Archive for May, 2013

Casualties of War

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

This image of an unknown dead boy is said to have been taken in the defenses around Petersburg, Virginia, which came under attack June 15, 1864.  This led to a siege lasting for over nine months.

Clarence McKensie, 12, was a drummer for Company D 13th New York State militia.  He played for the Prince of Wales’ reception in October 1860.  After the attack on Fort Sumpter, his unit was sent to Annapolis, Maryland.  While in his quarters with his back against the wall, a gun was fired accidentally from the outside.  The bullet passed through the wall, into his back, out through his stomach, and into a facing brick wall.  He died two hours later.

Edwin Francis Jemmison, 15, was a Confederate soldier in the 2nd Louisiana Infantry.  Having enlisted July 1, 1862, he was part of a charge against the Union defenses at the Battle of Malvern Hill during the Union retreat in the Peninsula Campaign.  Edwin was one of 182 killed and wounded.  He died by the end of the day.

Benjamin Knox, 15, was a private in Company H 20th Ohio Infantry.  During the attack on Atlanta, he was shot in the Atlanta trenches and died in company quarters a short time later.

William Black, a 12-year-old drummer, was wounded in his left hand and arm by an exploding shell.

Willie Lawn, 10, is identified only as a soldier.  He was wounded near Suffolk, Virginia, April 23, 1863, and lost part of his right arm.

Rashio Crane, 15, was a drummer for Company D, 7th Wisconsin.  He was captured May 5, 1864, in the Wilderness while helping a wounded comrade.  Rashio was sent to Andersonville Prison where he died July 23, 1864.

next:  more Medal of Honor


Journey Into Darkness

Friday, May 17th, 2013


The stories of boys who were in the war will be presented by the author at:

Prelude to Gettysburg at Columbia, 9-4, June 29,2013

Honey Brook Library, 6-7 PM Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Landis Valley Museum Civil War Living History the weekend of July 27-28, 2013

Pequea Valley Library Civil War event, in Intercourse, Saturday, August 3, 2013

George Washington Timmons/Stone

Saturday, May 11th, 2013




Morning Star, May 20, 2001, pg. 20

 This article is dedicated to the memory of our Civil War veterans buried in Riverside Cemetery as we approach Memorial Day. Albion’s participation in the Civil War was intense, as hundreds of area men went off to war to fight for the Union. There are numerous stories about Albion individuals who served in the War Between the States. These next two weeks I’d like to feature an incredible story about one of them, George Washington Stone, Albion’s “Little Drummer Boy.”

George’s original name was George W. Timmons. Born in New Berne (Craven Co.), North Carolina on August 27, 1849, his father, Captain William Timmons was involved in the West Indies trade. His mother was an Irish Catholic and the couple had serious religious differences, no doubt concerning the religious training of their two boys and one daughter. The couple separated and the mother took the kids to New York, attempting to find employment there. Unfortunately things did not work out and George was found homeless on the streets by the Children’s Aid Society.  Soon George, at age 8, and his brother Joe and 31 other waifs were loaded on an 1857 “Orphan Train” which went west through Michigan and stopped at Albion.

George and his brother Joe were chosen and adopted by Simeon A. (1795-1865) and Martha (1794-1860) Stone, and their surname Timmons was changed to Stone. The Stones (who are buried in East Eckford Cemetery) were elderly farmers who owned 120 acres of land on the southwest corner of B Drive South and 24 Mile Road, near the Warner School. In those days, there were no child labor laws, and adopted “Orphan Train” children often worked long hours on the farm for their adoptive parents. George should not be confused with the 19th century Albion dentist of the same name, Dr. George W. Stone, who was a totally different person and unrelated.

George was befriended by Albion dry goods merchant George N. Davis (1834-1916) who became a lifelong friend. The Civil War began. Davis served as Captain of Company D of the First Michigan Sharpshooters regiment, and recruited George as musician/drummer on March 6, 1863. Stone was only 13 years old at the time! This was allowed under special rules that permitted persons under 18 to join as musicians/drummers if they had their parents permission. George actually ran away from home however, in order to join. Thus he was Albion’s “Little Drummer Boy” in the Civil War!

The Michigan Sharpshooters served gallantly throughout the War, much of it in Virginia. This was the same outfit that General William Henry Harrison Beadle (buried in Albion’s Riverside Cemetery) was a part of. The 1998 book by Raymond J. Herek (Wayne State University Press) “These Men Have Seen Hard Service” gives a detailed account of the Sharpshooters, and makes mention of Stone and Davis.

