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Psi Us in the Civil War
S. J. Tinaglia Sr.
As a good pledge at the Omega Chapter, I memorized that Psi U had numerous US Civil War participants. 27 or 29 Union Generals, I believe was the fact we had to retain or face the wrath of the infamous Omega Brother Dr. McDougal. We also had to know that Psi U had two Confederate generals (a major general and a brigadier general to be exact) so we could avoid the vitriol of one of the few Southern Omegas, Brother P. Jackson. (The Omegas know his pledge name well but I will leave that for another article). So the Psi U Civil War connection was evident from the beginning of my Psi U career and has always remained of interest to me. Now as a director of the Psi Upsilon Foundation I have access to the old fraternity archives and have dug a little deeper into what I believe is an interesting aspect of our fraternal history.
All told, Psi U had 614 brothers in the Union Army and 36 that were Surgeons or served in the Navy. 63 Psi Us served in the Confederate Army. Psi U had 2,447 initiates by 1861, so roughly 30% of our fraternity was under arms in the War Between the States, with about 10% fighting for the South. The actual percentage would most likely be higher given mid 19th century mortality rates, a known fact and one attested to by this author’s reading of various early chapter rolls. Many brothers died within 10 years of graduation, with consumption (tuberculosis) being most often named as the culprit. (I know Brother Swanke, Rho ‘80, is currently working on an article entitled Psi U Actuarial Tables in 1833 – 1883. We will see if his in depth study confirms these observations).
Given the large number of brothers under the flag and unfortunately no lists that state specific Psi U military members, the task of identifying who served, and in what units, requires one to pore over each chapter roll, name by name. (“The Tenth Catalogue of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity — 1888” being the best source). So for my first shot at Psi U history I selected the Alpha Chapter at Harvard, as my beloved Omega was not founded until 1869.
The Alpha Chapter had 23 brothers in Blue and 9 in the Gray, thus 28% of the Alpha initiates were under arms. However, the ratio of brothers in arms at Harvard was less than the Beta at Yale that had 40% (178 Union and 29 CSA and as a percentage of Beta initiates from 1839 to 1861). The Beta was 15% Rebel and 85% Yankee while the Alpha, in the abolitionist hotbed of Boston, was about 30% Confederate. Both these levels of Confederate participation were greater than the fraternity as a whole (approx. 3%).
One can only speculate as to the reason for such percentages. Did Harvard draw undergraduates from further afield than the rock-ribbed Yankees at Yale? The overall participation rates can perhaps be attributed to Harvard’s high percentage of professorial and legal degrees — typically fighting less? The Beta reported that 10% of its brothers were clergymen vs. Alpha clergy being at 5%. Beta had 11 military chaplains while Alpha had none. Perhaps religious fervor had something to do with the participation rates?
(Author’s note: the Alpha went inactive in 1856 and only started in 1850. The following chapters had no Confederate members: Theta, Lambda, Psi, Upsilon, Iota, Phi and Pi.)
Following are short entries on various Union Alphas
George Bliss, A 1851. Capt. H Co. 4th NY Vol. Arty. Bliss also raised the 20th, 26th and 31st Colored Volunteer Infantry Regts. After the war he became a US District Atty. for the Southern District of NY.
Samuel Abbott Green, A 1851. 24th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry. Brother Green ended the war as a Brevet-Lieutenant Colonel having started as the regiment’s surgeon. A notable action for the 24th was the siege of Fort Wagner and Charleston Harbor, Morris Island, July 18-September 7. Assault on Rifle Pits August 26. Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg September 7.
