Posted tagged ‘Edward T. Ambrose’

Portals to Hell

July 14, 2009

I recently purchased a wonderful book entitled Portals to Hell:  Military Prisons of the Civil War by Lonnie R. Speer.  At first, I had borrowed the book from the Monroe County, New York library system.  Since it was such a comprehensive look at life as a Civil War POW, I decided I had to have it and proceeded to order it through Amazon.com.

As I have conducted my research on the Civil War soldiers of Monroe County, it has amazed me how many of these men spent time in military prisons as prisoners of war.  Besides Edward, Richard and Frederick Ambrose, other prison survivors include Charles Dwinnell, Alpheus Hodges and Kingsley Brownell.  We also remember George B. Wiltsie who became so weak at Salisbury Prison and ultimately died after his release from typhoid brought on by starvation.  Sadly, I’m sure the number of POWs I find will grow as I continue my Pittsford soldier research and begin the soldiers of Fairport and Perinton project.

Mr. Speer’s 410 page book gives so much detail about the various prisons.  Prior to reading this, I had slight knowledge of the Salisbury, Belle Isle and Libby Prisons.  This volume goes far beyond those, and discusses conditions at Point Lookout, Camp Morton and Alton Prison among many others.  Additional interesting topics such as prisoner exchanges and escapes are mentioned in detail.  The back of the book lists a handy reference guide to Union and Confederate prisons.

Having used Portals to Hell for much of my research into Richard Ambrose’s stint in the Dry Tortugas, as well as for information about prison conditions in general, I would highly recommend this title.  Additional information about this book is listed on my Great Resources page.

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.


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