Col. John William Moore – Civil War Field Officer

colonel-john-moore

Born: 1836

Died: January 15, 1865

Section: Circle of St. John, Sect. 36, Lot. 68, SW ½

John W. Moore was born in 1836 in Philadelphia.  He entered the Civil War in July 1861 when recruiting men for the regiment in which he would serve. He was commissioned as a Captain. The Regiment was the 66th Pennsylvania Volunteers.  For three months it was stationed in a chain of forts forming the southern defenses of Washington D.C.  In March 1862 the unit became the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteer infantry with the addition of troops from another unit.  In August l862 it participated in the battles of Bull Run and Chantilly. At Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862 the 99th crossed the Rappahonnock River amid desperate fighting. It lost 60 officers and men, killed and wounded.  At Chancellorsville the 99th executed a notable charge by moonlight and later covered the retreat of the army.

Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1-3 1863. On July 1 the 99th under the command of Major Moore, made a forced march from Emmitsburg, Maryland to Gettysburg and bivouacked at night in the Peach Orchard. On day 2 the Regiment engaged in skirmishing near the Roger’s house, fought in the Wheatfield, the Rose Woods and were then sent to the Devil’s Den where they successfully held the Union flank. Moore was wounded on this day but returned to the field the next day. On July 3rd they were sent to Cemetery Ridge and fought to repulse Pickett’s Charge.

In 1886 a monument was placed at the position on the Devil’s Den flank that was stoutly held by the 99th.  On the right side of the monument are listed all the battles fought by the 99th during the war: 2nd Bull Run, Chantilly, North Anna, Totopotomty, White’s Ford, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wapping Heights, Auburn, Kelly’s Ford, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, Poplar Springs, Boydton Road, Hatcher’s Run, Petersburg Watkins’s House, Amelia Springs, & Appomattox.

On September 16th 1864 Moore was promoted to Colonel by General David G. Birney and ordered to form a new regiment to serve as sharp-shooters. It was named the 203rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. Birney however died soon after reaching the field and the 203rd was treated as an ordinary infantry regiment. The men were from the counties of Philadelphia, Lancaster, Chester, Delaware and Lycoming. The regiment departed for the front, and arrived at Petersburg on September 27th.  Over the next 2 months they had engagements at Deep Bottom, Chapinus Farm, New Market Road, and Malvern Hill.

Ft. Fisher

The biography written about Colonel Edwin R. Biles describes how General Grant in December 1864 ordered Biles and the 99th to march south from the siege of Petersburg along the Weldon/ Wilmington RR and destroy 16 miles of track near Jarrett, VA. The purpose was to cut the supply of materials coming from Wilmington NC, the last port supplied from the sea, to the Confederate Army.  At the other end of the supply line was Fort Fisher, which protected the port where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Ft Fisher was located at the southern tip of a peninsula south of Wilmington NC between the two bodies of water.  The fort was constructed with huge mounds of sand and soil covered with grass (By the 1850’s, because of the advances in the firepower of cannon, conventionally built forts of wood or stone were not considered adequate).  The mounds were 35 feet high, strung together in a row and designed to absorb shelling. There were magazines built into the mounds, as well as rooms and passageways for troops. Cannon fire of the day could not penetrate these mounds.  Between the mounds, about 15 feet high, were one or two gun mounts. Around the mounts were wooden traverses, which protected the gun crews from incoming and enfilading fire (flanking fire). The traverses measured sixty feet wide, fifty feet deep and twenty feet high.

See the picture below of a modern day reconstruction of a small portion of Fort Fisher. (Most of the original fort has since washed into the Atlantic). This photo is taken from inside the fort. Note the magazine or passageway entrance on the lower right side, steps leading up to the guns, the gun mounts, and the traverses built around the gun mounts.

ftfisher

Fort Fisher was constructed in the form of an inverted L with the long portion facing the Atlantic Ocean and the short portion of the L protecting the fort from enemy troops moving south from Wilmington NC. See the diagram below.

