The Story of Rufus Willis Lampman

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My sister came by the house the other day and passed along a sword, a family heirloom, to me.   The scabbard is steel, the grip leather wrapped with wire, and the blade decorated with acid etchings.  Both sword and scabbard are covered with a warm patina.  The sword, as the family legend goes, belonged to an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.  I was intrigued, and decided to dig deeper, to learn what I could about my family’s history and, if possible, how this sword fit into it.

I already had a lead.  My mother had previously looked up this particular ancestor, which gave me a solid starting point.  He was my great-great-grandfather, and his name was Rufus Willis Lampman; fortunately for my research it was not a common name.  He was born in 1844, in Greenville, Greene County, New York, a small town in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. His parents were Erastus and Sarah Lampman, nee Eaton.  Both the Lampman and Eaton families had lived in the United States (or American Colonies) for several generations. In 1844 Erastus (b. 1822) and Sarah (b. 1823) welcomed their first child, a son they named Rufus.  In 1845-6 they welcomed a daughter, Mary, and in 1847-8 Sarah gave birth to a second daughter, Louisa. In early 1850, with the family living in the town of Wright, in Schoharie County, NY and Erastus working as a cabinet maker, Estella, a third daughter was born.

By 1855 the family had moved to Coxsackie, NY and had grown again in 1853 with the birth of Henry.  Erastus was now 32 and working as a farmer. By 1860 the family had moved back to Greenville, where Erastus worked as an innkeeper to support his family, which had grown again with the births of Frank in 1856 and Ella in 1859.

On April 12, 1861 Confederate artillery in Charleston Harbor opened fire on Fort Sumter, the opening salvo in The War Between the States.  On October 10th, 1861 a committee of delegates from Washington County, NY, passed a resolution requesting Governor E. D. Morgan “to authorize John S Crocker, to raise such regiment in this county, and to issue to him the proper orders for the same, and to establish a branch depot in this county in order to facilitate its organization.”  Crocker, commissioned as colonel of the regiment shortly to become the 93rd New York Volunteers, received a response from Gov. Morgan encouraging him to begin recruitment from Washington and Warren Counties.  About half the men of the 93rd, also called Morgan’s Rifles, came from Washington County, with the balance coming from Warren, Essex, Renssaelaer, Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Hamilton, and Allegany Counties.

According to “History of the Ninety-Third Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865” Rufus enlisted with the Union Army on November 7, 1861.  There is some uncertainty as to his age when he enlisted. According to his enlistment papers he was 19; however, if he was born in 1844 as several census forms state, he would only have been 17.  He is described as being 5’ 8.5” tall, with a light complexion, blue eyes, and light hair. He enlisted at Gallupville, NY, a small town near Wright, and gave his occupation as a school teacher. He was mustered in for a term of three years, or the end of the war, whichever came first.

The 93rd left Albany on February 14, 1862, travelling first to New York City where they were bivouacked on Riker’s Island for three weeks, receiving their arms and equipage.  On March 7 they left New York for Washington, DC where Col. Crocker presented the regiment to Gen. George McClellan, officially becoming part of the Army of the Potomac.

For the first two years of the war the 93rd performed various duties, most notably as headquarters guard and prisoner escort for the Army of the Potomac.  They performed these duties during the Peninsula Campaign, as well as the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.  They were relieved from guard duty on April 19th, 1864 and ordered to report to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Corps.

During this time, Rufus’ name comes up several times in the records of the 93rd.  Shortly after arriving in Washington, DC, the 93rd shipped out to Virginia with the rest of the Army of the Potomac as part of McClellan’s unsuccessful Peninsula Campaign.  Rufus, along with the rest of the 93rd, were briefly engaged at the Battle of Williamsburg, VA on May 5th, 1862. Shortly after this, Rufus, along with 17 other members of the 93rd, was sent to hospital at White House Landing on June 12, 1862.  On August 26 he was reduced to the rank of private by order of Lt. Col. Butler, along with Riley Schermerhorn, another corporal of Company G.  I was unable to find the reason for the demotion, though it may have been related to his extended stay in hospital, although Rufus returned four days later, on August 30.

