John O. Heath, 5th New Jersey Regiment, Union Army

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

John O. Heath, 5th New Jersey Regiment, Union Army

Postby Donna Tunison » Wed Oct 02, 2019 11:54 am

John O. Heath, 5th New Jersey Regiment, Union Army
John O. Heath (1831-1884) <Moses <Richard <John <Andrew II <Andrew I
By the time of the 1860 Presidential election, much like it is today, America was going through political
turmoil and toxicity. The Democrats hated the newly elected President Lincoln, much like Obama, Hillary,
their cronies and supporters hate Trump; reacting as bad losers and behaving the same way as many
present-day Democrats after losing the 2016 election. The name of Copperheads (after a venomous viper
snake found in north-east section of America) was given to vocal northern Democrats who were trying to
undermine public sentiment in the anti-slavery states; being intolerant and bullying people with a different
opinion on what America should look like, thereby attempting to tear it apart.
John O. Heath, son of Moses Heath and Gertrude Opdycke participated in a meeting of the Locktown
Debating Society on the 13 January 1860 with the topic of the debate "Should Slavery be abolished in the
United States.” [url]
And interesting posting by Marfy Goodspeed titled “‘Copperheadism’ in Locktown” reflects the attitude of people in the
area regarding current issues.
Abraham Lincoln, came to national attention as a candidate for the 1858 U.S. Senate seat (Illinois), against
incumbent Stephen Douglas (Democrat), after a series of debates centered on the slavery issue, including
Lincoln’s most famous, “A House Divided Speech” on 16 Jun 1858. They would face off again two years
later in the 1860 U.S. Presidential election. It was not an easy shoo-in for Lincoln to be chosen as the
candidate for the new Republican Party, but after persuasion that he would garner enough support from
delegates, was chosen to be their candidate. Lincoln was elected in November 10, 1860 and on that day
South Carolina’s General Assembly called for a convention to consider seceding from the Union, with the
ordinance adopted on December 20. Florida, Mississippi, George, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas quickly
followed in January. Lincoln’s inauguration occurred on March 4, 1861, and on April 4 Virginia seceded and
joined the newly created Confederate States of America (on Feb 8 & 9, 1861), followed by Arkansas (May
18), North Carolina (May 20), and Tennessee (July 2). Lincoln and his administration not wanting to
provoke and create an armed conflict, refused to surrender Federal installations in the south. The
installation would only be provided with necessities such as food, fodder and essentials, but no arms,
munitions and troops. Tensions were running high at Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina harbor,
after supply ships were being turned away by Confederate guns. The Civil War began on April 12, when
Confederate General Pierre Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter and Major Robert Anderson, Union
commander of the fort surrendered and the fort was evacuated on the following day.
On April 15, Lincoln calls for 75,000 Militia, asking for volunteers to help squash the rebellion, leading the
final three southern states to secede. New Jersey formed four regiments, organized in Trenton calling for
men to serve only three months. John O. Heath, of Kingwood Township, Hunterdon County enlisted in the
Company E, 2nd New Jersey Infantry on April 21, 1861. The Second New Jersey Regiment participated in
the advance on Manassas, Virginia (July 16-21, 1861) and was a reserve in the Battle of Bull Run (see
Andrew Heath III and The Heath Family of Virginia)
Another John O. Heath (son of Hugh Heath, grandson of Daniel Heath, and great-grandson of Thomas
Heath of Somerset County) enlisted in Company E, 15th New Jersey Regiment on 07 Aug 1862.

John, (son of Moses and Gertrude) again enlisted on the 26th of August 1861 in Company A, 5th New
Jersey Regiment, which became known for its quality and no-nonsense reputation. They left New Jersey
for Washington, DC on 29 Aug, 1861, and were attached to Casey’s Provisional Division of the Army of the
Potomac in October. The regiment became part of Hooker’s Division, 3rd Brigade, and moved to the

Virginia Peninsula, where they participated in the Siege of Yorktown on April 10 to May 5. Led by Major
General Joseph Hooker, John and his regiment were engaged in The Battle of Williamsburg on May 5,
being roughly handled and standing alone against Confederates led by Major General James Longstreet’s
brigade, the 5th fought well and with distinction, before Union reinforcements appeared. John’s name
appears on the Fort Monroe (VA) wounded list published in the May 14, 1862 issue of the New York Times.
On August 11, 1862, John transferred to Company G, 5th Regiment, and four days later the regiment was
on the move to Centreville, Virginia and participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30,
followed by the Battle of Chantilly on September 1. The regiment was sent near Alexandria, Virginia to
participate in the defense of Washington until November 1, when they were moved to Falmouth, Virginia,
remaining there before being moved on December 11 to Fredericksburg. The Battle of Fredericksburg took
place on December 12-15, 1862 with the largest concentration of combatants in the Civil War of 200,000
men. A future posting will go into this battle.
John and his regiment were part of the January 20 to 24, 1863 General Ambrose Burnside’s abortive
offensive, the “Mud March,” an attempt to capture the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. The next
major engagement the 5th New Jersey took part was the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-5, 1863, again a
victory for the Confederates, but at a major cost, with the General “Stonewall” Jackson being shot by
friendly fire on the night of May 2 and dying eight days later. The overconfident Confederates would feel
pain, disbelief and humiliation in the next battle. Colonel William J. Sewell (Charles Pettit Heath family), former Captain of the
5th NJ, Companies F &S, would receive a Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in the Battle of
After Chancellorsville, the Fifth was considered a veteran regiment, but at the next battle they faced the
fight for its life. Sewell led the regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg and this webpage gives details of their
bravery during the battle: [url] https://threedaysatgettysburg.historica ... us-5th-nj-
infantry/[/url] .
This map shows the battle line at Emmettsburg Road [url]http://www.civil-[/url], where the 5th New Jersey was ordered to guard in advance of the
Union line confronting General James Longstreet and his powerful and overwhelming corp two of divisions.
Captain Ellis Hamilton, another New Jersey soldier wrote his mother about the battle: .

John was listed on the casualty list as missing in action and presumed dead on July 2, but survived,
returned home and lived with his parents. His mother Gertrude died August 2, 1877 and John on January 2,
1884. January 8 issue Hunterdon Democrat newspaper: “John O. Heath died at the residence of his father,
Moses Heath, in Kingwood township, on Monday morning last week, aged about 40 years. At the breaking
out of the rebellion he enlisted in the army. He was in the service but a short time. His mind became
effected and remained so from that time to his death.” Today John would likely be diagnosed as suffering
from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Moses outlived John, four and a half years, and John’s brother Richard (who served in the last part of the
war) died in 1891. Gertrude and her sons John, Richard and Joel (the eldest) are buried in Frenchtown
Cemetery. There is no memorial in Find-a-Grave for Moses and his sons Stout and Anderson, but it highly
probable they are at Frenchtown Cemetery as well.
If you are interested in reading further about the Fifth New Jersey Regiment, the webpage “Civil War
Voices, Soldier Studies” contains letters written by Captain Matthew Austin to his family from January 11,
1861 to July 20, 1863 regarding his experiences in the regiment
DTO – Oct 2019
Donna Tunison
Posts: 44
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 7:12 pm

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