Hero Highlight – Richard Ambrose, Co. E, 13th NY Volunteer Infantry

Richard Ambrose

Richard Ambrose

Full of patriotic fervor, Richard Ambrose became one of the first men in Rochester, New York to join the Union army when he enlisted on April 23, 1861, less than two weeks after Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter.  After enlisting in the 13th New York Volunteer Infantry, Richard no doubt felt his military career would be short and sweet, as the Union army intended to whip some Rebel backsides in a matter of months.  It didn’t quite work out that way.

Richard was born in New York state circa 1838 to Robert and Caroline Ambrose.  He was the third child and second son in a family that would grow to include eight children.  Four out of the five Ambrose brothers would go to war for the Union.  All four would return home to Rochester, but one brother made his return in a coffin.

After his three month stint was up, Richard and 80 of his comrades in the 13th New York wanted to go home.  Army life wasn’t as glorious as it had been portrayed in the newspapers.  General William Tecumseh Sherman decided that wasn’t going to happen.  Yes, General Sherman said.  The men had signed up for 90 days.  What they seemed to forget was that they also signed up to serve New York state for two years, and New York state had turned them back over to the Feds to continue their service to their country.  He gave them a choice…step back in line and do your duty or head off to the Gulf of Mexico to do hard labor at Fort Jefferson.  Many of the men decided it wouldn’t be so bad to stay with the 13th New York after all.  Richard was one of 31 men who decided to take his chances in the tropics of the Dry Tortugas. 

No record has been found which describes Richard’s six months at Fort Jefferson.  We can only assume that it was not the happiest time in his life, unless he enjoyed hard labor, extreme heat and bugs.  The Dry Tortugas had been discovered in 1513 by Ponce de Leon.  The island was named after the multitudes of turtles (“tortugas”) found there, and it was called dry due to the lack of fresh water available.  After the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, Dr. Samuel Mudd was convicted of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth and sentenced to life imprisonment.  Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas was the prison to which he was condemned to spend his remaining days.  Lucky for Dr. Mudd, President Andrew Johnson pardoned him in 1869 and Mudd promptly returned to the more temperate climate of Maryland.  Lucky for Richard Ambrose, he spent only six months at Fort Jefferson before returning to the 13th New York in March, 1862.  Unluckily, the 13th New York Volunteer Infantry was about to participate in some of the biggest battles of the War.

Richard’s story is not yet over.   Tune in next time to hear more about Richard and his brothers. 

The Ambrose boys will be highlighted on my May 16th tour at Pittsford Cemetery.  For more information about the tour, please check out the Town of Pittsford website at http://www.townofpittsford.org/files/images/publications/2009_spring_rec_brochure.pdf.  The tour is mentioned on page 17 of the Spring program.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Civil War, Civil War Soldiers, Monroe County NY, Pittsford Cemetery

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