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Hiram Sturgeon

Private

38th Mississippi Cavalry Company “D”

Confederate Private Hiram Sturgeon died on April 5, 1865 at the Elmira Federal Prison in Elmira, New York. Private Sturgeon enlisted on April 29, 1861 in Company D, 38 Mississippi Cavalry Regiment, and otherwise known as the Wilkinson Guards. Wounded near Okalona, he was discharged in July of 1862, for disability, but reenlisted shortly afterwards in Company E, Powers' Regiment, Mississippi Cavalry. Captured in the area of Fort Adams on October 8, 1864, Private Sturgeon was confined in the military prison at Natchez until October 15, 1864 when he was transferred to Ship Island, and subsequently from Ship Island to Elmira, New York on November 19, 1864. He died in the Union Prison on April 5, 1865.

Hiram Sturgeon was born about 1833 in Adams County, Mississippi just North of present-day Lake Mary. His parents were John Sturgeon and Mary Enlow Sturgeon, and Hiram spent his early years with his family, including one sister, Elizabeth Jane Sturgeon, and one brother, William N. Sturgeon until his parents both died in a yellow fever epidemic in 1842.

After the death of parents, Hiram was placed under the ward ship of his uncle and namesake Hiram Enlow of Wilkinson County, and Hiram grew to manhood at Pleasant Hill Plantation in the Buffalo Community just North of Woodville. He attended the Buffalo School and other local community schools in that area, and after reaching manhood acquired several land patents in the Buffalo area as well as continued to farm and care for his property above Lake Mary. For several years during the mid 1850's, he was a resident of his property on the Mississippi River near Fort Adams, but finally chose as a bride Clarenda Cole, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Cole, and finally settled down in the area of Pleasant Hill Plantation in the Buffalo Community.

Hiram and Clarenda were the parents of two children, one John Thomas Sturgeon born in 1857 and William James Sturgeon born in 1859. Clarenda tragically died shortly after the birth of her second son, and Hiram was left to raise his two children as a widower. On April 29, 1861, he volunteered for service for a period of three (3) years in the Confederate Army in Company “D”, 38th Mississippi Regiment Cavalry, otherwise known as the Wilkinson Guards.

As a member of this Regiment he participated in many of the major battles and skirmishes of the North Mississippi Campaign, and was ultimately wounded or fell ill and sent to the hospital in Okalona, Mississippi. The surgeons at the Okalona Hospital discharged Hiram Sturgeon with a certificate of disability on July 18, 1862 and he returned to Woodville.

After returning to Wilkinson County, Hiram Sturgeon remarried, Martha Baker, and shortly thereafter re-enlisted in Company “E”, Powers' Regiment, Mississippi Cavalry.

Involved in numerous skirmishes in and about the area of Southwest Mississippi, Colonel Powers were finally mortally wounded, and leadership of this Regiment was placed in the hands of Col. McKowen.

McKowen was also killed, and the unit fractured into small band operating virtually independently throughout the fall of 1864. According to the report of Prisoners of War confined at the Military Prison in Natchez, Mississippi from September 26 to October 15, 1864, the Fourth Illinois Cavalry at Woodville captured Hiram Sturgeon on October 7, 1864.

Family tradition, however, relates a somewhat different story, to which some degree of credibility may be attached. A cousin of the Sturgeon Family, Rufus Holmes who was a very old man in the early 1900's and supposedly present at the capture of Hiram Sturgeon, related this story to Eugene T. Sturgeon when he was a young man, and the story was passed down from Uncle "Gene" to the author. (Holmes Sturgeon)

According to Rufus Holmes, numerous local confederate soldiers who were banded together not by detrimental ties, but by a loose association after the destruction of Powers Regiment were observing from a hidden vantage point in the bushes and trees, looting and ransacking of stores in the town of Fort Adams by the Yankee soldiers. In the middle of the main street of Fort Adams was a large pile of tobacco, a highly prized commodity among Civil War soldiers of both sides, and since Hiram Sturgeon was reputed to have one of the fastest horses in Wilkinson County, the other men present made a bet with him that he could not ride out through the street of Fort Adams and scoop up the tobacco and ride back before the Yankees had an opportunity to stop him.

