by Patricia Davidson-Peters

Martin Short (1864)
Martin Short was born in about 1823, but despite his many descendants his ancestry and first twenty years of his life remain somewhat of a mystery.

Family stories handed down through the generations suggest he had come from St. Denis, Quebec.  This seems likely given the fact he and Matilda Norman were married in Bakersfield, Vermont, which is approximately one hundred miles due south and half that distance from Montreal where Matilda had been living in a convent.

The exact year of their marriage was not documented by Justice of the Peace John Morse who had apparently married them and many other couples, but had failed to record all but two records during a two year period. Evidently Justice Morse did not seem to find the time or consider these vital matters of much importance.  Using various records, many of which are conflicting, it seems they were married in either 1844 or 1846.

At the time their eldest known child, Mary Marie, was born in 1849 they were living in New York, but by time the next surviving child, Elizabeth Jane, was born in 1853, the family was again living in Vermont.  From there they moved westward to Illinois, and in 1859 their third child, Eunice Matilda, was born in Macoupin County where the family was enumerated the following year.

The brighter future they had hoped for in the Prairie State was not to be. They were stricken with fever and chills, and the wheat fields Martin had sowed fared no better.  No doubt the opening of the Minnesota territory in 1849 and the rapid development of the Upper Mississippi River Valley had given him renewed hope for he arrived by steamboat at Winona in about 1861.  From the great wheat producing and shipping port of Winona, Martin walked another thirty miles more or less to the village of Saratoga where he found farm work.  He then sent for his family, and the following year rented a farm of his own which is where they were living during the early conflicts of the Civil War and at the time their son George McClellan was born in 1862.

This northern man and family man I proudly call my 3rd great grandfather had not been anxious to join the conflict. He had "no taste for war" and had been able to avoid it until the opening of 1864 at which time he had either been  persuaded by his neighbors, or enticed by the sum of the bounty.  He enlisted at Saratoga on the 22nd day of January under the command of Colonel Wilkin and Captain Wellman of the Ninth Minnesota Infantry.  He was by no means a youngster. He was aged forty-one and described as having black eyes, brown hair, a dark complexion and standing 5’ 7½ inches tall,  and he most probably could not read or write for his enlistment papers were signed with an “x.”

Gravely concerned about "the defenseless and penniless condition of his family should he be killed in battle," Martin and thirty-four new recruits were trained at Rolla for two months of drilling.  Afterwards, on May 26th, they assembled near St. Louis at Camp Gamble which had been formerly known as Camp Jackson prior to its capture by the Federals three years earlier.   On the 29th, the regiment embarked on the steamer, B.M. Runyon and reached Memphis on the 31st. The following morning Colonel Wilkin received orders from General Sturgis to proceed to Corinth, Mississippi by way of Salem and Ruckerville with the intent to destroy the Mobile and Ohio Railroad before advancing as far as possible toward Macon and Columbus. Carrying three days rations in their haversacks, Martin and his regiment disembarked on the morning of June 1st and marched to the Memphis and Charleston depot. The officers and men were said to have been in "fine spirits" at this point and marched the six miles into La Fayette where they spent the next day in camp.

On the morning of June 10th, at seven o'clock, the regiment reached the First Brigade and fell in rear of the Ninety-third Indiana. The day was extremely hot and sultry, the country was largely woodland, the roads extremely muddy, and the rapid march under a scorching sun soon had a very exhausting effect upon them.  By two o'clock many of the men had begun to fain and fall out of the ranks.  At least one was known to have died from sun-stroke. Posted near the large two-story home of William Brice, the "Battle of Brice's Crossroad" raged until dark with the Ninth Minnesota desperately struggling to hold their position.  Forced to retreat, they drug themselves along through the swampy bottom sinking to their knees in mud.  Bone-weary and weak with only a couple hours of rest, they were roused during the night and moved with such exhaustion that many of them fell into the enemy's hands who had lit fires which the men had thought to be their own. When they were forced into retreat and rejoined their regiment at Memphis, only sixty-seven percent of Martin's company were present - the remaining were missing, including Martin Short.

