91st PA: John Hamill--court-martial transcript

John Hamill--court-martial

[obtained from National Archives and Record Administration, record group 153, 16W3, 15/6/03 Court Martial Case KK-264 Lt E Carroll Brewster Box 354]
[the file includes a letter written by Hamill in 1875]
[I have proofread this page]



[The letter consists of four pages]

Philadelphia February 11 1875
Hon W W Belknap
Secretary of War

I enlisted in Co. D 17th Regt Pa Vol, Col Frank Patterson, on April 18th 1861, and was honorably discharged on the 2d day of August 1861 by reason of expiration of term of service. I reinlisted in Co D. 91st Regt Col. Gregory on the 11th day of September 1861 and appointed [sic] Sergeant. Was discharged at Bealton Va December 25th 1863, reinlisted at Bealton Va on the 25th day of December 1863 as a veteran Vol to serve for three years or during the war, and was promoted to 1st Sergeant. Was discharged at Camp near Weldon R.R. Va on the 8th day of September 1864 agreeably to special order No 221 Head Quarters 5th Army Corps Maj. General Warren to enable me to accept a commission in the volunteer service to date Sept 6th 1864. During all this time, I served my country faithfully and with credit to myself, as the remaining officers of the Regt will willingly testify at any time.

I was commissioned a 2d Lieut of Co D. 91st Regt P.V.V. dated Harrisburg Dec 16" 1863 and was commissioned 1st Lieut. of said Co July 26th 1864. was in command of the company by order of Lieut Col. Sinex commanding Regt from January 8th 1864 till Sept 6th 1864, there being no other officer attached to the Company during that time, for which service I only received Sergeant's pay; it not being possible to get mustered in during the Spring and Summer Campaign of 1864.

[manuscript page 2]

I was mustered in as 1st Lieut Co D. 91st Regt P.V.V. on Sept 7th 1864 and remained in command of the Company as usual around Petersburg Va in all its struggles, never being absent from duty at any time as the Records of the Regt will show. I was tried before a General Court Martial by virtue of general order No 58 Head Quarters 5th Army Corps, and sentenced to be cashiered 1st December 1864. The charge preferred was Drunkenness, while on Duty. I was on Picket duty with part of the Regt in front of Petersburg Va. The time was about 10 o'clock at night, when Lieut Hope of said Regt came to me on the Picket line and told me I was relieved from duty and directed me to report to the Adjt of the Regt, stating that I was charged with being drunk. I reported to the Adjt as directed and was informed of the charge, although neither the Acting Adjt nor the Officer who relieved me considered me drunk or incapable of duty. Lieut Col Sellers then in command of the Regt, sent a petition to Corps Head Quarters, signed by all the Officers of the Regt which were present, requesting that I might be restored to Duty, which I have reason to believe was complied with and returned, but was stopped at Brigade head quarters then under command of Col E M Gregory. [Perhaps he is referring to Sellers' letter of 8 November 1864] B J Tayman the Adjt of our Regt being acting Assistant of Brigade at the time, and by him stopped through malice more toward some other officers of the Regt than towards myself, but because they sided with me. Col. Pearson of the 155th Regt Penn Vol now in Pittsburg Pa pleaded my case before the Court, but Tayman had the inside track. Col. Pearson and also all the Officers in my Regt know these to be facts and will be willing to testify to them, if required to do so at any time.

[manuscript page 3]

I saw the order on the book in the Office of the A. A. Gen. 2d Brig. 1st Div. 5th Army Corps, restoring me to Duty in Tayman's absence, but it was against orders to get a copy of it. I remained with the Regt in its raids on the Weldon Rail Road and Mine Run, doing all the duty I could till December 15th 1864 which day I received my sentence and left the Regt. Immediately after my arrival home in Philada I sent a Petition to his Excellency President Lincoln, signed by the officers of the Regt and some of my friends in Philada requesting a revocal or Pardon of the sentence and to be restored to duty. The papers were indorsed favorably by President Lincoln and by him refered to the Judge Advocate General. Since that time I have not been able to hear anything from them, although both the Hon Wm C Kelley and Chas O'Neill promised to use their influence in my behalf, but unfortunately for me about that time His Excellency Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and so the matter was allowed to remain over time.