Unfortunately, Hiram Sturgeon took the bet, and rode out through the streets of Fort Adams, scooping up a large quantify of tobacco, and whirled around making his way back to the safe spot when he was surrounded by a troop of Yankee soldiers at gun point, who forced him off of his fast steed and to further humiliate him place him on an old slow gray mule. The Yankee captain in charge requisitioned his fast white horse, and Hiram was slowly led off to a barge nearby on the river.

Supposedly the following day as the barge made its way to Natchez, his two young children and his new wife stood along side the river bank in front of their house, which at that time sat just near the Mississippi River North of Lake Mary, and waved to their father as he passed by. That was the last time the two brothers ever saw their father.

From Natchez, Hiram Sturgeon was transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana, and subsequently to Ship Island, Mississippi on October 20, 1864. On November 5, 1864 by special order of Captain M. R. Marston, Hiram Sturgeon was sent to New York.

He arrived at Fort Columbus, New York Harbor on November 16, 1864 and was sent on to Elmira, New York where he arrived on November 19, 1864.

Notes made on his records at Elmira New York indicate that Hiram Sturgeon had a desire to get to Olney, Illinois where he had relatives residing.

Unfortunately, Hiram Sturgeon succumbed to pneumonia on April 5, 1865 at Elmira Prison in Elmira, New York, and is buried on the present ground in Grave number 2591.

After his capture and death, his two children were viewed as orphans since they only had a stepmother, and she shortly thereafter remarried. According to the stories related by John Thomas Sturgeon to his children and grandchildren in later years, he and his brother "Jim" practically raised themselves for several years along the banks of the Mississippi River, living for a time in a plum orchard in an old abandoned house and surviving off of food and berries that they found in the wild.

Finally the two orphans were committed to the Natchez Protestant Orphans Home where they stayed for a brief time until they both ran away making their way back to Wilkinson County where Uncle Steven Dawson and his wife conveniently shielded them from the authorities. At one juncture they hid under a flour barrel when the officials from the orphanage come searching for them.

Ultimately, they too were placed under the guardianship and custody of their great uncle Hiram Enlow, who raised and educated both of them into early manhood.

According to report of Prisoners of War confined in military prison in Natchez Mississippi from September 26 to October 15, 1864, Hiram Sturgeon was committed to the prison on October 8, 1864, indicating that the 4th Illinois Cavalry captured him. In addition, the report made at Elmira, New York indicating additional notes about Hiram Sturgeon and an apparent interview in preparation of his taking the oath of allegiance to the United States indicates that he was captured on October 7, 1864. This could be a simple error, but it may be that he was captured on October 7th and then taken to Natchez on October 8th.

Bearss in his “DECISION IN MISSISSIPPI”, indicates on page 485 that Col. Kent's combat team spent a "busy day", and "preparatory" to return to Natchez on the 8th of October the soldiers "loaded live stock, cotton, wagons and property of various descriptions aboard a transport at Fort Adams". The foot note indicates that noted on board this transport were: 73 mules, 24 horses, 330 beef cattle, 46 bales of cotton, and 6 wagons.

Bearss goes on to say on page 488 that "Kent’s combat team, accompanied by 250 Negroes… boarded their transport at 8:00 A.M."

Casting off from Fort Adams, the steamboat churned up the river… and did not reach Natchez until dark.

Earlier Bearss notes on page 482 that Colonel Kent had mounted 35 of his men on captured mules, and that he had organized a combat patrol consisting of these soldiers mounted on mules, "the 11 men of the 4th Illinois Cavalry", and 100 infantrymen. The objective of this combat force was to comb the countryside northeast of Fort Adams (this would include the area of Percy's Creek, Lake Mary, Smithland Plantation, and the various plantations near the Mississippi River all the way over to possibly the Beaver Creek Community). In fact, Bearss indicates that Kent's patrol penetrated as far as the Buffalo River, 10 miles from the base. He further indicates that although they confiscated many cattle they did not find any confederate activity in that area.

In the same paragraph, however, Bearss notes that Kent determined to remain at Fort Adams until the morning of the 8th of October.

Now, if Kent's combat patrol included the detachment of the 4th Illinois Cavalry that was present in Wilkinson County, which according to Bearss it did, and further if Kent remained in Fort Adams from October 6th to the morning of October 8th, and further if Hiram Sturgeon was captured on October 6th or October 7th by the 4th Illinois Cavalry, then it would stand to reason that Hiram Sturgeon was captured in the vicinity of Fort Adams, just as the family tradition supports.

