During his Civil War service, Joshua Chamberlain served under, and with, several superior and subordinate commanders. The following are short biographies of these men, in the order in which Chamberlain served with them:
GENERAL ADELBERT AMES
Born: October 31, 1835 - Died April 13, 1933
Adelbert Ames was born in Rockland, ME, and was a sailor in his youth, as a mate on a clipper ship. He entered West Point in 1856, and graduated fifth in his class of May 5, 1861. He joined the artillery as a Lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War, and was badly wounded at the first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), His actions there won him the rank of Brevet Major, and the Medal of Honor.
While recovering from his wound, he remained in the defenses of Washington until the spring of 1862, when he took part in General George B. McClellan's Peninsula Campaign; he was brevetted Lt. Colonel, for his services at Malvern Hill. He led the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry as its Colonel (with Chamberlain as Lt. Colonel) in the Antietam campaign, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
On May 20, 1863, Ames was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers, and commanded a brigade in the Eleventh Corps at Gettysburg. He was in division command at Petersburg in 1864, and was present at the capture of Fort Fisher, NC. Soon afterward, he was brevetted Major General of Volunteers, and promoted to Brigadier General and Major General in the US Regular Army.
In 1868, Ames was appointed Provisional Governor of Mississippi during Reconstruction. He resigned from the army in 1870, to accept election to the US Senate, by the "Carpetbag Legislature" in Mississippi. Four years later, he became Governor, but was offered resignation by the Democratic Legislature, in return for withdrawing Articles of Impeachment. He left Mississippi in 1876, to live in Tewkesbury, MA, and later in Florida. He served in the Spanish-American War in 1898. (Interesting note: He married Blanche Butler -- the daughter of the infamous General Benjamin "The Beast" Butler!)
Ames died on April 13, 1933--the last Union general to die. He is buried in Hildreth Cemetery, Lowell, MA.
COLONEL (LATER BRIGADIER GENERAL) STRONG VINCENT
Born: June 17, 1837 - Died: July 7, 1863
Strong Vincent was born in Waterford, PA, the son of an iron foundry owner. He was educated at Erie (PA) Academy, Trinity College (CT), and Harvard University; he graduated from the last school in 1859. He practiced law in Erie before the Civil War broke out.
When the war began, Vincent volunteered for service in April 1861. From April to July of that year, he served as Lt. and later Adj. of a three-month Pennsylvania unit. He reenlisted for three years on Sept. 21, 1861, and was commissioned Lt. Colonel of the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. He fought with the 83rd at Yorktown, VA, during the Peninsula Campaign, but came down with malaria after the battle at Hanover Courthouse. He was appointed Colonel of the 83rd June 27, 1862, after the death of Colonel J..W. McLane at Gaines' Mill. He did not rejoin the regiment, however, until Fredericksburg in December of 1862, where the 83rd lost 200 men in the battle. The 83rd was only lightly engaged at Chancellorsville in May 1863.
Vincent was appointed to command the Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps of the Army of the Potomac, during the Gettysburg Campaign. He commanded the Brigade during its fight at Little Round Top, July 2, 1863, when he was mortally wounded. He died in a field hospital on July 7, 1863--probably unaware that he had been promoted to Brigadier General.
Vincent is buried in Erie Cemetery, Erie, PA.
COLONEL (LATER BRIGADIER GENERAL) JAMES CLAY RICE
Born: December 27, 1829 - Died: May 10, 1864
James Clay Rice was born in Worthington, MA. He entered Yale University with little formal education, but graduated in 1854. He taught school in Natchez, MS, where he also studied law and ran the Literary Dept. of the local newspaper.
Rice returned to New York State in 1855, where he was admitted to the bar. When the Civil War broke out, he was made Lt. of the 39th New York Infantry Volunteers on May 10, 1861, and Captain in August 1861. He joined the 44th New York on September 13, 1861, and was made Lt. Colonel; he became its Colonel in July 1862. He led the 44th through the Peninsula Campaign in June 1862, and was in command of a brigade in General George Morell's division of the Fifth Corps at the battle of Second Bull Run (Manassas) in August 1862. He was not at Antietam or Fredericksburg, but rejoined the 44th at Chancellorsville.
At Gettysburg, Rice took over command of the Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, when Colonel Strong Vincent was mortally wounded. He was made Brigadier General of Volunteers on August 17, 1863, and assigned to permanent command of a brigade in General Lysander Cutler's Division of the First Corps. After the First Corps was broken up after Gettysburg, Rice returned to the Fifth Corps.
