Home‎ > ‎

Reader's comment 9

Readers' comments.

Subj: more info on John Tomney
Date: 9/7/2003 9:02:25 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Mary L. White
September 7, 2003
Dear Ms. McCunn and Mr. Kwok:
I have looked at your online information on Asians in the American Civil War with great interest. A couple of years ago I did some research on an Asian Union soldier captured in Virginia in 1862. I did a lot of reading about Sickles' brigade and about Richmond and Richmond prisons, and related topics. I did not succeed in identifying this soldier but after viewing the information online I think he may have been John Tommy or Tomney.
However, there are some strong differences between the reports I read in the Richmond newspapers and in the published diary of Reverend Nicholas Davis. These sources report a man who was maltreated by his captors and humiliatingly exhibited in the city. The reports from your source that he was treated kindly be Magruder contrast with his treatment at the hands of the men of Hood's regiment.
You might want to consider expanding the information you present after a look at these sources.
Or was there another Chinese man enlisted in a New York regiment who was captured in March 1862?
Cordially, Mary L. White
Richmond Enquirer, March 27, 1862.
Richmond Dispatch, March 24, 1862, page 2, column 2.
Davis, Reverend Nicholas A. 1863. The Campaign From Texas to Maryland.
Richmond: Office of the Presbyterian Committee of Publications of the Southern States.

Subj: Never realized Guangzhou and Gettysburg were so linked
Date: 9/7/2003 1:52:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Joshua Kirkman
To: Mr. Kwok,
Your website was a real eye-opener. I've just returned from 2 years in Guangzhou, and will be studying Chinese for a graduate degree. I've always enjoyed history and have been to Gettsyburg, so I have to wonder about men like Pvt. John Tommy. I've seen the Pearl River he probably played in as a boy and the field he was killed at. Sad and strange to think there may be lonely Chinese ghosts so far from home. Do you have any insight into the inner world of Chinese soldiers in the Civil War? What did they think of the situation they found themselves in? How well did they understand the politics? Surely there must be letters home in Chinese, somewhere. And does your research extend into the Indian conflicts following? Thank you for your time and this amazing website.
Josh Kirkman

Subj: Fwd: Civil War Vets
Date: 9/9/2003 9:08:34 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Ruthanne McCunn
Dear Terry and Gordon,
I'm forwarding this email to you because I really know nothing about the Civil War beyond my article. I think it's good CACA wants to be historically accurate, unlike other organizations we could name, and I think the two of you would probably not mind responding to her query. But I don't want to presume. So I'm not sending her your email addresses, and I'll wait to hear from you before I write her. Hope all is well with you both. R
From: CAROCHAN@aol.com
Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 14:59:48 EDT
Subject: Civil War Vets
To: Ruthanne McCunn
Dear Ms. McCunn,
My friend Sam Chu Lin , who shares with me a common childhood growing up in the Mississippi Delta, recommended that I contact you. I am also a cousin of Rachel Sit Wong, wife of Alan Wong, of San Francisco.
At our recent 47th Biennial National Convention in Pasadena, California, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance passed a resolution to support Congressman Michael Honda of San Jose in his efforts to grant honorary American citizenship to Chinese and other Asian Americans who served in the Civil War. Mr. Honda was the keynote speaker at our gala closing banquet. Presently Mr. Honda's HJRes 45 has 40 co-sponsors.
I presently serve as the National Communications Chair of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and am working with several board members to implement this resolution. Committee members include 2nd Grand Vice-President Munson Kwok, a board member of the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. (Suellen Cheng Kwok, his wife, serves as Executive Director of the museum).
Our committee will direct a grassroots campaign for passage of this bill and, hopefully, eventual signing by President Bush. We are enlisting our local lodge members and their friends to write their members of Congress to seek co-sponorship of the Honda bill.
To assure accuracy in our press releases and letters, we must rely on the expertise of researchers and historians such as yourself.
Would you be able to tell us how many confirmed Chinese veterans served in the Civil War? What about other Asian Americans? Who are the other experts with whom we should consult?
Your advice would be most welcomed. I would be happy to call you to discuss any of your recommendations.
With sincerest appreciation,
Carolyn Chan

