MORGAN DENEGAR IN THE CIVIL WAR
Drawn Chiefly from His Military and Pension Records
Morgan Denegar enlisted on Sept. 30, 1861 (by Capt. Walter A. Van Rensselaer). The place of enlistment was either Kingston, N.Y. (according to regimental records), or the village of Madalin (Red Hook township), N.Y. (according to Denegar’s own recollection in 1901). At enlistment he was described as follows – Age: 21 years; Height: 5 feet, 10 inches; Complexion: dark; Eyes: gray; Hair: black; Where born: Clermont, N.Y.; Occupation: farmer. His term of enlistment was “for the war.” He was mustered in as a Private, Company B, 20th Regiment, New York State Militia (80th Regiment, New York Infantry), at Kingston, on Oct. 22, 1861 (by Capt. Henry C. Bankhead).
Regimental records state that Denegar participated in the battle of Norman’s (or Beverly) Ford, Va., on Aug. 21, 1862, and in the battle of Warrenton Springs, Va., on Aug. 25. The company muster roll for July through October 1862 indicates that, by order of a Regimental Court Martial, he was to be “stopped for months of July & August,” and the company muster roll for November and December 1862 indicates that he is “To be charged with musket, bayonet and equipments lost while absent without leave.”
Regimental records also state that Denegar was wounded in action at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa., on July 1, 1863. He was initially listed as “missing,” in a July 4 report from Col. Theodore B. Gates (the commanding officer of his regiment) that was published in New York newspapers in the days immediately following the battle. But before long it was learned (and also reported in the newspapers) that he had been sent to Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital in West Philadelphia, Pa. He was treated there for a “contusion” from July 7 to 27, and returned to duty on July 30. Regimental records indicate, however, that he did not rejoin the regiment until the month of October. Denegar was discharged at Brandy Station, Va., on Jan. 1, 1864, in order to reenlist. He did reenlist as a Veteran Volunteer, for three years, on the same day (by Col. Gates), and he was mustered in for his second term of service on Jan. 2. He and the others who had reenlisted were to be granted a 35-day veterans’ furlough in February and March.
In the meantime, Denegar was among those from his company who were detailed for duty at Catlett’s Station, Va. On Jan. 18 he and two other members of the company, John Hadden and Henry C. Van Buren, left their post and went without permission to Alexandria, Va. Denegar returned to his post on Jan. 21, but was arrested on Jan. 23. On Feb. 12, 1864, on behalf of himself and Hadden, he wrote the following letter to Col. Gates:
Febuary 13th [sic], 1864
Deare Sir. I write you thease few lines to informe you that I am confined in the garde house fore foragering a pass and going to Alexandria. I and John Hatten was not consurned in that pass. I told Hen Van Beuren fore to come with mee to his post and he would not. The Calvery men gave him the pass fore to go to Washington and I would not go and left them. We confess that we went down [to Alexandria] without a pass and we [will] take the punishment when we come from home. We have rein listed and we would like to go home with the rest of the boys. I wish you would get us home with the regiment if you can fore we would like to go very mutch fore our frends will feel very bad to see the rest of the regiment come home and we not thaire with them. I was one of the first men in our company that pout down his name fore to rein list. We feel very sorry fore what we have done and we will do better heareafter. Yours trouely,
John Hatten and
Gates was sympathetic. He sent Denegar’s letter to the Provost Marshal General (Brig. Gen. Marsena R. Patrick) with the following notation:
Hd. Qrs., 20th N.Y.S.M.
Brandy, Feby. 12, 1864
Respectfully forwarded. I have no reason to doubt the truth of Denegar’s statement & as he & Hadden have both reenlisted I would respectfully recommend that they be released from arrest & tried if necessary after their return.
Theodore B. Gates
The Provost Marshal General did not share Gates’s sympathy for Denegar and Hadden. He had the letter sent back to Gates with the following notation:
Hd. Qrs., Army of Potomac
Office Prov. Mar. Genl.
February 12th, 1864
Respectfully returned to Colonel Gates, 20th N.Y.S.M., disapproved.
By command of
Brig. Gen. Patrick
Capt., 14th Infty.
Denegar was tried by a General Court Martial convened at Brandy, Va., on Apr. 2, 1864. The court was comprised of Col. John S. Crocker (93rd N.Y. Infantry), president; and Captains William Baughman (3rd Pa. Cavalry), William Randles (93rd N.Y. Infantry), Abel Wright (3rd Pa. Cavalry), Dennis E. Barnes (93rd N.Y. Infantry), and John Bailey (93rd N.Y. Infantry). The Judge Advocate was Capt. E. Forrest Koehler (114th Pa. Infantry). Denegar was charged with two offenses. The first charge was “Absence without leave.” The specification of the first charge was
that he, Morgan Denegar, Private, Co. B, 20th N.Y.S.M., having been detailed for duty at Catlet’s Station, Va., did leave that station and go without the limits of this army to Alexandria, Va, without leave or authority from his commanding or superior officer on or about the 18th day of January, 1864, and did remain absent until returned in arrest on or about the 23rd day of January, 1864.