Francis W. Winthrop Palfrey, A 1851. Brother Palfrey volunteered for the 20th Mass as a Lt. Col. and was brevetted to Brigadier Gen. 1864. The 20th Mass know as the “Harvard Regt.” saw plenty of action; was involved in several key battles such as Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, not to mention Gettysburg and Appomattox Court House. Brother Palfrey wrote a book called The Antietam and Fredericksburg. A review states “On September 17, 1862, the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, the Army of the Potomac under Gen. George B. McClellan clashed with Lee’s invading Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam Creek. General Francis W. Palfrey (1831-1889), then lieutenant colonel of the 20th Massachusetts and later a founding member of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts (along with another Alpha Psi U Theodore Lyman), was severely wounded in the savage struggle that forced the Confederates to retreat across the Potomac. The Union victory, though costly and indecisive, was enough for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. But less than three months later, the Battle of Fredericksburg (where droves of Union soldiers were slaughtered in Gen. Ambrose Burnside’s vain, reckless attempt to storm the impregnable Confederate positions on Marye’s Heights) ended the year with a resounding, grisly defeat. The Antietam and Fredericksburg (1882), part of the landmark Campaigns of the Civil War series, is invaluable for Palfrey’s unique eyewitness perspective; his unsparing, provocative appraisals of Generals McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, and others; his careful, detailed description of the Antietam terrain (vastly altered over time); and his incisive analyses of the folly and fighting that determined two of the most pivotal, murderous battles of the Civil War. ”
Alfred Moore Rhett, A 1851. Was a South Carolina planter before the war and was the Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Arty. and Commander of Fort Sumter. He commanded Ft. Sumter when a Union Naval attack under Admiral du Pont was repulsed. A poem by W. Gilmore Simms praised his bravery on April 7, 1863 at Ft Wagner that was attacked by a Psi U from his pledge class at Harvard, Samuel Abbott Green.
Josiah Collins, A 1852. Brother Collins received both an AB and AM in Law from Harvard and became a lawyer in Hillsborough, NC. He ended the war as a 1st Lt. in the 10th Battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery
Calvin Gates Page, A 1852. Brother Gates received three degrees at Harvard and enlisted as a Surgeon in the 39th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, he died shortly after the war in 1869.
39th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry
SERVICE – Duty in the Battles of the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30, 1864 (Reserve). Pursuit of Lee April 3-9. Appomattox.
Charles E. Stedman, A 1852. Also received three degrees at Harvard and enlisted as a Surgeon in the US Navy 1861-65. No records of the ships or bases he served on have been found.
Robert Ware, A 1852. Received two degrees at Harvard and enlisted as a Surgeon. From 1861-65 he was a surgeon with the 44th Mass. Militia Regt. Brother Ware died of typhoid pneumonia in 1863.
William Fiske Wheeler, A 1852. A Charter Member of the Alpha joined the army as a 1st Lt. in the 51st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry (Militia).
Horatio Hancock Fiske Whittemore, A 1852. Received two degrees at Harvard and enlisted as a Surgeon. From 1861-65 he was post surgeon at several forts in Massachusetts.
Charles Dexter Gambrill A 1853, “died by his own hand from overwork and temporary insanity.” He was an architect and did not serve but the entry caught my eye. This entry just caught my eye for being so macabre.
Benjamin Joy Jeffries, A 1853. Brother Gates received three degrees at Harvard, taught at the Med school and enlisted as a Surgeon US Army 1861-65 after enlisting in the Boston Cadets, Massachusetts Infantry (Militia). Brother Jeffries went on to become a noted eye surgeon.
Robert Henry Renshaw, A 1853. Was a Capt., and A.Q.M in the Lee’s Army of N. Virginia.
Henry Van Brunt, A 1853. Served in the Navy through February 1864. Served on the Staff of Rear Admirals Lee and Goldsborough (check into these two). Brother Van Brunt went on to be a noted architect and designed the Memorial Hall at Harvard.
