 December 1895, page 3, Chronicling America [transcribed from Chronicling America, 9 June 2012]

Lincoln's Kindness.

W. C. Reiff, Eddy, N.M., sends a story of an Irish soldier's visit to Lincoln. He says: "Hugh McLaughlin, a genial and brave Irishman hailing from Boston, after having served a three-months' term in the 69th N.Y., and being also wounded in the First Bull Run battle, later on found his way into my company and regiment. Hugh was several times wounded while with us, which, as a matter of course, compelled his going North to hospitals.

"An acquired desire to spree at time caused Mac, or Hughey, as we called him, to leave the different hospitals and have what he considered a 'good time' of it before going to the front. One day, in 1864, Hugh brought up in Washington City and applied to a certain Army Paymaster whose office was, I understood, opposite the Treasury Department. He asked for his pay, but the Dispenser of Greenbacks said he could not accommodate him on account of his hospital record. Hughey volunteered the information that he would have his pay even if he had to see President Lincoln about it. He turned his back upon the Paymaster's office and started for the White House. Right here I must add by way of explanation that our Hughey was a polite and intelligent man when free from drink, and not at all forward. Just now he was not exactly himself.

"Upon reaching the main entrance of the White House, there was an attempt made by the white-gloved sentry at the door to prevent his entry. Hughey just pushed this guardian of the National Chief aside and stepped into the home of the President, and soon found himself in the presence of that good man and his wife.

"The President was seated at a table, writing. Hughey made his errand known at once with the eloquence of a Burke. The soldiers' best and truest friend listened attentively, and so did his companion. They asked Hughey a good many questions about his long army service and his home. Then the President took up a pen and wrote a few lines to the Paymaster. He instructed Hugh to take the note to him and get his pay. When Hugh got the funds he sent them almost all to his wife and family in Boston."

A boy hero

[source: National tribune 3 August 1905, page 3, columns 1-2]

A boy hero: a young drummer made of the right kind of stuff

Editor National Tribune: A Philadelphia boy, George Black by name, was less than 12 years of age at date of enlistment and muster in to service as a musician, in the Fall of 1861. His father, George W. Black, was First Lieutenant of my Co. H, 91st Pa. Our division (A. A. Humphrey's) of the Fifth Corps made the final charge against Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Va. on Saturday evening, Dec. 13, 1862.

Young Black insisted upon keeping in the front line and as near his father as the conditions allowed. When remonstrated with by his company fellows to retire, he responded that wherever his father went there he would go, too. This he did, though his tent-mate, Jim Thompson, took hold of the little fellow and threw him to the rear of the line; yet Black still pushed on, and went as far as the division as a body advanced. Out of less than 300 men in this command over 100 lay upon that bloody slope, either killed or wounded. Father and son both escaped the enemy's missiles. May following found father and son along with the writer in the woods at Chancellorsville. While advancing into the woods to meet Longstreet's veterans young Black was again with the company and near his father. The devoted boy was urged by others and the writer to retire. Again he said he would go where Father went. The writer stopped long enough to seize the boy and throw him to the rear a few feet, and there we got down to solid business for about two hours, and I lost sight of him until the end of that time. His father, however, received his death wounds that day, and thereafter the spirited boy was filled with sorrow. Later on, near Culpeper Court House, Black prevented a stampede of our forces by placing his horse midway of the road and firing shot after shot into the head of the retreating column. A shell burst, killing his horse, wounding the lad in one wrist, and the horse falling upon him broke the other arm. Later on the hero of our tale could be seen upon the streets of Washington City with both arms in slings. Much more could be written concerning this lad that would interest the patriotic young people of this day, but time and space forbid.

--William C. Reiff, Carlsbad, N. M.

The soldier that was not buried

[source: National Tribune, 17 August 1905, page 3, column 6]

[for another version of this story, see Stephen Kelly's death notice, in the Gettysburg PA Compiler 5 February 1889]

The soldier that was not buried.

Editor National Tribune: If I had the say as to where I should be buried I would put it this way: Bury me upon Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pa., just as near the spot where I tried to do two hours' honest fighting for the preservation of the Union on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. However, that honor will not be granted me, so I will not fret myself as to place of final interment.