The second charge was “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” The specification of the second charge was
that Morgan Denegar, a Private of Co. B, 20th N.Y.S.M., did forge and counterfeit the name of James Fleming, Lieut. and Provost Marshal, to a pass for his own use; and did aid and abet in forging and counterfeiting the name of James Fleming to a pass for his own use; and did attempt to use said pass to obtain transportation upon the United States Military Rail Roads; and did aid and abet in attempting to use said pass, knowing the same to be forged & counterfeited, for the purpose of obtaining transportation as aforesaid. All this at Alexandria, Va., on or about the 21st day of January, 1864.
Denegar pleaded “guilty” to the first charge and its specification, and “not guilty” to the second charge and its specification. Van Buren, a witness for the prosecution, testified as follows:
In the first place, Denegar and Hatton came down to my quarters and asked me if I would go to Alexandria. I told them no, for I had no money. They said they had plenty of money and would see me through. We got on the train and went to Alexandria. We put up all night. Next day we bought some clothes. That day we met two cavalrymen of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry. One was a sergeant and the other a private. They wanted to know if we wanted to go to Washington. We told them that we would go. We staid in the house a few moments and Denegar went out. The first I saw of the pass was in the hands of the sergeant. I do not know who gave it to him. The sergeant wrote the pass. He gave me the pass to go and get it countersigned. I presented the pass. I saw Denegar looking at the pass by the window. I suppose he knew at the time it was a forgery. When I went to get the pass countersigned at the Provost Marshal’s Office they kept it. I went back and saw the sergeant and the other cavalryman but Denegar was not there.
Denegar then asked Van Buren, “At the time I went out of the house did I not ask you to come and go back to the post we belonged to?” Van Buren responded, “I believe he did.” Denegar followed up by asking, “Did I not refuse to go to Washington when it was proposed?” The reply to this question was: “No sir. Not as I know of.” Testimony for the prosecution was also offered by Fleming (2nd Lieut., Co. C, 20th N.Y.S.M., and Provost Marshal), and testimony for the defense was offered by Hadden. Denegar then concluded with this statement:
The time the pass was written was about 12 o’clock on the 20th [of] January. The cavalryman wanted me to go to Washington. I told him I did not want to go as I wanted to go back to my post where I belonged. They coaxed me so hard to go, that finally I told them I would. I went out of doors and then came back and told them I would not go to Washington. I asked Vanbeuren to go along up to the post. He said he would not. I went out of the house & went to the station. It was about 2 o’clock then. I got on the train and came up to Catlet Station. I got there between two and three o’clock next morning.
The court found Denegar “guilty” of the first charge and its specification (to which he had pleaded “guilty”), and it found him “guilty” of the second charge as well. In regard to the specification of the second charge it also found him “guilty,” but with the omission of the words “did forge and counterfeit the name of James Fleming, Lieut. and Provost Marshall, to a pass for his own use.” According to the sentence of the court, Denegar was “To forfeit all pay and allowances for the period of six (6) months, and to perform hard labor for thirty (30) days, with a chain three feet long to be attached to his leg with a ball weighing twenty-four (24) pounds.” Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, approved most of the sentence, but remitted “So much of the sentence as refers to wearing a ball & chain.”
Sergeant Charles K. McNiff, of Denegar’s company, may have been describing Denegar’s case – the details of which he may not fully have understood – when he wrote of the inequities that he perceived in the military justice system, in a letter from City Point, Va., dated July 9th, 1864:
I will tell you of a little affair that transpired last Winter. There was a young fellow in Company B who went to Alexandria, overstayed his [leave] three days, and came back and was put in the Bull Ring [prisoners’ pen] for four months and had six months’ pay stopped. Now mark the difference. A young rogue by the name of B–––, deserted, and was gone eighteen months, comes back, gets all his back pay, no punishment, but favored with a good job as clerk in the Hospital Department. The reason was, his father was rich, and cashier of a bank.