GEORGE SULLIVAN BOWDOIN, A 1854. Brother Bowdoin had quite a pedigree. Banker with Drexel, Morgan & Co. lived at 39 Park Ave. Born, New York, Sept. 25, 1833. Member of Metropolitan, City, Union, Union League, Knickerbocker, Century, Players, Tuxedo, and New York Yacht Clubs, New England Society, American Fine Arts Society, Metropolitan Museum of Arts, American Museum of Natural History and the Patriarchs. Son of George R.J. Bowdoin and Fanny Hamilton; grandson of James A. Hamilton and Mary Morris; great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. Brother Bowdoin did not reply to the 1888 Almanac but there was a George S. Bowdoin in the 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry who volunteered as a Pvt. but left service an NCO.
SERVICE – Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Gettysburg, Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House.
Theodore Lyman, A 1855. born in Waltham, MA, August 23, 1833; was educated by private tutors; studied in Europe 1847-1849; was graduated from Harvard University in 1855 and from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University in 1858. From 1863-65 he was a Lt. Col. and Aide on the Staff of Gen. Meade, Army of the Potomac. He also served in the US Congress as a Republican from Massachusetts. Brother Lyman as produced a book on his wartime experiences.
Meade’s Headquarters 1863-1865. Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman. George Agassiz, edit.
His position gave him a unique look at the men running the war and the decisions they made. In his letters home, Lyman vividly described his superiors, the conditions at the front, and the enemy.
The following are some excerpts from his letters:
On General Ulysses S. Grant: April 12, 1864
“Grant is a man of a good deal of rough dignity; rather taciturn; quick and decided in speech. He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it. I have much confidence in him.”
On General Meade September 29, 1863
General Meade “is a thorough soldier, and a mighty clear-headed man; and one who does not move unless he knows where and how many his men are; where and how many his enemy’s men are; and what sort of country he has to go through. I never saw a man in my life who was so characterized by straightforward truthfulness as he is. He will pitch into himself in a moment, if he thinks he has done wrong; and woe to those, no matter who they are, who do not do right.”
On Robert E. Lee after the Surrender: April 23, 1865
Lee is, as all agree, a stately-looking man; tall, erect, and strongly built, with a full chest. His hair and closely trimmed beard, though thick, are now nearly all white. He has a large and well-shaped head, with brown clear eyes, of unusual depth. His face is sunburnt and rather florid. In manner he is exceedingly grave and dignified . . . but there was evidently added an extreme depression, which gave him the air of a man who kept up his pride to the last, but who was entirely overwhelmed.. . . He too is punished enough: living at this moment at Richmond, on the food doled out to him by our government, he gets his ration just like the poorest negro in the place! We left Lee, and kept on through the sad remnants of an army that has its place in history. It would have looked a mighty host, if the ghosts of all those soldiers that now sleep between Gettysburg and Lynchburg could have stood in the lines, beside the living.”
Antoine Ruppaner, A 1855. Brother Ruppaner received three degrees at Harvard and enlisted as a Surgeon in the 13th Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry.
George Blagden, A 1856. Enlisted as a Lt. in the 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Cavalry and ended the war as a Major in the 2nd Regt. at Appomattox Court House.
Edward Swift Dunster, A 1856. Brother Dunster received three degrees at Harvard and enlisted as an Asst. Surgeon in the United States Army and ended the war as a Brevet Major.
Charles LeDoux Elgee, A 1856. Brother Elgee was President of Hasty Pudding at Harvard and received a Law degree and studied theology there as well. Was nominated secretary of the legation of the United States in Mexico by President JAMES BUCHANAN.
When the conflict began he headed south to be an Aide to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston 1861-63. Adj. Gen. of the State of Louisiana, 1863 and then Aide to Gen. L. R. Taylor 1863-64. Sadly he died of a fever at Rapides Parish in 1864.
Edward Thornton Fisher, A 1856. Brother Fisher was an engineer on the Isthmus of Panama before the war and then volunteered as a private in the 9th Regt. of NY Volunteers, a Zouave Regiment, and worked his way up the ranks to 2nd Lt. of the 139th Infantry Regt of NY Volunteers. He mustered out due to ill health in late 1863.