(Webmaster's reply, dated 9/11/03:
Hello Ruthanne,
I find out the more I think I know, the more I don't know.
I am certainly not an expert on the subject. However, I could be considered myself as an American Civil War hobbyist, including interest in studying Chinese CW veterans in the ACW.
It is difficult to define what is meant by "confirmed." Most of the time, we only have scanty records on place of birth, and brief description of eye color, hair color. Would a place of birth good enough? Would a picture good enough? Very often, we could only "indication" and not definite "proof."It all depends on how one set the criteria of the "confirmation."
A person born in China may not necessarily be a Chinese. A person having a Chinese sounding last name may not necessarily be a Chinese. (I have learned my lesson.) Some of them may be Eurasians. Some with Anglo-Saxon names are full blooded Chinese. It is a mixed bag, and unpredictable.
I would avoid phrasing the question on asking how many "confirmed" Chinese or Asians altogether serving in the ACW. I don't think anyone could definitely answer the question correctly. This is an ongoing searching process.
The more important question should be: that we know there were indeed some "confirmed" Chinese (or Asians) serving in the ACW, and we, who have Asian blood in our veins, are proud of the their contribution in preserving the Union, or, fighting for their State's Right. It is important to know that the Chinese (or Asians) CW veterans were part of the American Civil War History. We want to honor them and we are proud of their/our heritage.
I am glad these organizations are supporting Congressman Michael Honda's effort to grant honorary American citizenship to Chinese and other Asian Americans who served in the Civil War. This is Monty Hom's project. I also had assisted him by publishing this news in the Civil War News newspaper a few months ago.)
Ruthanne, please feel free to inform Carolyn Chan about my email address and website. Thanks.)

Subj: Re: Fwd: Civil War Vets
Date: 9/10/2003 5:44:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Terry Foenander
To: Ruthanne McCunn, Gordon Kwok
Dear Ruthanne,
Thank you for your message and yes, indeed, you can pass on my e-mail address.
I do believe the Asians who served should be researched further, but, as I mentioned in a previous message, it is my opinion that there were not as many who served, as is currently believed. Some statements made about the Asians and the Chinese who served, in the last few years, are obviously assumptions, e.g. the Michael Musick statement that the Chinese served in the highest proportion (of foreign born personnel) against the numbers residing in the U.S. at that time. This is obviously very incorrect, as we know that there were also some service personnel who were born in Guam, the Sandwich Islands, Singapore, and even some Maoris and Aborigines. I am sure that there would have been much higher percentages of these servicemen against their numbers residing in the U.S. It is rather unfortunate that many so called "experts" make such statements without first obtaining the facts available.
I don't really like the term "expert" being referred to me, as an expert can be brought down with one simple query. I am still no expert on any of the subjects I research, but I do have some knowledge on these subjects.
As for Carolyn Chan's questions on the Asians who served. I think it is still quite difficult to give an exact number on the Chinese, and other Asians who served, especially since some of the names we have may be (especially in the case of those with Anglo Saxon names) of Caucasians who were born in China, or other Asian countries, (perhaps of missionary parents) and then there may be some Asian born who may be one and the same person, even though two different names are shown (the recorders at that time may have had difficulty in the spellings of some names). So many other such factors should be taken into account, and I think that further studies should be conducted in this area. Occasionally I do peruse my notes and other documentation on the Asians who served, but, because of my many other projects, I have not had time, of late, to concentrate fully on the Asians who served.
I think that the effort to gain citizenship for those who served should go ahead, and hopefully it will eventually be passed through Congress. However, we should not blind ourselves to the fact that there were many others who served from other foreign nations, and these personnel should not be forgotten. Perhaps the bill should attempt to include all these other forgotten personnel. If we seek equality, let us seek equality for all, not just one section of the community.
Regards, Terry.

