James Edwin Powell

Infobox Military Person
name= James Edwin Powell

born= December 19, 1819
died= April 6, 1862
placeofbirth= Worcester, UK
placeofdeath= Hardin County, Tennessee, USA
branch= United States Army
rank= Major
unit= 1st Infantry
battles= Battle of Shiloh

Major James Edwin Powell, officer in 1st Infantry, Regular Army of the United States, detached to 25th Missouri on 24th March 1862, and depicted on marker at stop #8 along Shiloh Battlefield tour-route as head of the morning patrol down Reconnoitering Road to Fraley Field where the Battle of Shiloh began.

Powell had insisted he noticed “butternuts” in the bushes watching Union parade in Spain Field the afternoon of April 5, 1862 and was believed by Colonel Everett Peabody after yet another investigation that same evening where Powell’s findings disagreed with those of Lieutenant Colonel David Moore, 21st Missouri.clarifyme

Beside being Regular Army, Powell’s eye-sight could be trusted; he was by occupation stated when he joined into the Mexican-American War at Castle Perote, Mexico on August 1, 1847, a hunter. Records at the National Archives also say Powell had gray eyes, brown hair, ruddy complexion, and was just 5’4”. [Substantiated by Lieutenant James M. Newhard’s post-Shiloh report, calling Powell “our noble little Major.”] Powell was first a private assigned to Company A, 9th Infantry ~ enlisted by “Tracey.” [This was most likely Albert Tracy who was born in Buffalo, New York in 1818 [with surname Haddock, which he dropped early in life] and enlisted in Maine in 1847; he was promoted to Captain for "gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Chapultepec" where Powell also participated with 9th Infantry. Tracy resigned his commission in 1848, but later resumed it and became Adjutant General for the State of Maine with help from then-President Franklin Pierce, a close acquaintance. This is strong evidence that he was the Albert Tracy for whom Powell’s third son was named, and most likely helped Powell get his own commission in 1855 on top of being his friend. It’s nice to know they seemed to have reunited near the end of Powell’s life as Tracy wrote "Missouri in Crisis: The Journal of Captain Albert Tracy, 1861".] The 9th was under Franklin Pierce and Winfield Scott; that’s how Powell’s second and third sons came to be named Winfield Scott and Albert Tracy.

Early life

English researchwho has determined that James was born in 1819 as the youngest child ~ 13th ~ of James & Ann Hopkins Powell of 20 The Cross, Worcester, England. The elder James was a silversmith/jeweler who died in March 1838 ~ intending for son James to become a watch finisher ~ before other family members came into Ohio with eldest brother Samuel, born 1801, as the father figure.

James scouted and hunted out west somewhere ~ details lost. [Data from family records passed to writer by Marilyn Sterling-Gondek & Martin cousins] James was perhaps connected to the Powells who had a store in Chihuahua, Mexico and hunted along that trail, which was how he got involved with the Army, probably providing meat for them.

Per Guy Vernor Henry's "Civilian Appointments of the United States Army" compiled in 1873, before officially enlisting, James was a Citizen Sergeant in the 9th US Infantry who engaged at Contreras and Churubusco, Mexico. He was Color Sergeant of the regiment 1847-48 as it advanced farther through Vera Cruz to Mexico City.

Powell was released from duty as a sergeant, August 28, 1848 at Fort Adams, Rhode Island. Perks were being offered to get settlers into Maine at that time, plus many Army buddies were from there. Per copies of land records in possession of family,fact|date=March 2008 Powell eventually owned hundreds of acres along the Kennebec and Dead rivers north of Pleasant Pond Stream, which he sold before leaving in 1855.

James married Mary Ann Hunter at the home of neighbors John & Lucy Ham in 1849 at The Forks, Maine. The Powells had three sons; the eldest, named for his father and called Jimmy, shared a seven-year military history with his father from age five in 1855 when James was commissioned and they left for Indian Territory (IT), leaving pregnant Mary Ann with toddler, Winfield. Only Jimmy ever returned. [Data from Powell’s pension records in the National Archives plus known to family]

Family owns their wedding pictures in union case called "Faithful Hound" and have noticed he had <-shaped scars on both sides of his face, coming out from his ears into his cheeks and already there on said daguerreotype ~ likely to have denoted some kind of relationship with Indians during his hunting days; it's also been suggested they were from fencing, but seem too symmetrical for same unless gotten in forms of competition/teaching where done on purpose. These same scars are clearly seen on his memorial carte-de-visite ~ and are a good way of identifying likenesses of J. E. Powell.

