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Tom Collins was the ancestor of a friend of mine, Dave Collins. I spent my early years visiting Dave on his farm farm, eating at his table, and never knew about Tom, until Dave’s house burned down. While I was commiserating with Dave about the loss of his house, he told me that the worse part was losing all his ancestor’s relics. Apparently, Dave had Tom’s original uniform, all his medals, papers, his Sharps Carbine…I never knew, and could kick myself today (and I do often). This fragment from Tom’s journal is the only remnant to survive that fire.
The bare facts are this: Tom Collins was a private in the 143rd NYSV, raised in Sullivan County, New York, in 1862. He served as a scout for General Sherman, was given a Medal of Honor in 1864 for bravery at Resaca. Local history is that he was a very close associate of Sherman, that Sherman had Tom by his side during the Grand Review at the end of the war, and mentioned Tom in his farewell address. I have no independent confirmation of this fact, and have never heard Tom mentioned in any later writings of the Civil War or Sherman’s life.
These last pages of Tom’s journal show him carrying several of the war’s important messages, including the message of the surrender of Johnson’s army in April of 1865.
Bentonville, NC March 18th 1865 – Slocum to Sherman Stating to him that Johnson’s whole army was in his front Strongly entrenched. That he needed assistance at once. Sherman gave him help by concentrating his army on Bentonville; on the 19th Johnson assaulted our lines, Sweeping the 4th Corps from the field. The 20th Corps came to their relief, turning the tide of Battle in our favor, and Johnson was as usual in full retreat towards Goldsboro.
March 19th – Sherman to Schofield and Terry, who were Supposed to be Somewhere in vicinity of Goldsboro Stating to them the wherabouts of Sherman’s Army..Under cover of Darkness I started out with 75 Picked men well mounted. Guided by a trusty citizen, we rode through Johnson’s lines and by 8 O’clock the next morning we came in sight of Goldsboro, tired and worn out by the hard riding. But at the Sight of the Stars and Stripes waving over the Principal Public Buildings of Goldsboro repaid us for our Trip and risks.
Raleigh N.C. April 26th 65 – From Sherman and Grant to Gen. Mower commdg 20th Corps That Johnson had Surrendered, to cease hostilities and march his Corps back to Raleigh. The distance of 16 miles I rode in one hour and twenty minutes, this being the happiest hour of my life all offered up thanks to almighty God and tears of joy were Shed by many gallant men.
Lost 4 horses killed in action and a fifth one from Eating hardtack.
Presented Medal of Honor for most distinguished Gallantry in action at Resaca, Ga May 15th 1864 in capturing a Regimental Flag of the enemy.
Promoted 1st Lieut 20th Corps for distinguished Conduct at Battle of Aikeu Creek, N.C. But could not be commissioned on account of my age. Here with 75 picked men I kept two Regts of Rebel Cavalry from destroying Akeu Creek Bridge. My little band of heroes kept them for 12 long hours when my own gallant Regt, the 143rd and 123rd NY came to our assistance and made the Capture complete. Here I lost my 4th horse being hit in head by musket ball and received serious injury myself.
Was Present at Surrender of Major Gen. Joseph E. Johnson’s Army C.S.A. April 26th 1865 which took place near Durham Station, N.C.
Made homeward march from Raleigh N.C. via Richmond, Va to Washington D.C. and on 24 May, 1865 Rode down Penn Ave at the head of the line of Grand Review of the Gallant army of our beloved leader and commander General Sherman: — amid cheers from thousands upon thousands of American Citizens who completely covered us with wreaths and flowers – and called us the defenders of their houses and firesides. We were honored and respected there by the Nation, and after the lapse of 34 years, that love and respect has not ceased and will not cease until the last Soldier of the army of Grant and Sherman shall have passed away. We are leaving (one by one) to our final rest. But surely the heart of the true soldier Stands in the Same Place today as it did in the sixties. Though his Eye has Grown dim, his form less Erect, his Step less firm, He did his duty then as it came to him and as he saw it. He might did better under more favorable circumstances. This is the case of the writer of ths Sketch. But in conclusion I beg pardon of the reader when I here record for the Eyes of future Posterity to Gaze upon years after this soldier has Passed away from Earth to return no more that the Soldier of this sketch was never known to turn back until the duty assigned to him was performed to the full Satisfaction of his Superior Officers, however ardurious or trying the Same might be.
