Samuel Fanshaw Collection

The following were transcribed and donated by Amy Lerner, great great grandniece of Fanshaw.

This is Samuel Fanshaw’s last missive to his family, written the night before he was killed in a skirmish with Confederate troops three miles from Charles City Courthouse, Virginia.

White House, VA
June 22, 1864

Dear Parents,

I received your letters, Emmas of the 6th June, and fathers of the 11th. On the 20th, we were then at Dunkirk on the Mattaponi River. The next day we came to the White House. We have just got back from another raid of 16 days, during which we have had some hard fighting. We left Bottoms Bridge on the 4th and got here on the 20th. The object of the raid was to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad at Trevillians Station. Near Gordonsville we formed a large force of Cavalry and Mounted Infantry. We fought there 2 days when the Rebs sent a division of infantry from Gordonsville. That night we fell back. The loss was heavy on both sides. We destroyed considerable of the road and station. We have lived on the country all through this raid. Very little rations having been furnished us, we supposed that we were coming to the White House to rest our horses and recruit up a little, for we have been on a steady go ever since we left Culpeper. There has not been three days in that time but what we have been in the saddle and a good part of that time night as well as day. But when we got to the White House we found all of Stuart’s cavalry there. They had shelled the place the day before, but were kept back by the gun boats and the troops that were there, composed by most of the invalid corps and darkies. The next day we put after them, we found them about three miles back, on the Bottoms Bridge and Richmond road. We had a little fighting when they retreated.
We were very short of ammunition so we did not follow them far, and as the White House is being evacuated and no more in the train, we had to be sparing of what we had. There was quite a number in the 9th N.Y. and 17 from in our brigade wounded. The 9th lost a Major, wounded in the leg. It had to be taken off above the knee yesterday. When I got about half through with my letter, we had boots and saddles again and were soon in the march. Our division took the road to Foxhall landing. Briggs took the road to Bottoms Bridge and I expect he had some fighting last night as there was cannonading in that direction most of the night. 
We are now laying in the roads near Jones Bridge, waiting for our train to come up. I expect our pickets and the rebs are popping away at each other about 1/8 of a mile from here. I think we are making for our main army to lay up a while, and draw clothing as we are pretty hard up in that line at present, having drawn nothing since we left Culpeper.
My clothes are all right yet but a few days ago my boots were almost off my feet. But I got another pair off a dead soldier, Wood is well, so am I. Good bye for the present. Give love to all.
Your affectionate son,

The next morning at around 9am Samuel was killed while he was on picket.

On June 25, 1864 Samuel’s commander, Lt. Col. William H. Crocker wrote to Samuel’s family to inform them of his death.

Near Charles City C.H., VA 
June 25, 1864

My Dear Friends,
A bitter task falls to my lot and one I scarcely know how to accomplish. May our Heavenly Father in His infinite mercy prepare you, for I cannot, for the sad news it is my duty to impart to you. A gallant young soldier, a braver man whom never breathed, the beloved of his comrades and commanding always the respect and admiration of his superiors, has given up his all for his country. In the front rank and with his noble face to the foe, Corporal Fanshaw has fallen.
I would fain say some words of comfort to you and your afflicted family, but time and words fail me. One of the few opportunities for mail communication has just offered itself and I avail myself of it to perform the melancholy duty in preference to writing my own family.
I can only say, my dear friend, that if the thought that “Sammy” was all that was noble as a soldier – never for a moment sunning duty or danger – the idol of his company, and the esteemed friends of his commanding officers – and that he died at his post can assuage in any measure the grief of his friends, this assurance and more that I can express is theirs.
With the assurance of the profound sympathy of this entire regiment as well as my own, I am, my dear sir,
Very truly yours,
Wm. H. Crocker
Lt. Col., 6th N.Y. Cavalry

The last letter is from Gilbert G. Wood, a very close friend of the family, who served in the same regiment as Samuel, but in a different company. He was with Samuel when he died.

