Port Hudson Medal - Sold
Scarce medal presented "For the Storming of Port Hudson" Gold washed example as given to officers. "PLAIN"S STORE / MAY 21, 1863 / FIRST ASSAULT * SECOND ASSAULT / MAY 27, 1863. JUNE 14 / PORT HUDSON / JULY 8, 1863. / SURRENDER / DONALDSONVILLE / JULY 13. 1863." Reverse features likeness of Colonel F. Bartlett.
William Francis Bartlett:
Enlisted on 7/10/1861 as a Captain. Residence Winthrop MA; a 21 year-old Student.
On 8/8/1861 he was commissioned into "I" Co. MA 20th Infantry
He was discharged for promotion on 11/12/1862
On 11/19/1862 he was commissioned into Field & Staff MA 49th Infantry
He was Mustered Out on 9/1/1863 at Pittsfield, MA
On 4/9/1864 he was commissioned into Field & Staff MA 57th Infantry
He was discharged for promotion on 6/20/1864
On 6/20/1864 he was commissioned into
US Volunteers General Staff
(Date and method of discharge not given)
He was listed as:
* Wounded 4/24/1862 Yorktown, VA (Severe wound in left leg, amputated)
* Wounded 5/27/1863 Port Hudson, LA (Shot in the wrist)
* Wounded 5/6/1864 Wilderness, VA
* Colonel 11/19/1862 (As of 49th MA Inf)
* Colonel 4/9/1864 (As of 57th MA Inf)
* Brig-General 6/20/1864
* Major-Gen 3/13/1865 by Brevet
Born 6/6/1840 in Haverhill, MA
Died 12/17/1876 in Pittsfield, MA
But had the family made no record before, General William F. Bartlet, by his daring in the late inter State war, would have redeemed them all. A student in Harvard when the bugle sounded, summoning the citizens to defend the Union and its flag, he at once enlisted and became a captain in the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment.
Before Yorktown, Va., a rifle-shot required the amputation of one leg.
Six months later he was again in the field, colonel of the Fifty-ninth Regiment, and at Port Hudson, leading the assault, the only man on horseback, and there ore in the most hazardous position, he was again disabled by a shot in the wrist.
A truce being declared to bury the dead, the first inquiry of the Confederate officer was, "Who was that man on horseback ? " Being told, he said, " He is a gallant fellow; a brave man, the bravest and most daring we have met during the war. We thought him too brave to die, and ordered our men not to fire at him! "
Recovering from his wound, he was again in the field, colonel of the Fifty- second Regiment; was promoted to a brigadier-general; captured in assaulting the enemy's works at Petersburg; shut up in Libby Prison three months, and at the close of the war found him in command of the Ninth Corps, in Virginia.
He was a soldier, a scholar and an orator; magnetic in word and action.
William Francis Bartlett was born in Haverhill in 1840, the next generation in a proud New England family. His ancestor, Bailey Bartlett took part in the country’s early struggle for Independence, and aptitude for military life was a strong family trait. Bartlett was educated at Phillips Academy, before entering the class of 1862 at Harvard. His college career was interrupted in his junior year, when war broke out between the North and the South. He joined the Twentieth Massachusetts Militia and was commissioned a Captain. In October 1861, he saw his first engagement at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff near Leesburg, Virginia, in what turned out to be a debacle for the Union Army. Colonel Baker, the officer in charge of the reconnaissance mission, miscalculated the Confederates’ position and strength and was killed as his troops were overrun by the 8th Virginia regiment at a bluff above the Potomac River. Bartlett, who led a detachment of the Massachusetts men, was in the thick of it, but he succeeded in rescuing all of his command, as well as many others as the Rebels fired from the cover of woods.
"Musket balls then flew like hail." Bartlett later wrote, "I felt that if I was going to be hit, I should be, whether I stood up or lay down, so I stood up and walked around, among the men, stepping over them and talking to them in a joking way, to take away their thoughts from the bullets, and keep them more self-possessed. I was surprised at my own coolness. I never felt better, although I expected of course that I should feel the lead every second, and I was wondering where it would take me."
Six months later, Bartlett did feel the lead as he was badly wounded at the Battle of Yorktown. He was kneeling to get a better view of the enemy through his spyglasses when a sharpshooter’s “minnie” ball struck him in the knee, shattering his leg all the way to the ankle. He was removed to the rear, where a field physician amputated his leg four inches above the knee. Afterwards, his only complaint to his commanding officer Colonel Francis Palfrey was: “it’s rough isn’t it Frank.”
