James Cameron (Union colonel)

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James Cameron
Born (1800-03-01)March 1, 1800
Maytown, Pennsylvania
Died July 21, 1861(1861-07-21) (aged 61)
Manassas, Virginia
Buried at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861
Rank Union army col rank insignia.jpg Colonel
Commands held New York 79th New York Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars

American Civil War

James Cameron (March 1, 1800 – July 21, 1861) was a Pennsylvanian who served as colonel of the 79th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army during the early days of the American Civil War (Civil War). He was the brother of Simon Cameron, United States Senator and first United States Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln.[1][2] At the age of 61, James Cameron was killed in action at the First Battle of Bull Run, the first large battle of the war, on July 21, 1861.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

James Cameron was born on March 1, 1800 in Maytown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.[3][4][5][6] His parents were Charles Cameron and Martha Pfoutz.[3] His older brother, Simon, was born a year earlier, on March 8, 1799.[3] When James was eight years old, the family moved to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania where his father died within the year at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.[3] His mother was left with eight children and without means of support.[7] Simon and James thus had to make their way in the world at an early age.[8]

On his forty-seventh birthday, Cameron has been quoted as having said he had been a cow-boy, a plough-boy, a collier, a blacksmith, a tanner, a tailor, a printer, a brewer, a contractor, an alderman, a superintendent of railroads, a lawyer, a prosecuting attorney, and an aide to the governor.[9] At age 19, James went to work in the same print shop with his brother Simon.[7] He became editor of the "Lycoming Gazette" in 1824 and of the "Political Sentinel" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1827.[7][10] He studied law in the office of future President James Buchanan before turning to government contracting.[7][10]

Cameron married a widow, the former Rebecca (Lemon) Galbraith, in 1829.[7] He was superintendent of motive power on the Columbia Railroad in 1839.[10] In 1843, he became deputy attorney general of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania mayor's court.[10]

In 1847, Cameron accompanied Pennsylvania troops to the Mexican-American War as a sutler.[11] He later became a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia.[11] After the war, he practiced law, was superintendent of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad and became a farmer on a large property.[10]

By the time the Civil War began, Cameron was in retirement at an estate on the banks of the Susquehanna River according to some sources[11][12] while at least one reference states he was superintendent of the Northern Central Railway at Sunbury, Pennsylvania.[10][13][14]

American Civil War service[edit]

At the outset of the Civil War, James Cameron decided to serve as a matter of duty and he proceeded to Washington, D.C.[1] The 79th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the "Highlanders" because its initial core militia companies were composed mostly of Scotsmen or men of Scottish descent, was one of the earlier units to arrive in Washington, D.C. after President Lincoln called for troops to suppress the rebellion.[11][15][16] Having arrived under the command of its lieutenant colonel, the 79th offered the position of colonel to James Cameron, a prominent man of Scottish descent and brother of Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War.[4][11] At least two sources suggest that Simon Cameron's influence played a part in the selection.[10][12] James Cameron accepted the position of colonel of the regiment on June 20, 1861.[17][18] By the time the regiment had filled its ranks, a majority of the men were not of Scottish background and in fact, many were of Irish heritage.[19]

On July 7, 1861, the 79th New York Infantry moved to Virginia as Major General Irvin McDowell began the advance of the Union Army that would lead to the First Battle of Bull Run.[17] The regiment was in the division of Brigadier General Daniel Tyler and the brigade of Colonel William T. Sherman.[20] On July 18, 1861, Tyler's division and the 79th New York Infantry participated in a reconnaissance in force in which the regiment came under fire and where the Union force was unable to penetrate the Confederate line at the Battle of Blackburn's Ford.[20]

One account of the 79th New York Infantry going into battle on Henry House Hill, where Confederate forces had started to rally, at a critical point in the First Battle of Bull Run states that Colonel Cameron was on the right side of the regiment's line and shouted "Come on, my brave Highlanders" as the line advanced.[21][22] Other sources say he shouted: "Scots, follow me."[23] A private in the 79th New York Infantry, William Todd, wrote that as the regiment was half way up the hill, they were hit by a volley from the Confederates that staggered them.[21] At this point, with reference to Cameron, Confederate Colonel, later Lieutenant General, Wade Hampton III reportedly said: "Isn't terrible to see that brave officer trying to lead his men forward and they won't follow him."[24][25] Cameron continued to inspire his men with his bravery in leading charges in an effort to recover Union batteries lost on Henry House Hill.[10] Reforming at the direction of their officers after having been first repulsed, the regiment proceeded only to be hit by another volley that killed Colonel Cameron and inflicted additional casualties.[21][26] Thus, Colonel James Cameron, brother of U.S. Secretary of War Simon Cameron, was killed during the first major battle of the Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run.[1][2][6][16][25][27] Simon Cameron had been among the crowd of spectators who came out from Washington, D.C. to witness the battle.[28]

From the earliest reports after the battle, a story emerged that Wade Hampton himself had targeted officers of the 79th New York Infantry, mistaking it for the 69th New York Infantry, one of whom had killed his nephew early in the battle, and that Hampton killed Colonel Cameron with his second or a later shot at him.[1][22][26][29] At least two sources note the similarity between Cameron's death and the death of Lieutenant Colonel Philips Cameron of the regiment's namesake regiment, the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameron Highlanders) by being shot by the colonel of a French regiment at the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro on May 5, 1811 during the Napoleonic Wars.[1][26][30]

