09/12/2017 9:41 PM
 
John James Toffey: U.S. Army
John James Toffey
U.S. Army
Medal Of Honor,
in Civil War.
Photo Courtesy of HomeOfHeroes.com
 
 

 

The Mutinous Regiment: The Thirty-Third New Jersey in the Civil War, by John G. Zinn (Author).

The Mutinous Regiment: The Thirty-Third New Jersey in the Civil War, by John G. Zinn (Author).

John Toffey says; "The ball entered about a half an inch from my hip bone and went through my flesh about 4 inches. The Dr. had to cut out the ball which was quite painful. Our Regt'l Doctor is at this Hospital and takes good care of me."

Book The Mutinous Regiment, by Anazon.com.

 

 

 

New Jersey's ‘Mutinous 33rd'

"By Ronald S. Coddington - The New York Times"

"John Toffey was sick with fever..."

"John Toffey was sick with fever. The Union lieutenant had been ill for days and not able to attend to his duties. An Army surgeon in Chattanooga, Tenn., examined the 19-year-old officer on the evening of Nov. 22, 1863, and handed him a permit to go into the hospital.

Toffey later recalled that before they parted ways the surgeon warned him about an upcoming military movement. "I was not able to take part in the engagement that we were expecting," he said, "I was determined not to be deprived of my share of the excitement, so I tore up the permit he had given me." Toffey rejoined his command. His willful disobedience of orders would result in his receipt of the nation's highest military honor.

uncle, United States Navy Rear John Lorimer Worden

That Toffey chose to stand with his men in their hour of peril most likely came as no surprise to his comrades. A year earlier, Toffey had turned 18 and looked for an opportunity to join the Army. His enthusiasm may have been due in part to the adventures of his Uncle, John L. Worden, a navy lieutenant who commanded the hastily commissioned ironclad Monitor in a historic engagement against the Confederate metal monster Merrimac on March 9, 1862. Toffey's brother, Daniel, served as Worden's clerk. [John James and Mary Elizabeth Sip Toffey, Uncle, John L. and Olivia Akin Toffey Worden, John's older brother, Daniel Toffey II, down town cemetery, Route 22 in Pawling, N.Y.}

As Toffey considered his military options, President Abraham Lincoln called for 300,000 volunteers under the threat of conscription to fill the depleted ranks of the Union army. In Washington, number crunchers at the War Department calculated New Jersey's quota to be 10,478 men. The state managed to meet its quota through volunteers, despite concerns among its citizens about the cost in lives of its youth and the lack of military success.

Toffey numbered among the recruits. He joined the Army as a private in the 21st New Jersey Infantry, the first of 11 new regiments organized that summer. It was dispatched to Virginia and assigned to the Army of the Potomac. Toffey survived his baptism under fire at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, and mustered out with the survivors of the regiment after their nine-month enlistment expired in June 1863.

Toffey returned to his family in Jersey City. During his absence, warweariness had increased throughout the North. Back-to-back victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in early July 1863 could not stem the ebb tide of volunteerism and a rising wave of anger over the recently enacted draft. As anti-draft rioters raised hell across the Hudson River on the streets of New York City, the patriotic Toffey re-enlisted, joining the 33rd New Jersey Infantry in August 1863.

The regiment included many draft dodgers and other unsavory types lured by big local bounties. They began to disappear from the regiment's Newark, NJ, camp as soon as they received their enlistment bonuses. The situation became so severe that Union troops were ordered in to prevent the men from escaping. Altogether about a quarter of the rank and file deserted — 244 of 902 men — according to the historian John G. Zinn [book: THE MUTINOUS REGINT - The Thirty-Third New Jersey in The Civil War, By John G. Zinn (Amazon.com)]. The regiment became known as "mutinous" 33rd. In early September 1863, these bad boys of the Union Army were ignominiously marched under armed guard from camp to transport ships and dispatched to the South.

Meanwhile in Georgia, Confederates commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg scored a major victory against Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga on Sept. 19 and 20, 1863. The federals might have been totally destroyed had it not been for Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, who earned the nom de guerre "Rock of Chickamauga" for his stout defense with a portion of the army.

The remnants of the shattered federal forces retreated to Chattanooga. Bragg pursued and surrounded the beleaguered bluecoats. Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who had replaced Rosecrans, promptly opened a much-needed supply line, dubbed the "Cracker Line" by hungry Union soldiers.

In early November, Toffey and the rest of the 33rd arrived on the scene as part of a large force sent to strengthen the weakened army. Thus reinforced, Grant determined to break out of Chattanooga.

Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain

The final push began on Nov. 22. Among the regiments that participated was the 33rd, and the men departed camp that afternoon with the feverish Toffey in tow. They marched through Chattanooga and bivouacked that evening on an open plain in view of Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. According to one of Toffey's fellow officers, First Lt. William H. Lambert, "The scene as it lay spread before us that night was beautiful — camp fires of our army extended right and left as far as the eye could reach, whilst in front the ‘Ridge' and ‘Mountain' were dotted — like a clear winter sky — with the lights of the fires of our enemy."

