Brief Memoir of Private Isidore Isaacs
(alias Theodore Barwood), Co. I

Isidore Isaacs enlisted in 1861 at the age of 14 in Co. F of the 59th NYVI. He used the alias Theodore Barwood. After his discharge in 1863 he then enlisted in Co. I of the 12th NYV Cavalry. Elsewhere on this site you will find a portrait of him in later life when he was the Commander of GAR post 557, Department of N.Y., a position to which he was elected in 1921.

On 13 September 2003, I received the last three pages of a 15 page document from Michael Mueller, who is an historian researching the 59th NYVI. (Apparently the first 12 pages covered the period of Isaac's service in the 59th NYSVI, while only the last three pages dealt with service in the 12th Cavalry.) The paper was a photocopy of a typescript on legal paper that is an account written by Isidore Isaacs for a reason unknown to me—perhaps in application for a pension and perhaps for some GAR purpose. At any rate, since the original seems to have been a typed legal document, I believe that it was not composed immediately after the war. In fact, the use of the term "doughboy" makes it almost certain that the document was written during or after World War I.

The body of the text follows:

space holderDuring the month of October 1863 I was seized with the desire to go to the front again, and being tired of being a Dough Boy, I decided to become a Cavalryman, and on Oct. 18th, 1863 I enlisted in Co. I, 12th N.Y. Cavalry, and was sent to the school of instruction at New Dorp, Staten Island. While I had never been on a horse before my enlistment, under the instructions of Lt. W. Irwin, an old English Cavalryman, I became a fairly good horseman. At New Dorp we embarked for Newbern, N.C. on Dec. 6th, 1863, reaching that City Dec. 10th, and were immediately sent out of the City yo [sic, to? KJW] camp. As I had not before ridden the horse given me, my time was fully taken up with drills, and getting acquainted with my animal, and in about two months I was on good terms with him, and he was my companion until the regiment was mustered out of the service.
space holderOn Dec. 18th we (the company) lost 1 killed while on Picket duty at Bachelor's Creek; Dec. 23d 1 was wounded at Deep Gully. January 10th, 1864 the Company was ordered to Plymouth, N.C.; during the months of Jan., Feb. and March 1864 we were in camp at Plymouth or out on scouting duty. In the middle of April report was received that the Confederates, under General Hoke, were advancing to attack us. On April 16th, 30 men of the Company, of which I was one of the lucky ones, under Lt. Robert H. Russell, received orders to proceed to Little Washington, N.C. with despatches. We left the town [Little Washington? KJW] about 4 A.M [on 17 April? KJW]; 6 miles from Plymouth we were fired upon from ambush. Lt. Russell was shot in the stomach, 1 man was shot in the arm, and we had a running fight for about 3 miles but escaped and brought out [sic, our? KJW] wounded into Little Washington, having ridden 41 miles in 11 hours. The next afternoon we were preparing to return to Plymouth when we received word that the town was surrounded, and on April 21st the Union forces, under Gen. Wessels, surrendered, after a gallant defense, due to overwhelming numbers. The number of men engaged were: Union 2750, Confederates over 10,000. The Company lost 5 killed, 12 wounded, 29 prisoners, and 7 died at Andersonville, Ga. The balance of the Company was ordered to Newbern, N.C. and recruits joined us in camp.
space holderOn July 26th 64 [July 19-23, 1863 KJW] went on a raid to Tarboro, N.C.; as we neared a bridge over the Tar River, we met the enemy, and in a running fight Capt. Church was killed and 5 men were wounded. Your humble servant was wounded in the right hand. The next raid was to Little Washington Aug. 19th, 1864; had another skirmish with our friends and lost 1 killed and wounded. We returned to Newbern after destroying railroad tracks, saltpeter works and other property belonging to the Confederates. During the months of October and November 1864 we lost by yellow fever 5, amongst whom was Capt. Charles H. Roche. This disease was introduced by our Confederate friends. The regiment lost about 30 men, during the winter of 1864 and the spring of 1865 while in camp at Red House. In March reports were received that Gen. Sherman was on the march towards North Carolina, and on March 5th our Army, under General Schofield, advanced towards Kingston, [Kinston KJW] N.C., and on March 8th, 1865 we met the enemy at Weisses Forks near Kingston [Kinston KJW], and after an all-day fight the enemy fell back, with 3 killed and 7 wounded; Lt. Pitman of the Company was killed. The regiment lost 28 killed, 71 wounded. On the morning of the 9th we continued our advance on Goldsboro, N.C.; when within 4 miles of the City we had a running fight, which continued through the City, 1 killed, 3 wounded; in Greenville, N.C. April 5th, 1 wounded. We returned to Goldsboro. Sherman entered Goldsboro on April 3d. The Company was on picket duty along the Neuse River, and as his advance guard appeared the planking of the bridge was torn up. He crossed on foot in company with Generals Slocum, Howard, Logan and Staffs. The Company dismounted and they rode our horses into town after the bridge had been repaired; their horses were led over, and I had the honor to ride Gen. Logan's horse to his headquarters. A few days later, on April 10th, word was received that Lee had surrendered; the excitement was intense. That night I had a narrow escape. The boys, in their frenzy, were firing their guns and pistols. A bullet grazed the peak of my cap, knocking it off my head. On April 12th I was detailed as Orderly to Gen. Green, and on the 14th advanced to Military Governor Raleigh of the City; remained there until July 6th when I was ordered back to my Company and on July 12th the regiment was ordered to turn in their horses and arms. July 14th we were mustered out; arrived in New York July 19th, and were paid off July 26th, and received our discharges. The Company had on roll 153 men from Sept. 13th to July 12th, 1865; casualties, 21 killed, 25 wounded; died in prison 9, prisoners 31; total 86. Length of service 1 year 9 months 19 days.
space holderTOTAL SERVICE during the war 3 years 8 months 14 days.