John Julius Pringle Alston. A 1857. Was a lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina before the war and was a 1st Lt. in the 1st South Carolina Confederate Arty who’s Colonel was Alfred Moore Rhett, A 1851. Brother Alston was also a Lt. on the Staff of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Later he and commanded a battery at Fort Sumter again presumably serving under Brother Rhett. He died from typhoid fever in September of 1863. There might be a book written about Brother Alston’s family or a darn close relative. Mary’s World Mary Motte Alston Pringle (1803-1884) represented the epitome of Southern white womanhood. Her husband was a wealthy rice planter who owned four plantations and 337 slaves. Her thirteen children included two Harvard scholars, seven world travelers, three socialite daughters, a U.S. Navy war hero, six Confederate soldiers, one possible Union collaborator, a Confederate firebrand trapped in the North, an expatriate bon vivant in France, and two adventuresome California pioneers.
Howard Dwight, A 1857. President of the Hasty Pudding Club went into manufacturing after graduation. Enlisted as a 1st Lt. in the 24th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry then transferred to the 4th Cavalry Regt. of Missouri Volunteers. From 1862 to 63 he was and Asst. Adj. Gen. on the staff of his Brother General Dwight. Brother Dwight was killed by guerillas while bearing dispatches from his brother to Gen. Banks in May 1863.
William Henry Elliott, A 1857. Brother Elliott received an AB from Harvard and a MD from U Va. He enlisted as an Asst. Surgeon in the 1st Infantry Regiment of Georgia Volunteers and served throughout the war.
Francis Ormond French, A 1857. Brother French received an AB and LLB from Harvard. He was Deputy Naval Officer at the Port of Boston, MA. Brother French’s granddaughter married an Astor and he was related to the Amos Tuck French family of Dartmouth fame.
Samuel Breck Parkman, A 1857. Brother Parkman studied law after Harvard then traveled in Europe. He enlisted as a 1st Lt. in Read’s Georgia Battery and was a major on the Staff of Gen. Longstreet, 1861-62. He was killed at Antietam, MD September 17, 1862.
Joseph Lewis Stackpole, A 1857. Brother Stackpole received three degrees at Harvard and was practicing law before the war. He was a Capt. in the 24th Inf. Regt of Massachusetts Volunteers 18-61-62. He later became Major and Judge Advocate of the Depts. of NC, VA and was a Brevet Lt. Col. by 1865.
Nicholas Longworth Anderson, A 1858. Another Psi U President of the Hasty Pudding Club, Brother Anderson studied in Germany after graduation and was studying law in Cincinnati prior to the start of the War. He joined the 6th Ohio Regt. was made Lt. Col. in 1862 and served as full Col. from 1862-65 and was Brevetted Major Gen. at War’s end. He returned to Harvard for a law degree and became a “K” Street lawyer. SERVICE — At the Battle of Shiloh, Battle of Stone’s River, and Chickamauga.
Benj. Wm. Crowninshield, A 1858. President of the Glee Club, Brother Crowninshield studied in Berlin after graduation. At the start of the War he joined the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry and progressed from 2nd Lt. to Major by 1864. He then was on the staff of Gen. P.H. Sheridan. He engaged in “Mercantile” pursuits in New York and Boston after the War. The Crowninshields are an American family prominent in seafaring, political and military leadership, and the literary world. The family, which immigrated in the late 1600s, is one of the founding families of Boston. The Crowninshield influence is particularly visible in Salem, Massachusetts, where they helped settle the town and led it to seafaring prominence. There are also Crowninshield streets in Providence, Rhode Island; Brookline, Massachusetts; and Peabody, Massachusetts.
James Jackson Lowell, A 1858. Lowell was valedictorian of his class at Harvard and studied law there as well. He became a 2nd Lt. in the 20th Massachusetts and died from a wound received at Glendale on June 30th 1862.