I now most respectfully ask a reviewal [sic] of my case under the aforesaid circumstances, and hope that I may be restored to my former status on the Rolls as I have good reason to believe the order revoking my sentence was ordered but never reached me for reasons aforesaid. For after the long and tried service I rendered my country from the outbreak of the late Rebellion unceasingly, till about its close, I feel I would like to have a spotless record to hand down to my posterity, and remove a stain which I feel has unjustly been placed upon my heretofore spotless army career.

Hoping for a favorable reconsideration of my case and that the order for restoration to my former position, as before the sentence was promulgated may be granted me with an honorable discharge.

[manuscript page 4]

I remain
Most respectfully
Your obedient servant
John Hamill

Care C C Casey
Register Bureau
Washington D.C.


[The record consists of seventeen pages and a cover sheet]

of a
General Court Martial convened at
Head Quarters 1st Division 5th Corps near Peebles Farm Va. by virtue of the following order

Head Quarters 1st Div. 5th Corps
Before Petersburg Va
October 30th 1864.

General Orders No 58

A General Court Martial is hereby appointed to meet at Hd. Qrs. 1st Division at 11 oclock A.M. on the 31st day of October 1864 or as soon thereafter as practicable for the trial of Private Wallace Wilson Co "B" 32d Mass Vols. and such other cases as may be brought before it.

Detail for the Court
1.Col. E. S. Jenney185th New York Vols
2.Lt Col. C. P. Herring118th Penna "
3.Capt P. M. Fogler20th Maine "
4." T. D. Chamberlain20" " "
5." A. H. Merritt1st Mich "
6." Powell Stackhouse198" Penna "
7.1st Lieut W. O. Colt83d " "
8.1st " W. E. Allen155" " "
9.2d " Geo. Jennay198th " "
 1st " E. S. Farnsworth32d Mass Vols
 Judge Advocate.

[manuscript page 2]

The Court will sit without regard to hours. No other officers than those named can be assembled without manifest injury to the service.

By Command of
Brig Gen Griffin
(S'd) Geo Monteith
Asst Adjt Gen

Peebles Farm Va 10 o clock A.M. Nov 10th 1864

The Court met pursuant to the above order. Present all the members of the Court, and the Judge Advocate.

The Court then proceeded to the trial of 1st Lieut John L Hammil Co "D" 91st Pa Vet Vols, who was brought before the Court, and having heard the order convening the Court read, was asked if he had any objection to any member named in the order, to which he replied that he had not.

The Court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate in the presence of the accused, and the Judge Advocate was duly sowrn in his presence by the President of the Court.

The accused then applied to be permitted to introduce Col A. L. Pearson 155th Pa Vols as his counsel. His application was granted and Col Pearson appeared as counsel for the accused.

[manuscript page 3]

The accused 1st Lieut John L. Hammil Co "D" 91st Pa. Vet. Vols. was arraigned on the following Charge and Specification:

Charge Drunkenness on duty.

In this that the said 1st Lieut John L Hammil Co "D" 91st Regt Pa Vet Vols, while upon duty upon the picket line, in charge of the picket detail from his Regiment, was found drunk. All this on or about the 21st day of October 1864 near Peebles Farm Va.

To which Charge and Specification the accused pleaded as follows:

To the Specification of the ChargeNot Guilty
To the ChargeNot Guilty

[testimony of Stephen Rich]

Capt Stephen Rich 32d Mass Vols a witness for the prosecution was duly sworn and testified as follows:--

Questioned by Judge Advocate

Ques. Do you know the accused?

Ans. I do.

Ques. Did you see the accused on or about the 21st of October 1864?

[manuscript page 4]

Ans. I did.

Ques. Please state to the Court what occurred on that day?

