Monday, May 25, 2009

MEMORIAL DAY, John Haring and the 6th New York Heavy Artillery

Around Memorial Day each year, I think of a few people, veterans all who have had an impact on my life. They are my father William Doherty a Navy Vet, Vin Accardi my father- in- law an Army vet and a close friend Roger Carey, also an Army vet. But there is one other who is in my thoughts. A young soldier named John Haring who died as a result of wounds sustained in the Spotsylvania campaign during our Civil War.

Like most people, certain things define one’s attitudes; for me, I am both a Veteran and a Civil War freak. On Memorial Day, 1996, an event occurred which motivated both of those elements within me. My oldest son and I will be setting it right. Sean was at the time a member of the North Rockland Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. The week before Memorial Day, he and his fellow cadets set about placing American flags on the graves of all Veterans at Mount Repose in Haverstraw, N.Y.

On Memorial day, we arrived at the Cemetery a little early for the ceremony so I meandered among the graves, my curiosity aroused. After a couple of minutes, I noticed a well-worn marker, around the top of which read “He died for his Country." Beneath that was a worn carving of an American Flag under which was the name John H. Haring. The date of death was June 19, 1864. I looked for but did not see a G.A.R. marker. Moreover, there was no American flag placed on the grave. A transgression that Sean will not soon forget. I was upset that his grave was overlooked.

Immediately, we searched for an additional flag. With none to be found, we came upon a grave with two flags on it. I hope the veteran didn’t mind, but the spare flag made its way to Haring’s grave. After all, it was to the memory of Union soldiers killed in the Civil War that we owe the existence of Memorial Day.

My depth of feeling for the Civil War soldier (North and South) is well known by my family and friends. As the saying goes, I “Still hear the guns." Forgetting John Haring, while insignificant on the surface, started me on a quest to learn all I could about the man. It was not just overlooking Haring that bothered me, but what about the thousands of soldiers like him.?

Sean and I set out for the library on June 8, 1996 and started scanning the 1860 Census for Rockland County. We went through about sixty pages with no results. Later on that day, I continued the quest by reading through four years worth of the Rockland County Messenger. I found a few references to Harings, including one of a John Haring being assigned to Grand Jury duty in May of 1861. Was this our man? I thought so, except for the fact that this Haring was listed from Orangetown. If he was my Haring at Mount Repose, why was he buried in Haverstraw?

June 15th ---- the search continues. I went to the Historical Society of Rockland County to see if they could help. Deep in my heart, I knew he was a Union soldier, but I had no definite proof. Within minutes of my arrival, I found it. John Haring was listed as a member of the 6th Heavy Artillery in Cole’s 1884 History of Rockland County. He enlisted in August of 1862 and is listed as having died from wounds June 22, 1864 (his grave says June 19, 1864).

Persistence has its rewards. We went back to the New City Library and continued looking through the 1860 census records. About 160 pages later, we found the Haring family. John H. Haring was the second eldest of seven children. Son of Luke and Mary Haring, he is listed at the age of 17 with the occupation of mason.

We wrote the National Archives to get a copy of John Haring’s Army record’s. In the meantime we will pour through all the local resources including the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. It should be fascinating to learn about some of the engagements the 6th Heavies and our John Haring (yes, I adopted him, whether he likes it or not) participated in.

It is a shame that the epitaph on his grave is worn off. It may have given me some clues to go by. His headstone is made of marble ( a soft stone and is on a hill facing westerly winds). Even the top inscription “He died for his country” is difficult to read. There is only one other tombstone in the cemetery like it. The Civil War gravestone of John Doyle was identical (he died on June 15, 1864). Doyle’s headstone is sheltered so the flag and top inscription are easily discernable on his. I suppose restoring or replacing it is out of the question ( are any of Haring’s ancestors reading this?) Perhaps we can at least see to it that a G.A.R. marker be placed there. Coincidentally, in my most recent issue of the North-South Civil War Trader there was a letter from a Jim Leavenworth who has one and would like to see it properly used. I immediately placed a phone call to him but he was on vacation. I started lobbying with my local Rockland County Civil War Round Table to help as well.

Below are the facts I have as of June 15, 1996, 1860 Census:
Haring, John H.
Age: 17
Occupation: Mason
Family of 9: 6 brothers and sisters:
Father Luke, age 45
Mother Mary, age 40
Sister Emallie?( hard to read), age 19
Sister Caroline, age 15
Sister Catherine, age 12
Brother James, age 11
Brother William, age 7
Brother Charles, age 6

Buried at Mount Repose Cemetery:
Headstone inscribed “He died for his country”
“Son of Luke and Mary Haring”
“Aged 21 Years”
Can’t read epitaph
“Died June 19, 1864”

There is no mention on the stone of the 6th Heavies, which to me is curious, considering that he died while a member of the unit.

