Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Rebel Livingston: St. George Croghan in the Confederate Army

Long time readers will no doubt remember the story of Serena Livingston (If you need to refresh your memory you can read about her here ). To make a long story short though, Serena, the daughter of
Serena Livingston Croghan
John R. Livingston, married George Croghan. George was a hero of the War of 1812 but alcoholism and gambling problems led to a tumultuous life and eventually a separation from Serena.

Serena and George's only surviving son, St. George Louis Livingston Croghan, had his own tumultuous life. Born while the family was living at the Croghan estate, Locust Grove, in Kentucky St. George spent much of his youth on the move. Eventually Serena brought her kids, including St. George back to the Hudson Valley to be supported by her family. Some sources report that St. George attended West Point but no record of this exists.

By 1847 St. George had married his cousin Cornelia Adelaide Ridgely, who was a great- granddaughter of Chancellor Livingston. They produced four children between their marriage and her death in 1857 at the age of 30.  She is buried in Rhinebeck.

At some point during the next four years St. George abandoned his motherless young children with family and returned to the south. When war broke out he decided to turn traitor and join the confederacy. His motivations are unclear at best. Perhaps he was seeking adventure? Perhaps he believed in slavery so strongly that he was willing to fight for it? Unlike some confederate soldiers St. George could not claim loyalty to a state as his excuse as he joined a Virginia unit rather than a unit from Kentucky where he had been born and where his family had land.

St. George Croghan was made a lieutenant colonel in the 1 Cavalry, Wise Legion having joined "soon after the commencement of Lincoln's war of subjugation" as one Richmond newspaper put it. For
Two soldiers of the 10 Virginia Cavalry
those interested after reorganization of the Confederate Army this became the 10 Virginia Cavalry. So for the Livingstons the Civil War was not brother against brother but it certainly was cousin against cousin (you can read about a Livingston who joined the right side of the war here).

In the early days of the war St. George was assigned mainly to move supplies between North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Soon though he was sent into western Virginia which was strongly opposed to Virginia's secession. This led to many fierce battles and skirmishes. After one such battle at Hawk's Nest he reported killing one union soldier and capturing two more. He encouraged his commanding officers to push forward but it was not to be.

West Virginia seceded from Virginia in August of 1861 and several set backs caused the rebels to begin falling back from the state. On November 14th St. George was leading a scouting party of about 40 men at McCoy's Mill in West Virginia, covering the rearguard of the rebel forces when they were confronted by the 12 and 13 Ohio regiments early in the morning. During the ensuing fight a bullet hit St. George in his waist belt, passed through his body and exited through the belt on his back. His belt broke and his sword fell to the ground where he was hit.
McCoy Mill in West Virginia 

His men retreated but the mortally wounded St. George was captured by the Union. He was treated by the 13 Ohio's assistant surgeon, Dr. Chase, but died at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Southern sources claim that his men tried to recover his body under a flag of truce but that the Union soldiers refused. This interaction was not recorded in Union sources. There is no record of what happened to St. George's body. A Richmond newspaper mourned him saying there was not a "better rider on the continent, whether Texas Ranger or Carmanche [sp] Indian" and that "his loss to the confederate army is like that of a regiment..."