Friday, April 15, 2011

Daniel Mott, Missing in Action during the Civil War by Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Second Battle of Bull Run

"Our boys fell like the leaves of autumn."

April 12th marked the 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter. We will have many reminders around the nation about the Civil War, but here on the cousins’ blog, we remember family.

Daniel Mott, younger brother of Diadamia (our Great Great Grandmother), was a farmer with his father in Virgil, NY. He enlisted in the 76th NY Regiment during the Civil War, and by all accounts—military, official and personal—he went missing in action on August 28th, 1862 during the Battle of Brawner’s Farm, in the Second Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Second Manassas.

Daniel was the ninth of thirteen children. Two of his older brothers had fought and died in Texas during the Mexican War. In 1861, both Daniel and his younger brother, William, joined the Union Army. For whatever reason, they joined months apart, and fought in different regiments. William came home and lived until the age of 62. Daniel was not as lucky.

Our Daniel mustered in as a private in 1861 in Cortland, NY at the age of twenty-six. He was to serve a three year term in the 76th NY Regiment, Company A. The Register of Enlistments records that our Daniel is six feet, one half inch in height, with grey eyes, brown hair, and ‘florid’ complexion.

A letter from Lyman Culver, a Cortland County boy in Daniel’s Company A, describes well what Daniel’s camp must have looked like before they encountered the enemy:
Brawner's Farmhouse

I wish you could take a peep in our tent this morning - you would think it looked rather sassy - the 76 Reg. occupies 290 tents with three and four in each tent, overhead is our Enfield rifles & swords on one side, our knapsacks canteens, and if you take a peep in my overcoat you will find a six shooter and bowie knife - they were presents to me and I have been waiting for a chance to use them.

On the afternoon of August 28th, 1862 near Gainesville, VA, young Culver got a chance to use his sassy weapons.

To prevent the Federal commander’s efforts to concentrate at Centreville and bring General John Pope of the Union into battle, Stonewall Jackson ordered his troops to attack a Union column as it marched past unawares on the Warrenton Turnpike—Daniel Mott of the 76th NY was in this Union column of men.

For one and a half hours, the soldiers fought, only thirty yards apart in places. In this short time, this opening salvo of the Second Bull Run Battle inflicted casualties amounting to almost one-third of the 7000 men engaged. General Gibbon, a veteran of some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Civil War, later recalled, 'The most terrific musketry fire I have ever listened to rolled along those two lines of battle… neither side yielding a foot.”
Marker for the 76th NY Regiment at Brawner's Farm Field that day

This savage fight at Brawner’s Farm lasted until dark. In another account of the action, Captain Noyes, a staff officer at Brigade headquarters, from which point he had a good view of the opposing forces, wrote in his work "The Bivouac and the Battlefield":

"All along the low ridge parallel to our position stood double lines of Rebel infantry. I saw a mile of lightening leaping from their muskets while a deluge of thunderbolts shivered like fiends among us and over us. Our boys fell like the leaves of autumn."

Another soldier, Uberto A. Burnham of Cortland, had been a school teacher, and wrote in later years about the day Daniel Mott disappeared, August 28th, 1862, at the Battle of Brawner Farm, Second Bull Run:

And now it became apparent to the two brigade commanders that their small force was in an extremely dangerous position. It seemed imperative that the six shattered regiments that had done the fighting should get out of the way while night lasted. It was decided to leave the Centerville road and retreat to Manassas. Preparations were immediately made for the march, ammunition was issued. Details were made to bring in the wounded.

Capt. Watrous of my company commanded the detail to bring in the wounded of the 76th. They went in the darkness close to the Confederate lines. They could hear the conversation of their men and the cries of their wounded. When they came to a prostrate form they put hands on the face to see if it was cold. If not he was picked up or helped up.

As they hurried away under cover of darkness, it would have been easy to leave behind Daniel Mott, wounded or already dead.

The National Park of Manassas has the Groveton Confederate cemetery, where soldiers from both sides were buried by Confederates. After the Civil War, all northern soldiers that could be found in Groveton were dug up and re-buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Our Daniel is most likely buried in Arlington under the Tomb of the Unknown of the Civil War. This granite tomb, shaped like a casket, holds the remains of 2,111 Civil War soldiers, most of them from the Bull Run Battlefields.

So, when you next visit Arlington Cemetery, stop in at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the changing of the guard, but then, search out the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers of the Civil War and stop and think of our Daniel.


Sue Kinsella said...

Chilling story, Pat! I shiver as I imagine Daniel lying on the ground in the darkness, grievously wounded, missed by those collecting their comrades, and dying in pain, afraid and alone. Puts a face on those who may be buried in the Unknown Tombs. Thanks for doing the research and telling us about him.

Kathryn said...

Great story, Pat!
I did not realize that we had a family member MIA during the Civil war. Like Sue, I really cringe for poor Daniel. That was a nasty war. Well, all wars are nasty.
Thanks for all your hard work. You really do a great job!

Pat said...

Thanks! I really enjoyed researching this story about 'Our Daniel'.

And, to add to this story, just two of the many facts I learned:

--More than 620,000 people died in the Civil War. These casualties exceed America's loss in all its other wars, from the Revolution through Vietnam.

--During the Second Battle of Bull Run, soldiers found themselves tripping over skeletons from the first Battle of Bull Run a year earlier.

(From Drew Gilpin Faust's book, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War")

So, always lots to learn!


CB/Mom said...

Can you possibly imagine having a child in a war and Missing? OR even missing in anything? What an agony for your heart!
And as I write this, I remember that in my parent's generation, almost everyone had lost a sibling before thay grew up! Puts what we face today in perspective!