Subj: Research on Civil War Vets
Date: 9/11/2003 11:41:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Caroline Chan
Dear Ruthanne, Terry, and Gordon,
My deepest appreciation to all of you for responding to my inquiries. As we proceed with the campaign to get Congressman Michael Honda's H.J. Res. 45 passed, we will exercise caution in how we state the participation of Chinese and Asians in the American Civil War. The important thing is to gain historical recognition for those Asians who so honorably served either to preserve the Union or to defend State's Rights.
Within my own family, I am aware of many of the problems involved in research because of paper names, names that sound Chinese, but aren't, and the misspellings by immigration officers, county clerks, and doctors attending births, etc.
While I was president of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation in 1995, I had to meet with Edson Way, the Director of the New Mexico Office of Cultural Affairs quite often. From his name, you could almost assume that he might be of Chinese descent. He was, however, blonde and blue-eyed. At a Chinese New Year banquet that my husband and I hosted for the grand opening of "From the Land of the Dragons," the museum's traveling exhibit of dinosaur bones from China, Dr. Way revealed an ironic fact. He had entered the United States under the Chinese quota because he had been born in China, where his parents had been missionaries.
The Chinese American Citizens Alliance had a press conference at our convention in Pasadena to announce our support of Rep. Michael Honda's bill. Monty Hom participated in that press conference and brought Edward Day Cohota's photos and artifacts to show our members and the press. His assistance in this manner helped passage of the resolution to support the bill an easy sale. Monty is working with us on this project.
Since Mr. Honda was our keynote speaker, we have also been working with members of his staff, including Elizabeth Lee.
We received coverage in the Pasadena Star-Telegram, Rafu Shrimpo (Japaneses American English language newspaper), Asian Week, and a number of Chinese language newspapers.
Gordon, I've frequented your very informative website many times, where I've read your scholarly reports, as well as Ruthanne's and Terry's. We are grateful to all of you for your dedicated work.
Again, thanks for your assistance and guidance.
Sincerely, Carolyn

Subj: Avegno Zouaves
Date: 9/18/2003 10:13:57 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Troy Thompson
To: gordonkwok@aol.com
Just thought you might like to know so you could correct your site, the Avegno Zouaves served in the 13th Louisiana Infantry, not the 14th Louisiana Infantry. And to the best of our knowledge Company I was not known as the Avegno Tiger Zouaves, only as the 4th Company of the Governor's Guard, which is the Avegno Zouaves official name. The six companies of the Governor's Guard, Avegno Zouaves, were joined with four independent companies to form the 13th Louisiana Infantry.
I'm commander of a Civil War reenactment unit that portrays the 13th Louisiana Infantry, Avegno Zouaves and I thought this information might be of use to you.
Respectfully, Lt. Troy W. Thompson, 13th LA Regt. of Inf., Avegno Zouaves

Subj: Avegno Zouaves
Date: 9/23/2003 8:52:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Gordonkwok
To: Troy Thompson
Hello Troy,
I did a little looking around and found this website
The regiment was organized June 16, 1861. It was mustered into Confederate service as the 13th Louisiana Regiment at Camp Pulaski, near Amite, Louisiana, on August 24. The unit received orders to proceed to Virginia to join forces with other state units to defend Richmond. The 14th marched to Yorktown in September to contest the advance of the Union Army. On September 21 the War Department changed the unit's designation to the 14th Louisiana Regiment.
Company A - Armstrong Guards; Company B - (1st),Franko Rifles; Company B - (2nd),Jefferson Cadets; Company C - Askew Guards; Company D - Empire Rangers (Transferred to 3rd La. Battalion); Company E - Nixon Rifles; Company F - Concordia Rifles; Company G - Avengo Rifles; Company H - Quitman Rangers; Company I - Tiger Bayou Rifles; Company K - Lafayette Rifle Cadets; So the 13th regiment later merged to, or, changed its name to, 14th regiment. Company G - is called "Avengo" Rifles; Company I - is called "Tiger" Bayou Rifles.
Could you kindly comment on this?
Regards, Gordon Kwok

Subj: Re: Avegno Zouaves
Date: 9/25/2003 7:50:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Troy Thompson
To: Gordonkwok@aol.com
Gordon, This information is correct, but there are two units. This unit that you're writing about, the 14th (formed on Aug. 24, 1861), began as the 13th but later changed to the 14th. My unit, the 13th (formed on Sept. 11, 1861), began as the 13th and stayed the 13th. It did become the 13th and 20th Consolidate Regiment and later merged with several other units, and later merged again with other units again to become the Chalmette Regiment.
My 13th only served in the Western Theatre of the Civil War, the 14th served in the Eastern Theatre of the War. So while there was a Avegno Rifles in the 14th, the Avegno Zouaves (also known as the Governor's Guard) were in the 13th. The Avegno Rifles were only 100 men, the Avegno Zouaves were 600 men. All Louisiana units were known as "Tigers" whether it was part of their unit designation or not.
It's very confusing, I know. You might check out this site:
It might help. Sincerely, Lt. Troy W. Thompson, 13th Louisiana Regiment of Infantry, Governor's Guard, Avegno Zouaves.