The disastrous defeat suffered by the Union forces at Brice's Crossroads cost the Ninth considerably. Colonel Marsh's report dated June 15, 1864, claimed the loss as: two officers killed and 6 captured; 7 enlisted men killed, 20 wounded and left on the field; 13 wounded and brought away; and two hundred and thirty-three enlisted taken prisoner.  The privates of Co. K, 9th Minnesota who were captured with Martin on the 10th of June, 1864 were:  Octavo Barker, a native of Maine; Jacob Baden; Hiram Burroughs or Burrows of New York; Alois Burzell, a native of Germany; Moses Chamberlain; Charles Dietrich, a native of Germany; Robert H. Durham; George Fraham, a native of Germany; John G. Frederck; John Gordon, a native of Ireland; George O. Jenkins; Michael W. Lawton; John Morrison, a native of Scotland; Charles Newton of New York; Charles Pratchett of England; and Pierre Rodier of Canada.

Two days after the battle, the Rebels set up Dr. John C. Dixon, Assistant surgeon of the 9th Minnesota, in a makeshift hospital on the first floor of the scorched Ripley courthouse which had been burned by the Union Army. It’s possible Martin might have had contact or seen Dr. Dixon who had attended the birth of his son, George. If there had been an exchange, it was most likely very brief since shortly after Martin’s arrival he and another 649 prisoners (including four others from Company K) were boarded onto a train toward a destination none could ever imagine.

 Issuing rations. Andersonville Prison, Ga., August 17, 1864.
Photographed by A. J. Riddle. 165-A-445
By the time May had come and gone and Martin had arrived, seventeen thousand Union soldiers had entered the prison in Andersonville, Georgia.  An additional thousand were dying, and about fifteen hundred had already perished.

Unlike the scorching hot temperatures they had endured in May, June had opened with a drenching rain which continued steadily until the 19th.  Over forty thousand prisoners had now entered the stockade, the majority of which had been reduced to ragged remnants of the soldiers they had been.  It was this canvas of stench, disease, starvation and death which Martin would have weakly gaped upon as he mustered forth for enrollment.

It is not known whether he had been able to have a fellow soldier write a letter home on his behalf or not.  But of those who were fortunate enough to do so, they often requested of their family to send food and clothing and if they were able to so oblige, it would have probably arrived months later only to be stolen.  Deemed as "fresh fish," the new arrivals were preyed upon by a group of "Raiders" which numbered somewhere between 150 and 500 strong. These men would terrorize, steal, unmercifully beat and in some instances, kill those who tried to resist them. Eventually another group of prisoners formed a police force known as "The Regulators" to combat the terrorism and called upon the Camp Commander, Capt. Henry Wirz, who had them arrested.  When they were found guilty by their fellow prisoners and sentenced to hang in July of 1864, Martin Short would have been present, but barely so.

He entered the hospital prison on August 5th and is noted to have been the first soldier from the Ninth Minnesota Volunteers to have died from scurvy. The official date of his death from his military records reads August 17, 1864.  How or when Matilda learned of his death is not known.  She had filed for the bounty due her husband on the 25th of February the following year, and his name also appeared on the 1865 Minnesota State Census above hers and three of their four children.

Martin's headstone at Andersonville
Photographed by Ken on his 2004 visit.
Martin's fear of leaving his family “defenseless and penniless” had found its truth.  In the years which followed it is said his widow worked day and night and was never known to be idle.  She lived successively in Minnesota at Whalen, Rushford and eventually Brownsdale where she had arrived in May of 1891. Known as a tenderly devoted mother, a thrifty housewife, a kindly neighbor and friend, Matilda passed away on the 6th of January in 1902, and was laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery. She had been survived by all four children: Mary Marie, wife of Nathan Osmer of Charles City, Iowa; Elizabeth "Jane", wife of Charles Johnston, of Portage Mills, Wisconsin; Eunice Matilda, wife of Albro B. Danforth of Hope, North Dakota; and George McClellan of Brownsdale, Minnesota.

