The Midshipman Who Wasn’t There – Thomas Theodore Turner

The Midshipman Who Wasn’t There T T Turner

I have researched 400 plus candidates who came to the Naval Academy between the years of 1857 and 1861, (both those who were accepted and those who failed either the academic or the medical exam).

In the course of running down what had happened afterwards to the successful candidates, I ran into numerous instances of obits and histories (family ones, written years later) that claimed such and such an individual graduated from the USNA. But according to government records, he hadn’t. Assumptions had been made that since ‘he’ was there – ‘he’ was a graduate.

The instances are almost too numerous to tally (a project for another day, perhaps). I was surprised then to come across a claim by an historian that one midshipman had not been there, whom I knew to have been there.

It happened early on when I was trying to winnow down the details behind the life of Thomas Theodore Turner.  Turner was appointed to the US Naval Academy from the first congressional district of Missouri in 1859.

One of my online researches turned up a reference in a book edited by Terry L Jones – “Campbell Brown’s Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia.” The explanatory footnote for the individual mentioned in the diary on page 63 reads:

“Thomas Theodore Turner, of Baltimore, was eighteen years old and had received some military training in European schools and the Virginia Military Institute.  He accepted an appointment to the US Naval Academy when the war began but never attended. Turner also refused an offer by Brigadier General William T Sherman, a close friend of Turner’s father, to secure him a lieutenant’s commission in the 7th US Cavalry.  Instead, Turner apparently joined the Confederate navy but then resigned his naval commission and joined Ewell’s staff in the fall of 1861 as a volunteer aide.  Upon the recommendation of Ewell, Johnston, and Stuart, Turner was appointed first lieutenant on April 29, 1862, and was assigned to Ewell as aide-de-camp.  He stayed with Ewell for most of the war, was wounded at Spotsylvania in 1864, and was captured along with Ewell and Campbell at Sayler’s Creek on April 6, 1865.  In October 1865, Turner married Campbell’s sister, Hattie.”

This flummoxed me. The only detail that appeared correct was his age when examined. Through further research I was able to ascertain that most of the information could be tied back to my T. T. Turner from Missouri, but not the Baltimore reference, nor the statement that he did not attend.

What I could tell for sure, Thomas Theodore Turner of St Louis MO was at the USNA. I have the date that he appeared before the examination boards and was accepted (11/24/1859), and the pages from the Register of Demerits for 1859-1860 in which his infractions are listed. Then there was all that correspondence from Superintendent Blake about Turner’s dabbling in alcohol in the spring of 1860. The first instance was overlooked and not reported to Isaac Toucey, the Secretary of the Navy, predicated upon a promise from the guilty middie that he would not touch it again. The second time he crossed the line, the report went all the way to the top with details about the first, and much details about the second (which was tied to a third). Evidently Thomas sought to excuse his behavior (to Superintendent Blake’s obvious annoyance) in a sea lawyer fashion by claiming that he had not broken his promise.

“I once gave you my word of honor Sir, that I would never have any thing more to do with liquor on board the ‘Plymouth’ & I have not-“

To his thinking, since he had been found drunk on a cutter “stowed away in her sails,” just hoisted from the water, and NOT on the schoolship Plymouth, his honor was intact.

A subsequent search gave me the answer to the confusion of identity in the Jones book footnote. Here another diary (In the Shadow of the Enemy: The Civil War Journal of Ida Powell Dulany) contained a footnote about the cousins Turner, all with the given name of Thomas (to honor their mutual grandfather). To distinguish them within the family, each one’s locale was appended to their names – ‘Baltimore’ Tom, ‘Kinloch’ Tom (the Virginia family plantation), and our middie – ‘St Louis’ Tom.

Originally Blake had recommended ‘St Louis’ Tom’s dismissal based on his flagrant disregard for the regulations – and for the fact that he should have known better given his age – (at 18 he was one of the oldest members of the plebe class).

Turner had two uncles, both holding the rank of commander in the Navy. One Charles Cocke Turner then posted to the Washington Navy Yard may have lobbied Toucey upon his nephew’s behalf. Toucey wrote Blake and instructed him to supply a fuller explanation about the matter, Thus prompted to take a closer look Blake uncovered a possibility that Turner had not been intoxicated in the first instance.

The upshot was Turner remained in the class completing his plebe year in June, and went on the summer cruise as a member of the Third class. But almost immediately upon his return from the cruise – with the permission of his father, ’St Louis’ Tom Turner tendered his resignation from the naval academy – almost a year after his entrance.

