The Midshipman Who Really Wasn’t There – Joel Welcome Berry

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I am trying to be thorough in my canvassing of the midshipmen at the Naval Academy for the school year of 1860-1861. There are certain statistics I am collecting to include in the history I am writing. To that end I went about gathering the names of the midshipmen that were at the institution in all four classes that fed into that time period. This meant going back to the class that entered in the fall of 1857, ditto for the classes of 1858, 1859, and for the entering plebe class of 1860.

I learned about an annual publication listing the graduates of the Naval Academy, and I found one on eBay that had been published in 1944 and won the bid for it. This gave me a good base from which to start. So I dutifully harvested the names into a database – both those who had graduated, and those who had not. Those were the only two categories included therein.

I eventually realized that I was missing the complete picture. Nowhere had I come across a list of the people that had showed up for the exam, but failed to get in – either for academic or medical reasons. That is, not until I was able to look through the microfilm containing the correspondence of the Naval Academy Superintendent. In them I was able to locate the entire list of candidates that appeared before the boards for the target years I was studying.

I identified the missing ones and added them to the database.  I now had all the candidates listed with a date and a number, which represented the order in which they were examined. And it is this order that I utilized, when going through the names one by one for research.

A few years later when I arrived at Midshipman Joel Welcome Berry of Georgia, the 58th candidate for the class of 1859, I ran into a mystery. Here was someone who clearly had been accepted into the academy but was missing from all the official lists. I found him, no problem, in other documents – the 1850 and 1860 censuses; he was a student at Georgetown College in DC (just prior to his appointment to the academy); and ascertained that he fought in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy in Phillips’ Georgia Legion.

The mystery was solved by delving further into the correspondence of the superintendent – in which I turned up this letter written to the Secretary of the Navy, Isaac Toucey:

                            Naval Academy
Annapolis Md
Oct 31 1859
Sir
I beg leave to state to the Department
that Mr Joel Welcome Berry, obtained from
the Store Keeper of the Academy the usual
outfit immediately after passing his exami-
nation, but subsequently returned the articles,
& left Annapolis without having joined the
institution.-
I would ask whether his name is
to be retained on the rolls.-
I am respectfully
Your obt servt
G S Blake
Superintendent

I had encountered short naval academy careers before, but none as short as Berry’s – which looks to be at most a single day, and just might possibly be measured in hours.

But why had he walked away?

It may be impossible to decisively conclude the exact reason for his action, but the other records I turned up, reveal specific circumstances that within themselves would give a young man strong impetus to pull away from the naval profession. (And I am not ruling out that it could be as simple as when he stepped aboard the schoolship Plymouth as a plebe, this brief view of what a naval life entailed, turned him off).

His father, Andrew Jay Berry, was a planter, a prosperous merchant and a local political leader in Coweta, the county he helped pioneer and settle. There he met and married Emily Elizabeth Parks in 1830. Their first born, William Byrd Berry, followed in his father’s footsteps. The next, Thomas J. graduated from West Point in 1857 and had a career in the army out west. Joel came next and was to represent the family in that other branch of government service, the Navy.

His mother passed away in 1857, and I surmise that he may have received an inheritance from her. For in the 1860 census (taken 6/8/1860) J W Berry was listed in his own household, right next door to his father and brothers in Newnan, GA. He was quite wealthy for an 18 year old – his real estate holdings of 10,000 ($312,000 in today’s dollars) and personal holdings of 13,000 ($405,000) meant that he did not have to find his way in the world. His occupation was listed as Farmer (in distinction to his father as Planter) and according to the slave schedules for that year, he owned 12 slaves to aid in his farm’s operation. This may have weighed foremost in his mind when after qualifying for the academy on that day in October, he immediately returned his uniform and left.

It was a short life for J W Berry after leaving the academy. As mentioned above he enlisted in Phillips’ Georgia Legion and was fairly active as his unit was sent north from Georgia to the battlefields of Virginia. But when 1863 rolled around he was absent without leave from the muster rolls for months on end.

Drink may have been increasingly the driving factor in his life (his brother Thomas once advised him in a letter “to shun it as you would the most poisonous reptile”). The advice went unheeded, for in one drunken episode in 1864, Joel killed two men in his hometown, and fled northward from the expected retaliation of the slain men’s families – not just to the Carolinas or Virginia, but clear out of the Confederacy, and held up in New York City.