Henry Lyman Patten, A 1858. Brother Patten taught Latin in Alabama after college and he enlisted in the 20th Massachusetts Inf. Regt. He rose to the rank of Brig. Gen. in 1864 and died from wounds received at the battle of Deep Bottom.
Alfred Stedman Hartwell, A 1858. At the start of the War he joined the 44th Massachusetts Infantry, was made Capt. of the 54th Regt. and ended the War as the Col. of the 55th and brevetted to Brig, Gen. by War’s end. Among the group of hand-picked officers of the 54th was Alfred S. Hartwell who was commissioned as senior Captain and eventually transferred to the 55th as the Massachusetts “Colored Regiments” expanded. The 54th and 55th are the units made famous in the movie Glory about their assault on Confederate coastal forts. Brother Stedman fought for equal treatment for his soldiers and threatens his resignation if his troops did not receive the same pay and treatment as white troops from Massachusetts.
Stedman returned to Harvard for a law degree and became a Massachusetts legislator and ended up as the Attorney General of the Kingdom of Hawaii. His last address was Honolulu, Sandwich Islands. After the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy he was adamant that the United States acquire a permanent lease with Hawaii for Pearl Harbor as he believed it to be of great military importance. Interestingly enough the same Psi U pledge class that produced a man of Stedman’s stature also had Psi U’s only Southern General, and famous one at that.
Fitzhugh Lee, A 1858. The second son of Robert E. Lee, William was born at the family home of “Arlington” in Virginia on May 31, 1837. Known as “Rooney,” he graduated from Harvard and entered the army in 1857 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 6th Infantry. Two years later, after participating in the Utah Expedition, Lee resigned to farm at his plantation known as “White House,” that he had inherited from his maternal grandfather, located on the Pamunkey River.
When the Civil War began, and with the secession of Virginia, Rooney joined the Confederate army as a captain, then was promoted to major upon joining the Confederate cavalry. During the summer of 1861 he served in Western Virginia in Brigadier General William Loring’s cavalry. He then spent the remainder of 1861 and a portion of 1862 in and near Fredericksburg. Following this he was appointed a lieutenant colonel and within a short time was promoted again to colonel, serving under Major General J.E.B. Stuart.
At the Battle of South Mountain, he was thrown from his horse and knocked unconscious. Still, his performance there was noteworthy and consequently he was promoted to brigadier general on September 15, 1862.
As a brigadier general, Lee served well, commanding the 3rd Brigade at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. At the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, Rooney was wounded, suffering from a severe leg injury. While recovering, he was captured on June 26, 1863 by Union soldiers. Taken to a Union prison, he stayed there for nine months before being exchanged in March 1864. Upon his release, he learned that his wife had died during his incarceration.
Given a new command, Rooney was promoted to major general on April 23, 1864, and upon accepting this promotion, became the youngest officer to attain that rank in the Confederacy. During the final year of the war, as the Confederacy had fewer and fewer officers through attrition, Rooney’s role increased. In August 1864, near Petersburg at Globe Tavern, Lee commanded a cavalry brigade. Near war’s end in April 1865, Rooney was the second-in-command during the retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox, having the total responsibility for the army’s right flank.
When the war ended, Rooney returned to his plantation, “White House,” to find that it had been unfortunately, destroyed by Union troops in 1862. He then rebuilt his home, farmed the land, and served as president of the Virginia Agricultural Society. We went on to become a state senator followed by his election to the House of Representatives in 1887. While serving his second term, he died at “Ravensworth,” his wife’s inherited home in Alexandria, Virginia on October 15, 1891.
William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee is buried at the Lee Mausoleum on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, near his famous father, and grandfather. Lee is the step-great-grandson of George Washington.
Thus ends a small chapter in Psi Upsilon history. A history that binds us to the Founders of our Fraternity and our Country. I encourage other Psi U Civil War buffs out there to tackle quick histories of their chapters during the War Between the States. Feel free to contact the author with any comments or corrections.