On the Peninsula with Berdan's Sharpshooters

    While my research and blog is generally focused on Ohio soldiers and their contributions to the Civil War, I occasionally come across items from soldiers of other states that pique my interest and inevitably lead to a research project. Such is the case with the letters of Adjutant Ira Smith Brown of the 1st United States Sharpshooters. I came across Brown's series of letters in the Yates County Chronicle, and an impressive set of correspondence he left behind. Brown wrote frequent, almost weekly, letters to his hometown newspaper and provide a detailed view of soldiers life during the Peninsula campaign. That Brown was serving with Berdan's Sharpshooters makes his perspective somewhat unique and a pleasure to read.

Adjutant Ira Smith Brown, 1st U.S. Sharpshooters

    I was doubly interested in Brown's story when I learned that following the Second Battle of Bull Run, he was commissioned as adjutant of the 126th New York Volunteer Infantry, a new regiment that was quickly swept up in the debacle at Harper's Ferry. The 126th has a special place in my heart- back in May, my son Jake and I discovered the grave of Private Gilbert Smith of the 126th New York at the town cemetery in Swanton, Ohio. For Memorial Day, we cleaned his stone and brought fresh cut roses from our front garden in tribute to his service. Smith served in Company C; an 1864 enlistee, he was wounded May 30, 1864 at Totopotomoy Creek, Virginia and this essentially ended his war. He later moved to southern Michigan then northwestern Ohio, settling near Swanton and was one of the last Civil War veterans in town when he died in 1925.

    The PDF file contains Adjutant J. Smith Brown's letters to the Yates County Chronicle covering the period from May-mid July which encompasses his experiences at the Battles of Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, and the Seven Days. It can be accessed through the Civil War research files section of my website- the file is entitled On the Peninsula with Berdan's Sharpshooters: https://columbianarsenal.com/civil-war-research-files

    The University of North Carolina also has a handwritten record of Colonel Smith's service with both the 1st U.S.S.S. and the 126th New York which can be requested here: http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/03733/

    In the course of learning more about Adjutant Smith, it was an absolute pleasure to utilize the abundant resources provided by the New York State Military Museum and Research Center. Not only do they host comprehensive unit rosters, but the individual regiment pages include short regimental histories, a source list, photos, and even newspaper letters in PDF format. It made conducting research a breeze, and the sheer magnitude of what has been made available warms my heart. If only Ohio had such a phenomenal resource...
New York State Military Museum: https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/mil-hist.htm

    The 126th New York's page can be accessed here: https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/126thInf/126thInfMain.htm

    The newspaper clipping file contains other letters written by Adjutant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Ira Smith Brown so please check it out and enjoy.


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