The Puzzle of Midshipman Morgan Lewis Ogden Jr. Part 1

The Puzzle of Midshipman Morgan Lewis Ogden Jr. Part 1

The first puzzle about Midshipman Morgan Lewis Ogden jr. was his appointment from New York state to the US Naval Academy. I only called it into question because his state of birth was listed as Alabama. I thought it might just have been a transcription error on my part, writing down that particular southern state designation meant for another midshipmen. But the designation kept popping up in other records: the NY state census for 1855, and three federal censuses, two for 1860 and one for 1870. (He is listed twice in the 1860 census, once in Annapolis [as Wm L Ogden] and also for Washington DC Ward 1). His father and all his siblings list New York as their birth state. Only Morgan and his mother are different, though her state of Maryland is closer to the New York than his.

This mystery was cleared up by an Ogden family history. His father was down in Mobile Alabama in the 1840’s, working with his brother Charles W. Ogden in a cotton shipping business. There he married Eliza Glendy McLaughlin, and the future midshipman was born a year later. The 1855 NY state census indicates that the family relocated to New York City sometime in 1846. So this put him in the right place for his appointment from the 7th NY Congressional District when he was fifteen and a half.

The family history also brought up some interesting points about his ancestors. Through his father’s mother they are related to the Lewis family of New York. Her uncle was Morgan Lewis (hence their name sake), a soldier in the Revolution and the governor of New York in the early 1800s. And this same Lewis line traces back to Francis Lewis one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Morgan jr.’s naval career was a short one – two years – both of them in the plebe class. The total of his demerits were well below the threshold for dismissal, and were generally of the nature of absences of one form or another (seven the first year and five the next). The more serious ones involved the use of tobacco, either smoking, or the chewing and spitting variety; and one during the school year for intoxication. After this drinking incidence, he must have been called on the carpet, and had to give exacting promises never to repeat the offense.

So what happened?

Like Stephen Austin McCarty referenced in the last research post, Morgan became embroiled in the Foote Outrage. Like McCarty he was dismissed from the service on 4/27/1859, and like McCarty he was reinstated on 5/20/1859 and required to ship out on the USS Plymouth for the summer cruise. It was on this cruise that he again ran afoul of the bottle.

On September 20, 1859, George Blake, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy reported to Isaac Toucey, the Secretary of the Navy:

“The Department directed that the usual
indulgence of leave on shore should not be accorded
to these young gentlemen & it will be seen that in
contempt of this positive order they separated
themselves from Lieut. Carter under whose charge
they were sent on shore at Plymouth [England] on duty &
that Actg Midn Ogden was taken alongside the
ship intoxicated to utter insensibility & in that
condition was lifted on board by sailors.”

And goes on:

“Mr Ogden’s general conduct at the Academy
has been bad.-  He has been once found deficient
in his studies & put back.-  I have had occa-
sion to report him to the Department twice before
to recommend his dismissal last spring in which
recommendation the department concurred.-
Under his most solemn assurances of amendment
I subsequently ventured to suggest his restoration
in which the Department was also pleased
to concur.-  I fully concur with Commander
Craven in earnestly recommending the immediate
dismissal of Actg Midn Ogden.-“

Three days later Morgan received his dismissal from Secretary Toucey. He returned to his family. Which brings us back to the First Ward of the City of Washington in the District of Columbia where the family was living at the time of the 1860 census. Here his father is listed as a lawyer, and Morgan jr. a law student.

When the war came, like McCarty, Morgan joined the army, (the regular army not a state unit) receiving a commission as first lieutenant in the US 18th Infantry. Unlike McCarty he did not make a switch to the navy. Morgan had pretty effectively burnt that bridge. He served along the Mississippi (Vicksburg and Jackson), then on to the Tennessee campaign, followed by that of the move on Atlanta. He was brevetted a captain for his gallant service in the battle of Murfreesboro, in which he was also wounded. The 18th Infantry was part of the US Ninth Army Corps, and he served that organization in the commissary of musters department, i.e. recruiting. The last year of the war he spent in that service, first in Wisconsin, and then in Indianapolis.

After the war, he remained in the US 18th Infantry as it served in the Dakotas against the Sioux. He ended his career in Columbia, South Carolina in 1877, as the 18th was then posted to the Military Department of the South (involved in the reconstruction of the southern states). The ending was not a happy one. He was dismissed from the service by court martial. I do not know what the charges were against him, though I suspect “demon” rum may have reared its ugly head again.

There were a couple of surprises that popped up in my research about Morgan and his family, both touching on Abe Lincoln. When in Indianapolis on recruiting duty, Morgan stood honor guard on April 30, 1865 when the Lincoln funeral train made its stop there on its slow journey to Springfield, Illinois.

He may have met the President earlier in 1861. His little seven year old brother Sydney had. Sydney was about Tad Lincoln’s age, and had been invited over to play “soldier” at the White House. Either Tad or his older brother Willie recruited Sydney into their company – “Mrs. Lincoln’s Zouaves.”

This last item I find particularly fascinating. My third screenplay was about Willie and Tad, and seeing their famous father from their view. The sequel I have planned covers some of the “famous battles” of this unit.