This account by Isidore Isaacs contains some discrepancies. This is the first report that I have seen of the presence of members of Co. I at the Battle of Plymouth. It may be possible that he had been transferred to either Co. A or Co. F at some time previous to April 1864, but neither his account nor his records indicate this. He refers to members of his company being sent to Andersonville by the Confederates and dying there. I know of no member of Co. I for which this was the case. My first reaction was to overlook this and accept that there must be some reasonable explanation. Most disturbing, however, is his claim that he was present at the raid to Tarboro in which Capt. Church was killed. Isaacs incorrectly dates the raid as July 26, 1864. When I first noticed the wrong year I thought that it was merely "senioritis," a condition that I well understand. But gradually it dawned on me that Isaacs had not enlisted in the 12th NYV Cavalry until August 12, 1863, about three weeks after the actual date of Potter's Raid on Tarboro of July 19-23, 1863.

Of especial interest is his account, if true, of the wounding of Lt. Russell. It differs from that given by Captain Alonzo Cooper in his book, and it does explain why the Lieutenant did not end up a prisoner of the Confederates. As I understand Isaacs account, Lt. Russell's party encountered the Confederates in the early morning of April 17 while returning from a mission of the previous day carrying dispatches to Little Washington. Isaacs says that the party then retreated to Little Washington. Cooper seems to indicate that it was a reconnaissance led by himself (and including Lt. Russell) that left from Plymouth and retreated to Plymouth after the encounter. Apparently Cooper had encountered Russell that morning, already mounted, the reason for which no details are given. Cooper's account means that the Lieutenant had to have been evacuated somehow to avoid capture. Isaacs account says that Lt. Russell rode on his own horse to Little Washington. Either scenario seems to be compatible with the fact that Lt. Russell recuperated that summer at Foster General Hospital in New Berne.

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© copyright Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue
Cortland, New York 13045-3302
File Created: September 14, 2003
File modified: September 14, 2003.

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