Stone was well liked by his fellow comrades, and they helped him to learn to read and write by bringing him books. George served throughout the war until his muster out in July, 1865. Despite several illnesses, he missed only one engagement (that due to furlough) and was recognized for meritorious conduct. Although assigned the duty as a drummer, Stone “was the bravest child that man ever saw. Whenever a fight began, Stone always shucked his drum and under some pretense or other shouldered his way into the front rank where he could pick up a Springfield [rifle].” (Herek pg. 138) In one battle he fought on the front line and helped assist Colonel Charles DeLand of Jackson. Stone was also involved in the siege of Petersburg, Virginia through the last week of the war. Years later, Stone and two other comrades went back in 1899 to return the “Petersburg Grays” unit flag that the Sharpshooters had captured in 1865 as a war trophy.

In a twist of fate, one time during the War George received a needle case as part of a “care package” sent by Union women supporters in Pennsylvania. In it was a generic handwritten note by a girl to the Union soldier who would receive the case. After corresponding, this girl turned out to be George’s long lost sister!

From our Historical Notebook this week we present an 1865 photograph of 15 year-old George W. Stone in uniform in the Civil War, alongside of his drum. Photograph courtesy State Archives in Lansing.

Next:  Casualties of War


Charlie Coulson A Drummer Boy: A True Story in the American Civil War by Max Louis Rossvally

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

TWO or three times in my life God in His mercy touched my heart, and twice before my conversion I was under deep conviction.

During the American war, I was a surgeon in the United States army; and after the battle of Gettysburg, there were many hundred wounded soldiers in my hospital, amongst whom were twenty-eight who had been wounded so severely that they required my services at once, –some whose legs had to be amputated; some, their arms; and others, both their arm and leg. One of the latter was a boy who had been but three months in the service; and being too young for a soldier, had enlisted as a drummer. When my assistant surgeon and one of my stewards wished to administer chloroform previous to the amputation, he turned his head aside and positively refused to receive it. When the steward told him that it was the doctor’s orders, he said, “Send the doctor to me.” When I came to his bedside, I said, “Young man, why do you refuse chloroform? When I found you on the battle-field, you were so far gone that I thought it hardly worth while to pick you up; but when you opened those large blue eye! s, I thought you had a mother somewhere who might at that moment be thinking of her boy. I did not want you to die on the field, so ordered you to be brought here; but you have now lost so much blood that you are too weak to endure an operation without chloroform, therefore you had better let me give you some.” He laid his hand on mine, and looking me in the face, said,–

“Doctor, one Sunday afternoon, in the Sabbath-school, when I was nine and a half years old, I gave my heart to Christ. I learned to trust Him then; I have been trusting Him ever since, and I can trust Him now; He is my strength and my stimulant; He will support me while you amputate my arm and leg.”

“Won’t you at least take some brandy?” I begged.

Again, he looked at me and said, “Doctor, when I was about five years old, my mother knelt by my side with her arms around my neck and said: ‘Charlie, I am now praying to the Lord Jesus that you will never know the taste of strong drink. Your father died a drunkard, and I’ve asked God to use you to warn young people against the dangers of drinking.’ I am now seventeen years old and I have never had anything stronger than tea or coffee. I am in all probability going to die and go into the presence of my God. Would you send me there, smelling of brandy?”

I will never forget the look he gave me. At that time I hated Jesus, but I respected that boy’s loyalty to his Saviour. When I saw how he loved and trusted Him to the very end, something deeply touched my heart. Despite the urgency of the moment and all the misery around, I did for that boy what I had never done for any other soldier. I asked him if he wanted to see a chaplain.

“Oh, yes, sir!” was his answer.

When the chaplain came, he recognized the young drummer from his tent prayer meetings. Taking his hand, he said, “Charlie, I’m so sorry to see you in this sad condition.”

“Oh, I’m all right, sir,” he answered. “The doctor offered me chloroform, but I declined it. Then he wanted to give me brandy, which I didn’t want either. So now, when my Saviour calls me, I can go to Him in my right mind.”

“You might not die, Charlie,” said the chaplain, “but if the Lord should call you home, is there anything I can do for you after you’re gone?”

“Chaplain, please put your hand under my pillow and take my little Bible. In it you will find my mother’s address; please send it to her, and write a letter, and tell her that since the day I left home I have never let a day pass without reading a portion of God’s Word, and daily praying that God would bless my dear mother,– no matter whether on the march, on the battle-field or in the hospital.”

“Is there any thing else that I can do for you, my lad?” asked the chaplain.

“Yes; please write a letter to the superintendent of the Sands Street Sunday School, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and tell him that the kind words, many prayers, and good advice he gave me I have never forgotten; they have followed me through all the dangers of battle, and now, in my dying hour, I ask my Saviour to bless and strengthen my dear old teacher: that is all.”

Turning toward me, he said, “Now doctor, I am ready; and I promise you that I will not even groan while you take off my arm and leg, if you will not offer me chloroform.”

I promised, but I had not the courage to take the knife in my hand to perform the operation without first going into the next room and taking a little stimulant to nerve myself to perform my duty.

While cutting through the flesh, Charlie Coulson never groaned, but when I took the saw to separate the bone, the lad took the corner of his pillow in his mouth, and all that I could hear him utter was, “Oh, Jesus, blessed Jesus, stand by me now.” He kept his promise, and never groaned.

