Stewart, Cornelius Baskins (Corporal)

Alternate Spellings of Surname: Stewart, Stuart

 

Born in Pennsylvania in 1843, Cornelius Baskins Stewart was the son of James Stewart, a native of Scotland, and Pennsylvania native Elizabeth Stewart. In 1850, Cornelius B. Stewart resided in Penn Township, Perry County, Pennsylvania with his parents, his eight-year-old sister, Elizabeth, and his paternal grandmother, 60-year-old Margaret Stewart.

After working for the family of William Boyer sometime around and during 1860, he became a boatman on Duncan’s Island in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where he also resided – at the age of 19 – at the dawn of the Civil War.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-14 April 1861 (Currier & Ives, public domain).

The bombardment of Fort Sumter 12-14 April 1861 (Currier & Ives, public domain).

Civil War – Three Months’ Service

Cornelius Baskins Stewart became one of the earliest Pennsylvanians to respond to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for troops to help defend the nation’s capital after Fort Sumter’s fall to Confederate forces. Enrolling for military service at Lykens in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania in April 1861, he mustered in on 26 April 1861 at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg in Dauphin County as a Private with Company F, 10th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Following training at Camp Curtin, the men of the 10th Pennsylvania were ordered to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; they were stationed there from 1 May to 8 June 1861. From there, they moved to Newcastle, where they were encamped until 16 June. Attached to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in Major-General Robert Patterson’s Army, Private Cornelius B. Stewart participated with his fellow 10th Pennsylvanians in the occupation of Martinsburg, Virginia on 3 July 1861 and the advance on Bunker Hill on 15 July.

Ordered to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, the regiment made its way back to Pennsylvania where, after completing his Three Months’ Service, Private Cornelius B. Stewart honorably mustered out with his regiment at Camp Curtin on 31 July 1861.

Camp Curtin (Harpers Weekly, 1861; public domain).

Camp Curtin (Harper’s Weekly, 1861; public domain).

Three Years’ Service – 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers

Cornelius B. Stewart promptly re-upped for service, re-enrolling for a three-year term at Bloomfield in Perry County on 20 August 1861. Mustering in again for duty at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg under Captain Henry Durant Woodruff on 31 August – this time Cornelius Stewart was awarded the rank of Corporal with Company D of the newly formed 47th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Military records at this time described him as a 19-year-old carpenter residing in Benvenue, Dauphin County.

Following a brief light infantry training period, Captain Woodruff and his company were sent by train with the 47th Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. where they were stationed at “Camp Kalorama” on Kalorama Heights near Georgetown, about two miles from the White House, beginning 21 September. The next day, Company C Musician Henry D. Wharton penned the following update for the Sunbury American newspaper:

After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett [sic] of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.

After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.

As part of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company D became part of the federal service when it officially mustered into  the U.S. Army on 24 September. On September 27, a rainy, drill-free day which permitted many of the men to read or write letters home, the 47th Pennsylvania was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of W.F. Smith’s Army of the Potomac. That afternoon, they marched to the Potomac River’s eastern side and, after arriving at Camp Lyon, Maryland, charged double-quick over a chain bridge before moving on toward Fall’s Church, Virginia.

Arriving at Camp Advance at dusk, they pitched their tents in a deep ravine about two miles from the bridge they had just crossed, near a new federal military facility under construction (Fort Ethan Allen). Armed with Mississippi rifles supplied by the Keystone State, they would join with their regiment, the 3rd Brigade and Smith’s Army of the Potomac in defending the nation’s capital until January when the 47th Pennsylvania would be ordered to duty in the Deep South.

On October 11, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers marched in the Grand Review at Bailey’s Cross Roads after having been ordered with the 3rd Brigade to Camp Griffin. In a letter home in mid-October, Captain John Peter Shindel Gobin (the leader of C Company who would be promoted in 1864 to lead the entire 47th Regiment) reported that companies D, A, C, F and I (the 47th Pennsylvania’s right wing) were ordered to picket duty after the left wing companies (B, G, K, E, and H) had been forced to return to camp by Confederate  troops.