This month marks one hundred fifty years since Martin's sad and tragic death, and although we descendants have not yet been able to document the details of Martin and Matilda’s earliest years, their strife and struggles have not, nor will they be forgotten.

Thanks to Francis Johnston for contributing the photo of Martin in uniform to me so many years ago and for donating its likeness to the Andersonville National Historic Site to keep on file for others.  Also, special thanks to Ken Randall for sharing his photos and visit to Andersonville, and to Fran Anderson for her generosity and kindness over the years, and to Jeff McEwen and all other Short descendants who corresponded and shared their family information. -pdp

Notes: Photo of Andersonville Prison (above) was taken the same day as Martin Short's official date of death.  His burial is listed in the Roll of Honor recorded by the U.S. Quartermaster's Department. He was buried in grave #5941 (above) and was included in the recent publication of John B. Lundstrom's One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, published by Minnesota Historical Society, 2012.  The website of author and blogger, P. Davidson-Peters, aka Sunnyann was cited in Lundstrom's book on page 431 in reference to Martin Short.


  1. Adjutant General, Reports, 1863
  2. Andersonville Map and Guide Brochure - National Park Service
  3. Andersonville National Cemetery at Find A Grave
  4. Atwater, Dorence, A List of the Union Soldiers Buried at Andersonville, copied from the official record in the surgeon's office at Andersonville, The Tribune Association, New York, 1866 on openlibrary.org
  5. Babcock, Willoughy B. M., Minnesota's Frontier, A Neglected Sector of the Civil War, Minnesota History Magazine, Minnesota Historical Society 
  6. Brownsdale, Mower County Transcript, January 15,1902 - Obituary of Matilda Shortt
  7. The Civil War: St. Louis Union Arsenal and Camp Jackson - video presented by HEC TV
  8. Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 13, New York State Legislature. Assembly, James B. Lyon, State Printer, Albany, New York, 1894 (Google eBook)
  9. Geographical Map of the Battle of Brice's Crossroads Preservation Lines and Troop Movements - Mississippi's Final Stands, the Last Battlegrounds
  10. Letter of Colonel J.F. Marsh to Oscar Malmros, Adjutant General, dated 21 Nov 1864 from Benton Barracks, Missouri - Headquarters of the 9th Minnesota Volunteers
  11. Lundstrom, John B., One Drop in a Sea of Blue: The Liberators of the Ninth Minnesota, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minn, 2012
  12. Marvel, William, Andersonville, the Last Depot, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1994.
  13. Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-1865, Board of Commissioners, printed for the state of Minnesota by the Pioneer Press Co., St. Paul, 1891 on openlibrary.org
  14. Sinking of the Steamer B.M. Runyon, Fifty Lives Lost, New York Times July 27, 1864
  15. National Archives Military Records
  16. U.S. Federal and State Census records: 1860, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1890, 1895 and 1900
  17. U.S. Company K, 9th Reg't Minnesota Infantry Muster Roll (Martin Short)
  18. U.S. Volunteer Enlistment of Martin Short at Saratoga, Winona Co., Minnesota; PDP collection
  19. U.S. Quartermaster’s Dept. Roll of Honor I-VI p.175 Andersonville Cemetery; Widow’s Pension Records; Martin Short from the collection of P. Davidson-Peters


Erma Joy - Our Centenarian

Erma Joy (Danforth) Brown
Celebrating her 100th Birthday
This Thankful Thursday I'd like to pay tribute and celebrate from afar, the 100th birthday of cousin, Erma Joy.

The daughter of Robert C. Danforth and Avis A. (Sherburne), granddaughter Albro Danforth and Eunice Matilda (Short), great-granddaughter of  William H. Danforth and Marianne (Morse),   Erma was  born in Purple Springs, Alberta, Canada on the 17th of July, 1914.

Today and Saturday our centenarian will be joined by family and friends at her home to celebrate this kind and caring mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.

