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John Tommy

Unnamed Chinese prisoner of war, Union Civil War Veteran.

The webmaster think that most likely, this Unnamed Chinese prisoner of war is John Tomney, for the time and placeof his capture, and the other related information indicated that this person is very likely to be John Tomney, as compared with the known facts about him.

(Credit of this segment goes to: Mary L. White, Ithaca, New York, based on her letter sent to the webmaster in 2003.)

Ms. Mary L. White has found all the material that she had gathered pertaining to a Chinese man belonging to a Union regiment who was captured in Virginia in March 1862.

(1) Photocopy of pages 20-27 of Reverend Nicholas A. Davis' 1863 book

The Campaign From Texas ro 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) Her transcription from the Richmond Dispatch of March 24, 1862. This newspaper, which is most interesting, is held in the manuscript archives at Cornell University and is considered too fragile for photocopying.

Ms. White 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.

Ms. White has also read a few things about Richmond and prisoners held there, but has found no other references to this man. She doesn'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. She has never read of white prisoners who were beaten in this way. She wonders 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.

She is not sure if this unnamed 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.

(But no newspaper mentioned two Chinese Union soldiers were captured. It mentioned only one Chinese Union soldier was captured.) 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. She has not looked into Magruder's papers for a reference to Tomney's capture. That might be interesting.

Ms. White also looked at Stafford County histories and some of the 1860 census records and at some maps. There were eleven doctors living there then. She is uncertain of the location of Cockpit Point though she 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 of eleven 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 villeges 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.

Ms. White could send bib lists of the books on Richmond and on the army encampments and copies of maps. She began this project when she ran across the description in Nicholas' diary entirely by accident.



"The Campaign From Texas to Maryland" by Rev. Nicholas Davis, Chaplain of 4th Texas

Published in Richmond by the Office of the Presbyterian Committee of Publications of the Southern States. 1863.

Page 25

On the 11th, Colonel (John Bell) Hood

Page 26

received notice of his appointment as Brigadier General. This made Lieut. Col. Marshall our Colonel, and the other officers took rank accordingly. March 12. Left our camp on Potomac Run, and crossing the Rappahannock at Falmouth, took a position about two miles west of Fredericksburg.

March 13 (1862) ---- A detail was made from each Texas Regiment of one Lieutenant and fifteen men, who were ordered to return to the vicinity of Dumfries, to watch the movements of the enemy. They captured prisoners daily, and on the 18th, at Glasscok's Hill, they saw a brigade cross the Potomac, pass up to Dumfries, back to Evansport, and recross the river. On the next day (that was, March 19, 1862) they captured a Yankee Chinaman, who being committed to the care of Barker (of Co. G, 4th Texas), and proving a little stubborn, that practical frontiersman quietly placed the Celestial across his lap, and with his leather belt administered such a chastisement as that "ruthless invader" had probably not received since childhood.


A column of the Richmond Enquirer of March 27, 1862

Reprinted from the Fredericksburg Recorder, March 25th (1862)

Affairs on the Potomac

From this line there is but little of interest. The captured Chinaman has arrived in town, and proves an especial object of attention with the boys. We further learn that three more "Yanks" were bagged on yesterday in the neighborhood of Evansport. From King George we hear that Thomas J. (better known as Penny) Grymes, has certainly been taken to Fort Warren, and the villainous Yankees much regretted not finding some eight or ten others of the leading citizens, among them, W.R. Mason, Dr. Hunter and Fielding Lewis.

Some of the negroes who made attempts to escape from this county, have been captured, others have returned, and in one instance, we learn, that the slaves belonging to W. Roy Mason were severely whipped by the Yankees and sent back.

Patriotic regard for the public weal?, the only true censorship of a Southern press, forbids us saying more.


The Richmond Dispatch of March 24, 1862

Transcribed by Mary L. White

Chinese prisoner-of-war

Transcribed from Richmond Dispatch March 24, 1862, page 2, column 2, Fragile original held by Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

The events described here appear to have occurred on the previous Monday, probably on or about March 17, 1862.

Headline Reads: Affairs on the Potomac, followed by several subheaded entries.

A Subheading mid-column reads: An Adventure, followed by:
On Monday, a small party of Federals came to Dr.__________'s house in the upper part of Stafford, and after getting something to eat, left. Soon after leaving, they overtook a cart of the Dr.'s loaded with bacon, which he was sending off. They seized this, together with the cart and horse, as booty, but the negro boy who was driving escaped.

After this part had left Dr,____________'s house, he was surprised by the sudden appearance before him, in his room, of a Federal soldier, a picket, armed with a musket, who called out- "You are my prisoner!" The Dr. sprang at the man and wrested the gun from his hand, cooly answering-

"No, sir, you are my prisoner." The Dr. started the fellow before him, but before they had gone far, the soldier said he would go no farther. Dr.___________ told him he would shoot him if he did not, but the fellow said he would as soon be killed as be taken a prisoner.

Fortunately at this juncture some of our scouts came in sight, and the prisoner didn't seem to be at all disposed to die, as the Texans were willing to accommodate him. He was forwarded to Richmond on Wednesday.

The fellow is a Chinaman; so it seems the United States are hiring of all nations their people, to subjugate the independent people of the south.