93rd NY Infantry Regiment - Library of Congress - Cropped
The 93rd New York Infantry, Antietam, MD, headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, Sep. 1862.  Source: Library of Congress (cropped)

Whatever the reason for his demotion, Rufus soon rose above the ranks.  On February 1st, 1863, Col. Crocker issued Special Orders No. 16, part of which promoted Rufus to corporal of Company G, with the rank effective as of January 3.  Schermerhorn was not promoted, but was instead discharged for disability on October 1, 1862; he subsequently served as a private in the Seventh Artillery.

Promotion back to Corporal - 93rd NY Infantry Regimenal Order Book Vol. 7 - National Archives
93rd New York Infantry Special Orders No. 16, Promoting Rufus Lampman to Corporal, “G” Company.  Source: 93rd NY Infantry Regiment and Order Books, Vol. 7, National Archives and Records Administration.
Company G - 93rd New York Infantry - Library of Congress - Cropped
Company G, 93rd New York Infantry.  Taken at Bealeton, VA, Aug. 1863.  Source: Library of Congress (cropped)

The above picture of Company G was taken in August, 1863, when Rufus was a corporal.  Corporals were identified by two stripes on the sleeves of their uniform coat. There are three men (of those whose sleeves are visible) with two stripes: the man third from the left with the cap and mustache, and two men sitting on the ground in front.  It’s possible that one of these men is Rufus Lampman.

In November, 1863 the War Department issued General Order No. 191, which dealt with the re-enlistment of troops.  Anyone who had enlisted in 1861 for a three-year term would have their time come to an end in 1864, and the Federal Government was eager to keep the Army as strong as possible.  To that end, they issued Order 191, which stated that any veterans reenlisting would be mustered in as ‘veteran volunteers’, and receive a bounty of $402, paid in installments. Any soldiers reenlisting would also be allowed a 30-day furlough to go home, with the transportation paid by the government, to take place before the expiration of their original term.

At the time, the 93rd was in winter quarters at Brandy Station, Virginia.  On December 16, 1863 Rufus was “discharged (from Company G) by virtue of re-enlistment” and was re-mustered as a Veteran Volunteer in Company E.  Now he listed his occupation as a mechanic.

Rufus' Reenlistment Papers Cropped
Rufus Lampman’s Reenlistment, Dec. 16, 1863.  Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

Rufus next appeared in the regiment records as having spent the night of February 21, 1864 “in arrest” and was released the next day.  Joining him in this night-long punishment was another soldier, Private Azer T. Hayes.  Hayes, like Rufus, was recruited from Gallupville on November 7, 1861, and was transferred from Company G to Company E, the same day as Rufus, so it seems very likely they knew each other; possibly that they were friends.  As to their arrest, I couldn’t find the reason for it.  Sadly, Hayes was killed in action on May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness. He was 22 years old.

Rufus took his furlough home from March to April, 1864.  During that time, on April 11, he married Annie M. Bradt (b. 1846) in Schodack, NY.

Rufus returned to an Army now under the newly promoted General Ulysses S. Grant, who adopted a more aggressive strategy than his predecessors.  The Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River in southeastern Virginia on May 4, 1864 hoping to force an engagement with Lee outside of his defenses near Mine Run.  Lee obliged, but moved faster than Grant anticipated, forcing a fight in a heavily forested area.  The subsequent two-day engagement became known as the Battle of the Wilderness.

At the time of the battle, the 93rd NY Infantry was commanded by Col. John Crocker, and was part of the Army of the Potomac’s 2nd Corps, 3rd Division, 2nd Brigade.   Early in the afternoon on May 5th, the 2nd Brigade, Brigadier General Alexander Hayes commanding, marched up the Brock road to assist General George Getty’s division of the Union IV Corps, who was engaged with General Harry Heth’s division of AP Hill’s Confederate III Corps near the intersection of the Brock and Orange Plank Roads.  The 93rd arrived on the field shortly after 2 pm.  It was their first full combat action.

According to Col. Crocker, as quoted in History of the Ninety-Third Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865:

“The 93d New York, alone and unsupported, moved forward through a dense thicket of bushes, briars and brambles, and within five minutes was hotly engaged with the enemy. This was about 2 o’clock p. m., and we were the first regiment belonging to the 2d corps to become engaged that day.  We opened fire with much spirit, which was returned by the enemy with equal vigor. At the same time rebel lines were being rapidly formed in our front, which soon reached far beyond our flanks.”