In addition, the notes indicating that Kent's combat patrol (which would have included the 4th Illinois Cavalry detachment) were involved on the 7th of October in loading supplies out of the town of Fort Adams and on to the transport vessel, then this would also lend credence to the story that the "Yankees were ransacking the town of Fort Adams". Bearss also notes on page 485 that Colonel Osband learned from his scouts that a confederate detachment formerly commanded by McKowen (and that would be Powers regiment, since Captain McKowen was placed in charge of Power Regiment early on in this campaign) was still "lurking in the neighborhood". Once again, a combat patrol from the 4th Illinois Cavalry attempted to capture this particular detachment, but was unsuccessful and lost one man in the process. This event occurred on the morning of October 7th.

So judging from this note, obviously some members of McKowens command (formerly Powers Regiment) were still active in the area of Fort Adams on the morning of October 7th, since this is where Colonel Osband was located when he learned of their position.

Earlier, Bearss had noted on page 482 that five miles form Fort Adams where the road to Pickneyville veered to the left, a skirmish had ensued involving Osband's troops and the third U. S. Colored Cavalry, during which Captain McKowen was killed and his men, the remnants of Powers Regiment, were "scattered to the winds". This skirmish apparently took place on October 6th.

The notes made by Bearss do not indicate any captures at the skirmish five miles north of Fort Adams, nor are any captures noted in the combing of the countryside made by Kent's combat patrol including members of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry.

No captures are noted either on the 7th of October during the loading of the transport vessel at Fort Adams. Nonetheless, I am convinced that Hiram Sturgeon was involved in the skirmish five miles north of Fort Adams which scattered the remaining members of Powers Regiment, and further that he was involved in the early morning skirmish on the 7th of October in the neighborhood of Fort Adams in which the small un-commanded confederate detachment cut its way through the Yankees mortally wounding one of the union soldiers.

Further I am convinced that the same detachment lingered into the area of Fort Adams following this skirmish and in a brazen attempt to spoil the good humored looting of Fort Adams, Hiram Sturgeon was captured, just as Rufus Holmes stated, in attempting to scoop up tobacco out of the Main Street in Fort Adams, and probably was placed on one of the mules loaded onto the transport boat and taken to Natchez and committed to the prison there on the evening of October 8, 1864.

It should also be noted that on October 5th, Col. Osband surrounded the town of Woodville and sent in the Fifth Illinois Cavalry which took the Confederate soldiers in town by surprise capturing on October 5th twelve (12) prisoners.

It should also be noted that at the Battle of “Bowling Green Plantation”, forty-one prisoners were captured.

On page 476 Bearss notes that Colonel Frank P. Powers turned over command of his regiment to Captain John C. McKowen.

Bearss further notes on page 490 that eighty-two (82) enlisted men and four (4) officers had been captured during the entire campaign, and this includes some excursions into Clinton, Louisiana area and the area of Liberty Mississippi. This would include the twelve prisoners captured at Woodville and the Forty-one captured at Bowling Green.

Information submitted by Burril Morrison, for Alonzo Holmes Sturgeon III.

Excerpt from P.O. Avery’s Book

4th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiment

 

Colonel E. D. OSBAND

4th Illinois Cavalry

Report of the above Incident

The non-veterans turned over their arms and equipment’s October 3, 1864, which ended our soldiering in this war in all probability, the veterans and recruits having already been consolidated into five companies.

This same day a Brigade of Cavalry, under Colonel E. D. Osband, came into Natchez from Vicksburg. They reported meeting a force of about two hundred-rebel cavalry this side of Fayette. They claimed to have killed seven of them and took some prisoners and brought in about four hundred head of beef cattle.

