Monday, November 5, 2018

The Boy in the Solider's Coat: Eugene Livingston and the Civil War

         The American Civil War was hell. Per the American Battlefield Trust there were more than a million casualties during the war. 620,000 men died because of battle or disease. Most of these men didn’t die the quick, painless, glorious deaths so often seen in paintings and movies. They died screaming for their mothers on bloody, stinking battlefields or feverish in sick bed slowly succumbing to disease. Such is the story of Eugene Livingston.
Aryyl house in 1869
          Eugene Livingston was born on January 6, 1845 in Philadelphia. His parents were Eugene Augustus Livingston and Harriet Coleman. Eugene Augustus was the son of Robert L. and Margaret Maria Livingston, He would have spent at least part of his childhood at Arryl House, formerly the home of his grandfather Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and now the home of his brother, Montgomery Livingston.
Teviot
          Eugene Augustus and Harriet soon made a home at Teviot, the Hudson River estate immediately south of Clermont. Harriet gave birth to a daughter they named Mary Coleman Livingston. Unfortunately, Harriet died shortly thereafter. Eugene Augustus married Elizabeth Rhodes Fisher in 1851.
          At the same time the country was falling apart. Following the election of 1860 and the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as president, eleven southern slave holding states illegally withdrew from the union and revolted against the United States.
Eugene Livingston's enlistment record from the National Archives
          The war was expected to end quickly but after a humiliating defeat at the First Battle of Manassas the Union ramped up recruitment for the army as well as production of war materials.
          On February 1, 1862, the younger Eugene enlisted in the 95th New York Infantry and was mustered in that same day. He lied about his age. He was 17 but his enlistment record says he was 21. We do not know what inspired Eugene to enlist. Perhaps he felt strongly about saving the Union or ending slavery. Perhaps he was worried about being called a coward if he did not fight. Perhaps he was inspired by stories of his famous ancestors. Whatever his reasons, Eugene gave up his life of comfort and safety on the Hudson River to join a brutal war.   
Monument to the 95th Regiment at Gettysburg
The 95th would go on to see some of the most intense fighting of the Civil War. They served at; The Second Battle of Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and Appomattox. Eugene saw none of this. 
         On March 8, 1862 Eugene posed for a photo in uniform. Ten days later his regiment finally left New York City. They were assigned to help defend Washington D.C. Shortly after arriving in the capital Eugene fell sick with Tuberculosis. On April 27, 1862, he was discharged from the army with a surgeons’ certificate of disability.
Eugene Livingston
          Eugene never recovered his health. He returned to his father’s house, Teviot, hoping the country air would cure his consumption. It did not. On Wednesday December 31, 1862 Eugene died at Teviot, a week short of his 18th birthday.

In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here, is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall.

Abraham Lincoln, May 25, 1861 Letter to Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth

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