During my search for John Haring’s past, a series of eerie events began to unfold. While searching the census for information on Haring, I ran across the household of John Coleman, a future Sergeant in the 95th New York Infantry. I wrote an article about the 95th in our local Historical Society’s Journal and I recalled the name. How quaint, I thought, as Coleman’s and Haring’s pasts brushed together ever so slightly.

June 17, 1996, We called the National Archives for the procedure to obtain Haring’s army record. They will send us forms to fill out and for ten dollars we will have Haring’s record. We received the form NATF 80 on June 24th.

While we were awaiting the results from the National Archives, it was decided to start looking into the history of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery, John Haring’s unit. I called the Assistant Director of Special Collections at West Point, Mr. Alan Aimone and made an appointment with him.

Approximately seven hours was spent pouring through the O.R. gleaning every little known fact about the 6th Heavies. Initially they were mustered in as the 135th New York Volunteers of Infantry and were stationed at Baltimore then Harper’s Ferry as garrison troops. Eventually they were redesignated the 6th New York Heavy Artillery. The Heavies had a relatively easy time of it until July, 1863 when they were ordered to Gettysburg to help bury the dead. The 6th Heavies joined the army of the Potomac in time for the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns in the fall, 1863. In May, 1864 when the slumbering armies awoke to begin another spring campaign, the 6th Heavies were designated as foot artillery (a fancy name for conversion to infantryman). They engaged into some horrific fighting, losing over 400 members of the regiment, including my John Haring,(he was wounded in the thigh on May 19, 1864 and died over a month later in late June of complications) by the war’s end.

Waiting for the records made me crazy. I had to keep looking for something but I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I went back to the Mount Repose Cemetery for another look. You see I thought I’d just sit down by Haring’s plot, meditate and...... Within a few minutes, I found the graves of Luke and Mary Haring, John’s parents.

What happened next? My mind and my gaze began to wander. Suddenly, shivers ran down my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up; for two plots to the right was the grave of John Coleman, my friend from the 95th. It scared the hell out of me! Not only because of my previous encounters with Coleman while searching for Haring’s past, but because I only have one item from the 95th Regiment in my collection. It happens to be John Coleman’s Certificate of Promotion to First Sergeant before Petersburg on August 12, 1864.

Finally on August 10, 1996 I received his records. But that was not enough! I had to find out what if any relationship there was between Coleman and Haring. Again, I wrote to the Archives, this time for Coleman’s pension records. September 16, 1996, John Coleman’s pension file arrives! And, good grief, it’s not a coincidence! His wife is Catherine Haring, John’s sister. I have a connection! John Coleman is an in-law to the Harings. I wonder if Haring knew John Coleman before he was killed? All this time, I knew somehow, there was a connection between those two “soldiers of the Union.” Who would have ever thought that the head stone of a soldier in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery could be linked with a certificate of promotion for a soldier in the 95th Infantry?

We are close to the end. Today the G.A.R. marker is now by Haring’s headstone forever identifying him as a Civil War Veteran. Sean’s NJROTC instructor, Commander Ross gave a nice presentation and a local re-enactor group, the 40th New York attended firing a volley over John’s grave.. I suppose their souls are at rest now, John Haring has his marker and with any luck, John Coleman will continue to turn up in my life. This bit of research has whetted the appetite. I have already started a paper on Rockland County in the Civil War. With some luck it may amount to something in the future.

Thanks to the North South Civil War Trader and fellow NSCWT subscriber Jim Leavenworth, Haring’s grave will be decorated as it deserves. I had no idea who John Haring was. This was not a grandiose scheme of any kind. It was simply one veteran making sure that the deeds of a soldier who was not even fortunate enough to become a veteran, ( in other words, stay alive) would be remembered by future generations.

Closing this brief chapter on Haring is an encapsulation of his army career:

Haring, John H. Age 21; Enrolled at Haverstraw, August 25, 1862; Mustered in at Fort McHenry, December 11, 1862 for three years. Listed as present for duty from January, 1863 to June, 1864. In Sept./Oct., 1863 he was charged 20 cents for a cartridge box belt and plate. In December, 1863 he was charged 44 cents for a canteen. January/February, 1864 on detached service then recalled to the regiment; wounded in the thigh near Spotsylvania on May 19, 1864. Died June 22, 1864 at Carver U.S. General Hospital in Washington, D.C.. Personal effects listed were: 1 cap, 1 Uniform coat, 1 pair flannel drawers, 1 flannel shirt, 1 pair socks, 1 portfolio and a handkerchief. His personal effects were signed for by his father Luke Haring and his body transported home for burial at Mt. Repose.


Barbara Levell said...

I read your post with interest as I am researching my great, great grandfather, David King who also served in the 6th NY Heavy Artillery, mustered in Harrison, NY, in Sept 1862. I will be publishing his 80+ letters. You might be interested in hearing more about day to day life. I have a The book, 10,000 Kisses, won't be published for another year or so.

Cathy-0 said...

Thank you for your story about your search for John Harring. I have just completed transcribing the roster for the NY 6th Heavy Artillery and have placed a link next to Harring's name to your blog page.