Ans. About the 21st of October, I was Brigade Officer of the picket. The Division officer of the day rode along, and ordered me to advance that part of the picket line, and swing it to the the [sic] right, that part of the picket line occupied by the 91st Pa. I proceeded to the right to instruct Lieut Hammil what to do with that part, that he had charge of, and found the detail of the 91st partly advanced and somewhat in confusion. I inquired for the Lieut of a non-commissioned officer, where I should find the Lieut. He says, I am sorry to say that he lies drunk in one of the pits that we just left. After getting a line established I went to the pit and found Lieut Hammil lying in the pit drunk. I spoke to him, and asked him if he considered himself in a fit condition to do his duty; he said he had nothing to say, and that I had all to say. All this time he laid there. I told him I should report him to his commanding officer, and have him relieved, and have another officer in his place. I left him then and went and reported him to his commanding officer Cap Sellers 91st Pa Vols. Capt Sellers sent another officer to
[manusript page 5]
relieve Lieut Hammil. On going back to the line, the Sergeant saw me coming along the road, and called the Lieut. The Lieut got up and walked or rather staggered toward me, and asked me if I considered him in arrest; I told him no, but that I had reported him to his commanding officer, and that he was to be relieved, and would report to Capt Sellers. I then left him and went along the line. That was the last I saw of him until yesterday.

Ques. Was the accused unable from being drunk to perform the duties devolved upon him?

Ans. He was.

Ques. Did you give the accused orders to advance that part of the line?

Ans. No sir, I did not; I found the line partly advanced.

Ques. Do you know of any one giving him orders to advance that part of the line?

Ans. No Sir.

Questioned by Accused.

Ques. When you went to the pit, after having advanced the line; Did the accused speak in such a manner that you judged from such talk, that he was too drunk for duty, or did you rely only on the statement of the Sergeant?

Ans. No Sir, I saw for myself that he was unfit
[manuscript page 6]
to do duty from having drunk liquor of some kind, and from his speech and actions.

Ques. Was the accused able to stand at that time?

Ans. I could not say; he did not stand in my presence at that time.

Ques. What time was it you first saw him in the pit?

Ans. About 4 oclock P.M.

Ques. How long afterward was he relieved?

Ans. He was relieved about dusk.

Ques. You say you did not order Lt Hammil to advance his men; on what authority did that part of the line occupied by the 91st Pa Vols advance?

Ans. The Sergeant on whom the duty devolved upon [sic], said that the Division Officer of the day, ordered him to advance that part of the line.

Questioned by Court.

Ques. You have testified that you had some conversation with the accused; State whether there was anything in his voice, or manner of speech which indicated intoxication, and what?

Ans. His voice was thick, and he could not talk plain, or answer questions directly.

Ques. Were you acquainted with the accused previous to that time, if so, how long?

Ans. I never saw the accused until the morning we went on to the picket line, when he reported to me.

[manuscript page 7]

Ques. Did you have any conversation with the accused as to whether he was intoxicated, or had been drinking?

Ans. I did not.

Questioned by Accused, by permission of the Court.

Ques. Was the accused able to arise when you first accosted him in the pit?

Ans. He attempted to arise and did not arise, that is he was asleep when I went there, and rolled over but did not get up.

[testimony of Samuel B Tipton]

Corp Samuel B. Tipton Co "K" 91st Regt Pa Vet Vols a witness for the prosecution was duly sworn and testified as follows.

Questioned by Judge Advocate.

Ques. Do you know the accused?

Ans. I know him when I see him, am not personally acquainted with him.

Ques. Was you on picket on the 21st of October last?

Ans. Yes sir.

Ques. Was the accused on duty on the picket line on that day?

Ans. Yes sir.

Ques. State whether the accused attended to his duties on that day?

Ans. He attended to them as far as I know until the line was ordered to advance, they advanced the line
[manuscript page 8]
with the aid of the Brigade picket officer. After the line was established, Lieut Hammil came along the line.

Ques. Did you see the accused on that day; if so how many times?

Ans. I saw him about 3 times on that day, he was on the right of the line and I was on the left.

Ques. What was the condition of the accused in regard to sobriety?

Ans. When I saw him the first time I could not say that he was out of the way; the second time I saw him was when we were ordered to advance the picket line; he was under the influence of liquor the second and third time I saw him.

Ques. To what extent was he under the influence of liquor?

Ans. He was not more than able to stand on his feet; he could not walk straight.

Questioned by accused.

Ques. Did you receive any instructions about advancing the picket line; if so, who gave them to you?

Ans. The Brigade officer of the picket gave me orders; the Division officer was also there when I got the orders.

Ques. Was there a sergeant with the picket guard, if so, where was he?

Ans. That I cannot tell, he was absent at the time.

Ques. What was the name of the Sergeant who was on
[manuscript page 9]
picket at that time?

Ans. I do not remember his name.

