Heaths in the 15th New Jersey Regiment-Civil War

Genealogy for the Heath family's of Saffordshire and surrounding areas.

Heaths in the 15th New Jersey Regiment-Civil War

Postby Donna Tunison » Sun Nov 03, 2019 12:10 pm

Charles J. Heath <George B. <Elijah <John <Andrew II <Andrew I
Samuel B. Heath <Jeremiah <Samuel <David <Andrew II <Andrew I

The Fifteenth New Jersey Regiment was organized in Frenchtown, between July and August 1862, comprising of ten companies, three from Sussex County; two each from Warren, Hunterdon and Morris; and one from Somerset, totaling 925 men. Charles J. Heath, of Hunterdon County, enlisted on 09 Aug 1862 in Company A, and Samuel B. Heath of Morris County, on 14 Aug 1862 in Company B. William Heath, Jr.’s (William, Sr. <Richard <Andrew III <Andrew II <Andrew I), brother-in-law, William Horner Slater (1), was commissioned with the rank of Captain of Company G. The regiment was mustered in on 25 Aug and two days later took a train to Washington, DC. The only time the 15th Regiment was mentioned in the Hunterdon Gazette, was two letters written to the editor of the newspaper after the troops after arriving in the District of Columbia. The attached newspaper article is a letter written by MacKenzee about the regiment’s life after leaving Flemington.

15NJ-Sep1862 Hunterdon Gazette.jpg
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Tennalleytown (Tenleytown), a District of Columbia suburb northwest of the capital. On September 30, the regiment took a train to Frederick, Maryland (about 40 miles northwest of Washington), then marched 20 miles west to Bakersville (no longer exists), Maryland passing the battlefields of Antietam and Sharpsburg. The regiment was attached to the Colonel Alfred T. A. Torbert’s First New Jersey Brigade; Brigadier General William T. H. Brooks’ First Division; Major General William F. Smith’s Sixth Army Corps; Major General Joseph Hooker’s Center Grand Division. The regiment broke camp on October 31, moving 80 miles south to Falmouth, Virginia (north of Fredericksburg). By December 11, almost 200,000 Union and Confederate forces had converged at Fredericksburg, a small town 50 miles southwest of Washington. Union General Ambrose Burnside and his forces began a frontal assault against Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his troops on December 13.

Clara Barton (2) writes a letter to her cousin about Fredericksburg the night before the battle: http://www.clarabartonmuseum.org/fredericksburg/

A contemporary battle map of Fredericksburg, Virginia shows troop placement on Dec 13, 1862. The 15th was in the upper right corner, right of Torbert.

Battlefield.org has an account of the “15th” on the afternoon of the 13th against the 16th North Carolina regiment:

William Horner Slater’s daughter, Hannah, recounts her father’s experience on the battlefield after being wounded, subsequent events until his return to Frenchtown, giving a glimpse of what returning soldiers likely experienced upon returning to their hometowns.

15NJ-Sep1862 Hunterdon Gazette.jpg
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Dec 16, 1862 New York Herald front page of the battle: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/data/batches/dlc_deadnettle_ver01/data/sn83030313/00271743427/1862121601/0872.pdf

The First Battle of Fredericksburg ended December 15, and the defeat was humiliating for General Ambrose Burnside and the Army of the Potomac with the death of 17,000 Union soldiers and 5,300 Confederate soldiers. Alanson Haines, the regiment’s chaplain said, “With the battle of Fredericksburg the campaign for 1862 ended. The army went shortly into winter quarters, and little was attempted for four months. Our brigade broke camp at Retribution Point, where they had halted on the 16th of December, and went to the vicinity of White Oak Church, on Friday, the 19th, and began to make our quarters comfortable at a point two miles and a half from the river. The sick were brought over from Camp ‘Devil's Hole’ the next day.”

Burnside decided to lead an offense by pursuing General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to Richmond, but the weather was against them, and the exhausted Union soldier’s morale was low. Four days of rain had made logistical problems in constructing pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River, impeding the army’s progress. John Y. Foster described the situation, “Bravely as the army had fought, it could not accomplish the impossible, and on the night of the 15th, General Burnside withdrew his forces, who settled down at Falmouth and White Oak Church. The winter which followed, marked by no signs of activity other than the “Mud March,” was for the most part one of great gloom and suffering. The troops, especially those who experienced for the first time a winter's hardships in the field, felt it severely. The typhoid fever prevailed; without proper tents or facilities for building log huts, lying on the wet, spongy ground, without vegetable food, illy-provided (sic) with shoes and clothing, and firewood scarce, the men suffered and died by hundred.”