Let me tell you something that you should keep in mind, if you hereafter visit the Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa. Among the thousand and more headstones in that silent community one can find upon one of them something like this: "Stephen Kelly, Co. E, 91st P. V." Year after year loving hands have strewn this grave and the many others there with flowers. Strange, yet true, Stephen Kelly time upon time visited this grave in person upon Memorial Days and paid his tribute of patroitic [sic] respect to the one whose remains lay beneath the sod there where his were supposed to be. The above will be more clear when I relate that the burial parties upon that field did their best to identify the fallen heroes. This was in some instances a difficult task. The burial party near Little Round Top found a dead soldier without any identifying marks, either upon person or clothing. Near him a canteen was found which bore the following: Stephen Kelly, Co. E, 91st P. V. The inference was drawn that this canteen belonged to the fallen soldier, and he was buried by the boys as Stephen Kelly. The writer was in his dear old home, Philadelphia, in his dear old home, Philadelphia, in 1888, and there learned the above facts from Col. Sellers and other officers and men of our command. Kelly was then living in the city, but died the year following at the seasoned age of about 60 years.

It is a matter of record in the Department at Washington, the officers told me, that the Pension Office and Adjutant-General's Office had been called upon by Kelly in some way to correct the record, but up to that time had not succeeded. Since then the write has no further information concerning the final outcome of this unusual happening.

--William C. Reiff, Carlsbad, N. M.

Inquiry for Col Johnson

['Inquiry for Col Johnson', C Reiff, Charleston News and Courier (Charleston SC), Monday 3 June 1907, page 2] [transcribed from GenealogyBank, 22 March 2013]

INQUIRY FOR COL JOHNSON. Gen Boyd Receives Request from Mexico for an Officer's Address. Columbia, June 2.--Special: Time's work in effacing the bitterness of war is in no way better shown than through the letters which from time to time are written by the soldiers of the Union or of the Confederate army in inquiry for some former foe whom they met on the field of battle or in the prison. Another of these inquiries has been received here, addressed to the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina, and was turned over by Gen Boyd to Mr A. S. Salley, Jr, secretary of the South Carolina State Historical Commission. It is an inquiry for Lieut Col Johnson, of the 6th South Carolina cavalry, and is as follows:

Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, May 24, 1907.--Dear Sir: If it is within the power of your office to secure for me the present address of a certain Lieut Col Johnson, late of the 6th South Carolina cavalry (Confederate) or if dead the addresses of any surviving comrades of that command--or of any of his relatives who may be living, please to thus favor me at your earliest convenience, and now receive thanks in advance for whatever you may be able to do to put me in possession of the desired addresses. The official records of the late war make mention of the fact that upon April 9, 1865, I think that is the correct date, that a brother of mine, a Union cavalry officer, and Col Johnson met in personal combat somewhere in East Tennessee, and had a hand to hand sabre fight, which attracted considerable attention at the time. The colonel was taken prisoner, however, and that evening sent for my brother to call upon him, which he did and spent an agreeable evening, each relating to the other and to the gathered comrades just how he felt during the personal encounter, smoked cigars and then parted for the time. Comrade Metzler, of the 15th Pennsylvania cavalry, told me he saw this racket, and had it not been for some soldier parrying the blow, Johnson's sabre would have cleaved my brother's head in two. As it is, he is still alive, and I believe would be pleased to proffer the hand of friendship to his once gallant foe. Metzler mentioned this in 1869 or 1870 to me. I asked me brother about it in 1877 and within the last two years I read General William T Palmer's letter of request for my brother's promotion, as shown in the Rebellion Records.

Very respectfully,

Com C. Reiff, Company H, 91st Penn.

The brother's address is J. C. Reiff, 26 Broad street, New York city, or 247 5th avenue, late adjutant of 15th Pennsylvania cavalry.

This is a very pretty story, but if the encounter took place as related it must have been an officer from some other States [sic], as there was no Col Johnson in the South Carolina cavalry, and the 6th South Carolina cavalry was never in East Tennessee. Perhaps Col Johnson was the commander of a North Carolina regiment.

The commander of the 6th South Carolina cavalry was the gallant Col Hugh K. Aiken, who was killed in February, 1865, near Stokes Bridge, in Darlington County. Gen Butler had sent him with one hundred men on an expedition and fearing that he had encountered a force of Sherman's men later sent Col Zimmerman Davis, commanding the 5th South Carolina cavalry, to his relief. Returning, riding together, Cols Aiken and Davis at the head of their column encountered a force of Union soldiers, who had formed a half circle across the road and in leading the charge against the enemy Col Aiken was shot and killed by Lieut McQueen, the Federal officer in command. Lieut McQueen was in turn shot down by Col Davis, and thereupon produced a letter from Dr A Toomer Porter, of Charleston, asking that if McQueen were captured by Hampton's army he be treated kindly in return for favors shown Dr Porter previously. Lieut McQueen, an officer of the 15th Illinois, recovered and was always a friend of Dr Porter.

The lieutenant colonel of the 6th cavalry was L. M. Miller, who is now living at Ocala, Fla. and the major was the late Thomas B. Ferguson, of Greenville, one of the most gallant men who ever drew a sabre.