Thomas D. Collins
Dated Livingston Manor, NY
April 26th 1899.
For Gold the Merchant Plows the main
the Farmer plows the manor
But Glory is the Soldier’s Prize
The Soldier’s weath is Honor.
WAS IT JACKSON?
A Close examination of Capt. Charles H. Weygant’s Mysterious Horseman, May 2d, 1863
By Steve Haas
On the evening of May 2, 1863, the 124th New York had a meeting with a group of Confederate horsemen. The regiment fired on those horsemen, and the horsemen disappeared into the woods.
For the rest of their lives, the men of the 124th believed they had shot at Confederate Major Thomas J. Jackson, who was killed that night by his own troops. The 124th believed that they had either killed Jackson, or caused him to turn back into his own troops, causing his death by the hands of his own men. This belief was held by many other men and regiments in the III Corps, and formed a good part of the lore of the survivors of this Corps.
This article is meant as a critical analysis of that event, a detailed look at a mystery in one regiment’s archives. Hopefully, this will clear up the mystery.
The account of Charles Weygant, author the 124th’s regimental history, reads as follows: ”
…..A moment later, my attention was drawn to a slight rustling in the road, just in front of me, and a horseman rode up and asked, in a tone of authority, ‘What regiment is this?’ and added, ‘Colonel, don’t fire into your own men,’ for at that juncture, in reply to another slight shower of bullets which passed over their left, our regiment, without waiting for orders, opened a straggling fire. Colonel Ellis, who at the time stood talking with me, stepped toward the questioner and replied, in a loud voice, ‘This is the One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth New York, and by —— we will give them shot for shot, friend or foe.’ Meantime several other horsemen appeared, and drew rein in the shadow of the trees. At Colonel Ellis’ gruff answer, this unknown officer whirled and put spurs to his horse, and the whole party dashed in the woods on the farther, or north side of the road, followed by a ball from Colonel Ellis’ revolver and a volley from Company A….”
Weygant then gives several quotes from Professor R.L. Dabney, of the Union Theological Seminary, Virginia, from his book, “Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Jackson,” and some officers of General Jackson’s Staff to show that Jackson did indeed utter those words, was in the locale, and gave actions similar to those described in Weygant’s account. He concludes thusly, “Again I ask, was the officer who rode out of the woods and asked, ‘What regiment is this,’ Stonewall Jackson? Let others answer as they may, in my mind there is not the slightest doubt if it; but as to whether his mortal hurt was caused by one of the bullets the 124th sent after him as he rode away, or by that of one of his own men as he returned to them is not so clear.”
“THE MEN MUST SEE US TODAY”
Don Troiani Print
The 124th New York Volunteers at Houck’s Ridge,
On the afternoon of July 2, 1863 a titanic struggle took place at Gettysburg between Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s First Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General James Longstreet, and elements of ultimately five Corps of the Federal army, led by Major General George Gordon Meade. The final defeat of General Longstreet’s attack was due as much to the skill and heroic sacrifice of tens of thousands of Federal soldiers as it was to any great feats of generalship on the part of the Federal officers. The 124th New York State Volunteers were one regiment that contributed to the defeat of the Confederate attack. Their story, and the story of the fighting that occurred at Devil’s Den on that hot afternoon, illustrates the fine fighting qualities of the Federal Army of the Potomac which were a primary cause of the ultimate Federal victory at Gettysburg.
Major General George Gordon Meade, commander of the Federal forces at Gettysburg, had hard choices to make on the evening of July 1, 1863, regarding the dispositions of his forces for the next day’s battle. He had present on the battlefield three of his seven corps, the I, XI and XII Corps. Yet of these three, two, the I and the XI, had been shattered by the first day’s fighting while the XII Corps was the smallest Corps in the Army, numbering little less than 9,000 men. Meade was expecting two other corps shortly, the II and the III Corps, while his remaining two corps, the V and the VI, should be up in the morning and afternoon of the next day. It seemed obvious to Meade, from information gained during that day’s fighting, that the Confederates were concentrated in front of him, while his own army was scattered and still coming onto the field. And the Confederates had the initiative, having driven the Federal troops from the field on the 1st of July.