Happy, happy birthday, Erma!

Special thanks to Erma and Laurie for sharing this special day with me via email.

For more on Erma and who and what she attributes to her long and happy life, you can view the Okotoks Western Wheel article, "Senior citizen reaches rare milestone.  Black Diamond: Erma Brown celebrated her centennial birthday on July 17 " by Tammy Rollie.


T.A. Moore Shot on the 4th of July, 1863 - Pronounced Mortal

A tribute by P. Davidson-Peters

The son of James U. Moore and Rebecca (Cook), Thomas Anderson Moore was born on 31 Oct 1838 in Scio, Harrison Co., Ohio.  In 1847 he moved with his family to Collinsville, Madison Co., Illinois where his father and uncle were bell manufacturers. 

Rachel (Arbaugh) Bennett to Emma Crites 1929
Letter courtesy of Marian E. Karpisek Collection
By time the country was embroiled in civil unrest, the Moore family, like America, had become divided.  Tom's  parents had opposing sentiments as stated in an 1929 letter written by Rebecca's grandniece, Rachel (Arbaugh) Bennett, which reads in part: "Uncle Jim left Aunt Becca during the Civil War he went to the South and she begged him not to go and she told him if he went and would fight against the north she never would live with him and he said he was going and would shoot his own brother down so they never lived together again  he married again & she lived with her children in St. Louis."

The 1860 census supports this information.  Tom, his mother, and his younger brother Joe were residing in the St. Louis household of Gabriel Darlington.  A supporter of the abolitionists, Tom enrolled on 01 Aug 1862 with the 33rd Infantry Missouri, a regiment which was recruited under the patronage of the Union Merchants Exchange of St Louis.  The Secretary of the Merchants exchange, Clinton B. Fisk was Colonel, and William A. Pile, captain.  Tom mustered in at Benton Barracks on the 5th of September and was married two months later to Clarissa V. Pilcher, daughter of Ezekiel and Louisa (Ballard) in St. Louis on his bride's 17th birthday, October 7th.

Tom's first letter on file to his young wife was dated from Camp Fisk, Near Rolla six days later.  He wrote as often as possible, over a dozen and a half letters between October 1862 and his last dated from Helena, Arkansas on 17 Jun 1863. Helena had been a busy agricultural and commercial center on the Mississippi River with a population of just over a thousand citizens, but by July of 1862 it had been taken over and was occupied by Union troops under the command of Major General Samuel Curtis. 

The 33rd Missouri was camped opposite of Helena near the river bank where a crooked bayou reached from the Coldwater called the Yazoo Pass. It had once been navigable for ordinary steamboats, but before the war a levee had been thrown across the pass on the east bank.  Thinking that cutting through this would allow the current to run along the old water way, Grant planned to float his army down the Yazoo’s mouth and end up near Vicksburg.  Part of Tom’s company had been sent on this expedition, he being on a steamer which proceeded to Duvall’s Bluff where a lively engagement had taken place. The expedition lasted ten days upon which time the men had returned to Helena. 

In a letter of January 22nd to his wife Clarissa, Tom explained that the fleet had consisted of 37 boats and that they had gone as far up the river as Duvalls Bluff expecting a desperate fight, but that within a couple miles the fleet stopped and closed in on the fortifications only to find that the rebels had left the day before by rail to Little Rock. 

"We will transfer from this steamer to the Florence or Blackhawk this evening and then we will be hurried off to (slaughter) vicksburg to night or early morning we havea good deal of sickness, the men being caged up on Board like hogs …"

The fleet returned to Yazoo Pass toward the end of February again in hopes of severing the Confederacy and opening the Mississippi Valley, and had moved down the river when their Ironclads opened on the Rebel Works. The gunboats fought, but could not take Fort Pemberton and retreated, then meeting reinforcements under the command of General Quimby who stated that they "would take Fort Pemberton or kill every man and sink the fleet trying."