[testimony of Charles K Willis]

Corporal Charles K. Willis Co "A" 91st Regt Pa Vet Vols a witness for the prosecution was duly sworn and testified as follows.

Questioned by Judge Advocate.

Ques. Do you know the accused?

Ans. I do.

Ques. Did you see the accused on the 21st of October last?

Ans. I cannot swear as to the date, it was the day he was sent in from the picket line; to the best of my knowledge it was the 21st.

Ques. How many times did you see him on that day?

Ans. I saw him at least two or three times on that day.

Ques. What was the condition of the accused on that day?

Ans. The first time I saw him, I saw nothing out of the way with him; the second time I saw him about two hours afterwards, he came to the post which I was on, and from his talk and actions, I judged he was intoxicated; Shortly after he went and laid down beside a tree, and attempted to rise several times, but fell back. He to all appearances fell asleep. I was called away and had occasion to leave the post. I do not remember of seeing him again until in the afternoon, when we were ordered to advance the picket line; he was
[manuscript page 10]
then lying at the same tree. I took charge of the two right posts, and advanced them out, and left him lying there unable to get up, or to all appearances unable. After the line was established, I saw no more of him that day.

Ques. How long did the accused lie by the tree?

Ans. I should judge he laid by the tree two hours.

The prosecution here closed.

The accused requested until tomorrow to prepare his defence; which request was granted by the Court. The Court adjourned to meet at 10 o clock tomorrow November 11th 1864.

10 o clock A.M. Nov 11th 1864 Court met pursuant to adjournment. Present: All the members of the Court, the Judge Advocate, and the accused and his Counsel.

[testimony of Theodore A Hope]

Captain Theodore A. Hope Co "E" 91st Regt. Pa. Vet. Vols a witness for the defence was duly sworn and testified as follows:--

Questioned by Accused

Ques. Are you acquainted with the accused?

Ans. Nothing more than what I have been in the Regiment with him.

Ques. State if you know whether Lt Hammil of your Regiment was on picket on the 21st of October, and what you know in relation to the events that transpired on that day?

[manuscript page 11]

Ans. I know nothing of the events of the day; I was sent out in the evening about 7 o clock to relieve Lieut Hammil; I asked the Lieut how many Sergeants and Corporals there were; and how many posts there were; he gave me all the particulars. I then left him, and told him he was relieved.

Ques. When you asked Lieut Hammil in relation to the number of posts &c., what was his appearance and actions?

Ans. He looked to me as though he had been indulging some, but I thought he was capable of carrying on the picket line, and that I would not have noticed it, if I had not been informed.

Ques. Did Lieut Hammil give you instructions fully, as to the number of posts, men on each post &c, and did you find them correct?

Ans. Yes Sir.

Questioned by Judge Advocate.

Ques. What time did the picket go on duty at that time?

Ans. I do not know what time it went out in the morning, as I was not in camp until dark; the usual time is 9 o clock in the morning.

Ques. Did you see the accused at any time during the day, before you went to relieve him?

[manuscript page 12]

Ans. No Sir.

Questioned by Court.

Ques. Where was the accused, and what doing when you went to relieve him?

Ans. Standing on the left of the line of our picket talking with some of the men.

Ques. Are you so well acquainted with the accused, with his habits, and general manner, that you can state what his condition as to sobriety was at that time?

Ans. Yes sir, I am.

Ques. State what his condition as to sobriety was at that time?

Ans. I could see that he was in liquor, but was not drunk at that time.

Ques. When do you consider a man drunk?

Ans. When he cannot attend to his duties.

Ques. You have testified that you could perceive that he was in liquor; state what indications he evinced of being in liquor?

Ans. Nothing more than he was talkative, and his countenance showed that he had been drinking; I took more notice of him on account of the fact being mentioned to me.

Ques. How dark was it?

Ans. Just at dusk.

Ques. At what time was you ordered to relieve him?

Ans. Half past 6 as near as I can recollect; it
[manuscript page 13]
was 7 when I got out there.

Re-examined by Accused.

Ques. How long was you in conversation with the accused?

Ans. About 10 minutes; long enough to get the information in regard to the posts, Sergts, Corporals, and all necessary information.

Ques. Did the accused talk in a manner that would cause you to think that he had been drunk that afternoon?

Ans. I do not know about that; I saw by his talk and appearance that he had been drinking but he gave me all the orders correctly and he wanted to go along the line with me.

