28 February 2012

Private Chapman Pennock, a Canadian Yank

By Ken Robison
For The River Press February 29, 2012

This continues a monthly series commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. A special thanks to Edward J. Snider of Harlem, MT for sharing photographs and information on his ancestor, Chapman Pennock.

Many foreigners fought on both sides during our American Civil War. Chapman Pennock, a Canadian, fought for the Union, later came west to Montana and today rests at Riverside Cemetery, Fort Benton. Pennock was born March 24, 1843 in South Crosby, Leeds County, Ontario, Canada. He was the eldest of seven children born to Arthur W. and Phoebe Ann Woodard Pennock. As a young man he worked on a farm and learned the carpentry trade. He found employment in a sash and door factory at Sandy Creek, New York, and when President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 volunteers to serve for the duration of the Civil War, Pennock quit work at the factory and at the age of 20 enlisted into the Union Army on June 17, 1863. Chapman was enrolled as a Private in Company C 18th Cavalry Regiment New York, just two weeks before the Battle of Gettysburg.

Pennock’s company was sent to Camp Dudorf on New York’s Staten Island for basic training. Upon completion of training, Chapman’s regiment saw action almost immediately in New York in helping to quell draft riots. The draft riots of July 13-16, 1863 have been described as the worst outbreak of urban unrest in U.S. history. On Monday, July 13th five days of mayhem and bloodshed began that would be known as the Civil War Draft Riots. The rioters initially targeted only military and governmental buildings, symbols of the “unfairness” of a new conscription law. Mobs attacked only individuals who interfered with their actions, but by afternoon of the first day, some of the rioters turned to attacks on African Americans, and on all things symbolic of black political, economic, and social power. As the violence escalated, armed mobs of white workers rampaged throughout the streets and fought police, the remaining militia still in New York, and the newly trained 18th Cavalry in pitched battles. They burned government buildings, the Colored Orphan Asylum, many businesses, and attacked black men and women, with special violence for black workers including eleven lynchings.

The 18th New York Cavalry then deployed to Camp Stoneman near Washington D. C. for further training and to perform patrol and guard duty in the capital city. Chapman Pennock saw President Abraham Lincoln several times, and he recalled seeing “Lincoln, passing in review of Union Troops, riding a white horse with his feet barely off the ground and his tall hat bobbing as he nodded to the troops. Quite a comical site [sic]!”

Leaving Washington under command of General Nathaniel Prentiss Banks, the 18th Cavalry received orders to the Department of the Gulf of Mexico on February 16, 1864 and then to the Red River Campaign [March 10-May 22, 1864]. The Red River Campaign had several goals: confiscate southern cotton for New England mills; destroy Confederate supply lines; deter the threat of a French-Mexican military force and supplies from joining the Confederates; protect any loyal Union population in Texas; and finally bring Texas back into the Union.

Following the course of the Red River, the Union Army and Navy progressed with little opposition through Alexandria reaching Natchitoches by early April 1864. At Natchitoches the Army veered away from the Red River, going toward Shreveport by way of Mansfield, which left them without naval support. This and another tactical blunder on the part of General Banks and a series of skillful maneuvers by General Richard Taylor (son of President Zachary Taylor), who commanded the Confederate forces, were decisive factors to the final outcome of the battle.