Following Colonel Cameron's death, after some hesitancy about firing on men who might be part of the Union force, the 79th New York Infantry was hit with another volley which caused the remaining men in the decimated force to retreat.[21] The 79th New York Infantry "Highlanders" had sustained casualties of 32 killed, 51 wounded and 115 missing.[15][21] Hampton's Legion and the 5th Virginia Infantry fought off attacks by four Union regiments, including the 79th New York Infantry, within forty minutes.[21] Confederate Colonel Wade Hampton sustained slight head and ankle wounds during the charge of the 79th New York Infantry[22] and while lying near the Henry House, tried to direct his men through messages carried by staff officers.[21] Hampton's stand allowed Stonewall Jackson's brigade to have enough time to reach that critical spot on the battlefield.[21]

Aftermath[edit]

Although his men first carried Cameron's body to the rear, his body was left on the field by the retreating Union force and was buried near the Dogan house.[1] Confederate commander, then Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard refused entreaties from Cameron's family and friends for permission to recover his body which was buried within the Confederate lines.[31] Only after the Union Army took control of the area in 1862 was the family able to locate his grave, identify and recover his remains and have them re-interred in Lewisburg Cemetery at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.[4][5][10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Duyckinck, Evert A. 'National History Of The War For The Union, Civil, Military & Naval'. Volume 1. New York: Johnson, Fry and Company, 1861–68. OCLC 41516138. p. 408.
  2. ^ a b c Davis, William C. Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977. ISBN 0-8071-0867-7. p. 253.
  3. ^ a b c d Blanchard, Charles. 'The Progressive Men of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania', Volume II. Logansport, IN: A. W. Bowen & Co., 1900. OCLC 4560119. Retrieved July 22, 2012. p. 822.
  4. ^ a b c Hunt, Roger D. Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War: New York. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8117-0253-9. p. 62.
  5. ^ a b Find a Grave web site for Colonel James Cameron' Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Duyckinck, 1861, p. 408 erroneously gives Cameron's age at the date of his death in 1861 as 52.
  7. ^ a b c d e Shea, John Gilmary. 'The fallen brave: a biographical memorial of the American officers who have given their lives for the preservation of the union'. New York: C.B. Richardson & Co., 1861. OCLC 4337171. Retrieved August 1, 2012. p. 74.
  8. ^ Shea, 1861, p. 74.
  9. ^ Shea, 1861, p. 73.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sauers, Richard A. "Cameron, James (1801–1861) Union colonel" In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X. p. 341.
  11. ^ a b c d e Shea, 1861, p. 75.
  12. ^ a b Burton, William L. Melting Pot Soldiers: The Union's Ethnic Regiments. Republished New York: Fordham University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8232-1828-7. p.162.
  13. ^ Sauers could be interpreted as saying this occurred at an earlier date.
  14. ^ Kelker, Luther Reily. History of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Volume III. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907. OCLC 361725. Retrieved July 31, 2012. p. 4.
  15. ^ a b 'Civil War Reference web site'. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
  16. ^ a b Macdougall, Ed. Scots and Scots' Descendants in America. 1917. Reprint: Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-8063-5073-3. p. 58.
  17. ^ a b Shea, 1861, p. 76.
  18. ^ Hunt, 2007, p. 62 has May 29, 1861 but that was the date on which the regiment was organized.
  19. ^ Detzer, David. Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861. New York: Harcourt, 2004. ISBN 978-0156-03143-1. p. 434.
  20. ^ a b Shea, 1861, p. 77.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h McDonald, JoAnna M. We Shall Meet Again: The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), July 18-21, 1861. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513938-9 (pbk). Retrieved August 1, 2012. p. 140.
  22. ^ a b c Lossing, Benson John and William Barritt. Pictorial history of the civil war in the United States of America, Volume 1. Philadelphia, George W. Childs, 1866. OCLC 1007582. Retrieved July 26, 2012. p. 601.
  23. ^ Shea, 1861, p. 78 and Lossing, 1866, p. 601. This does not mean he could not have made both rallying cries.
  24. ^ Detzer, 2004, pp. 434–435.
  25. ^ a b Gottfried, Bradley M. 'The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas Campaign, including the Battle of Ball's Bluff, June – October, 1861'. New York: Savas Beattie, LLC, 2009. ISBN 978-1-932714-60-9. Retrieved July 26, 2012. p. 101.
  26. ^ a b c The Fallen Brave p. 78
  27. ^ Hannings, Bud. Every Day of the Civil War: A Chronological Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010. ISBN 978-0-7864-4464-9. p. 62.
  28. ^ Davis, 1977, p. 153.
  29. ^ Moore, ed., Frank. The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events. 11 volumes. New York : G.P. Putnam, D. Van Nostrand, 1862. OCLC 2230865. Volume 2, Section: "Poetry, Rumors and Incidents" Retrieved July 26, 2012. p. 19.
  30. ^ Cameron, James. The clan Cameron: a brief sketch of its history and traditions, with short notices of eminent clansmen. Kirkintilloch: C. MacLeod, 1894. OCLC 18904729. p. 60.
  31. ^ Duyckinck, 1861, p. 409.

References[edit]