There he remained. He never returned to Georgia, and died in NYC in 1869.

 

Tracking Down a Marine Fifer

Tracking Down a Marine Fifer

I recently had the fun of running down information about a US Marine who had been assigned to the USNA in 1860. Or to be more precise, a marine who had been attached to the USS Plymouth, the naval academy’s school ship for their cruise the summer of that pivotal year. It was a convoluted task, that commenced with only the slimmest of leads.

My jumping off point was the US census for Annapolis for that year. I was scrolling down through the names of the superintendent, the professors and officers, and the midshipmen – and sandwiched between those midshipmen and some US sailors was a short list of seventeen names. All listed as ‘US Marines.’ And all with places of birth listed as ‘Unknown.’ I used their names as the springboard for my online searches.

So, I went through four names –

1- John Rossman age 25

2 – George Rymes age 30

3 – A. E. Clark age 40

4 – R. Hamilton age 37

– before I got a hit with number 5:

5 – L Reinburg age 34

I was using Ancestry.com which has an excellent database of scanned military documents.  My meagre ‘L Reinburg’ search returned a couple pages worth of US Marine muster rolls.

(I like the US Marine muster rolls. With them I have been able to trace the entire service career, month by month, of one of the midshipmen I have been researching – he had switched from the Navy to that branch).

Four of these records outlined Reinburg’s presence on the USS Plymouth, June through September of 1860. And gave me his first name – Louis. I input this new information and the year 1826 (calculated from his age in the census), a mistake as it later turned out.

Two different ‘Louis Reinburgs’ popped up. One born in Saxony, Germany seemed to be the one for whom I was looking. But he was a good deal older, having been born around 1819. The other had been born in Philadelphia, but twenty years younger than he should have been if the 1860 census was correct. It was obvious that they were father and son with the same names. But which was my marine?

I was leaning towards the older Louis until I found naval lists with this native of Saxony listed as a landsman, a naval rank. Since there were marine records for the second Louis in the same years as this navy man, I switched my hunch to the younger Louis.

But how was I to resolve the “age” issue?

A Google search did point to a Louis C. Reinburg who died in 1903, and had a career in the marines. But he had switched to the navy sometime in 1864. This was starting to get more confusing.

The Marine muster rolls proved to hold the key.

I compared all four muster rolls for the USS Plymouth. The names were the same on each one. I then compared them to the names in the census. They were all the same. Or almost all the same. (The census taker as you will see had some issues).

The first five for the USS Plymouth:

John Bauman – Orderly Sergeant, enlisted March 30, 1857 (not Rossman, whoever wrote out the name did not close the bottom of the “B,” wrote an “a” that looked like an “o” and the peaks of his “u’ looked like a double “s.”)

George Byrnes – Corporal, re-enlisted May 20, 1858 (not Rymes, the same issue with the “B”, plus an “r” and an “n” that looked like an “m.”)

Elisha A Clarke – Corporal, re-enlisted June 6, 1858 (not A. E. – perhaps dyslexic?)

Robert Hamilton – Musician, enlisted Feb 23, 1860

Louis Reinburg – Musician, enlisted Aug 29, 1856

The rest of the names on the muster lists are all privates, and match, in order, and almost exactly (save one), the names on the census. Tracing Reinburg back to his enlistment I found him on a muster roll for August 1856 at the Marine Barracks in Washington DC.  But his rank was delineated as “Boy.” (His comrade Robert Hamilton is on the same roll with the same rank).

I had to look up this rank to see what light it might shed on my marine. And I came up with this quote:

“’Boys,’ the lowest rung on the rating and pay scales and one
traditionally reserved for young men under the age of eighteen.”

     This Louis Reinburg was born in 1846, so he was the ripe old age of ten when he enlisted in the marines. Following forward he became a fifer in 1857, and was serving as such on the Plymouth. His fellow marine, Robert Hamilton, was a drummer.

     The two had served together in the same capacities on a cruise in the USS Jamestown between 1858 and 1860, just before their time on the Plymouth. So no doubt they were a team.

     Reinburg took his honorable discharge from the marines in 1864, and then enlisted in the Navy as an Acting Master in the Volunteer Navy. He served the rest of the war and beyond, taking his honorable discharge from that service in 1868 at the age of 22, having given twelve years of his life in service to his country. A service that he continued as a clerk in the Pension Office of the United States.

