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.

ET Storms Perryville

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After the regiment had gathered at the station at 11, it was still another four hours before the train set out. The fog of war was in full swing by the time they left.  Caution was the watchword, so they stopped frequently to collect intelligence.  But they encountered only rumors at every stop.  While in Philadelphia, Colonel Lefferts of the 7th NY had heard that the railroad ferryboat Maryland was seized and destroyed.  Butler had heard the same thing but didn’t give it credence.  And thousands were feared to be gathering in Perryville to oppose them.

Butler carried with him permission to seize the ferryboat if necessary, or destroy it if he deemed it more prudent.  Butler toured the cars and saw to it personally that the soldiers loaded their weapons.  He let it be known that they may very well suffer many casualties.  He encouraged letters be written home and left with the conductor to be forwarded.

At one point, Butler ordered the train to proceed at top speed (30 mph).  And soon after came the cry of “Man Overboard.”  One of the men had become so frightened that he leapt from the speeding train.  He had stripped off his coat and shirt, and fled only in his trousers and shoes.  Not wanting to delay after an attempt to retrieve him, Butler posted a reward, and pushed on.  By this, the men learned for the first time their destination – Annapolis, for it was there that the reward would be collected.

An half mile out of Perryville, they stopped and detrained.  The zouaves deployed first, the sappers and miners behind them, and Company K to provide cover. Captain Devereux ordered his men at the double quick not waiting for the rest of the regiment.

What crowd there was in the sleepy town dispersed  at the sight of the armed men.  There was no opposition as they stormed aboard the Maryland. Nothing was prepared for them, the ferryboat was out of fuel and water and had no engine crew.  The regiment pushed four coal cars aboard, added water to nearby empty whiskey barrels and fielded a crew of twenty from their members.  It took two hours to accomplish these tasks and to load their baggage.

By 6pm they were ready to depart, and cast off for Annapolis.  The boat’s captain and pilot were the only employees of the railroad aboard.  Neither of them seemed friendly or helpful. So their loyalty was suspect.

It was fine night for April, but soon got very dark.

ET waits on his Leaders

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The 8th had learned that their sister regiment, the Sixth, had been bloodied in the streets of Baltimore.  It was April the 19th 1861. The fact of this historic date was not lost upon these soldiers from Massachusetts. It was the 86th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord and was usually celebrated in remembrance as the “shot heard around the world.” Just as their forefathers had faced a dire situation, so too were they now. ET and his fellow soldiers were waiting in the Girard House (a hotel) for the decision of their leaders.  Many spent their time writing home, telling their folks about where they were and what they’d seen.

That evening, General Butler gathered his staff at the Continental Hotel to discuss their next movement.  The only one of the company captains to attend was Devereux of the Zouaves.  Were they going to fight their way through Baltimore or was there another way?

Many claim to have come up with the winning solution (an interesting history can be written about these claims).  But the only one who truly matters is Samuel Morse Felton, the president of the PWB Railroad (Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore). He offered to Butler the ferry boat owned by his railroad that operated between Perryville and Havre de Grace, MD. Instead of traversing to the latter city, they could travel down the Chesapeake to Annapolis and from there march to Washington, bypassing Baltimore altogether.

So this plan was settled upon and other decisions flowed from that. The Zouaves were to lead the assault into Perryville; backed up by Company K; and a special unit, called Miners and Sappers, was formed from volunteers from the other companies, and issued axes, crowbars, and picks. Their task was to remove any obstacles thrown up in front of them.  Butler sent a telegram to Governor Andrew informing him of their plans and to request that Cook’s flying artillery be sent on immediately, for he judged that they would be needing more firepower.

Devereux and the captain of the Allen Guard took their companies to the Broad Street station (for the PWB RR), arriving there at 2 am, the morning of April 20. There they found the 7th NYNG regiment already aboard the cars. And waited.

Butler met with Colonel Lefferts of the 7th NY and tried all morning long to convince him to accompany his regiment, even to the extent of pulling rank. But Lefferts ultimately refused, and removed his men from the cars for he had decided to take ship from Philadelphia to go around by water to Washington.  There was an unspoken rivalry between the two as to who would reach Washington first.

The rest of the 8th regiment finally joined the Zouaves and Company K at the station around 11 am.  And together they set off into the unknown future.

ET in the City of Brotherly Love

ET in the City of Brotherly Love

From Jersey City, the 8th MVM boarded the cars of the Camden and Amboy railroad. The officers passed through the cars, inspecting the men and their weapons. And admonished them to be prepared.  Along the route, people took impromptu holidays from their work to throng the stations to greet them and see them on their way.
At 5 pm they arrived in Camden and there boarded the ferry to Philadelphia.
When the ferry docked the crowd was so heavy that even the police could not clear a path for the regiment.  The crowd overflowed onto the tops of the buildings lining the streets. The soldiers could only make their way single file through the welcoming crush.
The people of Philadelphia were particularly glad to see the boys from Massachusetts because the news out of Baltimore was very scary. The Sixth regiment MVM had passed through Philadelphia the day before (one day in advance of the 8th).  So at the time that the 8th was in New York and New Jersey, the Sixth was attempting to pass through Baltimore from one station on the east side to the B & O RR on the west.  In the midst of their advance some street toughs with Southern sympathies assaulted them with rocks  and brickbats. When the dust cleared four soldiers of the Sixth lay dead.
And the mayor of Baltimore consequently ordered that the city be closed to the further passage of troops.  Zealots from Baltimore taking that cue went out and burned the railroad bridges leading to the city.
What was General Butler and the 8th going to do?