Wilderness Map Cropped With Arrow
Map showing the position of troops at approximately 4:00-5:00pm May 5, 1864.  The 93rd was on the right of the line under Hancock.  Image source: Library of Congress (edited)
Map of the Wilderness (from the History)
Map of the Battle of the Wilderness.  Source: History of the Ninety-Third Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865

Their position was in the thickest part of the battle and during the fight that followed the 93rd fought bravely.  Of the 493 men the regiment took into the Wilderness, 42 were killed, 213 were wounded, and 5 were missing.  Rufus was not one of the lucky ones; he was shot in the left leg, just above the knee. He would sit out the rest of the war, his wound dogging him for the rest of his life.

He spent a few weeks in hospital in the field before being moved to McDougall General Hospital at Fort Schuyler, overlooking New York Harbor on Throg’s Neck.  On October 30, he was transferred again, this time to the General Hospital near Troy, NY. It is unclear how much time he spent at either hospital, as he seems to have made it back home to Greenville by August.  In a letter he wrote from Greenville to a Dr. Sprague in August, 1864 requesting an extension of his medical furlough, Rufus stated that he “cannot use the limb in the least…the cords are contracted so that I cannot get the foot to the ground, there is no strength in it as I cannot bear the least weight upon it.” He enclosed a letter from a local doctor, Dr. McCabe, who had examined his wound and found “the tendons under the knee of our limb very much contracted and a rigid state of the muscles above rendering him unable to bring the foot of that limb to the floor requiring him to walk with crutches.”

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Rufus Lampman to Dr. Sprague, Aug. 1, 1864.  Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

Rufus Lampman would be discharged for reason of medical disability on May 17th, 1865.

After the War, Rufus returned to the Albany area, settling first in Troy and by 1880 moving to Schenectady.  He worked as a carpenter and, by 1870, possessed an estate worth around $1,800.  Various family members would live with Rufus and Annie through the years.  In 1870 his younger sisters Mary and Louisa were staying with them in Troy and in 1880 a cousin of Annie’s, Edward Rosecrans, stayed with them in Schenectady while he attended school.  A curious addition to the family first appeared in the 1892 census.  Still living in Schenectady, Rufus and Annie now listed a daughter, Edith, 16 years old. Edith was presumably born in 1876-7, yet no mention of her is found in the Lampman’s listing on the 1880 census.  It is possible that she was adopted. A marriage certificate for Edith’s daughter Gertrude listed Edith as being born in New York City, and her obituary (she passed away in 1947 at the age of 70) mentions that she “came [to Schenectady] as a child from New York City.”

Annie Lampman passed away on the 6th of March, 1904 at the age of 58.  By 1910 Rufus had moved in with Edith and her husband of 15 years, Daniel J. Thurber, a coremaker at American Locomotive.  The Thurbers had 5 children: Ethel (b. 1896), LeRoy (b.1898), Gertrude (b. 1905),  Arthur (b. 1907), and Walter (b. 1913).

By this time Rufus’s health was starting to fail.  He had been drawing an Army pension as an invalid, the final installment of which was paid to Edith after his death.  He passed away on October 3, 1912 and is buried alongside Annie in Vale Cemetery, in Schenectady, NY.  The records in Vale Cemetery’s archives also list an “Albert Thurber” being buried in the Lampman plot.  According to their records Albert passed away at 5 months old and was interred in January, 1895.  Presumably, Albert was Daniel and Edith’s first child, and was buried in the Lampman’s plot.

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As for Erastus and Sarah, they remained in Greenville until sometime between 1880 and 1884, when they moved back to Coxsackie.  Sarah passed away on January 20, 1884. Erastus would survive until April 23, 1894, passing away at 72 years old.  They are buried in Riverside Cemetery, Coxsackie, NY.  Also buried there is Mary, their oldest daughter, who married a Coxsackie merchant named Henry Howe. Henry and Mary both passed away in 1923.  Also in the family plot are Erastus and Sarah’s other children Kate (d. 1913), Frank (d. 1915), and Louisa (d. 1916), as well as Estella and Ella, both of whom died before they were 2 years old.


The Howe/Lampman headstone at Riverside Cemetery, Coxsackie, NY

As for the sword, I have yet to definitively track that down.  The design of the hilt strongly resembles a Militia Light Artillery Saber, 1810-1840, but the shape of the blade and the construction of the handle leave room for doubt.  I am continuing to track down information on the sword, and anything that I find will certainly find a place here.

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