James belonged to the Masons’ Key (Keystone) Lodge of Solon, Maine which issued a memorial statement after his death. [Typed version of memorial statement is in family records.]

Career as an officer

He was appointed Second Lieutenant, Company F, First Regiment of Infantry in Regular Army of the United States, June 7th 1855; although the Army expanded by four regiments that year, it was rare for an officer to be commissioned pre-Civil War without attending a military academy; and leads one to wonder who else in his family was military; or if this was, indeed, attained through his friendship with Albert Tracy ~ who was Adjutant General of the State of Maine, 1852-55 ~ and their former commander, Franklin Pierce, who had become President in 1852.

Powell was stationed at Fort Duncan adjacent Eagle Pass, Texas during Inspector General, Colonel Mansfield’s, visit in July 1856 [Powell was officially assigned to Company F, but was often found with Company E and was the only officer with Company G during that report of 1856.] and promoted to First Lieutenant, Company F, First Regiment of Infantry in Regular Army of the United States on December 8th; he was involved in much activity during his time in this rank, including assignments at Forts Smith (Arkansas), Belknap (Texas), Arbuckle (IT/OK); he led both Indian fights and negotiations of a Peace Treaty with Comanche and Wichita at Rush Springs, IT in August 1858. [In Grant Foreman’s book "Advancing the Frontier", there is an awesome explanation in Powell’s own words of this treaty and the details of how it soon became broken by officers who later joined the Confederacy.]

After the breaking of this treaty, General Winfield Scott was supposed to declare the Comanches to be at odds with all troops of the Army; he never did, but sent William H. Emory, First Cavalry, to command Fort Arbuckle. Shortly thereafter, in February 1859, Powell had to send Emory the following message written in the margin of a newspaper: “Major: Please send an ambulance and the doctor; three men wounded, two Comanches killed. Please send me some ammunition; gone in pursuit. Lieutenant Powell.” [Emory sent Company E to reinforce and make a clean sweep of the area ~ from Army annual report quoted in Justiss’ thesis.]

The above happened a few months after Lieutenant Robert Offley (First Infantry, Company E) wrote his mother from Fort Arbuckle of a wonderful July 4th (1858) celebration “in grand style and fired a salute of 34 guns, one for (each state and) Kansas. After that our men pitched two large Hospital tents and fixed them off with flags, &c. and had a very fine dinner. We had an extra beef killed for them, and let them buy chickens, &c.; together with the vegetables from our garden, they fared well. Our mule train is still here, and the teamsters were all invited. There were over 100 (who) sat down to the table. Lt. J.E. Powell (who was in command of Fort Arbuckle at the time) and myself gave them some liquor, five gallons from the Commissary, as there is a law in the (Indian) Nation prohibiting the use of liquor, which is one of the best things I know of and I am happy to say the majority of our men are glad of it. Our men are perfectly delighted.” [From letter still in possession of Offley family, republished several times; Offley did also include that Fort Arbuckle was much nicer than Fort McKavett (Texas), where they’d been stationed the previous year, and that they had a fine Episcopal Chaplain named Daniel McManus.]

The next year on July 5, 1859, Powell took forty-two members of First Infantry Companies D & E and First Cavalry Company E to repair parts already there and finish building a road from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Fort Arbuckle. This route was called Powell Road for some time. [From Patricia Adkins Rochette’s "Bourland in North Texas & Indian Territory During the Civil War"; she also helped us find some of the Native American connections to Powell. We note from his letter-writing that Powell differentiated between Indians he considered his neighbors and those he deemed “savages.” ]

Civil War

Powell transferred to Fort Washita, IT/OK with Company E per telegraphic instructions dated March 19, 1861; as Southern States began seceding, all Federal troops in Texas/IT gathered May 3rd near what is today Minco, Oklahoma to go north. Some 250 Texan troops (former neighbors) tried to war with them at this time; but Major Sam Sturgis, who commanded the Cavalry regiment and had left Fort Smith less than an hour before its being taken by Southerners according to General David Twiggs’ apparent plot, saw to separating them from their horses as they were having dinner. Federal troops could not feed 250 prisoners and their mounts on the march to Kansas, so had to immediately parole all after shaving the tails of the fine animals for the only possible revenge.

