Last Union officer killed in Civil War shot by 14-year-old boy

boykin-mill-monument

The purported last Union officer killed in the War Between the States was a product of Harvard, shot down by a 14-year-old member of the Confederate home guard more than a week after Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.

Edward Lewis Stevens, Harvard Class of 1863, had enlisted as a private in the 44th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment on Sept. 12, 1862. The Brighton, Mass., native was 20 years old when he joined up.

He was later commissioned an officer in the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, one of the first official African-American units and the subject of the 1989 film Glory.

Stevens was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 54th in April 1864, nearly a year after the regiment had attempted to take Fort Wagner near Charleston, SC, where Col. Robert Gould Shaw and 280 other members of the unit were killed, wounded or listed as missing in action.

Stevens was promoted to 1st lieutenant in December 1864 and as the war would down, the 54th and other Federal troops found themselves back in South Carolina.

The 54th Massachusetts arrived in South Carolina on April 1, 1865, landing at Georgetown, between Charleston and Wilmington, NC, from Savannah, Ga.

The unit was one of six infantry regiments operating under Maj. Gen. Edward E. Potter, with the 54th contributing 700 officers and enlisted men to Potter’s 2,700-man force.

By April 18, 1865, Potter was in Camden, a medium-sized affluent community a little more than 100 miles northeast of Georgetown. That morning, Potter left Camden and headed south. They had traveled 10 miles on the Stateburg Road and encountered no opposition until they reached a fortified Confederate position at Boykin’s Mill.

Boykin’s Mill was little more than a grist mill, church and small collection of homes, but its defense were enhanced by the presence of a millpond, along with streams and a swamp.

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Identification ring of Union soldier returned

Levi Schlegel ring

It’s been nearly 150 years, but an identification ring lost by a Union soldier, likely in 1865, has been returned to a distant relative.

The finger ring bearing the name of Pvt. Levi Schlegel, along with his company and regiment – a War Between the States version of a dog tag – was found near Fredericksburg, Va., a locale the Reading, Pa., native had only passed through on his way home a month after the war ended.

It was found by relic hunter John Blue at a construction site in 2005. Though it was engraved with Schlegel’s name and unit – “Co. G., 198th P.V.,” for the 198th Pennsylvania Volunteers – Blue wasn’t sure how to locate Schlegel’s descendants, and kept the ring in a box.

In the end, a genealogist helped him track down Schlegel’s family.

This past Tuesday, Blue presented the ring to family members during a ceremony at the grave in Reading where Schlegel was laid to rest in 1932 at age 91.

Schlegel initially joined the 167th Pennsylvania in 1862, according to Ernest Schlegel, a distant cousin. This was a nine-month unit that disbanded in August 1863 without seeing too much action, according to a Washington Post story.

Schlegel then spent a year out of the service before re-enlisting, this time with the 198th Pennsylvania. He signed on in September 1864 with Company G, which was recruited in Berks County, Pa., where Reading is located.

Blue said identity rings like that worn by Schlegel were a means by which soldiers could make certain their bodies would be identified if they were killed in battle. The soldier’s name, company and regiment were etched on the outside of the ring.

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Lee’s General Order No. 9 sells for $98,500

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Farewell Address to the Army of Northern Virginia, also known as General Order No. 9, sold for nearly $100,000 at auction Tuesday in New York.

Drafted by an aide on the night of April 9-10, 1865, a few hours after Lee had surrendered, General Order No. 9 is among the best-known documents of the War Between the States.

“No other words, spoken or written, had a more heartening effect on the veterans of the proud but weary Army of Northern Virginia,” according to author Joseph E. Fields.

In the hours following the surrender, Lee and his aide-de-camp, Lt. Col. Charles Marshall, discussed what the Confederate leader wished to say in his farewell message to his men.

Marshall produced a draft the following morning and Lee edited it, making a few minor changes and striking out a paragraph that he felt was inappropriate.

Marshall then gave it to one of the clerks in the adjutant-general’s office to rewrite in ink. Afterward, Marshall took the copy to Lee, who signed it.

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