Nevertheless, the Federal army was formed in an excellent defensive position. This position has come to be known as “the Fish Hook”, starting at Culp’s Hill on the Federal right, curving west and then south around Cemetery Hill in the center, and then continuing south to Little and Big Round Top on the southern part of the line, the Federal Left. Big Round Top was unsuitable for defense, due to its height and heavy tree cover, but Little Round Top was an excellent defensive position, and should serve to anchor the left of Meade’s line.
“Queen Ann” of Brown’s Park
The autobiography of ANN BASSETT WILLIS
From Colorado Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 1952): 81-98.
The autobiography of ANN BASSETT WILLIS
From Colorado Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 1952): 81-98.
Ann Bassett (May 12, 1878 – May 8, 1956), also known as Queen Ann Bassett, was a prominent female rancher of the Old West, and with her sister Josie Bassett, was an associate of outlaws, particularly Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. Her reputation as “Queen of the Rustlers” was well-earned, though it occurred during her “war” with cattle barons trying to destroy the independent ranchers and was given to her by her enemies. This is her autobiography; note that it doesn’t mention Butch Cassidy or the Wild Bunch…which is interesting in and of itself.
Women who dared the frontier at its worst were few. True, there were many pioneer mothers whose deeds of heroism were the best kind, that went unsung. Of those who met the West on its terms, dealt back as good as they received, asked no sanctuary because they were women, so bringing bright glory to their age and sex, the number may easily be counted. They were a brave few. history and romance have immortalized but a small number of these. And among them, none exceeds in daring, intelligence, glamour and honor—Queen Ann.
Child of the West, born to a family that grappled with the West in its roughest, toughest days and tamed it, was Ann Bassett. like an antelope she was born running, and like an antelope takes water, she took to education, knowledge and experience—while moving.
There was nothing static in Ann Bassett’s career. Born in a dirt-covered log cabin, where the nearest neighbors were miles dist and schoolhouses were unknown, she nevertheless came to shine the most erudite company, to wear the manner and grace of the time, yet never losing touch nor sympathy with the land and the people of her native hills.
In more ways than one she earned the title by which she was own from prairie to ocean and from the land of the Rio Grande to Athabasca. Wherever men rode and cattle ranged, the name of Queen Ann Bassett was acclaimed with admiration and respect.
The Frontier has vanished. Gone are the immense herds, the mile-long cavvies, the great round-ups. Long since, the badmen have been gathered together into their last hide-out. “Queen Ann” is no longer a name with which to conjure on the range. But she lives on. Many who are her neighbors do not know that the comely, dignified, yet loveable lady “next door,” could unfold tales that would overshadow the wildest thriller ever shown at the neighborhood theatre. After much persuasion, she has put on paper some of the happen-rigs of that day long gone, when as child and woman she rode the range
A PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH JOSIE BASSETT
In 1960, just before leaving for a two year study of the motion picture business in California. I was living in Daggett County, Utah, writing articles on western history for national periodicals. One particular article dealt with the topic of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, and received numerous letters in response. Two of these letters concerned Josie Bassett.
The first was from noted author John Rolfe Burroughs, who was then in the process of researching his award-winning history of Brown’s Park.1 He had recently obtained an interview with Josie and recommended her as a remarkable source of information on Brown’s Park, Butch Cassidy, and much more.
The second letter was from a lady who lived at Jensen, Utah, who was a neighbor of Josie’s, and who stated that she had gone deer hunting with Josie every year for a decade or more. She informed me that Josie knew a great deal about Butch Cassidy, but that she was then in her 86th year and in declining health, and she suggested that if I wanted to talk with Josie, I should do so soon, before it was too late.
Inspired by these letters, I determined to make a trip to Jensen, Utah, where Josie lived, and to interview her.
This was not the first I had heard of Josie Bassett, however. My grandfather, William Schofield, Sr., had known her for many years, and had filled my inquisitive young mind with tales about her. Her exploits were near legendary in the region where I was born and raised.
According to the generally accepted story, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid died in a hail of gunfire after robbing a bank in Bolivia, South America; they were buried there.
The fact is, though, that there are numerous accounts of those who knew Butch that he survived Boliva, returned home, and finished his life as a businessman, though no one knows under what name he lived. I have numerous sources, but the two best sources are his former lover, Josie Bassett, and his sister, Lula Parker Betenson. Josie’s account can be read here (one has to go a bit down to read the part about Butch)…and Lula published a book, “Butch Cassidy, My Brother,” which can be bought on Amazon or borrowed from a library.