Powell took his pack of thirty-eight hunting hounds north at “great trouble and expense,” so was understandably quite upset that they twice took off chasing buffalo, and all but three were forever lost. General David Sloan Stanley stated that on this exodus was the last time he saw “herds of buffalo which might be numbered by the tens of thousands.” Per local newspaper accountfact|date=March 2008, all said troops of First Cavalry and First Infantry arrived in Leavenworth, Kansas on May 31, 1861. They totaled about 820 soldiers, 200 teamsters and other army attachés plus some officers’ families, eighty wagons, and 600 horses and mules forming a train about a mile long. Powell was promoted to Captain, Company F, First Infantry Regiment, Regular Army of the United States, June 11th 1861, upon the resignation of Captain Seth Barton who joined the Confederates.

Note that the route they followed later became the Chisholm Trail. Black Beaver, well-known and respected Delaware Indian guide/rancher/interpreter of IT & Kansas who called himself a Yankee Indian, left his own property to lead this caravan north and was never fully compensated. The Creeks called the Chisholm Trail *Beaver’s Trail* for him. At the end of the Civil War, Jesse Chisholm was able to find the ruts left from this massive train of heavy military wagons and started following it between IT/OK and Abilene, Kansas.

Per Library of Congress file of Hoxie papersfact|date=March 2008, Powell exchanged letters with either Vinnie Ream Hoxie or her older sister, Mary Ream Fuller as non-specific “Dear Lady” before Vinnie became famous for sculpting the Lincoln statue that’s in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and other noted works, regarding their brother, Bob, and the state of the Army around St. Louis in August 1861. Family can piece together by pictures and censuses that Powell knew the Reams as well as Mason/Attorney/CSA General Albert Pike’s family in Little Rock/Fort Smith, Arkansas mid-1850s. Ream father, Robert, was a mapmaker/surveyor for the government at the same time then-1LT Powell was assigned the road-building mentioned above. The family, except for Bob, moved to D.C. in same time frame the Army troops trekked to Fort Leavenworth in 1861. Bob Ream joined the Confederate First Arkansas Cavalry, Company H, and was apparently thought to have been captured during the Wilson Creek (Missouri) Battle, but was not. The Ream girl wrote Powell to see if she and her mother could possibly visit Bob, or at least send him a letter. Powell, who was then still a captain in the First Infantry and did not participate at Wilson Creek, checked; but determined Bob was not local and there was no way for a visit ~ and even to be careful of what they said in any letter to Bob that Powell could possibly pass to him. Among else, Powell wrote: “I am very weary of this place and do heartily wish for peace.”


Powell had been a Major for just thirteen days when mortally wounded/buried at Shiloh. He was an officer in the Regular Army, 1st Infantry from 1855 (first enlisting during the Mexican-American War in 1847), stationed in TX/IT where he both fought Indians and brokered at least one well-documented Peace Treaty. His son, Jimmy, had been with him for all seven years ~ two as his father's Waiter ~ and was not yet twelve when James died after asking Captain Dimmick to help the young man find his way home to Maine.

Per 2007-released book, "Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862", based on the work of Doctor O. Cunningham, James Powell was hit by blind fire from Confederates who could not see through the smoke during their third attempt to penetrate the Hornets' Nest about 1:PM on Sunday, April 6, 1862 and died later that night.

Major Powell is officially buried “unknown” at Shiloh National Cemetery, but family is nearly sure he is in grave #3582 in the Officers’ Circle with reasoning that the notes for same say “said to have been a Major” [In Shiloh Park records ~ note that the same phrase “said to have been a Major” was included in pension applications when documentation for promotion to that rank could not be located and pension was finally approved two years after his death for Powell as a Regular Army Captain.] which totally fits with James Powell’s short period of time in rank and lack of proper frock and shoulder straps, and there is only one other unknown “major or lieutenant colonel” in the whole cemetery which was obviously determined from the double row of buttons and shoulder straps on jacket of rank which Powell never wore.