Subj: Asians in the Civil War
Date: 10/3/2003 7:13:17 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: joey@elcat.kg
To: gordonkwok@aol.com
Dear Mr. Kwok, I am an Aasian Civil War reenactor that is "portraying" Joseph Pierce. How ever I would like to know if William Jing is a confirmed asian that fought in the 27th Indiana. I know you are busy but if you can please answer this message. Sincerly, Joey

Subj: Re: more info on John Tomney
Date: 11/5/2003 12:20:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: Mary L. White
To: Gordonkwok@aol.com
Dear Mr. Kwok,
I have now found all the material that I had gathered pertaining to a Chinese man belonging to a Union regiment who was captured in Virginia in March 1862.
I enclose:
1) Photocopy of pages 20-27 of Reverend Nicholas A. Davis' 1863 book The Campaign From Texas to Maryland, published in Richmond by the Office of the Presbyterian Committee of Publications of the Southern States
2) Photocopy of a column of the Richmond Enquirer of March 27, 1862.
3) My transcription from the Richmond Dispatch of March 24, 1862. This newspaper, which is most interesting, is held in the manuscript archives at Cornell and is considered too fragile for photocopying.
I looked at the Enquirer on microfilm for several days after March 27, 1862, and found a few entries referring to Union prisoners in Richmond, but none that were described as individuals.
I have also read a few things about Richmond and prisoners held there, but have found no other references to this man. I suspected that he might have been injured by the beating he received from Hood's men, and died in Libby prison; but I have seen nothing to prove this. I don't accept the lighthearted account of this "spanking" but consider it in a more negative light, more racially motivated and with a possibility of serious pain and harm. I have never read of white prisoners who were beaten in this way. I wonder how he came to be first held by Hood's men and then met up with Magruder? With the Federals moving into a major campaign against Richmond just at that time, there must have been a lot of difficulty in organizing forces to guard prisoners and prepare for major combat at the same time.
I am not sure if this man was John Tomney, but it would be an interesting coincidence if two Chinese men were captured in Stafford County and placed in Richmond prisons at nearly the same time, and would probably have attracted more attention in the newspapers. What are your primary sources for your information on Tomney? Regimental histories I haven't yet looked at? There is by the way, an excellent biography of General Dan Sickles, a most colorful man; the Civil War chapters cast some light on the organization and recruitment of the Excelsior Brigade. I have not looked into Magruder's papers for a reference to Tomney's capture. That might be interesting.
I also looked at Stafford County histories and some of the 1860 census records and at some maps. There were 11 doctors living there then. I am uncertain of the location of Cockpit Point though I tried to trace the likely routes from the federal camps across the Potomac for a foray in the region of Dumfries and back to their boats. Dumfries is North of Fredericksburg on Quantico Creek on a road between Alexandria and Fredericksburg. I think it might be possible to find some reference to this raid and capture at the unnamed doctor's house in archival records in local or state historical societies in Virginia among records filed under the family's name. Of course, one might have to read a lot of family papers to find the right family, Still, a list with 11 possibilities is better than starting with the entire population of Stafford County.
Directly across the Potomac from Quantico Creek in Maryland is Mattawoman Run, Piscataway Creek is next upriver. There are several villages and that region was the site of extensive Union encampments during the winter of 1861-1862. Raids and taunts flew back and forth across the river throughout the winter. The Marylanders who were living among the Union encampments were southern sympathizers who did their best not to provide food to the Union soldiers. That, plus the general boredom, mud, and misery of the camps inspired foraging parties to cross the river.
I can send bib lists of the books on Richmond and on the army encampments and copies of maps if you can use this additional information. I began this project when I ran across the description in Nicholas' diary entirely by accident. I was looking for something else entirely, working on a paper on nurses during the Peninsula Campaign which began in March 1862.
Cordially, Mary L. White
cc Ruthanne Lum McCunn

Webmaster Gordon Kwok


Revised and uploaded on February 2, 2009