Headquarters 2nd Brig. 1st Cavalry Div.
Near City Point, James River
July 5th, 1864

My dear friend,

Your letter of the 1st just reached me last night and I would have answered it immediately had I not been too busy. We are lying in camp and I am very busy with the papers of two months campaign, having been in the saddle for that time (since leaving Culpeper) everything is in great disorder, consequently every moment has to be devoted to the task of straightening things for another campaign, which I fear will come soon.
Oh! Mr. Fanshaw, you cannot conceive what a relief your letter brought to me. I felt that my only friend had been carried from my side, but when I read your kind and fatherly letter, I felt and knew that another was yet left me, Aye, more than one, a family of friends.
You ask me to tell you where and how Sammie was wounded. His letter of the 22 was written at White House, just before we advanced toward James River. We halted at night at Jones Bridge, about a mile from the Chickahominy and about three miles from Charles City C. H. 
Our regiment was sent on picket and our squadron was held on the reserve. About eight or nine o’clock next morning (23) the enemy advanced upon our pickets and the reserve was sent out to check them until the rest of the brigade could come to their assistance. They found a pretty strong and obstinate force in front of them, but yet they pushed on and drove the rebels from their strong breastworks. And there retired, the enemy having fled. At the time Sammy was hit, our company was in a field with little low pine bushes, and while advancing rapidly they ran upon the enemy’s line. Sammy was a little in advance of our line and not more than ten feet from the enemy’s. In fact, Mr. Famshaw, Sammie was on one side of a bush and the rebel on the other.
I was a little to the right of where he was, but as soon as I heard he was wounded, I went back, and Oh! My dear friend you cannot imagine my anguish at finding my more than brother (he whom I always looked to for advice) wounded and unconscious of my being near him. And yet I was glad it was so for he suffered no pain, but died quickly, without a struggle.
Every one who knew him mourns his loss as they would a brother. Many have said with a sigh “Poor Fanshaw! He was a man to be relied upon and he was one worthy of the name of soldier!” But now he is gone.
Alas! Alas! The consequences of a cruel, cruel war.
My dear friend, I would like to write much more, but I cannot. I am nearly sick.
The day of Sammie’s death I received a slight touch of sunstroke and the two have nearly prostrated me. But I hope we may be allowed to remain in camp a short time to recruit. Give my love to all the familyand implore them to remember that “It was the will of God” I must stop as the light blinds me almost. I will write to Emma (tell her please) tomorrow if possible. Again, my sincere love and thanks to you and all and I will remain as ever
Sincerely Yours,
Gilbert G. Wood
P.S. Please answer as soon as convenient
To: SR Fanshaw


Samuel Albert Fanshaw is buried at Glendale National Cemetery in Richmond, VA

Gilbert G. Wood remained a close friend of the family after the war and later married Samuel’s sister, Emily.

Other pertinent information in our family’s records:
Handwritten from the Recruiting Station, 6th N.Y.V. Cavalry dated August 21, 1862: This is to certify that Samuel A. Fanshaw has been duly mustered into service this day in the 6th Reg. N.Y. Cavalry as a Volunteer from the town of Morisania.
Wm H. Crocker, Capt, 6th NYVC
From a penciled note on a scrap of paper: Sammie volunteered on the 21st of Aug. Albert left home the 30th of Aug. Sammie left home the 11th of Sept. 1862. (It is not clear, and I cannot find any record of Albert Fanshaw in the war. We don’t know if he fought or just left home…)

The Fanshaw family lived in Morisania, NY. Sammie’s father, Samuel Raymond Fanshaw was a noted miniature painter whose work still collects high prices in auction houses today. There were 4 children, Samuel, Albert, Julia, and Emily, who married Gilbert G. Wood (both my great grandfather and my grandfather were named after him). Julia was 16 when Samuel A. Fanshaw left to volunteer and was, as far as we can tell, the youngest sibling. Sammie’s youngest sister Julia, married James S. Brinckerhoff, and they are my direct ancestors. We have no idea when Sammie was born. Julia was a poet, and there is one in my family’s records that may have been inspired by Sammie’s death in battle:

In Memoriam
By Julia Fanshaw Brinckerhoff
If, looking through an old forgotten store
Of bygone relics, you had chanced to find
An old, moth-eaten cloak a soldier wore,
Would you, I wonder, with your eyes half blind
With tears, have knelt there on the oaken floor,
And cried and cried if you had chanced to find
An old moth-eaten cloak a soldier wore?

If to your eyes a picture it had brought
Of a young soldier-oh! so young and brave-
Who, loving country, for that country fought,
Till at the last for her his life he gave,
I think, perhaps, like me you would have caught
It to your heart- caressed it o’re and o’re-
That old, moth –eaten cloak a soldier wore.

The 6th NY , also called the Second Ira Harris Guard, is the regiment that both Samuel and Gilbert served in. It was a volunteer regiment. Every soldier that volunteered was expected to provide their own horse and tack. Ira Harris was a US Senator and figured prominently in the formation of four cavalry regiments from the state.