The Reluctant Midshipman Alexander Duer Gedney Pt 1

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The fifteen year old from Goshen, New York really did not want to be in Annapolis, but most of all Alexander Duer Gedney did not want to be at the Naval Academy. All of this I discovered later. For it was the date of admission listed for the young middie that first made me curious.

Gedney’s entry record shows that he arrived at the academy on November 24th, 1859. That looked like a misprint or an outright error (by navy regulation, Sept 30 is the prescribed cut-off). Then I noticed that a good number of his fellow candidates arrived at the academy in late October and November of that year, well after the normal September window. So what exactly was going on?

I turned to the correspondence of the Naval Academy Superintendent, Captain George S. Blake, to look for any clue as to this anomaly. I started with his letters to the Secretary of the Navy, Isaac Toucey. In the beginning of the school year of 1859, Blake was dealing with various problems  – a watchman drunk while on duty, fall out from the Foot Outrage, selection of new text books, etc. All of these important and unimportant items, Blake was discussing with the secretary. Then, towards the close of that month, I found the answer.

The ship selected as the school ship that year was the USS Plymouth. It had returned from the summer cruise September 27th, had disgorged the upper classmen two days later, and began to be outfitted to house the plebe class. At that time, Blake tallied the plebes at 85 in number, and asked Toucey to hold off on any further candidates until November first, when he would have a better idea of how many they could accommodate aboard the vessel.

So after Blake issued word that there was room for more, Gedney was among those forty plus candidates that were given the chance to join the plebe class.

Gedney’s was a short career as a midshipman – in, on Nov 24th, and out, forty-nine days later, on Jan 12th. The fact that his career was ended by a dismissal, is a clear indication that a serious infraction was involved. Another curiosity, so I checked his demerits next.

A perusal of his conduct records show that he was on a tear to collect all he could. None are recorded for the few days left of November when he started, but once December rolled around, he racked up 126 in that single month. (Two hundred in a year were grounds for dismissal). The bulk of the demerits were for disruptive behavior; he was constantly annoying his teachers and his fellow midshipmen. In fact, he managed to tick off one fifth of the members of the plebe class on board the school ship with him. And once he hit January, Gedney upped the ante. He pushed his demerits above the two hundred mark before his dismissal on the 14th.

But his dismissal was not for his demerit count. The name of Gedney is conspicuous in Blake’s correspondence for the first part of January 1860, but not for gallantry. Officers were writing reports about his activities to Blake, and he in turn was writing to the navy secretary. On New Year’s Day, Gedney was in custody, locked in one of the ward rooms of the school ship. He used his locker key to unlock this door and was caught. He repeated this feat by using a “false key” three times on the fifth of January, and again was reported each time. On the eighth, he picked the lock on the door and was turned in by a fellow midshipman and penalized with ten demerits. But Gedney was not through that day. One of the Lieutenant’s caught him red handed with a book into which he had pasted obscene prints that he had cut out of a pornographic volume, and thereby doubled his demerits for the day.

This letter from Blake’s correspondence from earlier in the month began to make sense:

  Naval Academy
Annapolis Md
  Jany 5 1860

Sir
In order to prevent the introduction of
obscene books on board the Plymouth, you
will direct the officer in charge to have all
books and packages received on board for
the Acting Midshipmen opened and
carefully examined in the presence of
the owner and all books of this description
and articles that are prohibited by the
Regulations will be retained and the owner
punished as the nature of the offense
may require.-
I am very respectfully
Your obt servt
G S Blake
Sup’t’d’t

Commander
Thos T Craven
Comdt of Midn

I ran a check on the other midshipmen who reported Gedney’s misbehaviors and found that one of them, William Knox Wheeler, had been himself reported for loaning an obscene book to a crew member on January 1st. I haven’t created a database for the conduct files for that school year, so I decided to comb through them one by one. I discovered that a total of five midshipmen were involved with obscene material on New Year’s Day. Besides Midshipman Knox, one was cited for possession of an obscene book, and three others for the reading of one. Since Gedney was in custody on that date I did not see a direct connection, but evidently the Commandant of Midshipman, Thomas T Craven did. About Gedney, he states:

The example which he has set by
the introduction of obscene books and prints,
had already done amongst his young class-
mates, an immense deal of harm.

