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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Military Monday: Smedley Brothers in the Civil War

You come across some amazing stories when you start to delve into  your family history and such was the life of John Kinsey Smedley - a naval engineer in the American Civil War, later inventor and traveller who wrote an account of his journey into the Yo-semite Valley in 1874.  

John Kinsey Smedley was born 10 July 1839 in Willistown, Pennsylvania   the fourth child of Jeffrey Smedley (1811-1861) and Catherine Denny (1803-1877)); with siblings  Lydia, Amy, Isaac, Abiah T., Catherine Ann, Anna Mary, Jeffrey and Charles.  He was a fifth generation American of English Quaker  heritage.  

In September 1862 at the age of 23, John  enlisted in the Union Navy,  and  participated in blockade duties and attacks on the Confederate forts in Charleston Harbor including  Fort Sumter.

He served  aboard vessels  Nantucket, Wabash, Mohican and Tullahoma.

The family is fortunate to have details of his service, written down by John's daughter Hattie and signed by him. 

A transcription by John's great granddaughter Gail  reads;
"Enlisted Sept. 1, 1862 in U.S. Navy at Philadelphia, PA.  Appointed 3rd Assist. Engineer, U.S. Navy Nov. 17, 1862.  Ordered to report onboard U.S. Monitor “Nantucket” at Boston, Feb. 14, 1863, Donald McNeal Fairfax, commanding.  Was in engagements Fort Sumter, S.C. Apr. 7, 1863 – James Island batteries July 8 and 10/63 on Stono River, and Morris Island, S.C. – Fort Wagner July 10, 16, and 18, 1863 – Fort Sumter July 20 – Fort Moultrie July 21, 1863 – Cummings Point batteries Aug. 10 and 12/63 – Fort Wagner Aug. 15 and 16/63."
USS Nantucket
 "Appointed 2nd Assist. Eng. Mar. 23, 1864.  Detached from Monitor Nantucket July 20, 1864 and ordered to Steam Frigate “Wabash”, Capt. John de Camp, by Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron".
USS Wabash

 "Reported July 21, 1864 to W.K. Grozier, Executive Officer – Cruised off Cape de Verde Islands for three months.   

Detached from the Wabash and ordered to the U.S. Man-of-War “Mohican”, Oct. 30, 1864 by Rear Adml. David D. Porter, Com. N.A.B. Squadron.  Reported Oct. 31, 1864 to Daniel Ammen, com".

"Was in engagements at Fort Fisher, N.C. Dec. 24 and 25, 1864, also Jan. 13-14-15, 1865, ending with the capture of the Fort.  Steamed to Fort McAllister, Georgia and had a skirmish with scouting party in timber (?) etc.

 Detached from “Mohican” Apr. 26, 1865 at Boston – ordered to special duty on board U.S.S. “Tullahoma” at New York, May 19, 1865, by Thorton A. Jenkins, Chief of Staff.  

Ordered to temporary duty Aug. 6, 1865 on board U.S. Monitor “Nantucket” on trip to Philadelphia.  Detached Feb. 20, 1866 from special duty on U.S.S. Tullahoma and ordered to Navy Yard, N.Y. in connection with Boiler Experimental duty.  Reported Feb. 21, 1866 – J.W. King, Chief Engineer.

          Resigned March 13, 1866.

                                                   (signed – J. Kinsey Smedley)"

John Kinsey Smedley resigned from the Union Navy on 13 March 1866, and the family  still holds,  among the family treasures, his naval sword, sheath, and belt, shown in this photograph below.

After the war John headed west - to Utah and California - but that is for another posting! 

He died 22nd  July 1905 at Alamedia. Caifornia, buried in San Francisco National Cemetery,  with  the form for internment describing him as "2nd Assistant Engineer US Navy".  

Elder brother Isaac Smedley  was born 1 March 1838 at Chester, Pennsylvania and named after his paternal grandfather.  

The USA Civil War Draft Registration Records  on Ancestry.com  show that 23 year old Isaac enlisted in    the 97th Pennsylvania  Volunteer  Infantry.  He rose to the rank of 2nd  Liut. but was honorably discharged on a surgeon's certificate at Seabrook island, South Carolina.  

He sadly died, unmarried,  of consumption om 12 February  1867 at the young age of 28. He was buried in Willistown Friends Cemetery, Chester, Delaware Co.  under the title " Lieut. Isaac Smedley"  

Younger brother  ABIAH, born in 1840, was the fifth child of Jeffrey (Senior) and Catherine - his name is of Hebrew origin meaning " God is my Father".  An entry in the US Find a Grave Index brought to light that Abiah served in the  Civil War.  His record   showed that he enlisted in Company B, Pennsylvania 6th Cavalry Regiment on 30 Aug 1861 a few months after the outbreak do war and in  1865 he was promoted to First Lieutenant.  

Abiah sadly died in 1867, aged 27,  leaving a young widow Mary and a daughter Mary Emma  born two months after his death. He was buried in
Willistown Friends Cemetery, where his eldest brother Isaac, had been laid to rest just three months earlier.   

Three brothers who gave service to their county in time of war. 
  • Family notes and photographs, with special thanks to Gail - John Kinsey Smedley's great granddaughter.
On www.Ancestry.co.uk:  
  • US Civil War Draft Registration Records 1863-1865
  • Officers of the Continental & US Navy & marine Corps 1795-1900. 
  • US Navy Pension Records
  • US Veterans Grave-sites
  • California Death Index 
  • US National Cemetery Interment Control Form  

Military Monday is one of many daily blog prompts from Geneabloggers 
that encourage writers to record aspects of their family history. 

1 comment:

  1. The way the Monitor "Nantucket" rides in the water fascinates me. It's like half ship, half submarine! I think I'd want to be one of the lookouts up there in the tower rather than down on the deck with that skimpy little railing to (perhaps?) keep me from falling in the drink!


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