Posted tagged ‘13th NY Volunteer Infantry’

Band of Brothers – The Ambrose Boys in the Civil War

June 28, 2009
Edward, sister Elizabeth, Richard and Robert Ambrose

Edward, sister Elizabeth, Richard and Robert Ambrose

Richard Ambrose, of the 13th NY Volunteer Infantry, was the hero highlighted in my April 11th post.  We pick up Richard’s story after he was accused of being a mutineer and sent to the Dry Tortugas for hard labor.  After Richard’s six-month stint at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, he did his duty and returned to the 13th NY, continuing to fight for the Union until he was taken as a prisoner during the battle of Second Bull Run in August, 1862.  Richard was exchanged in December of that year and was eventually mustered out of the army in May of 1863.

Richard was just one of five Ambrose brothers, four of whom joined the Union army during the Civil War.  The others included oldest brother Robert and younger brothers Frederick and Edward.

Robert Ambrose, the eldest brother, enlisted in the 108th NY Infantry with younger brother Edward.  The two Ambrose boys fought side by side for nearly two years until Robert was wounded in May, 1864.  Robert succombed to his wounds four days after the battle.  Besides his parents and siblings, Robert left his wife Florence behind to mourn his loss.

Three months after Robert’s death, Edward was taken prisoner by the 1st Virginia Cavalry at the battle of Reams’ Station.   He was first imprisoned at Libby for several days, followed by Belle Isle and eventually ended up at Salisbury Prison.  Edward’s first escape attempt was unsuccessful, but his second escape allowed him to reach the safety of the Union lines.  In a short autobiography written by Edward, he mentioned entering the prison weighing 175 lbs.  By the time he left prison, Edward was reduced to a mere 90 lbs. 

Look for more information about the Ambrose boys in future posts.  We will tell the rest of Edward’s tale, and also that of brother Frederick, who joined the 25th Missouri Infantry on the side of the Union.

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

April 11, 2009
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  The tour is mentioned on page 17 of the Spring program.

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