Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Chester Bishop, Tenth N. Y. Cavalry.

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New York, State Records.

BISHOP, CHESTER.—Age, 18 years. Enlisted, October 1,1861, at Golden; mustered in as private, Co. B, October 12, 1861, to serve three years; re-enlisted, December 31, 1863; missing in action (probably killed), June 24, 1864, at St. Mary's Church, Va.; never heard from.

New York Tenth Cavalry Regimental History, p. 306-307.

Bishop, Chester. Promoted from private, date not given ; missing in action at St. Mary's Church, Va., June 24, 1864 ; probably killed.

Chester Bishop was born in Aurora, Erie County, N. Y., in the year 1843, being eighteen years old at the time of enlisting.

Previous to his enlistment his life was, as usual in the rural districts, uneventful. The eldest son of a large family, he was early accustomed to hard work. This, however, did not prevent his acquiring a very good common English education. As his father, Dr. F. T. Bishop, was infirm in health, and never in early life accustomed to physical labor, Chester was almost indispensable at home. But those who were his comrades can recall the martial spirit and enthusiasm everywhere prevailing in the fall of 1861.

Lieutenant Woodruff was recruiting for the Tenth New York Cavalry, and came to my father's house to obtain his consent to Chester's enlisting, which was much more readily procured than mother's ; although the patriotic blood of two Revolutionary soldiers, as grandfathers, coursed in her veins, it was only after a long argument, added to Chester's entreaties, that she yielded a reluctant consent to his enrollment. Still she believed, as did many others who had better means of judging, that in a few months the war would close, and her boy be home again. So, equipped with perfect health and a buoyant, cheerful temperament, he left us.

His earlier letters, written in a large, boyish hand, gave us pleasant incidents of camp life, and made kindly mention of "the boys." Then he is in hospital, having taken the  umps. From thence he is removed to convalescent camp near Fort Barnard, where he gets very impatient at the long detention from his Regiment. I give an extract from a letter while detained there : " We were to have a Christmas dinner. There were some New York people here, and they were going to give us a grand dinner. We were ordered to build a table in each street to seat one hundred men. We backed the boards and built the tables;  there were about twenty streets. Now comes the joke of it. We waited patiently for the roast turkeys, but when they reached our street, which was among the last, there was nothing left for a hundred men except five small pies. To-morrow will be New-Year's-day, but nothing is said about a dinner. After his return to the Regiment came long, cheerful, and affectionate letters, only complaining of the long delay in receiving equipment's, and longing to be sent to the front in short, to be doing something.

After the Regiment is engaged in active service, letters are more infrequent, but contained brief though enthusiastic accounts of raids and battles following in quick succession. His history henceforth is the history of his Regiment, now greatly reduced in numbers. In the winter of 1863-'64 came the re-enlistment, followed by a month's furlough. Every home that sent a soldier can remember what that means. There was no railroad to bring the soldiers nearer than Buffalo, and when the stage stopped and " Chet " was not among those that alighted, we were sadly disappointed, until told that he gave up his seat to a comrade who had a wife and child.

Every soldier and soldier's family remembers the glad home-coming. The change m Chester's personal appearance was quite marked. He left us a mere boy, small and youthful- looking for his age ; he returned matured, with the serious, candid manner of a thoughtful man. The month's furlough was one continued ovation. Neighbors and friends vied with each other in doing honor and giving pleasure to the returned soldiers; and I remember so well that, not a little to the regret and annoyance of ourselves, we were obliged to give up some precious days and one or two nights spent with '' the boys," as he termed his comrades.

But the last day came. By this time we all knew what war was, and felt the bitterness of parting ; and, although we repeatedly assured him that we believed he would come back, it was with tearful eyes and sinking hearts that we saw him ride away. And we all felt that he thought his return very doubtful. Soon after his return to the front our father's death occurred. I find among Chester's letters to my mother a very affectionate one, urging her to use whatever money of his she needed for debts, expenses, etc., saying he might never need it.

Not many more letters were received before the news reached us by a letter from John B. Buffum that on the 34th of June, 1864, after an engagement at St. Mary's Church, Va., he was missing, supposed to have been taken prisoner. After this mother received the following letter from Captain Blynn :

Headquarters Tenth N. Y. Cav., July 15, 1864.

Mrs. Bishop : Your letter to John Buffum, making inquiries for your son Chester, came to-day.

I should have written you before, had I not supposed his friends in the company had informed you of his probable fate.

On the 34th of June, Gregg's division of cavalry moved out to St. Mary's Church, and took up a position between the rebels and the road our wagon-train was passing to the James River on. We remained there until afternoon quietly, when, it becoming evident that the rebels were in force on our front, our Regiment, with many others, was dismounted and sent forward on the skirmish-line. The portion under my command pushed into the woods a short distance, until we reached a rail fence, which we hastily pulled down, piling up the rails for breastworks. We remained there for an hour or two quietly, when heavy firing commenced on the right of our line, and in a short time we heard the rebel officers giving commands to their men on our front, and in a second's time we were hotly engaged. After a short but terrific fight the rebels charged our breastworks with a force which our thin skirmish-line could not check. During the fight your son was the next man to me on my right, and I shall never forget with what bravery he fought, how deliberately he aimed his carbine, and how nobly he held his post.

When the rebels charged over our breastworks he was the only man left on my right, and there was but one on my left. When they came through the line they were not over five yards from me, and Chester was still between them and myself. I consider it almost a miracle that J escaped, and I consider it morally certain that your son was captured.

I have no idea that he was either killed or wounded, and I expect in time to welcome him back to the old company, if I am spared from the carnage of this wicked war. It gives me pleasure to be able to speak highly of him as an intelligent and dutiful soldier. Since I have commanded the company (October last) I believe I have not had occasion to reprove him once.

For his good conduct and soldierly bearing I had but recently made him a corporal of the company, which of course was but slight recognition of what he so well deserved. Chet, as we familiarly called him, was a general favorite among us, and none regret his loss more than I.

Anything further in regard to your son that I can do I will cheerfully.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, Martin H. Blynn,
Captain Company B, Tenth N. Y. Cav.

As at this time communications had been opened with rebel prisons, every means was used to ascertain where he was, if he really was a prisoner ; but after months of anxious suspense we and some of his comrades came to the conclusion that he was killed in the charge of which Captain Blynn speaks, and that instant death saved him the tortures of a rebel prison. At the organization of the Grand Army post at Colden his comrades honored his memory by naming the post for him— a compliment which was greatly appreciated by his family, and especially pleasing to our dear mother. Anna Bishop Church.

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