374px-Union_Attack_on_Fort_Fisher_North_Carolina_January_15_1865

There were two battles that took place within weeks of each other.  The first was commonly called “the First Battle of Fort Fisher” and the latter was named the “Second Battle of Fort Fisher”.  The Union forces in both battles were basically the same, but the high command was different.  The First occurred on December 24, 1864 and was commanded by Maj. General Benjamin Butler.  The Second battle was commanded by Maj. General Alfred Terry.  In both battles troops were shipped out of Hampton Roads, VA in transport ships and the gunships left from Beaufort, NC.  The troops in the “First” were able to land on the peninsula but were repulsed and Butler aborted the mission.  Once this happened General Grant quickly relieved General Butler and replaced him with General Terry.

The “Second’s” mission began on January 6, 1865 with the embarkation from Hampton Roads of 9,600 troops on transport ships. On January 12, fifty-eight gunships under the command of Admiral David D. Porter departed from Beaufort and arrived the same evening.  At 7:20 a.m. the next morning the battle began when the gunships shelled the peninsula about 3 miles north of the fort in an area chosen by Terry as the troop landing zone .At 8:00 am troops began to embark for the landing zone. Then the gunships redirected their fire to the south  toward the fort.  The gunships were able to destroy all but two cannons at the fort and as well as all the telegraph wires, but the mounds, as designed, just absorbed the cannon fire. General Terry was then able to position the infantry in a line of entrenchments, crossing the entire peninsula, east to west, which included the 203rd. Terry also sent troops north on the peninsula to block the Rebels from driving south from Wilmington, NC to and attacking the rear of the Union army.  At approximately three p.m. on January 15th the forces, which were now within 500 yards of the northern part of the fort, attacked the fort by tearing down the wooden palisades, climbing the mounds on the western side of the peninsula, and attacking each gun emplacement and traverse one by one.  There were seventeen traverses that had to be conquered.  Moore led his 203rd regiment up the fourth mound and was rallying his troops by attacking the fourth traverse, charging with his regimental flag in one hand and sword in the other.  He fell with ten bullets in his chest while holding the flag that was said to have eighty rents (bullet and shrapnel holes) in it.  He died immediately.

Ft. Fisher fell that night and by February 22, Wilmington, NC was abandoned to the Union. The Confederacy was now without a reliable source of supply. The noose was being tightened on the Rebel cause. Petersburg was abandoned on March 25 and the Confederacy surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

The second in command of the forces under General Terry was Brig. General Alderbert  Ames, and in his first official report, included this statement about Col Moore: “He behaved with the most distinguished gallantry, in advance of his regiment. Few equaled, none surpassed this brave officer”.

Personal

Moore’s body was shipped to his home in Philadelphia where a funeral was held from his house. He was interred at Mount Moriah on January 31, 1865.  His grave is located in the Circle of St. John, Sect. 36, Lot. 68, SW ½

Moore married Ellen McAfee in 1863. They had a daughter, Nellie G., in December 1863.  Ellen McAfee was a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).  As such she could trace her ancestry back to the Founding Fathers.  Ellen died in 1926 and is buried with John and Nellie.

After his death Moore was not forgotten and was honored as a brave war hero by Philadelphians.  In 1889 ten thousand people gathered at Mount Moriah to hear speeches and offer prayers in his memory. In 1905, forty years after his death another gathering at Mt. Moriah honored his courage and sacrifice. His widow, Ellen, (aged 65) attended.

The Moore and Biles Relationship

The relationship between Col. John Moore and Col. Edwin Biles is interesting.  Moore and Biles started their careers with the 99th Pennsylvania Volunteers and they both advanced in rank at about the same time. One could imagine they were equals, reported to the same commanders, sat in the same staff meetings, supported each other in battle and saw each other frequently.  Moore died in 1865 and Biles in 1883.  Both are now interred in Mount Moriah, about 200 yards from one another: Moore in Section 36 and Biles in Section 30.

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