To my mind his shenanigans were consciously entered into, having as their goal to be expelled from the academy. The obscene books just brought him closer to his ticket out of there. Blake records Gedney’s frame of mind, in this observation to Toucey:

When remonstrated with by me, he has
replied that he came to the Academy
against his wishes, & intended to leave it.”

So he got his wish and more. Gedney did put in a resignation (and Blake notes that it was without the consent of his father). With this in hand, Blake advised Toucey not to accept his resignation, but rather recommended that he be dismissed outright.

Toucey took Blake’s recommendation and dismissed the midshipman. Gedney probably did not even care as to the stigma attached, I surmise he was just happy to be out.

Stay tuned for part two next week in which I look into who or what brought him to the academy, and about his latter end.

Looking for Mrs Bayard Hand

Looking for Mrs Bayard Hand

After reading the article about Lieutenant Bayard E Hand in the History of Rome and Floyd County, I confess I was dissatisfied that his wife’s name was not included. I was curious to find out who she was and what had happened to her.

At the first it was difficult to come up with her name, mainly because of the incorrect details in the article. Searches beginning with his name, tied to the state of Virginia as the place of marriage, coupled with an 1853 date (his Academy graduation date) proved fruitless. When I eliminated those secondary datums and concentrated on Bayard Hand I got several hits with marriage data for him – indexes, posted bonds and licenses – all with the 1858 date. And the name of his bride was Alice Whitfield.

To learn more about her it would be crucial to find her parents, and with that knowledge locate her in the federal censuses – 1850 the one before their marriage and 1860 the one after Bayard’s death. A family tree revealed that Alice’s father was William Thomas Whitfield (1819-1909) and her mother was Mary Elizabeth Crump Squiggins (1812-1880). The extra names listed for her mother proved very helpful in verifying the correct William Whitfield, for there was more than one possibility in each of those census years. Crump was her maiden name and Squiggins was the name of her first husband. So, the innkeeper “Wm. Whitfield” and his wife “Mary” in the 1850 census for Halifax County, NC are the correct ones – besides the three younger Whitfield children, four older “Squigings” children are noted.  But an “Alice” is not listed. Since she was born in 1842 she would have been eight years old at this census. There is an eight year old Whitfield daughter in this household, however her name is listed as “Temp.” I suspected they were one and the same, and was able to confirm it when a search on the Squiggins name turned up a family Bible in which her name is listed as T. Allice Whitfield. (Her marriage to Hand is also recorded in this same Bible, so a double confirmation). This coupled with the knowledge that her paternal grandmother’s name was Temperance, led me to conclude that her full given name was Temperance Allice Whitfield. From her marriage records forward she must have dropped Temperance and in some cases the second “L” from Allice.

All of this information made it easy to isolate the correct 1860 census record. Her father W T Whitfield was still a Hotel Keeper in Halifax County NC. Her mother M E Whitfield is there with her brother and sister; and Alice herself is listed as Allice Hand. Of note, Allice had a personal estate of 4000 dollars, forty times what her father possessed. I know from probate records that Bayard died intestate, and that Bayard’s stepfather must have seen to it that she was cared for out of her husband’s holdings.

So, what then happened to her after this?

The only record for Alice Hand after this date is the marriage bond that lists Alice W Hand marrying Julius Burton Timberlake in Halifax County, NC on November 5th 1863. Together they had five children, a son and four daughters. They named the first daughter Annie Bayard Timberlake, a touching tribute to her first husband. And Alice’s grandson Julian Burton Timberlake Sr. attended the Naval Academy and served in the First World War, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander by the time of his retirement in 1934.

One other search result led to a Facebook page and a surprising discovery. The family of Alice Whitfield Hand has donated her letters to the University of the South in Sewanee TN. They posted a scan of a letter that she had received from Bayard’s brother-in-law the Rev. Charles Todd Quintard, (later the first vice-chancellor of this same college). This letter from November 1858 is a warm “welcome to the family” to Alice and a humorous attempt to press her for news about the “scamp” naval lieutenant Bayard E Hand.

[Aside – I have ordered scans of some of her letters to hopefully answer some other questions I have, like did they meet at her father’s inn when he traveled between Rome GA and either Norfolk VA or Annapolis MD. Or was it at Beaufort at a later time. I will follow up with a post at a later date with what I learn.]