On Friday morning, 22 October 1861, the 47th engaged in a Divisional Review, described by historian Lewis Schmidt as massing “about 10,000 infantry, 1000 cavalry, and twenty pieces of artillery all in one big open field.” On 21 November, the 47th participated in a morning divisional headquarters review by Colonel Tilghman H. Good, followed by brigade and division drills all afternoon. According to Schmidt, “each man was supplied with ten blank cartridges.” Afterward, “Gen. Smith requested Gen. Brannan to inform Col. Good that the 47th was the best regiment in the whole division.”

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

Springfield rifle, 1861 model (public domain).

As a reward for their performance that day – and in preparation for the even bigger events which were yet to come, Brigadier-General Brannan directed his subordinates to ensure that brand new Springfield rifles were purchased for every member of the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

1862

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida, Harper's Weekly, 1864 (public domain).

Rendering of Fort Taylor, Key West, Florida, Harper’s Weekly, 1864 (public domain).

Ordered to move from their Virginia encampment back to Maryland, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers left Camp Griffin at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 January 1862, marching through deep mud with their equipment for three miles in order to reach the railroad station at Fall’s Church. Sent by rail to Alexandria, they then sailed the Potomac via the steamship City of Richmond to the Washington Arsenal, where they were reequipped before they were marched off for dinner and rest at the Soldiers’ Retreat in Washington, D.C. The next afternoon, the 47th Pennsylvanians hopped railcars on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and headed for Annapolis, Maryland. Arriving around 10 p.m., they were assigned quarters in barracks at the Naval Academy. They then spent that Friday through Monday (24-27 January 1862) loading their equipment and other supplies onto the steamship Oriental.

By the afternoon of Monday, 27 January 1862, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers had commenced boarding the Oriental. Ferried to the big steamship by smaller steamers, the enlisted men boarded first, followed by their superior officers. Then, per the directive of Brigadier-General Brannan, the Oriental steamed away for the Deep South at 4 p.m. They were headed for Florida which, despite its secession from the Union, remained strategically important to the Union due to the presence of Forts Taylor and Jefferson in Key West and the Dry Tortugas.

In early February 1862, Company D and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers arrived in Key West, where they were assigned to garrison Fort Taylor and drilled daily in heavy artillery tactics and other military strategies. On 14 February, the regiment made itself known to area residents via a parade through the city’s streets.

From mid-June through July, the 47th was ordered to Hilton Head, South Carolina where the men made camp before being housed in the Department of the South’s Beaufort District. Picket duties north of the 3rd Brigade’s camp were commonly rotated among the regiments present there at the time, putting soldiers at risk from sniper fire and other hazards. According to historian Samuel P. Bates the men of the 47th “received the highest commendation from Generals Hunter and Brannan” for their “attention to duty, discipline and soldierly bearing.”

Illustration of the Union Navy's base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

Illustration of the Union Navy’s base of operations, Mayport Mills, circa 1862 (public domain).

Sent on a return expedition to Florida, Company D saw its first truly intense moments when it participated with the 47th Pennsylvania and other Union regiments in the Battle of Saint John’s Bluff from 1 to 3 October. Led by Brigadier-General Brannan, a 1,500-plus Union force disembarked at Mayport Mills and Mount Pleasant Creek from troop carriers guarded by Union gunboats. Taking point, the 47th led the 3rd Brigade through 25 miles of dense, pine forested swamps populated with deadly snakes and alligators. By the time the expedition ended, the brigade had forced the Confederate Army to abandon its artillery battery atop Saint John’s Bluff, and had paved the way for the Union to occupy the town of Jacksonville, Florida.

From 21-23 October, under the brigade and regimental commands of Colonel Tilghman H. Good and Lieutenant Colonel George W. Alexander, the 47th engaged Confederate forces in and around Pocotaligo, South Carolina. Landing at Mackey’s Point, the men of the 47th were placed on point once again, but they and the 3rd Brigade were less fortunate this time.

The Union soldiers grappled with the Confederates where they found them, pursuing the Rebels for four miles as they retreated to the bridge. There, the 47th relieved the 7th Connecticut. But the enemy was just too well armed. After two hours of intense fighting in an attempt to take the ravine and bridge, depleted ammunition forced the 47th to withdraw to Mackey’s Point.

