1863: Alanson Crosby to Sarah (Millard) Jones

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Lt. Alanson Crosby of Co. A, 154th New York Infantry

This letter was written by Alanson Crosby (1836-1864), the son of Alanson Crosby (1803-1871) and Cornelia Wright (1806-1891) of Franklinville, Cattaraugus county, New York. Alanson attended the University of Kentucky and studied at the Poughkeepsie Law School. Crosby was admitted to the New York bar in May 1859 and practiced in Ellicottville before joining in the law office of Alexander Sheldon in Randolph, Cattaraugus county, New York.

During the Civil War, Alanson left his law practice to accept a commission as the 2nd Lieutenant in Co. A, 154th New York Infantry in August 1862. In January 1863 he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and to Adjutant of the regiment on 2 May 1863. As we learn from this letter, he was taken prisoner during the fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg but escaped and returned to his regiment where he was promoted to Captain in February 1864. Sadly, he was mortally wounded on June 16, 1864, near Mud Creek in Cobb County, Georgia.

Alanson’s letter was addressed to Sarah Ann (Millard) Jones (1819-1889), the wife of Richmond Jones (1811-1887) of Elmira, Chemung county, New York. The subject of the letter pertains to Sgt. Charles V. Depuy [De Pue] (1834-1866) of Salamanca who was mustered into Co. I in September 1862. He was promoted to sergeant in April 1863 and captured on 1 July 1863 at Gettysburg when the regiment was sent from Cemetery Hill by Gen. O. O. Howard to stem the gray tide in John Kuhn’s brickyard at Gettysburg after the collapse of the First and Eleventh Corps on the first day of the battle. The famous story of Amos Humiston—the soldier found dead clutching the photo of his three children comes out of this regiment. Sgt. Depuy survived imprisonment, was paroled and returned to his regiment before mustering out on 9 June 1865. He died the following year. It isn’t clear what the relationship between Mrs. Jones and Sgt. Depuy is, if any.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.]


Headquarters 154th Regt. New York Volunteers
July 18th 1863

Mrs. Richmond Jones
Dear Madam,

Your communication respecting Sergeant Charles Depue [Depuy] is received. I am directed by the Commanding Officer of the Regiment to answer you. Sergeant Depue is neither killed or wounded but a prisoner of war. He was captured in the 1st of July at Gettysburg together with a large number of the regiment. I was also captured at the same time but succeeded in making my escape from them ten days afterwards while being sent to Richmond. ¹ I saw Sergt. Depue & know him to be uninjured. He is probably in Richmond now.

I am, Madam, very respectfully your obedient servant, — A. Crosby

1st Lieutenant & Adjutant, 154th Regt. N. Y. Vols.

¹ On July 8, when Union prisoners captured at Gettysburg were taken across the Potomac on a ferry boat, Adjutant Alanson Crosby of the 154th New York abandoned all hopes of escape. On the early morning of July 10, Crosby awoke to find a pond nearby. Two lines of guards had been placed down to the water, so as to form an avenue through which the prisoners could go down to wash. A steep bank about ten feet high and covered with short thick bushes and vines lie at the edge of the pond and provided some screening. While Crosby engaged a guard in conversation, Lieutenant John Mitchell (Co. D, 154th New York) stealthily crawled into the bushes, out of sight. When the guard momentarily turned his attention to rolling up his own blanket, Crosby crept into the bushes with Mitchell. A few moments later the guard walked past their hiding place, looking for them, but must have concluded that they had rejoined the other prisoners while he was preparing for the march. Eventually leaving their hiding spot, the pair managed to elude the enemy, but on one occasion two Confederates jumped over a fence within 50 feet of them. However, by sitting perfectly still beneath a tree, they went unnoticed. At night they used the North Star as a guide, traveling toward the northwest. Famished, they stopped at a house with a lady and her teenage daughter who, fortunately for them, held Union sympathies. Entering the mountains and becoming overconfident, they narrowly escaped detection by two passing Confederate soldiers along a mountain path, and when near the small village of Hedgesville (West Virginia), they just managed to avoid another Rebel picket. They were elated upon finally reaching the Potomac, but in crossing nearly drowned in the turbulent waters roiled by recent heavy rains. They divested themselves of every last stitch of clothing to make it across. On the opposite bank, in their naked state they were confronted by irate locals who mistook them for Confederates, but the locals calmed down when convinced they were indeed Federals and provided them with such motley clothes that no one would have thought them to be soldiers. It was not long before they were back with their regiment. (Adj. Alanson Crosby, Register Supplement, Elmira, New York, February 28, 1864, 154th New York, Newspaper Clippings.)


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