He commanded a brigade in General James Wadsworth's division at the Battle of the Wilderness, in May 1864. On May 10, 1864, he was wounded in the thigh during the battle of Laurel Hill, during the Spotsylvania campaign. The wound shattered his thigh, necessitating amputation. Rice died shortly after the operation; when the surgeon asked which side on which he would lay more comfortably, Rice replied: "Turn me with my face to the enemy".
James Rice is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, Albany, NY.
MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES GRIFFIN
Born:: December 18, 1825 - Died: September 15, 1867
Charles Griffin was born in Granville, OH. He left Kenyon College to enter West Point in 1843, graduating in 1847. He was commissioned in the artillery, and served under General Winfield Scott in the Mexican War. After Mexico, he was appointed to be an artillery instructor at West Point, in 1860. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Griffin organized a field battery from US Regulars detachments at West Point, and was ordered to Washington, DC. He served at the first battle of Bull Run (Manassas), where he was brevetted Major.
He was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers during the Peninsula Campaign of June 1862, and assigned to a brigade in General Fitz John Porter's Fifth Corps. He commanded a Fifth Corps division at Fredericksburg, and served under Third Corps commander General Daniel Sickles at Chancellorsville. Griffn did not take part in the Gettysburg Campaign, however, due to illness.
In May 1864, he commanded at Fifth Corps' Division at the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. During this time, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant thought that Griffin should be arrested for what he termed "insubordinate remarks"--but cavalry General Phil Sheridan (of all people!) appointed him commander of the Fifth Corps' First Division instead, to replace General Gouvernour K. Warren--which he did, at the battle of Five Forks, VA, in April 1865.
Griffin was one of the commissioners assigned to carry out the surrender ceremonies at Appomattox Court House, in April 1865; Chamberlain himself thought that Griffin had something to do with his appointment to command the surrender of Robert E. Lee's infantry at Appomattox.
After the war, Griffin was appointed Colonel of the US Regular Army's 35th Infantry, in 1866. He was posted to duty in Texas, where he died of yellow fever at Galveston, on September 15, 1867.
Charles Griffin is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Georgetown, near Washington, DC.
Photo To Come
COLONEL (LATER BRIGADIER GENERAL)
Born: June 11, 1836 - Died: March 29, 1894
General Gustavus Sniper was born in Baden, Germany, on June 11, 1836. His family moved to Syracuse, NY, when he was a boy of three.
Before the war broke out, he worked briefly in the tobacco business. He joined the Syracuse Light Guards in 1854, and also held office in the Syracuse Grays and Davis Light Guards.
When war broke out in 1861, he organized a company of Onondaga County men for the 12th New York Volunteer Infantry. He also organized a company for the 24th New York from Onondaga County. His first field service, however, was with a company in the 101st New York, rising in rank from captain to lieutenant. In battle, Sniper was always to be found in front with his men.
He returned home briefly in 1863, and married Catherine Miller--but returned to the field within a few months to serve with the 185th New York Volunteer Infantry, as its Lt. Colonel; they were assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps. He saw first service with the regiment before the Confederate breastworks at Petersburg, VA. and also saw action at Hatchers Run, VA, in February 1865. In the same month, he was commissioned the regiment's Colonel.
In March of 1865, the 185th was heavily involved in the battles of Quaker Road and White Oak Road, outside Petersburg. In the former battle, he was seen carrying the regimental colors. For his "conspicuous gallantry" at these two battles, Sniper was brevetted Brigadier General.
After the war, Sniper became a member of the William Lilly Post, G.A.R., in Syracuse, as well as the Veteran League of Onondaga County, and several Masonic lodges. He was also active in the local German community--as well as being a staunch Republican. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1870, and served for three terms. From 1872-1876, he served as Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue in Syracuse, and in 1876, Sniper accepted a position as deputy in the County Clerk's office. In 1882, he was elected County Clerk, and served for three years. At the time of his death, he was in the insurance business.
Sniper and his wife Catherine had two children: Gustavus C. Sniper and Lavinia C.E. Sniper.
Gustavus Sniper died of heart disease on March 29, 1894, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Syracuse, NY.
Source for biographies of Generals Ames, Rice, Vincent and Griffin: "Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders" by Ezra J. Walker, pub. 1964 and 1994 by Dorothy J. Wagner; published in 1992 by Louisiana State University Press.
I would like to express my deepest thanks to Dennis Connors, Curator of the Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse, NY, for allowing me to use their Research Center, for information about General Sniper.
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