I couldn’t sleep that night. Despite the constant moans and weeping of the wounded, all I could see was Charlie’s soft blue eyes. Even his words, “Blessed Jesus, stand by me now,” kept ringing in my ears. Between twelve and one o’clock, a strong urge came over me to see that boy again. When I got there, I was told that sixteen of the badly wounded had died. “Was Charlie Colson one of them?” I asked. “No, sir,” answered the steward, “he’s sleeping as sweetly as a babe.”

When I came to his side, one of the civilian nurses informed me that at about nine o’clock, two members of the U.S. Christian Commission, accompanied by the chaplain, came to read Scripture and sing hymns. She said that the chaplain knelt by Charlie and offered up a passionate prayer. Then they and Charlie sang the sweetest of all hymns, “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul.” I couldn’t understand how this young lad, who suffered such horrible pain, could sing.

Five days after his amputation, Charlie sent for me. “Doctor,” he said, “my time has come. I don’t expect to see another sunrise. But thank God, I have no fear and I’m ready to go. I want to thank you with all my heart for your kindness to me. I know you are Jewish, and that you don’t believe in Jesus, but I want you to stay with me, and see me die trusting my Saviour to the last moment of my life.”

I tried to stay, but I could not. I didn’t have the courage to stand by and watch a true Christian die, rejoicing in the love of Jesus whom I had been taught to deny. So, I hurriedly left.

About twenty minutes later an anxious steward found me and said, “Doctor, Drummer Colson wants to see you again.” “I’ve just seen him,” I answered, “I can’t see him again.” “But, Doctor, he says he must see you before he dies.”

So, I made up my mind to see him, say a few kind words, and let him die. However, I was determined that no talk about his Jesus was going to influence me.

His condition had worsened. Asking me to take his hand, he said, “Doctor, I love you because you are Jewish; the best friend I have found in this world was also Jewish.”

I asked him who that was, and he answered, “Jesus the Christ, and I want to introduce you to Him before I die. Will you promise me, Doctor, that what I am about to say to you, you will never forget?”

I promised, and he said, “Five days ago, while you operated on me, I prayed to the Lord to save you.”

His words pierced deep into my heart. I couldn’t understand how, when I was causing him the most intense pain, he could forget all about himself and think only of his Saviour and my spiritual need. All I could say at the moment was, “Well, my dear boy, you will soon be all right.”

I started to leave, hearing him sing softly, “I’m going home to die no more.”

Twelve minutes later he fell asleep, “safe in the arms of Jesus.”

Hundreds of soldiers died in my hospital during the war, but I only followed one to the grave, and that one was Charlie Coulson, the drummer-boy, and I rode three miles to see him buried. I ordered that he’d be dressed in a new uniform and like the burial for an officer, placed in an officer’s coffin, and arranged that his coffin be covered with the flag he nobly served.

His dying words made a deep impression upon me. I remembered thinking how gladly I would have given all I possessed, if I could have felt towards Jesus as he did. But with the continuation of the cruel war and my company with worldly officers, I gradually forgot his prayer and my promise.

After the war and for nearly ten years, I fought against believing in Christ. But God continued to bring faithful and godly people into my life that spoke of Jesus’ love. Finally, the drummer boy’s prayer was answered and I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and Messiah. It did come at a high cost. My family, in-laws and dear mother rejected me. Psalm 27:10, was a great comfort, “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”

It was eighteen months after my salvation that the Lord had a special blessing for me. One evening while traveling through Brooklyn, I felt led to attend a prayer meeting in a small local church. It was a meeting when believers testify to the loving-kindness of the Lord. After several had spoken, an elderly lady stood up and said,

“Dear friends, this may be the last time I have a chance to publicly share how good the Lord has been to me. My doctor told me yesterday that my right lung is nearly gone, and my left lung is failing fast, so at best, I only have a short time to be with you. But what is left of me belongs to Jesus. It’s a great joy to know that I shall soon meet my boy with Jesus in heaven. My son was not only a soldier for his country, but also a soldier for Christ. He was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, and was cared for by a Jewish doctor, who amputated his arm and leg. He died five days after the operation. The chaplain of the regiment wrote me a letter, and sent me my boy’s Bible. I was told that in his dying hour, my Charlie sent for that Jewish doctor, and said to him, `Doctor, before I die I wish to tell you that five days ago, while you operated on me, I prayed to the Lord to save you.”

As I heard this lady speak, I just couldn’t sit still! I left my seat, ran across the room, took her hand and said, “God bless you, my dear sister. Your son’s prayer has been heard and answered! I am the Jewish doctor that your Charlie prayed for, and his Saviour is now my Saviour!

“Having been frequently asked whether all the details of this story are strictly true, I take this opportunity of stating that every incident occurred exactly as related.” Max L. Rossvally

next: George Washington Timmons/Stone