Amid this inspiring nighttime scene, Toffey tore up the hospital permit.

The next day, thousands of Union troops moved against the Confederates. The 33rd advanced under a clear blue sky with the rest of its brigade and formed two lines of battle. It occupied the left flank of the first line with the ailing Toffey present. Two companies from the regiment fanned out in a skirmish line 150 yards ahead.

The order to begin what came to be known as the Battle of Orchard Knob (or Indian Hill) was given about 3:30 a.m. Toffey recalled, "We were ordered to charge a very strong position on the extreme right of the rebelline. It was well fortified and surrounded by dense woods, while in front there was an open field over which we had to charge."

Confederate infantry and sharpshooters concealed themselves in the woods and in rifle pits dug into the banks of Citico Creek, and arranged themselves under cover of a railroad bridge and nearby buildings.

The Southerners opened up a murderous fire almost immediately after the 33rd started forward — no more then 20 paces according to one account. Rebel lead struck the Jersey boys with deadly accuracy. The Confederates, Toffey noted, "were directing their attention to the officers."

The two captains in command of the skirmishers were wounded in the first fire and taken out of action. "Seeing their officers fall, the men became demoralized. The line wavered and began to fall back in disorder. As these two companies held the key to our position and were intended to lead the attack, something had to be done," Toffey observed.

His commanding colonel ordered Toffey to take command of the leaderless skirmishers. "I had strict orders not to allow the Rebels to come this side of a certain creek," Toffey explained. "I ran across the open field and reached the advance line in time to prevent it from breaking." He rallied the men as bullets rained down upon them. "That was the hottest Skirmish line I was ever on the balls flew like hail stones."

He reformed the skirmishers and resumed the charge. "While I was urging the men to fire low and hit their man I received a ball in my Thigh," Toffey reported. He fell heavily to the ground as his comrades continued the attack, which ended in success. "We gave the Rebels a good whipping," Toffey declared.

He lay on the field about an hour before he was transported to a military hospital in Chattanooga. "My wound is a flesh wound and I feel very grateful that it was no worse," Toffey reassured his parents in a letter two days later. "The ball entered about a half an inch from my hip bone and went through my flesh about 4 inches. The Dr. had to cut out the ball which was quite painful (two bullet in Bill's home in 2014). Our Regt'l Doctor is at this Hospital and takes good care of me."

The Union Army by this time had taken Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, and forced General Bragg to withdraw his defeated army from the environs of Chattanooga.

Lambert summed up the performance of the 33rd in a letter published in The Newark Daily Advertiser. "The 33d conducted itself as the troops of the State have ever done — well. A new regiment, it has borne the first shock of battle as soldiers of years, not as soldiers of months. — It received its baptism of blood as became a regiment bearing the name of New Jersey." He added, "May the regiment do in the future as it has in the past — and the State shall be proud of its ‘mutinous' 33d."

Lincoln General Hospital in Washington

Toffey's wound ended his service in the regiment. He eventually recovered and transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, an organization created by the War Department for those unable to serve in combat but capable of handling light duties, and took command of a guard detail at Lincoln General Hospital in Washington.

April 14, 1865, Ford's Theater, 10 pM, assassination of President Lincoln

On April 14, 1865, he attended Ford's Theater and witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln. "I had a revolver with me and would to God I had presence of mind enough at the time the man jumped down to have shot him, several other officers had revolvers but the thing was done so quick that there was hardly time to draw them and shoot," he explained a few days later in a letter home. He added, "The night the President was murdered I done something that I have not done in a good while and that was to cry the tears showed them self before I knew it."

Toffey discovered a dark bay horse, saddled and bridled but rider-less, standing about three-quarters of a mile from the Capitol later that night. "The sweat was pouring off him, and had made a regular puddle on the ground," he observed. Toffey reported the suspicious animal to authorities. He later testified for the prosecution against the alleged conspirator Lewis Powell. The former Confederate soldier was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and treason in his failed attempt to assassinate Secretary of State William Seward, and hanged for his crimes.

In 1866, John returned to New Jersey

Toffey mustered out of the Veteran Reserve Corps in 1866. He returned to New Jersey, married and started a family that grew to include three boys. He rose to prominence as a county sheriff, legislator, and state treasurer. On Nov. 25, 1896, he presided over a ceremony at Orchard Knob to dedicate a memorial to the New Jersey men who fought at Chattanooga 33 years earlier. Toffey received the Medal of Honor a year later in recognition of his courageous efforts that saved the skirmish line. Toffey lived until 1911, dying of kidney failure at age 66."

 

Sources: Walter F. Beyer and Oscar F. Keydel, "Deeds of Valor: How America's Civil War Heroes Won the Congressional Medal of Honor"; John J. Toffey military service record, National Archives and Records Service; Record of Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Vol. 1; John G. Zinn, "The Mutinous Regiment: The Thirty-Third New Jersey in the Civil War"; Newark Daily Advertiser, Jan. 7, 1864; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; John J. Toffey Letters, collection of William Toffey III; The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators; New York Times, Nov. 26, 1896.

Disunion November 26, 2013, 11:14 am.

N.Y.Times.com

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