President Lincoln replaced General Burnside with General Joseph Hooker on 26 Jan 1863 and was viewed by the army as a popular appointment. Hooker treated his men with respect and improved their living conditions by exchanging their ragged clothes with new uniforms, as well as giving them warm underclothes, shoes, shelter tents, hospital tents, blankets, straw for bedding, large ovens were built for baking bread, and rations were improved. Disease(4) was running rampant which was deadlier than the armed conflict, so personal cleanliness was enforced and quarters were regularly policed. The corps paymasters began distributing pay that had not been made for some up to five months.

White Oak Church; Falmouth, Stafford County, Virginia — Civil War: https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3c19121/
White Oak Church; Falmouth, Stafford County, Virginia — present day (3): https://www.google.com/maps/place/White+Oak+Primitive+Baptist+Church/@38.300571,-77.3757119,3a,37.5y,168.7h,91.45t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1stnVUBhYoGAZ_-AhQEXrnMw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x5b5106bc771acdae!8m2!3d38.3003233!4d-77.3757005

Charles J. Heath was discharged by reason of physical disability at White Oak Church, Falmouth, Virginia on 23 Mar 1863, and returned to Hunterdon County, New Jersey where he died on 23 Apr 1863. Charles is buried at Sandy Ridge Cemetery.

President Lincoln and his family visited Stafford, Virginia (about seven miles from White Oak) area in April 1863 with the intention of staying two days, but ended up staying longer. He held several reviews including the largest cavalry review of 13-17,000 on horseback and a five and a half hour grand review with over 60,000 infantrymen. Lincoln also visited the troops and sat with wounded men in hospital tents. Alason Haines mentions in his memoirs about Lincoln and “a young man” possibly his son Robert Todd Lincoln’s visit to their camp.

Samuel B. Heath served until the end of the war, returning to Morristown, New Jersey, married Mary Lena Clauson in 1866 and had two sons. Samuel died in 1919 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown.

By the end of the Civil War, the 15th New Jersey Regiment suffered the highest casualty rate than any New Jersey unit. The battle at Spotsylvania (Court House, Virginia) in May 1864, was the third bloodiest battle of the Civil War behind Chickamauga and Gettysburg, and would be the 15th Regiment’s worse day with the of lost nine out of 15 officers and 270 of its 419 enlisted men.

In 1889, Lieutenant Colonel William F. Fox, U.S.V., published his research “Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-5.” The 15th New Jersey Regiment is on Fox’s list of Three Hundred Fighting Regiments (out of 2,000 Union Troops) who participated in considerable fighting/battles. The regiment had the 12th highest loss of officers and enlisted men killed or died of wounds during the war.

(1) Captain William Horner Slater continued serving in the Army after his recovery and moved his family from Frenchtown, New Jersey to Washington, D.C. where they remained after the war. William died 25 Jan 1900 in Washington and is buried with his wife Susan in Frenchtown Cemetery.

(2) Clarissa/Clara Barton, born in Massachusetts in 1821, began teaching when she was 15 years old. In 1852, she established a free school in Bordentown, Burlington County, New Jersey, which became so successful that the townsmen would not allow her to continue running it, so Clara resigned rather than submit to a male principal. Barton worked at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington between 1854-56 and 1860. When war broke out, she organized a facility to help to locate soldier’s lost baggage, then secured medicines and supplies for the wounded in the First Battle of Bull Run. Barton gained permission to pass through battle lines to search for the missing, distribute supplies, and nurse the wounded. In June 1864, President Lincoln appointed Barton superintendent of nurses for the Army of the James, and in February 1865 asked Clara to set up a bureau to aid in the search of missing men. She would go on to organize the American Association of the Red Cross in 1881. The National Park Service has a webpage giving a chronology of Clara’s nursing service up until she went to Europe in 1869; https://www.nps.gov/clba/learn/kidsyouth/chron2.htm
The Clara Barton National Historic Site is located in Glen Echo, Maryland (seven miles northwest of Washington, DC near Tenleytown).

(3) The White Oak Civil War Museum (northwest corner of White Oak & Newton Roads —State Routes 218 & 603) contains the private collection of Union and Confederate artifacts found the surrounding area, and White Oak Primitive Baptist Church is at the southwest corner of White Oak & Newton Roads.

(4) Diseases included diphtheria, various forms of consumption/tuberculosis; dysentery, nephritis, pleurisy, measles/rubella, scurvy, and smallpox. “Camp fever” was a term used for fevers caused by typhoid and or malaria. Fox’s statistics has 173,258 soldiers died of disease during the war.

Foster, J. Y. (1868). New Jersey and the Rebellion. Martin R. Dennis & Co. Newark
Haines, A. A. (1883). History of The Fifteenth Regiment, New Jersey Volunteers. Jerkins & Thomas. New York.
Fox, W. F. (1889). Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, 1861-5. Albany Publishing Co. Albany, New York
Stryker, W. S. (1876). Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. John L. Murphy, Steam Book & Job Printer. Trenton, New Jersey.
Hannah Slater.jpg
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Donna Tunison
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