Bartlett returned home and received his degree from Harvard while recuperating from his injury and, by 1862, was offered the command of the 49th regiment stationed at Camp Briggs in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In some military quarters, the right of the election of officers was recognized, and at Camp Briggs, Bartlett was so admired and respected that he was unanimously elected Colonel. Injuries notwithstanding, he made his first appearance with an artificial leg in full dress parade and on horseback along with his regiment on Broadway in New York City.
Colonel Bartlett could have retired from the battlefront to bask in the glow of military distinction. Instead he volunteered to command a Louisiana campaign to New Orleans. On May 27, 1863, he guided the 49th in a mad dash across open ground in an assault on the entrenchments at Port Hudson. The terrain there was too rugged for Bartlett’s amputated leg, so he led the charge on horseback, an easy target for Rebel sharpshooters. He was wounded in the joint of his wrist, and his right ankle was hit by buckshot before Confederate officers, whose admiration for valor and manhood was ingrained in their southern culture, gave orders not to shoot the one-legged Yankee officer in command of the enemy regiment.
Bartlett survived and returned to Pittsfield riding at the head of his regiment, his arm in a sling. At the age of 23, he was offered and accepted the Colonelcy of the Fifty-seventh Regiment. He also became engaged to Agnes Pomeroy, whom he had met during his first assignment in Pittsfield. At one point, after being badly wounded, he wrote to offer to free her from any promises. Her response came swiftly: “As long as there is enough of your body to hold your soul, I want you.”
In April 1864, Bartlett led the 57th from Worcester to Rappahannock Station, and in May the order was given for the advance of the Army of the Potomac on the Wilderness Campaign. In his journal Bartlett wrote: “We shall fight tomorrow. I hope I may get through, but hardly expect it. His will be done.”
The next morning, the entire division was engaged in a fierce battle in which Bartlett led his troops. Around 11:00 a.m., he was wounded in the head and carried to the rear where he lay among the dead and dying. He survived and was transported in stages back to New York, where he was met by his mother and father and was cheered by appreciative New Yorkers at his hotel. Home in Massachusetts for barely three months, he returned to Washington intending to go back to the front. Because of the extent of his battle injuries, however, his superiors would not permit his return until his recovery was assured.
On June 20, 1864 at the age of 24, Bartlett was promoted to Brigadier General. His recovery, he assured his superiors, was sufficient enough to take command of Ledlie’s First division Army Corps at Petersburg, Virginia. The ensuing assault amidst land mines at the front line was among the bloodiest engagements of the war. Bartlett later wrote in his journal: “They threw bayonets and bottles on us, and we returned, for we got out of ammunition. At last, to save further slaughter, there being no hope of our being rescued, we gave it up. That crater during that day I shall never forget. A shell knocked down a boulder of clay onto my wooden leg and crushed it to pieces, killing the man next to me. I surrendered to General Mahone.”
He spent the next two months in a military prison suffering from sickness, filth and heat before being released in a prisoner exchange. Only his devotion to Agnes had kept him alive. He later took command of the Ninth Corps at Teneallytown near Washington but was eventually granted a leave by War Secretary Edwin Stanton for reasons of health. He was mustered out of the Army in July 1866.
He married Agnes in the same year, and they traveled in Europe before returning for the birth of their first child. He tried his hand at business but never regained the strength and resolve that had fueled his military career. In June 1874, the magnificent Memorial Hall in Cambridge was dedicated to commemorate the sons of Harvard who had fallen in the war. Invited to speak, General Bartlett gave a moving appeal for reconciliation that resounded throughout the audience at a time when such public sentiments were still rare.
Burdened with never-ending physical sufferings after the war, General William Francis Bartlett was never able to regain his health completely, yet without remorse. He passed away on December 17, 1876 at his home in Pittsfield.
The Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana (May 22 – July 9, 1863), was the final engagement in the Union campaign to recapture the Mississippi in the American Civil War.
While Union General Ulysses Grant was besieging Vicksburg upriver, General Nathaniel Banks was ordered to capture the Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson, in order to go to Grant's aid. When his assault failed, Banks settled into a 48-day siege, the longest in US military history. A second attack also failed, and it was only after the fall of Vicksburg that the Confederate commander, General Franklin Gardner surrendered the port. This left the Mississippi open to Union navigation from its source to the Gulf of Mexico.
Inventory Number: MIS 030 / Sold