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.

The Curious Case of L B Foster Pt 2

The Curious Case of L B Foster (pt 2)

Lyman Beecher Foster was appointed to the US Naval Academy from the state of Maine by Congressman Israel Washburn jr., a founding member of the then new Republican Party. Lyman had lived since his birth in 1841 in Orono, Maine. His father Cony Foster had successful businesses there and served the community regularly, holding many town offices, which included a 25 year stint as Justice of the Peace. Both sides of Lyman’s family were New Englanders of long standing, so it is particularly odd where he ended up.

He reported to the Academy on Sept 24, 1856 and passed both the medical and academic tests. Throughout his first year, he accumulated remarkably few demerits, a total of 43 which was reduced further to 23 when the Superintendent of the Academy ordered 20 removed. (This is the year he carelessly set fire to the bedding in the hospital noted in a former post). I have not located his academic records, but they must have been subpar for he is still listed in the fourth class for the 1857-58 school year, indicating in the parlance of the day that he had been “turned back.”

He did better repeating his plebe year, at the end ranking 27th in a class of 91 middies, and passed into the Third Class for the 1858-59 year. However, his demerits increased five fold to 112, including many tobacco infractions (smoking, chewing, and permitting others to do so).

By the end of his Third Class year he only ranked 44th out of 50, and was allowed to resign. His demerits had increased also (up to 161), of which three were violations of the regulations governing the academy. One of these states rather cryptically “Throwing torpedoes into No 4 Bldg.” I’m still scratching my head over that one.

Rather than return to Maine, he went to live with his older brother Charles Henry Foster, who was then editor of a newspaper in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. He settled right in, and once Sumter was fired upon in 1861, he remained aligned with his new country. In fact, he travelled to Charleston to volunteer there, but then returned to his new home and enlisted in a North Carolina unit. After recovering from a severe wound received in 1862, he transferred to the Confederate Navy in 1863, and served faithfully until the end of the war.

Lyman felt so strong about his new home, that he changed his middle name to Livingston, which was that of a treasured friend. Beecher was a hated name in the slave states, for Lyman Beecher was the name of a famous Presbyterian preacher and abolitionist, and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe who was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Naval Research

The Curious Case of L B Foster (pt 1)

I have been doing research on the ante bellum era Naval Academy in Annapolis for over a decade now. I keep databases of the individuals who were at the Academy compiled from various sources.

Recently I have been entering the data from the Naval Academy hospital records – recording the name of the individual – the date and reason for admittance – and the date for his discharge. I was working on the page of 1857 entries with names beginning with “F,” and came down to “Foster, L. B”. Midshipman Lyman Beecher Foster is an interesting individual, but I’ll cover more details on him later.

I had already made several entries for Midshipman Foster for the following ailments: Odontalgia, Constipation, Intermittent Fever, and now a curious entry on May 21st 1857 for Cephalalgia.  By this time the term was not unfamiliar to me, as I had to look it up when working on the “A”s. (It’s a headache, by the way). What was odd, however, there was no discharge date. There was a month – May, but no date. Now the thought occurred to me that maybe there was a missing ditto mark on Foster’s line to an ailment listed for the individual on the line above – but the line above also was missing the date. On the line below (for May 29th), Foster’s name again is recorded for another bout of Cephalalgia. He was discharged the next day for this instance, so one day, like we should expect, would be a normal turn around for this ailment. I could surmise then, that the May 21st admittance was followed by a discharge on the 22nd.

I decided to look up Foster in some other records with dates. It’s nice to compare or rather conflate records from other sources to get a better picture of what may have happened. In the register of delinquencies, an incident is recorded for May 29th 1857, Dr Sharp gave Foster six demerits for “Carelessly setting fire to bedding in Hospital.”

Was the headache that bad?

That wasn’t my first thought though. Knowing that a good proportion of demerits were given for tobacco use (forbidden according to the regulations), I thought a lit pipe may have been the culprit. But then again if it had, Foster would have gotten demerits for tobacco too. An accident with a kerosene lamp? Most likely not. The Academy was fitted out for gas lighting back then. Foster would have had to have held up his bedding at a good height to catch it on fire. A dropped match? Definitely careless. But what would he have been trying to light? Tobacco that he had successfully hidden from the doctor? The gas lamp? Or…

Proving that sometimes answers to questions lead to more questions.