From Aug. 20 to 28, 1864, Denegar was treated for “Ter. inter. fever.” He was then finally able to take his furlough, returning therefrom in the month of October. On Jan. 1, 1865, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. It was noted in regimental records on Feb. 8, 1865, that he was detailed on a U.S. mail steamer with Capt. Nicholas Hoysradt. A document dated “Headquarters, Soldiers Rest, Alexandria, Va., Mar. 7th 1865,” states: “Received of Morgan Denegar, Corp., Co. ‘B,’ 20 N.Y.S.M., (101) one hundred and one men with papers.” On Apr. 3 it was again noted in regimental records that Denegar was detailed on a U.S. mail steamer. According to a May 19 notation, after being sick for 13 days, he returned “to duty in the city.” On the following day (May 20) it was noted that he was reassigned from detail duty to duty in the company. Denegar was sick again beginning on July 27, but it is not known when he returned to duty. On Aug. 21, 1865, Denegar was “Reduced to the ranks from Corporal.” No reason was given. He was once more listed as sick from Sept. 3 to 7. A notation on Dec. 10 states that he was “On daily duty.” He deserted from Portsmouth, Va., on Dec. 18, 1865 (42 days before he would have been mustered out with his regiment).
Under the provisions of an amnesty law that had been passed by Congress in 1889, the charge of desertion against Denegar was removed on Aug. 23, 1901, and he was discharged to date Dec. 18, 1865. This retroactive honorable discharge, once granted, was apparently of great value and significance to Denegar and his family. The brief notice of the “Death of Morgan Denegar” that appeared in The Columbia Republican (of Hudson, N.Y.) on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1908, reads as follows:
The death of Morgan Denegar took place in his home in Germantown on Saturday night after an illness of some time. The deceased was an honorably discharged veteran of the Civil war. He was about 68 years of age.
Major Walter A. Van Rensselaer, 20th N.Y.S.M.,
formerly Captain of Co. B (in which Morgan Denegar served)*
Major John R. Leslie, 20th N.Y.S.M.,
formerly Captain of Co. B (in which Morgan Denegar served)*
Members of the 20th N.Y.S.M.
at Uptons Hill, Va. (1862)*
Regimental Colors of the 20th N.Y.S.M., carried during the Second Bull Run campaign
Confederates attacking the 151st Pa., 142nd Pa., 20th N.Y.S.M., and 121st Pa., near the Lutheran Seminary
in Gettysburg, Pa., on July 1, 1863. Morgan Denegar was wounded during the fighting on this day.
Toward evening union troops made a heroic final stand on the campus in
the face of a fierce attack by General Pender’s Division, before fleeing
through the campus and the town to the heights of Cemetery Ridge.
Fred K. Wentz, Gettysburg Seminary’s Role in a Defining Event
Satterlee U.S.A. General Hospital, West Philadelphia, Pa. (1864).
Morgan Denegar was treated here for the wound he received at the battle of Gettysburg.
Brandy Station, Va. (1864)
Army of the Potomac Headquarters, Brandy Station, Va. (1865)
Catlett’s Station, Va. (photograph by Matthew Brady, August 1862)
*From the Seward R. Osborne Collection.
Morgan Denegar was born in Clermont, N.Y., on July 9, 1840, the son of Philip H. and Adeline (Lasher) Denegar. In the village of Madalin (now Tivoli), in Red Hook, N.Y., in 1860, he married Julia Marley, born in Dublin, Ireland, on Dec. 25, 1837. Julia had immigrated to the United States (as a girl) in 1843. Before her marriage to Morgan she had been working in Clermont as a domestic servant for Morgan’s uncle, Morgan Lasher. Morgan and Julia Denegar had four children: Helen (born May 8, 1861), Philip H. (born Dec. 24, 1869), Frances (born Oct. 20, 1871), and Adeline (born Oct. 18, 1873). The family also included Julia’s daughter Anna Cook (born 1859). Julia died in Germantown, N.Y., on Feb. 5, 1901, and Morgan died there on Feb. 1, 1908. They are buried together in the Viewmonte Rural Cemetery (Lutheran) in Clermont.
For several months in 1864 and 1865, Morgan Denegar’s regiment (the 20th N.Y.S.M.) had been stationed in very close proximity to General U. S. Grant’s headquarters in City Point, Va. It is reported that Grant interacted with personnel from the regiment on a regular basis. In the years after the war Denegar was a great admirer of Grant. A portrait of Grant hung in his home, as well as a photograph of Grant and his family (taken at Mount McGregor, N.Y., in 1885) which was displayed within a frame that Denegar had crafted himself.
The following article, entitled “Funeral of Morgan Denegar,” appeared in The Columbia Republican on Friday, Feb. 7, 1908: “The funeral of Morgan Denegar took place from his late home on Tuesday afternoon and was largely attended. The deceased was well known throughout this locality and had a large circle of friends. Rev. W. L. Shaler officiated and the Reformed church choir sang two beautiful hymns. He was a veteran of the Civil war and had an excellent war record. The remains were interred in the Viewmonte Rural cemetery. Undertaker Alonzo Lasher had charge of the funeral and burial. The age of the deceased was 67 years and 6 months.”
Letter Written by Morgan Denegar on February 12, 1864
20th New York State Militia: Ulster Guard
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