[testimony of Howard W Shipley]

Lieut Howard W. Shipley 91st Regt. Pa. Vet. Vols a witness for the defense was duly sworn and testified as follows:-

Questioned by Accused.

Ques. Are you Acting Adjutant of the Regiment?

Ans. I am.

Ques. Do you know the accused?

Ans. Yes sir.

Ques. State what you know in relation to the events connected with the picket detail sent from the 91st Pa. Vols on the 21st of October 1864?

[manuscript page 14]

Ans. I sent Lieut Hammil out in charge of the detail. About 7 oclock in the evening I was directed by Capt Sellers to relieve him, and to order him under arrest to his quarters. I sent Captain (then Lieut) Hope to relieve Lieut Hammil. Lieut Hammil reported to me when he came in. I told him to report to his quarters under arrest.

Ques. In what condition was Lieut Hammil when he reported to you?

Ans. I did not think he was out of the way at all, and should not have known it, if I had not been told so.

Ques. Do you know the character of the accused for sobriety?

Ans. Yes Sir.

Ques. What is his character?

Ans. Good; so far as I have been connected with him it has been good. I never knew him to be out of the way before if such was the case at this time.

Ques. What is his character as an Officer and a Gentleman?

Ans. Good.

Questioned by Judge Advocate

Ques. What time in the day was the picket detail sent out on the 21st of October 1864?

Ans. 7 o clock in the morning.

[manuscript page 15]

Ques. Did you see the accused in Camp during the day, previous to his being relieved?

Ans. No Sir, not that I remember.

Questioned by Court

Ques. How long have you known the accused?

Ans. 3 years and some 7 months.

Ques. What part of that time have you been associated with him in the army, and what part of that time has he been a commissioned officer?

Ans. I have been associated with him all the time in the army; he has been an officer since the 7th of September last.

Ques. State in your opinion whether a person who ever gets intoxicated, can have a good reputation as to sobriety?

Ans. Yes sir, I think he can.

Ques. How often, in your opinion, may a man become intoxicated, and yet preserve a good general character as to Sobriety?

Ans. I would not like to say; it depends very much upon circumstances.

Ques. Define particularly your standard of good general character as to sobriety; that is how often a man may become intoxicated and under what circumstances; and what a man's habit must be, to have in your opinion a bad character as to sobriety?

[manuscript page 16]

Ans. As for the number of times I am not able to say. I consider that when an officer gets drunk if he has no scandal to the enlisted men, and is able to do his duty properly when called on, that he can establish a good reputation for sobriety. He must be an habitual drunkard by that I mean, one who gets drunk for the love of the liquor alone, and gets drunk without regard to who sees him, and what he may be called upon to perform in order to have a bad character.


The accused having no further evidence to offer in defence or statement to make, the Court was cleared for deliberation, and having maturely considered the evidence adduced, find the accused, 1st Lieut John L. Hammil Co "D" 91st Pa. Vet. Vols. as follows:--

Of the Specification "Guilty"
Of the Charge "Guilty"

And the Court do, therefore, sentence him 1st Lieut John L. Hammil Co "D" 91st Pa Vet Vols, to be Cashiered

Edwin [?] Jenney
[manuscript page 17]
Col. 185 New York Vols. and
President of the Genl. Court Martial

E. G. Farnsworth
1st Lieut 32d Mass Vols
Judge Advocate

The preceeding findings and sentence are Approved
Joseph Bartlett [?]
Brig Genl

Hd Qrs A.P.
Dec. 1 /64
Geo. G. Meade
Maj.Genl. Comdg

[cover sheet]

Sent to [illegible] M M W for
copy Jany 16. 1868

of the trial of
1st Lieut John L. Hammil
Co "D." 91st Pa Vet Vols.
before a
General Court Martial
convened at
Hd. Qrs. 1st Div. 5th Corps
Oct. 31st 1864

Col. E. S. Jenney
185th New York Vols
Judge Advocate
1st Lieut E. S. Farnsworth
32d Mass Vols

Charge Drunkenness on duty
[illegible]--Drunk while on picket.
Finding Guilty
Sentence: To be cashiered
Coordinated by [illegible] Griffin Approved by [illegible]

L Ln 2791
Copy furnished Lieut
Hammil Dec 21st 1864

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