Flag honors story of sacrifice
Authentic Civil War artifacts a tangible connection to local history
August 27, 2008Editor's note: This is the final installment in a two part series highlighting the local connection to the Civil War through area veterans who served there submitted by Doug Hunter, a popular columnist and historian. Hunter's own great-great grandfather Noble Hunter lost his life in the Civil War. Last week's entry ended as Noble was mortally wounded at a battle on Snodgrass Hill.
As darkness approached two full divisions under Gen. Longstreet arrived and the Michigan 22nd, severely mauled, had to reluctantly surrender with nary a man standing. Some escaped, most did not and the flag and colors were confiscated by the victors.
On Sept. 27 Gen. R.S. Granger took roll call at Moccasin Point on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga. The 1,000 men who had left Pontiac, Michigan 14 months earlier were now down to 187 officers and men—more than 80 percent casualties. Many of the captured were prisoners of war in such infamous places as Andersonville, Georgia; Florence Prison, Charleston; Camp Sumter and Danville Prison in South Carolina and Libby Prison in Atlanta. Starvation and disease claimed most. Some of the survivors of these prisons died after being released on the paddlewheel Sultana after its boilers blew in the middle of the night while returning the POWs to the north. The emaciated survivors either burned to death or drowned.
Noble Hunter died of his wounds on Oct. 8 after being exchanged in a POW swap. Somewhere he rests under a stone in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga with the inscription 'Union Soldier. Unknown but to God.'
Jotham Vincent, in his own words, "crawled off alone," survived the River of Death and went on to fight again and was honorably discharged on June 26, 1865. Returning to Michigan, he purchased 160 acres of land in Section 21 of Greenwood Township. He married Julia Michale and had four sons. But his service to humanity was not over. He served two terms as the Greenwood Township Supervisor just as his sons and grandsons have done since. Duty to him was a natural course and this obligation he instilled in his sons.
The defiance he displayed on that hill against unrelenting tyranny is a family trait evident to this day.
Thirty years passed and a handful of the aged and disabled survivors of Snodgrass Hill longed for the return of their flag and colors they so valiantly defended.
James Greeson of Co. I was visiting Washington, D.C.and while looking over an inventory of items at the War Department, he located the missing flags. Hurriedly he got the news to the restless veterans. James Irving Vincent took up the cause with the same vitality and enthusiasm that his father displayed on that hill. He took up the fight for the return of the items to the federal government. Congress had passed a law forbidding the return of all flags except by an official act of Congress. James Vincent and others pressed hard on Senator James McMillan to introduce a bill to return these sacred artifacts to Michigan. In 1895 they were
delivered to Gov. John T. Rich. On Sept. 4, 1895 the 22nd Michigan Infantry held a reunion in Pontiac. The colors and flag were returned to them. Some of the women who made and presented the flags 32 years earlier were in
attendance. The still blood-stained colors and flag are now preserved in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Lansing. One day, if it takes
an act of Congress, I and the other descendents of these men will see them in all their glory and pay homage to all the men of the 22nd Infantry.
One of the ironies of this story is that in 1957 when my quest began, Paul Vincent, great-grandson of Jotham Vincent and possesser of these historical artifacts married my second cousin, Helen Pierce. The legacies of two American heroes so long ago bonded together have crossed paths again. The greatest irony is that Jotham Vincent kept a diary of his service and each day he diligently took the time to enter the events. Something that I had longed 50 years for, an unadulterated account of personal reality of that era, had finally come to me. On August 9, 2008 like a kid at Christmas I grasped the 1863 diary. On the inside cover was written "If found on my person on the battlefield or elsewhere after death, please address my brother and notify of my fate, Edward Vincent." Below that he had written "Jotham Vincent. Co. 'C' 22nd MI Infantry."
Frantically I turned the pages to Sept. 20. The last line said without fanfare, "I got wounded right thigh. Crawled off alone."
The first thought to enter my mind was 'my God, such devotion to a cause to endure so much and to sound disapppointed is the true reaction of a sincere patriot and hero. Oh how this nation yearns for men of this resolve and integrity again.'
The feel of the 31 caliber five shot revolver, the 32 inch saber and the buttons of Jothan's uniform made the long-silent Snodgrass Hill that I had visited so often come alive to me, an inspirational feeling that words cannot describe. The tranquility of Snodgrass Hill is forever gone. Every subsequent visit I will feel the fear and anxiety of the 22nd and will finally sense their presence as my heart races back to 1983.
For two years I have been writing a novel about the Chickamauga Battle, a story based on historical events with some characters and actions fictionalized. As time permits, I will visit Helen and Paul Vincent and document the diaries to less fictionalize my book. Yes, I must concur, patience does have its rewards. Sometimes it takes 50 years.
I would like to say a personal thank you to Paul and Helen Vincent and to my aunt Margaret Pierce Kinney who informed me of the Vincent family connection to the 22nd Michigan legacy.
Following is a list of Civil War veterans of Capac and surrounding areas. If you have information about them, please contact me. Let us honor them again and forever for their sacrifices.
•Civil War Veterans, April 12, 1861 to May 26, 1865:
F. Barber, George Banfil, Edmund Becroft, A.J. Bickford, Peter Brennan, John Brink, Sidney Brooker, Clarence Burch, Frank Burch, James Burt, Henry Cannis, J. Cobbledick, H.H. Collins, Martin Conley, Andrew Curry, G.O. Curtis, R.M. Curtis, Lewis Fairbrother, James A. Flower, Ezra Frantz, Benjamin Golding, Alex Glassford, James Glassford, Frederick Hall, Arthur Hathaway, Erastus Hathaway, Wm. Hugget, Noble Hunter Sr., William Hunter, Julius Jonas, Peter Kelley, A.W. Kelley, O. Kelley, Martin Lavell, Robert Leach, Joseph Locke, T.J. Manning, Henry McKinstry, Archibald McNaught, Robert McNaught, Robert Meikle, James Morgan, W. Henry Morgan, Joseph Nehman, John Nettnay, W.F. Praker, William Proctor, A.J. Raymond, Joseph Reisch, Frederick Ross, Gottreied Schoeneman, Peter Schook, J.E. Sprague, H. Sprotberry, Henry Streeter, James Turnbull, Barton Wade, Dewitt Walker, James Waltz, Charles Warn, Chester Williams, Charles Willy, Jess Winn.
Email Doug at
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him 810-395-7948 if you have information regarding Civil War veterans or memorabilia.