Posted tagged ‘John Wilkes Booth’

Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon, Originator of the Field Tent Hospital

March 7, 2012

If someone had told Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon that their son, Andrew, would grow up to become a renowned physician and a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln, they probably would have scoffed. 

In 1830, Andrew was born in the small town of Huron in Wayne County, New York.  As one of Ralph and Minerva Flint Sheldon’s five children, Andrew was expected to help them with the farm.  However, at some point, Andrew developed an interest in medicine.  At the age of 22, he graduated from the University of New York’s Medical Department.  He married Miss Lucetta Salsbury in 1857, and they began their married life together in Williamson, New York.  They then moved to Junius, New York, where Andrew practiced medicine until he was called upon to put his skills to the test for the Union army during the Civil War.

Seven months into the War, Dr. Sheldon was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon with the 7th New York Cavalry.  In April 1862, he was appointed as Assistant Surgeon with the 78th New York Infantry.  By October of 1862, Andrew had been commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Volunteers.  President Lincoln himself promoted Dr. Sheldon to Surgeon of the United States Volunteers in charge of Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C. in April, 1863.  It was sometime during these early years of the war that Dr. Andrew Sheldon is credited in the War Department with creating the first field tent hospital.  According to the office of the Wayne County Historian, Andrew F. Sheldon financed the first tent hospitals with his own money after having been unable to obtain the funds elsewhere.  Tent hospitals are still in existence today throughout the world, and serve as an invaluable tool to obtaining immediate medical treatment before the sick and wounded are transported to conventional hospitals.

On April 14, 1865, just hours before his assassination by John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln presented Dr. Andrew F. Sheldon with a case of surgical instruments at Campbell Hospital.  The case, created by G. Tiemann & Company of New York, was made of mahogany with brass corner straps and lock, and the compartments are lined with blue velvet.  Many of the handles on the surgical instruments are of ivory.  That case was, for many years after Andrew’s death, in the collection of his son, Ralph Sheldon, M.D.  In 1948, it was displayed in the Lyons, New York, drugstore window of Bill Dobbins in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Wayne County.  Dr. Sheldon’s surgical case is now in the possession of the Wayne County Historical Society.  President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Steward personally contributed toward the gift.  On the same date, Dr. Sheldon was presented with an ebony cane mounted with a gold cap and engraved, “Presented to A. F. Sheldon, surgeon U.S.V., by his friends at Campbell Hospital, Washington, D.C. April 14, 1865”.

After the war ended, Andrew resumed his practice.  He and Lucetta had six children together, three of whom died in infancy.  Daughter Nora Belle married Charles F. Powers and they had two sons, Whitney and Albert.  Despite his medical background, Andrew was unable to save the life of his daughter and she died at his home in Lyons at age 35 of gastric catarrh.  Son Ralph followed in his father’s footsteps and became a physician.  Both father and son practiced medicine for over 50 years.  Although Ralph was twice married, he had no children.  Younger son, Albert, became a manager of the International Silver Company based out of Lyons, New York.  He also served as Lyons Village Trustee.  Albert and his wife, Caroline Hersey Sheldon, had one daughter named Mary Elizabeth.

After spending the last 31 years of his life in Lyons, New York, Andrew F. Sheldon died in 1914 at the age of 83.  He and his family are buried in Wayne County, New York. 

Andrew F. Sheldon spent much of his life as a servant of the people.  Besides being a physician, he also spent many years as the Wayne County Treasurer, President of the Soldiers and Sailors Association of Wayne County, and was very active in the G.A.R., a patriotic organization dedicated to aiding veterans of the Civil War.  His greatest legacy, however, is as originator of the field tent hospital during the Civil War.

This article was originally published in the ‘Baker-Cederberg Notebook’, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall-Winter 2010, a semi-annual newsletter published by the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  To learn more about the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, please visit their website at http://www.rochestergeneral.org/rochester-general-hospital/about-us/rochester-medical-museum-and-archives/.

Illuminations

January 20, 2010

Thank you to everyone who attended my Illuminated History:  The Civil War Soldiers of Perinton presentation last night at the Fairport Library.  I was overwhelmed by the positive response, and the genuine interest in my Civil War boys and our Civil War nurse, Mary Jewett Telford.

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

Mary Jewett Telford, courtesy Floris A. Lent

It was a pleasure speaking with so many of you before and after the presentation:  Brian Burkhart, who is diligently tracking the men of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry;  Herb Swingle, who created quite a stir with his connection of John Wilkes Booth to the Rochester area;  Gary Maybee, who shared with me the story of his own Civil War treasures; and Melissa Talma, who took the time to write me an eloquent email expressing her enthusiasm for my project and for learning more about our Civil War heroes.

The heroes illuminated last night included:

George B. Wiltsie, courtesy Jason Puckett

George B. Wiltsie (1837-1865), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Died of typhoid fever contracted as a result of starvation at Salisbury Prison.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Kingsley Brownell (1845-1924), 21st New York Cavalry.  Seriously wounded outside Martinsburg, WV and forced to ride 9 miles as a POW before being paroled 8 months later.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Major Harvey E. Light (1834-1921), 10th Michigan Cavalry.  Major Harvey survived the war and became a prominent citizen in the Pittsford community.  Buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Mary Jewett Telford (1839-1906), Civil War nurse.  Served at Hospital No. 8 in Nashville, TN.  Nurse, author, suffragette, editor and charter member of the Woman’s Relief Corps.  Buried at South Perinton Cemetery.

Other Civil War soldiers mentioned during the presentation were:

William B. Lyke (1839-1904), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Captured, along with George B. Wiltsie, at Reams Station.  Died in 1904, age 65.

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Kingsley Brownell, courtesy Mark A. Lannan

Albert E. Lyke (1841-1933), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Shot through the jaw at Spotsylvania.  Took his first plane ride in 1928, at age 87.  Died at age 92.

Edward H. Lyke (c 1843-1864), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Brother of William B. and Albert E. Lyke.  Mortally wounded at Petersburg.

Henry Root (c 1845-1899), 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Drummer boy.  Drowned in 1899 after suffering a seizure and falling into the water while fishing.

Jerome Brownell (1843-1921), 108th New York Volunteer Infantry.  Brother of Kingsley Brownell.  Wounded at Gettysburg.

Jacob Telford (1833-1905), 15th Indiana Infantry.  Husband of Mary Jewett Telford.  Wounded at Murfreesboro, TN.

John H. Thurmon (1843-1919), 2nd Missouri Cavalry.  The only Confederate soldier buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Harvey E. Light, courtesy Doug Light

Special thanks to descendants Martha Jewett, Evan Marshall, Clay Feeter, Floris A. Lent, Jason Puckett, Mark A. Lannan and Doug Light for supplying me with photos and information about their heroic ancestors.  I very much appreciate the services of Laurie T. Hall who taped the presentation, Charles Profitt as tech guy, Margaret Pilaroscia of the Fairport Library and Alan Keukelaar of the Perinton Historical Society.

There are many more illuminations to come!  Please check my “Cemetery Tours and Presentations” page for information about upcoming events.

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 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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