Pennock later described this campaign and what it was like to endure combat action:
“I cannot recall the exact dates of those minor fights but I was in all of them and came thru unharmed but wished many times I was honorably out of it. After leaving Natchitoches, Gen. Banks thought to reach Shreveport, La. Without much fighting and after several days marching and a few skirmishes and loosing [sic] but a few men, on the morning of April 8, 1864 at Pleasant Hill we were suddenly faced by the main Rebel Army and a fight was on. We had several men killed, two by my side, namely, Thos. Oliver and John Fay. I was badly frightened and excited. I felt as tho I had all the war I wanted but had gotten into it and was determined to make the best of it. Expecting to be killed any minute causes strange feelings to come over one that no can realize until he has been there.
“Our next fight was at Mansfield and both parties were determined to hold the field. After noon the Rebels began to weaken and fall back towards the Cross Roads, and tho they were beaten, some fighting was continued all night. The rebels, during the night, had received reinforcements and outnumbered us by many hundreds. The battle continued all day and men lay dead in some places two deep. As night came we had to return to Pleasant Hill were we got some rest but by daybreak the fight was on for the second day and by night we were badly beaten. Our supply train and everything was gone. Gen. Banks was discouraged. We were short about six thousand men, all our supplies and artillery. Banks ordered a general retreat and turned our faces towards New Orleans. Ragged, dirty and hungry before we reached the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge, there we got new supplies of food and clothing and were thankful to be alive.
“After resting a few days at Baton Rouge, Company C’s horses were turned over to the government and we were ordered to New Orleans to do guard and patrol duty in the city, not mounted. After about ten days, Company C was sent up to Fort Carey to drill, both infantry and artillery. I got very tired of that kind of drilling, but that was orders and had to be done, regardless of our feelings. We remained there four weeks, and were then returned to New Orleans, mounted and put on patrol duty in and around the city.
“At this time some of the boys were applying for furloughs, or leave of absence. I, not feeling very well, sent in my application and received my furlough and transportation to Watertown, New York, good for thirty days. I left New Orleans, September 15th on board the S. S. Campana, had good weather and landed at New York, six days and six hours from the time I left New Orleans. I arrived at Watertown two days later. I met with many old friends, all eager to know about the war. After a few days, I turned my attention to getting over into Canada, to the home of my parents. I met with many difficulties but finally reached home where I remained until time to return to Watertown where I got my transportation papers and passport to New York. On arriving, I found I could not get a boat to New Orleans for several days, so went to the Soldiers Home and the officer in charge wired headquarters that I was there.
“On my return, waiting for the transport ship, after about ten days I was put aboard the S. S. Continental. I had a very rough voyage to New Orleans. On arriving, I found the 18th Cavalry was then at Thipodox [Tribodaux], some seventy miles, from there. I went to headquarters and got transportation on the Algers R. R. which run near Thipodox. On arrival there, I was furnished with a horse and equipment and again took up duty with Company C, 18th New York Cavalry. I cannot recall the exact date but in the year of 1864, after being on duty at Thipodox for several days in continual cold rain, the Regiment was ordered back to New Orleans, where we were dismounted and sent eight miles into winter quarters and remained there thru cold and rainy weather until about the middle of January 1865.”

In a reorganized command under General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby, who had relieved General Banks, Private Pennock took part in another march on Shreveport in January, 1865, but the news of General Lee’s surrender came before they reached that city. The rigors of the campaign, especially the cold, damp weather, having weakened his health, Pennock was confined in a hospital in New Orleans for sometime after the close of the war, and he was honorably discharged January 14, 1866.

Following his discharge Chapman Pennock returned to Canada and married Clarissa Brown in Ontario in 1866, and to this union eight children were born. At this time he engaged in the mercantile business at Fort Williams, Ontario. He sold out there, tried faming in North Dakota for two years, and in 1888 came to Montana to work on the St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Manitoba [later Great Northern] railway. Two years later Pennock located at Fort Benton, and for a time was employed by Henry J. O’Hanlon as manager for the O’Hanlon Livestock Company. On April 16, 1907, Clarissa Pennock died of cancer and was interred in Riverside Cemetery.

Shortly after the death of his wife, Chapman Pennock moved from Fort Benton to the Ralph B. Snider Ranch, thirteen miles southwest of Hogeland, then part of Choteau County [now Blaine County]. He lived with his daughter Elizabeth Ann Pennock Snider and her husband Ralph until the latter’s death in 1910. Chapman helped his daughter raise her three small children and manage the cattle and horses on the ranch. For three more decades Chapman lived with his daughter, and she cared for him. On Memorial Day 1937 at the Snider Ranch, American Legion Posts #59 Hogeland and #109 Turner and a large gathering of friends and neighbors honored Private Pennock as the last remaining Civil War veteran in Blaine County.

On February 10, 1940 Chapman Pennock, age 97, passed way at the Snider Ranch. A military funeral service was held at the Hogeland Lutheran Church with Harlem and Big Flat ex-servicemen attending. An escort accompanied the remains to Fort Benton where the American Legion Post held graveside services. Chapman Pennock, Civil War veteran rests next to his wife, Clarissa Brown Pennock and son, Richard, in Fort Benton Riverside Cemetery.

Sources: [Photos and Family History provided by Edward J. Snider; FBRPW 14 Feb 1940, p. 1; 21 Feb 1940, p. 8; FBRPW 17 Apr 1907, p. 5; Thunderstorms And Tumbleweeds 1887-1987 East Blaine County, pp. 232, 442, 513; Riverside Cemetery Records; U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles; American Civil War Regiments 18th New York Cavalry; New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts; A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 2]

Note: If you have Civil War veterans in your family who settled in this area, we would be pleased to hear from you with copies of stories and photographs that we can share with our readers. Send your Civil War stories to mtcivilwar@yahoo.com or to the Overholser Historical Research Center, Box 262, Fort Benton, MT 59442.

1. Young Chapman Pennock. [Courtesy of Edward J. Snider]
2. New York Draft Riots, July 13-16.
3. Chapman and Clarissa A. Brown Pennock. [Courtesy of Thunderstorms And Tumbleweeds]
4. Civil War Veteran Champman Pennock, age 94, Memorial Day 1937 at the Snider Ranch in Blaine County. [Courtesy of Edward J. Snider]
5. Chapman Pennock Civil War Gravestone, Riverside Cemetery.