It is an established fact that Butch tried to get amnesty for his crimes; he never hurt anyone, but was a train and bank robber, and had amassed quite a bit of money…the amnesty attempt fell through, and this is one of the main reasons that Butch and Sundance decided to take a long siesta in South America to get away from the Pinkerton detectives….here is an account from Lula Betenson’s book, of Butch Cassidy’s return home, which I thought would be interesting; note that his real name was Robert Leroy Parker, which is why he is referred to as Bob, or Leroy. Here is chapter 15, from Lula’s book, describing Butch’s return:
After Mother’s death in 1905, Father lived in the brick house in town with his six unmarried children. Since I was the eldest daughter living at home, it was my responsibility to try to keep things together. I am the only one of the girls who stayed in Circleville, and I remained very close to Dad and my brothers.
On New Year’s Eve, 1907, I married Joseph Betenson, and we lived in Circleville, where five children were born to us: Pauline, Scott, Mark, John, and Barbara.
Most of the time my brothers were out on the range with the livestock, spending the summers on the mountain and the winters at home, feeding cattle and horses at the ranch south of Circleville. My brothers worked elsewhere as time permitted, but they helped Dad at the ranch also. They had always raised good horses, cattle, and sheep, but were only moderate stockmen.
One day, Jim Gass, a Circleville neighbor, came home from a trip to California and told me he had seen Bob getting on a train in Los Angeles. He and Bob waved to each other, but the train pulled out before they could speak to each other.
Jim had been a close friend of Bob’s when they were boys. He told me of an incident when he and Bob were in the hills together, and a deer jumped out and refused to run away. They rode back and discovered a fawn lying on the ground, pinned down by a log that had rolled onto its leg. Jim said, “We’d better shoot it to get it out of its misery.”
But Bob said, “No, we’ll fix that leg.” They dismounted, and Bob took a buckskin string, splinted the leg, tied the string, and turned the fawn loose. A master with knots, Bob did this so skillfully that, as the leg healed, the movements of the deer would wear it off. Jim had always said, “Bob couldn’t kill a dog, let alone a man.”
Jim also told me that Bob was a true conservationist. He said that in the fall of the year Bob always filled his pockets with seeds of wildflowers, and as he rode along on his horse, he scattered the seeds in barren places along the road or trail.
As we pursued our very ordinary lives, occasionally a rumor reached us that Butch Cassidy was still alive and had been seen in various localities. Dad seemed so sure that he was still living. We wondered how much he really knew. But if Butch ever communicated with Dad, we didn’t know it.
Dad, eighty-one, was sitting on the step by the kitchen door of the brick house, enjoying the shade and the late afternoon calm. His hair was white, and he wore a thick white mustache. He was a fine-looking man, straight and alert, and, as always, dressed immaculately. The flashy car drove into the yard, and Mark stepped out. Dad was surprised. That morning Mark had left on horseback, headed for the ranch. Rather slowly the driver slipped out on the left side of the car and straightened up. At first Dad wondered who it was.
Bob’s face for once was solemn; perhaps he wondered how he would be accepted. The screen door to the kitchen was open behind Dad’s back. Bob took off his hat and twirled it through the door. It landed squarely on the post of the rocking chair inside. Then he grinned that unmistakable grin. Dad knew him. No one could ever describe that meeting after all the years of uncertainty and separation—forty-one years. That reunion proved the strength of Dad’s heart; he survived it.
Minutes later my brother Mark appeared at my kitchen door and said, “Lula, we’ve got company. Dad wants you to come down and fix supper.”
That wasn’t the first time I had been asked to leave my family and prepare supper for Dad and the boys. Pauline was old enough to take care of our children, but John, the baby at that time, sat up a howl to go along.
Jose went with me to Dad’s. In clean dishtowels I wrapped two loaves of warm bread and a fresh bullberry pie that I had just taken from the oven, and we walked over to Dad’s. We walked in the front gate and around to the kitchen door. I glanced at the unfamiliar car and wondered who it was this time. As we stepped into the kitchen, put down the food, and went on into the living room, the conversation stopped. The stranger stood up as I stepped into the room, and I studied his face in the awkward silence. He wasn’t a stranger, not really, and yet he was. Why did he look so familiar?
Dad smiled. “I’ll bet you don’t know who this is.” I was puzzled. By his features, he had to be family. “Lula, this is LeRoy!” Dad announced.