J. H. [Wm J Palmer, report to Maj G M Bascom, Hdqrs. Cavalry Division, Dist. of East Tennessee, Huntsville, Ala., May 24, 1865. The War of the rebellion: a complication of the Official records of the Union and Confederate Armies series 1, volume 49, part II, page 555] [transcribed from Cornell Making of America, 22 March 2013] Third. I desire to recommend for honorable mention and promotion the following officers of my command, to wit: ... Adjt. Josiah C. Reiff, for gallantry in the above-mentioned charge in front of Greensborough [on 11 April 1865], in which he wounded with the saber and captured Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, commanding battalion of the Sixth [Third] South Carolina Cavalry; also for skill and success throughout the campaign in getting acquainted with and in clearly reporting the movements of the enemy. ...

[According to the Confederate service records available on Fold3 (accessed 22 March 2013), Thomas H Johnson served as captain of co K of the 3rd South Carolina Cavalry, and then as Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. He was 36 years old when he mustered in, on 27 January 1862, at Fort Drayton, Red Bluff, South Carolina. That record includes the following letter from Johnson (pp.138-140 of the Fold3 records):]

Rock Hill SC April 20th 1865

To the Hon Jno C Breckenridge Secretary of War

Sir I have the honour to submit for your consideration the following state [sic] of facts. On the 11th Inst about 5 AM I was captured by the 15th Penna Cavl Lt Col Betz comd, about a mile from the village of Friendship, and about ten miles NW of Greensboro, Guildford County NC. The same day I was carried by my captors west of the Yadkin River, about forty two miles north of the place of capture. The next day I was carried by them about four miles in the same direction. Here my parole was offered to and accepted by me, and I took the following oath--

Hd Qrs 1st Brig Cavl Div Dist E S In the Field April 12 1865 I Lt Col T H Johnson do hereby solemly swear that I will not bear arms for nor assist in any manner the enemies of the United States styling themselves the Confederate States of America until duly exchanged as prisoner of war.

Sworn to before Lt R J Stewart Pro Mar It is proper to state that on being interogated [sic] by Brvt Brig Genl Palmer and Lt Col Betz, I stated that so far as my knowledge went, I regarded a parole under these circumstances as obligatory, as if every thing had been conducted through the regular channels, that Lt R J Stewart Provost Marshal who administered the oath stated that paroles of this sort were recognized by both Governments; and that I regarded escape or recapture improbable in the extreme; and the ability of my captors to carry me to Camp Chase Ohio, or any other of their prison camps, to be beyond question.

As some doubts have been suggested in regard to the obligation of my oath, in consequence in consequence [sic] of the cartel agreed on by the two Governments, as to the positive laws of which I am uninformed; I would respectfully ask whether said oath is regarded by the Department as obligatory upon me. What is my duty in the premises [??] ? And in case the Department regards the oath taken by me as not obligatory, and I should be again captured in arms by the enemy, prior to my exchange, wheather [sic] I would receive from the United States the treatment of a prisoner of war, without reference to my former capture and parole

I have the honour to remain very Respectfully yours

Thos H Johnson Lt Col 3d So Ca Cavl [According to a family tree on Ancestry.com ('Stephen Rigg's tree of many branches', owner Stephen Rigg, accessed 23 March 2013), Johnson was Thomas Hewlett Johnson, born 1825, in Barnwell District, South Carolina, to Richard C Johnson and Elizabeth A Hewlett, and buried in Old Concord Baptist Church Cemetery, Appleton, Allendale County, South Carolina. He died after 1893 ['Carolina at the capital', State [Columbia South Carolina] Thursday 13 April 1893, page 1 (available on GenealogyBank)--claims that 'Col. Thomas H. Johnson, of Barnwell county' applied to be surveyor of customs at Beaufort]. According to another article, which I transcribed below, he died before--and apparently not long before--18 January 1897.]

['...Death of Col Thomas H. Johnson', Charleston News and Courier, Wednesday 20 January 1897, page 6 (transcribed from GenealogyBank, 23 March 2013)] Barnwell, January 18.--Special: In the death of Col Thomas H. Johnson of the Savannah River section of the county, a prominent and public-spirited citizen has passed away. He was lieutenant colonel in the Confederate service, and was a useful and determined leader in the revolution of 1876. He was a member of the House in 1880-82, and ended his days in peace and honor, leaving an honorable record as a heritage to his children.


  1. James Thompson (H) and Stephen Whinna (H) died of wounds received 18 June 1864; George S Phillips (H) died of wounds received at Hatcher's Run

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