Statements on Major James E. Powell from elsewhere:

Doctor William Neal’s history of the 25th Missouri states he “was a brave, capable officer, universally liked by the officers and men.”

War of the Rebellion, Official Records, Series 1, Volume 10/1 ~ statement of Colonel Francis Quinn, 12th Michigan (acting commander of Sixth Division): “…from 9 o’clock a.m. till 4:30 p.m., amid the most dreadful carnage…Major Powell…received a mortal wound whilst doing everything an officer could do to rally and cheer the men to renewed action."

After-action report of LTC Robert VanHorn, 25th Missouri, who also signed Major Powell's death certificate; April 9, 1862 states: “All will bear testimony to the distinguished bravery of Major James E. Powell, who fell in the hottest of the battle, cheering on his men. He was an officer in the Regular Army.”

"Historical Register & Dictionary of the United States Army" by Francis Heitman, 1903: “…major 25th Missouri Infantry…and brevet major (U.S. Regulars) 7 April 1862 for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee where he was killed 6 April 1862.”


Some of James Powell’s friends or neighbors while on assignment ~ Powell was the only one in his officer circle who did not live long enough to become a general:

* Black Beaver, Delaware Indian Scout & Interpreter
* Jesse Chisholm, Scot/Cherokee Trader
* Eugene Asa Carr, Brigadier General Cavalry
* Charles Champion Gilbert, Brigadier General Infantry
* Joseph Bennett Plummer, Brigadier General Volunteers Infantry
* David Sloan Stanley, Brigadier General Cavalry
* Samuel Davis Sturgis, Brevet Major General Cavalry
* Abner Doubleday, General Artillery
* Alfred Sully, General 2nd US Infantry & others ~ Sully was in charge of Powell's group that left Fort Leavenworth on 10JUN1861 to develop the home guard at St. Joseph, Missouri.
* James M. McIntosh, General CSA Cavalry
* Albert Pike, CSA General (resigned 1862), Freemason, Attorney, Poet
* Stand Watie, Cherokee Indian & Confederate General who was supposed last to surrender on June 23, 1865

imilar names

Major Powell is often confused with another James Powell who was a cavalry lieutenant at Shiloh later involved with the Wagon Box Fight of 1867 in Wyoming. Since Major J. E. Powell died in 1862, he was obviously not near Fort Phil Kearny five years later. Nor was he John Wesley Powell, scientist/explorer who lost his right arm at Shiloh.


External links

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=powell&GScid=18454&GRid=18483519& Find A Grave]

Informal Bibliography

* "Shiloh Bloody April", Wiley Sword
* "Shiloh ~ in Hell before Night", James Lee McDonough
* "Shiloh", Larry J. Daniel
* "Letters From Vinnie" (fact-based fiction), Maureen Stack Sappéy
* "Labor of Love, The Life & Art of Vinnie Ream", Glenn V. Sherwood
* "Collectors Guide to Early Photographs", O. Henry Mace
* "My Life in the Old Army", Abner Doubleday & Joseph E. Chance
* "War Eagle, The Life of General Eugene A. Carr", James T. King
* "Faith in the Fight" (on chaplains), Robertson & others
* "Missouri Engineers and 25th Infantry", William A. Neal
* "Advancing the Frontier", Grant Foreman
* "Fort Arbuckle", William B. Justiss
* "A History of Fort Arbuckle", Dennis Muncrief
* "William H. Emory ~ Soldier-Scientist", Norris, Milligan, Faulk
* "Jeff Davis’s Own", James R. Arnold
* "Generals in Blue", Ezra Warner
* "Generals in Gray", Ezra Warner
* "Jesse Chisholm, Ambassador of the Plains", Stan Hoig
* "An American General", Memoirs of David Sloan Stanley
* "Bourland in North Texas & Indian Territory During the Civil War", Patricia Adkins Rochette
* "War of the Rebellion", Official Records, Series 1, Volume 10/1, compiled under BrevLTC Robert Scott
* Additional sources listed within text body and/or from personal library of Major Powell's great-greatgrandson.

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