By the month of May, the men at Helena had received notice to be prepared for an attack at any moment.  At daybreak on the morning of July 2nd, Tom’s camp remained under arms. The hills of Fort Curtis were not yet tinted with the morn’s dusky hues when the alarm pealed out that the enemy was near. To "horse" was sounded and the camp, except for its sick and those caring for them, moved out beyond the levee above town. Their line of defenses extended for some four miles along the river and was encamped for five miles along the river front with the 1st Indiana Cavalry three miles below town on their left, and the 5th Kansas Cavalry one mile on the right above town.

Missouri newspaper clipping
Taken from personal collection of P. Davidson-Peters
According to the July 5th news clipping, "The enemy attached our works a few minutes before daylight on July 4th, yesterday, at all points in vastly superior numbers.  For four hours our men held their positions, but finally the two lower batteries being overwhelmed by superior numbers retired toward the town.  The Rebels could now be seen swarming over the hills toward town."

"At this juncture Fort Curtis opened on them with heavy guns, the range being fine, and killed the butternuts in scores, sending them scampering up the hills in double quick time.  Our boys then charged upon them and drove them from the rifle pits, at the same time cutting off the retreat of the Arkansas regiment, and capturing the whole concern."

Listed among the Killed and Wounded 33rd Missouri was "T.A. Moore, gun shot wound over right temple, pronounced mortal."

T.A. "Tom" Moore circa 1865
Photograph of visible gunshot wound
Lying on the battlefield and given up for dead, a passing soldier found a breath in him and Tom was transported to a hospital in Memphis.  He was later treated by A.T. Bartlett, Surgeon of the 33rd Missouri Infantry Volunteers, who in 1890 wrote an account of some of the men whom he treated after the Battle of Helena. "Private Thomas A. Moore's wound consisted in an extensive compound fracture of the anterior portion of the skull and a large section of the bone was removed long after the receipt of the injury. He has attended one or more of our reunions and is a forcible and touching reminder of what our country cost."

Tom was discharged from the Memphis hospital the first week of December, and returned home to his beloved Clarissa in St. Louis.  In the years following, despite afflictions from his wound, he worked as a carpenter with the Pilchers and Kalbs.  Eight children were born to this union, the first two daughters (Emily Ellen and Minnie) dying in infancy in 1864 and 1865, and the youngest barely three years of age when Clarissa, who had become a homeopathic doctor, died at the age of forty-four in 1890.  Heartbroken and loyal to his beloved Clarissa, Tom never remarried.  He died at the age of seventy-six, a chaplain for the GAR Lyon Post No. 2 in St. Louis. 

Today, one hundred and fifty-one years to the day that he was shot at the Battle of Helena, it is with honor and privilege I pay tribute to him, proud to call this devoted father and husband, man of principles and sensitivity, my great-great grandfather.  

Special thanks to Marian E. Karpisek and Katherine Jones for sharing their family history and the 1929 letter.

Additional Notes: Clarissa Vanbergen Pilcher was born in Springfield, Illinois on 07 Oct 1845 and attended the Medical College of Missouri at the Old Physician and Surgeon's College Building located at 1131 N. Jefferson Ave.  She studied under Dr. James A. Campbell, a professor of opthamology and otholgy. She graduated in 1886, but sadly lived only a few years longer. She passed away on 07 Apr 1890. A letter from Dr. Campbell and notes taken by her husband after an operation, detail her last hours.

Children of T.A. and Clarissa were: Emily Ellen born in 1864; Minnie born 1865; Thomas Anthony, born 1867 married 1st Rebecca Tebbetts, 2nd Eleanor Chase; Clarissa "Amanda" born 1870, wife of John A. Fenton; James Asbury, born 1873, married Lydia Harzmeier; Mabel Grace born 1877, wife of Samuel E. Jones; Mary Jeannette "Mamie" born 1880, married Clarence Lane; and Beulah Abrams born 1887, wife of Roy D. Vosburgh. 

Tom, Clarissa, Emily, Minnie, James, Mabel, Mamie and Beulah are all laid to rest at Bellfountaine Cemetery in St. Louis.