The Search for CorporalDaniel H. Myers
ByGary W. Myers
Corporal Daniel H. Myers was thegrandson of HenryMyers, a Delaware County, New York Pioneer. Henry Myers came to Americafrom Germany during the Revolutionary War, fought in the Patriot Army and at the war's end settled near Margaretville,New York. Henry married Catherine Shafer in Shavertown on 17 June 1789.
During the CivilWar, Daniel enlisted in the 144th NY Volunteer Regiment, Co. G, at the age of 21 years on 30 August 1862.His service record indicates he was 5 feet, seven and one-half inches tallwith light hair and blue eyes. Daniel was not married. He was wounded atThe Battle ofHoney Hill, South Carolina on 30 November 1864 and died of his woundsin the general hospital at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on 17 December1864. Both Daniel (my great granduncle) and his older brother James (mygreat grandfather) belonged to "G" Co., 144th. NY Vol. Regt. James was seriously wounded in the same battle, survived, and livedin Margaretville, NY, until his natural death in 1903.
From stories passed down throughthe Myers family, Daniel has become a legendary war hero. However, no oneknew the exact location of his final resting place; he never came homefrom the war and was buried somewhere in South Carolina. In 1996, my father,Wyckoff Myers (Daniel's grandnephew), wrote to the National ArchivesRecords Administration in Washington, D.C., for Daniel's service record.
Several weeks later, a package arrivedcontaining photocopies of pay receipts and other records including a Recordof Interment revealing that Daniel was buried in the military cemeteryat HiltonHead Island in grave number 456 on 18 December 1864.
Armed with this new information,my father and I made the four hour drive to Hilton Head, South Carolina,on 17 May 1997 from my home in Gainesville,Florida, in search of Daniel's grave site. Of importance was the presumedcemetery site along a road labeled "Union Cemetery Road" nearold FortWalker on the local street map. Fort Walker was the large Union garrisonat Hilton Head during the Civil War.
The Battle of Honey Hill
To prevent Confederate reinforcementsfrom Charleston from interfering with General Sherman's "Marchto the Sea," which had started at Atlanta on 15 November 1864,the Union had decided to send an expeditionary force inland from HiltonHead to cut the Charleston & Savannah Railroad at Grahamville, SC.Federal units involved in the expedition included the 144th New York, the 25thOhio; the 32d and 102d U.S.C.T.; the 56th, 157th and 127thNew York; and the 55thMassachusetts.
On 28 November 1864, all but CompaniesD and K of the 144thRegiment boarded the steamer Sylph at Hilton Head Island. Their immediatedestination was Boyd's Landing up the Broad River. Unfortunately, thickfog settled on the river about one hour into the trip; several vesselsincluding the Sylph became lost and had to retrace their route.
View from Boyd's Landing Looking up Boyd's Creek
The troops finally arrived at Boyd'sLanding on the 29th and began the inland march towards Grahamville, approximately7 miles to the west. Due to navigational mistakes by the Union commanders,the troops made several wrong turns and had to bivouack at Bolan Churchfor the night. Thus, a crucial day was lost. At about nine o'clock thenext morning (30 November), the force moved out towards Grahamville.
At a point about five miles westof Boyd's Landing, the Union force approached a featureknown as Honey Hill, a 25-foot topographic rise upon which Confederatetroops had constructed earthworks (seemap). The Honey Hill battle site today is located just east of Ridgeland,Jasper County, SC, off State Road 336. Although they were outnumbered,the elevated position, advantage of surprise, fortified entrenchments andheavy guns of the Confederate forces contributed to a decimation of theFederal troops, who withdrew in defeat following a fierce battle. The Confederateswere commanded by Col. Charles Colcock. Total forces engaged were 6,400(US 5,000; CS 1,400). Casualties totaled 796 (US 746; CS 50).
Ironically, the majority of theConfederate troops did not arrive at the Honey Hill fortifications untilimmediately before the battle about nine o'clock a.m. (30 November). Theyarrived by train on the Charleston & Savannah Railroad from Georgiaunder the command of MajorGeneral Gustavus Smith. Thus, the extra day required by the Union forcesto find the right road probably cost them a victory. The Confederate troopsincluded units of the Georgia State Militia as well as the 47th Georgiaregiment.
A Recent Visit to Honey Hill
Dad and I retraced the route viaautomobile beginning at Boyd's Landing on Sunday morning, 18 May 1997.Upon reaching the closest highway approach to Honey Hill, we got out andwalked through the dense undergrowth to the north, frequently sweepingaway numerous ticks, spiders and mosquitoes that seemed to challenge ouradvance.
Honey Hill Battle Site - Entrenchments
Honey Hill Battle Site - Entrenchments
After a while, we found the remnantsof earthen embankments constructed by the Confederate troops. As bothersomeas the parasites were, Dad and I were glad we weren't there 133 years agododging bullets, cannonball and grapeshot. The trench within the earthworkswas about seven feet in depth; the berm on the east side provided an additionalthree feet. Of more modern interest was an abandoned moonshine still inthe bottom of the trench.
Daniel was part of the color guard(armed soldiers protecting the flag bearers); by late morning, his unitwas advancing up the road towards the west, directly into the Confederates'hidden positions atop Honey Hill. During a furious exchange of gunfire,Daniel was hit by a bullet. According to the casualty sheet from the NationalArchives, the nature of his injury was "wounded in abdomen, severe."After being transported back to the military hospital, Daniel died of probableinfection 17 days later; he was buried the next day.
Daniel was 22 years old when hedied. His will was probated 15 April 1874 in Delaware county, NY, and providedthe following: "I give my two youngest brothers [Orison and Charles]each $50.00. The value of all my property I want equally divided amongall my brothers and sisters."
The Search for CorporalMyers
Information from the NationalArchives stated that Daniel was buried at Hilton Head Island. However,after a fruitless search of cemeteries on the island on 17 May 1997, Dadand I turned up no military cemeteries and no Daniel.
Entrance to Beaufort National Cemetery
Finally, I inquired at a local libraryas to the location of the military cemetery for Union soldiers killed duringthe Civil War. After a local citizen reminded me that the correct termwas the "War Between the States," the librarian told me abouta national cemetery inBeaufort, SC, some 40 miles distant. Apparently, many graves were movedthere some years ago.
We had no reason to believe Danielwas necessarily at the BeaufortNational Cemetery, but had run out of other ideas, so we made the one-hourtrip. Once in town, we located the cemetery and discovered approximately14,000 grave sites, marked by gleaming white stones stretching far offinto the distance across a beautifully maintained lawn shaded by statelylive oaks.
Still having some daylight left,we set about the task of searching the vast cemetery for Daniel. Aftersome time, we located the Civil War section, then the New York section.While striding past row after row of stones, I thought I began to see somefamiliar Delaware county names. Whether I was imagining things or not,my pessimism was turning to optimism.
Suddenly, I found a grave markerfor D.H. Myers, Corporal, New York, grave no. 2704. An index later confirmedthis to be my great grand uncle Daniel H. Myers. It was quite a movingexperience.
Corporal Daniel H. Myers
Company G, 144th NY Volunteer Regiment
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