Losses for the 47th were significant. Two officers and 18 enlisted men died; two officers and another 114 enlisted were wounded. Several resting places for men from the 47th still remain unidentified, the information lost to the sloppy records of Army Quartermaster and hospital personnel, or to the trauma-impaired memories of soldiers who hastily buried or were forced to leave behind the bodies of comrades upon receiving orders to retreat.

U.S. General Hospital, Hilton Head, South Carolina, c. 1861-1865. Built facing the ocean/Port Royal Bay (Broad River). Hospital medical director's residence, left foreground. Source: Library of Congress, public domain.

U.S. General Hospital, Hilton Head, South Carolina, c. 1861-1865. Built facing the ocean/Port Royal Bay (Broad River). Hospital medical director’s residence, left foreground. Source: Library of Congress, public domain.

Corporal Cornelius B. Stewart was one of those wounded in action during the Battle of Pocotaligo on 22 October 1862. Initially treated in the field, he was moved to the Union Army’s hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina for more advanced care. Remaining there for nearly two months, he was sent back to his regiment on 15 December 1862, where he continued to recuperate from his injuries.

1863

By 1863, Captain Woodruff and most of the men of D Company were once again based with the 47th Pennsylvania in Florida. Having been ordered back to Key West on 15 November of 1862, much of 1863 was spent guarding federal installations in Florida as part of the 10th Corps, Department of the South. Companies A, B, C, E, G, and I garrisoned Fort Taylor in Key West while Companies D, F, H, and K garrisoned Fort Jefferson in Florida’s Dry Tortugas. Men from the 47th were also sent on skirmishes and to Fort Myers, which had been abandoned in 1858 after the third U.S. war with the Seminole Indians. As before, disease was a constant companion and foe.

Corporal Cornelius B. Stewart, however, was not officially returned to active duty until 1 March 1863 after recuperating from the wounds he sustained while fighting in the Battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina on 22 October 1862.

1864

On 25 February 1864, D Company men and their fellow 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers set off for a phase of service in which the regiment would truly make history. Steaming first for New Orleans via the Charles Thomas, the 47th arrived at Algiers, Louisiana on 28 February, and were then shipped by train to Brashear City. Following another steamer ride – to Franklin via the Bayou Teche – the 47th joined the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division of the Department of the Gulf’s 19th Army Corps. In short order, the 47th would become the only Pennsylvania regiment to serve in the Red River Campaign of Union General Nathaniel Banks.

From 14-26 March, the 47th passed through New Iberia, Vermillionville, Opelousas, and Washington while en route to Alexandria and Natchitoches. Often short on food and water, the regiment encamped briefly at Pleasant Hill the night of 7 April before continuing on the next day, marching until mid-afternoon.

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield (8 April 1864, public domain).

19th U.S. Army Map, Phase 3, Battle of Sabine Cross Roads/Mansfield (8 April 1864, public domain).

Rushed into battle ahead of other regiments in the 2nd Division, 60 members of the 47th were cut down on 8 April during the volley of fire unleashed by both sides during the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. The fighting waned only when darkness fell. Exhausted, those who were uninjured  collapsed beside the gravely wounded. After midnight, the surviving Union troops withdrew to Pleasant Hill.

The next day, the 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers were ordered into a critically important defensive position at the far right of the Union lines, their right flank spreading up onto a high bluff. By 3 p.m., after enduring a midday charge by the troops of Confederate General Richard Taylor (a plantation owner and son of Zachary Taylor, former President of the United States), the brutal fighting still showed no signs of ending. Suddenly, just as the 47th was shifting to the left side of the massed Union forces, the men of the 47th Pennsylvania were  forced to bolster the 165th New York’s buckling lines by blocking another Confederate assault.

Casualties were once again severe. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander was nearly killed, and the regiment’s two color bearers, both from Company C, were also wounded while preventing the regimental flag from falling into enemy hands. Private Ephraim Clouser of Company D was shot in his right knee, and Corporals Isaac Baldwin and Cornelius B. Stewart were also wounded.