This same force augmented by a part of the consolidated Battalion of the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, left here the next day for Woodville on steamers by the way of Fort Adams or some point near there. Another force, with the balance of the Fourth Cavalry Battalion, start for the same place by way of Liberty These expeditions returned on the 8th. Below is Colonel Osband’s report of the same:

Report of Colonel E. D. Osband, Third United States Colored Cavalry, Commanding Expedition to Woodville, Mississippi, to Captain F. W. Fox, Assistant Adjutant General:

Headquarters Cavalry Forces, Vicksburg, Mississippi, October 12, 1864: Pursuant to orders from the Major General Commanding, I left Natchez, Mississippi, on the 4th day of October at six p.m. on transports provided with detachments of the Fifth, Eleventh and Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Second Wisconsin Cavalry, Third United States Colored Cavalry, two pieces of artillery and detachment Signal Corps, in all about twelve-hundred men.

We landed at Tunica Bend, Louisiana, at four a.m. On the 5th and marched in the direction of Woodville When ten miles from Woodville, hearing heavy firing in the direction of Bayou Lava, I proceed to that point as far as Sligo, but there finding that the firing receded faster than we advanced, I moved toward Woodville and after surrounding the town, charged with two regiments, completely surprising the rebels and capturing twelve prisoners, one caisson, twelve army wagons with teams, etc.

After destroying telegraph wires and capturing mail I moved half a mile south of the village and camped. At daylight I forwarded all prisoners and captured property to Fort Adams.

Hearing at this time of a rebel force upon my right flank, about one and one half miles distant, I immediately sent the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, Third United States Colored Cavalry and one piece of artillery to the left and moved with the Eleventh Illinois and Second Wisconsin Cavalry’s and one gun to the right.

The column sent to the left met a severe fire from Gober’s Cavalry. The artillery and Fifth Illinois Cavalry, supporting, opened at 1000 yards and did fine execution.

Major J. B. Cook with the Third United States Colored Cavalry, pushing rapidly to the rear, stampeded Gober’s command and gained the rear of the battery. When forming line of battle he charged through the woods, one battalion with revolvers and one with sabers, cutting down the rebels who were now deserting the battery, driving the gunners from and capturing the guns. The battery men were secured as prisoners of war by the Fifth Illinois Cavalry. In the meantime the other column met with stubborn resistance.

The result of this half-hour’s work was one 12-pound howitzer, two 6-pound smooth bore guns, one-hundred and fifty rounds of fixed ammunition, horses and harness complete, three battle flags, forty-one prisoners and four of the enemy killed.

Our loss was nothing. The fight occurred near the residence of Judge McGehee, who had breakfast cooked for the rebels. Our men ate the breakfast and, giving the Judge half an hour to move out of his residence burned it, together with the quarters he had erected for the use of the rebels.

I now sent Captain Bentley, with one company of the Second Wisconsin, a mile to the right of our position where he stampeded a company of rebel cavalry. He found and destroyed thirty-five saddles and thirty-five stand of arms.

I also caused to be burned at Woodville about $1000,000 worth of commissary stores, Confederate States army, consisting of salt, sugar, tobacco and cotton cloth. I now moved to Fort Adams, sending captured property to boats.

Here at the junction of the roads the advance (Third United States Colored Cavalry) found and drove a small party of rebels some two miles. Our loss was two wounded, slightly. During the night I learned we had met Power’s regiment, two hundred strong. The Fourth Illinois Cavalry had one man wounded, who afterward died.

Expecting to meet Scott’s and the combined rebel forces at Woodville, I marched at eight a.m. for that point but found no enemy. We encamped on Buffalo Creek and marched next morning at daylight, meeting Colonel Farrar at Kingston and reaching Natchez at four p.m.

I learned at Woodville that in the skirmish with Power’s Regiment the commanding officer, Major McKowen, and eight men were killed.

Summary: The command embarked and disembarked twice, traveled by river one hundred seventy five miles, and marched by land two hundred sixty miles. They lost no material, had only two men killed, and one officer and five men slight wounded. The enemy’s loss is two officers and fifty-four enlisted men killed, and by capture four commissioned officers and eighty-two enlisted men.

The command captured three cannons, one caisson, three-hundred-fifty rounds of ammunition, some harness, etc., one-thousand head of beef cattle, three sheep, between three-hundred and four-hundred horses and mules, twelve army wagons, harness, etc., destroying three-hundred-fifty stand of arms, $100,000 subsistence stores, destroyed the telegraph station at Woodville and secured a large amount of information through capture dispatches and gained one-hundred-seventy-five able bodied colored recruits.

Respectfully submitted

E. D. OSBAND

Colonel Third United States Colored Cavalry