This public domain image of Minie balls, created by Mike Crumpston in 2008, shows the size of the objects which pierced the bodies of so many Union soldiers during the Civil War.

This public domain image of Minie balls, created by Mike Crumpston in 2008, shows the size of the objects which pierced the bodies of so many Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Having sustained a gunshot wound to the right hip, during which time a Minie ball was propelled through and out from his body, Corporal Cornelius B. Stewart was again treated by Union Army medical personnel and survived – again. After another period of convalescence – his second since being wounded earlier at the Battle of Potocaligo in 1862 – he returned to his regiment and continued to fight once again.

Beginning 16 May, most of D Company moved with the 47th from Simmsport across the Atchafalaya to Morganza. On the 4th of July, they learned their fight was far from over.

Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Still able and willing to fight after their time in Bayou country, the soldiers of Company D and their fellow members of the 47th Pennsylvania’s Companies A, C, E, F, H, and I boarded the McClellan and steamed away for the East Coast.

Following their arrival in Virginia and a memorable encounter with President Abraham Lincoln, they then joined Major-General David Hunter’s forces in the fighting at Snicker’s Gap and, once again, assisted in defending Washington, D.C. while also helping to drive Confederate troops from Maryland.

Attached to the Middle Military Division, Army of the Shenandoah beginning in August, early and mid-September saw the departure of several 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers who had served honorably, including Company D’s Captain Henry Woodruff, 1st Lieutenant Samuel Auchmuty, Sergeants Henry Heikel and Alex Wilson, and Corporals Samuel A. M. Reed and Cornelius B. Stewaart. All mustered out at Berryville, Virginia on 18 September 1864 upon expiration of their service terms.

Return to Civilian Life

Following his honorable discharge from the military, twice- wounded Cornelius Baskins Stewart returned home to Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. There, in Rockville, on 16 May 1865, he wed Pennsylvania native Sarah E. Clendenin (born sometime around 1845).

In 1870, Cornelius Stewart was employed as a carpenter and residing with his wife, Sarah, in Newport in Oliver Township, Perry County, Pennsylvania, along with their Pennsylvania-born children: Margaret Stewart (“Maggie,” born sometime around 1868) and James W. Stewart (born in April 1870). Sadie Boyer, a 17-year-old dressmaker was also residing with the family at this time.

By 1880, Cornelius Stewart was employed as a shop foreman and residing with Sarah in Harrisburg, Dauphin County with two additional daughters, May (born sometime around 1872) and Naomi (born sometime around 1875). Daughter Maggie also appeared on the federal census for this year, but son James did not. Maggie Welker, a 22-year-old cousin of Cornelius Stewart, was also a member of the household at this time.

A resident of Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in 1890, he was employed by the Westinghouse Company’s United Switch & Signal Works. An active member of his church, he also served as a member of Wilkinsburg’s borough council.

Cornelius B. Stewart died 30 years to the day after he had been wounded in battle for the second time, passing away at 5:35 a.m. in his Wilkinsburg,Pennsylvania home on 9 April 1894 (the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana) after suffering a paralyzing stroke. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported his death in its 10 April 1894 edition as follows:

Cornelius B. Stewart died at his home on Centre street, Wilkinsburg, yesterday aged 55 years. His death was caused by a stroke of paralysis. Mr. Stewart was assistant manager of the United Switch & Signal Works of the Westinghouse Company at Swissvale. The deceased stood high in the esteem of the citizens of Wilkinsburg and had represented the Second ward in the borough council. He was a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal church and was a prominent figure in Masonic circles. A wife and three daughters survive him.

The same newspaper noted his time of death in its follow-up coverage the next day.

This American hero was laid to rest at the Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

 

Sources:

1. Bates, Samuel  P. History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: 1869.

2. Cornelius B. Stewart (obituary and funeral notice), in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh: 10-11 April 1894.

3. Civil War Veterans Card File. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania State Archives.

4. Schmidt, Lewis. A Civil War History of the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers. Allentown: Self-published, 1986.

5. U.S. Census (1850, 1870, 1880) and U.S. Veterans’ Schedule (1890). Washington, D.C.

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