(Webmaster's comment: The reporter deleted the Dr.'s name for security issue, to protect him from the possible retaliation from the Union. The webmaster thinks it is possible that he is Dr. Hunter who lived in the vincinity of Stafford County.)


The webmaster's comment
The webmaster thinks that It is very likely that the unnamed person described above is John Tommy (John Tomney), the time and places mentioned in the New York World closely matches the time and places recorded on this unnamed Chinese Union veteran.

The webmaster also found out there is another Chinese prisoner-of-war confined in Libby in Richmond. This "celestial" wears a cue of respectable length. His name is Ching-Chang, or, China Hague, a member of the Second Louisiana (Yankee) regiment, taken near Port Hudson, Mississippi, in around July 1863. The time and place of his capture doesn't match the above documentation of the unnamed Chinese, and so it couldn't be this fellow captured near Port Hudson.

Primary source information on John Tomney, compiled by the webmaster

John Tomney's (John Tommy) military record (Muster Roll) from the National Achive

Summarized as shown below

This paper said
John Tommy at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Joined for duty and enrolled from May 15, 1861 to June 30, 1864
When: May 15, 1861
Where: Camp Scott
Period: 3 years
Age: 18 years old
This paper said
John Tomney at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Remarks: Fell out of ranks while detachment of the regiment was on the march in Stafford and Prince William counties, Virginia, 17 March, 1862.
This paper said
John Tomney at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Remarks: Absent since March 17, 1862, taken prisonerand paroled.
This paper said
John Tommy at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Memorandum from prisoner of war records. Vol.2, Page 353 
Captured at Moanafsas? {handwriting not quite legible} Virginia, May 13, 1862
Paroled at Newport News, May 13, 1862, sent to Acquia Creek.
This paper said
John Tommy at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Memorandum from prisoner of war records. Vol.2, Page 322; Vol.1, Page 370-377
Captured at Stafford C.H. (Court House?), October 4, 1862 confined at Richmond, VA.
This paper said
John Tommy at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Special Muster Roll, April 10, 1863. Present.
Remarks: Returned from missing
Remarks: Promoted from rank, February 8, 1863
This paper said
Casualty Sheet
Regiment: 70th
Arm: Infantry
State: N.Y.
Nature of Casualty: Death
Cause of Casualty: Killed in action
Date of Death: July 2, 1863
Place of Death: Gettsburg, Penn.
Remarks: Left no effects
This paper said
John Tommy at Co. D., 70 Reg't Excelsior Brig., N.Y. Inf.
Remarks: Killed at Battle of Gettysburg, PA, July 2, 1863
Remarks: Killed at Battle of Gettysburg, PA, July 3, 1863



Civil War period Newspaper news

China at Gettysburg

(From the Daily Alta California, v. XV #4908 Wed., August 5, 1863, page 1, column 7)

(Reprinted from the New York World, July 9, 1863)

(Sent to the webmaster by Tom Lowry, Civil War Author, 1/24/2001)
(From the Daily Alta California, v. XV #4908 Wed., August 5, 1863, page 1, column 7)

(Also sent to the webmaster by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Author, in around 2003)

(From the Chicago Daily Tribune, July 13, 1863)

(Reprinted from the New York World, July 9, 1863)

(Sent to the webmaster by Jim Huffman, 43rd MS Infantry. 12/23/2007)

Among the killed at Gettysburg, was a young Chinaman known as John Tommy. He was attached to the 1st Regiment,

Excelsior Brigade, Capt. Price's company. John Tommy was the only representative of the Central Flowery Kingdom in the Army of the Potomac, and was widely known, both from that circumstance and certain peculiarities of his own. John Tommy came to this country immediately after the breaking out of the war, and was induced to enlist in Gen. Sickles’ brigade, at that time being raised in this city. He was then a mere lad, entirely ignorant of our language. Being bright, smart, and honest, he soon became a favorite at Red Hook, Staten Island, and was, at once, the butt and the wit of the whole regiment. Before he became located on the Maryland shore of the Potomac opposite Acquia Creek, in one of the reconnaissances on the south side of the river, Tommy was taken prisoner, and soon became a lion in the rebel camp.

He was brought before Gen. Magruder who, surprised at his appearance and color, asked him was he a mulatto, Indian, or what? When Tommy told him he was from China, Magruder was very much amused, and asked him how much he would take to join the Confederate army. "Not unless you would make me a Brigadier General."said Tommy, to the great delight of the secesh officers, who treated him very kindly and sent him to Fredericksburg. Here, Tommy became a great lion, and his picture was published in the Fredericksburg papers. Subsequently, he was sent to the Libby Prison, in Richmond, where he met his captain, Benjamin Price, who had been taken prisoner at Williamsburg. After his parole, Tommy came to New York City, where he employed his time in attending upon his sick and wounded comrades. He was the kindest of nurses, and spent his little means in providing delicacies for his sick fellow soldiers. In the subsequent engagements at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and, last, at Gettysburg, John Tommy was one of the bravest soldiers in that bravest of brigades, the Excelsior. He seemed not to know what fear was and was the universal favorite of all his fellow soldiers. He had not been wounded up to Gettysburg, but, in Friday’s fight, he was struck by a shell which tore off both legs at the thighs, and he shortly bled to death. The company he was in went into action with twenty-eight men and lost twenty in killed and wounded. Tommy’s case is peculiar as he was the only representative of the Empire of China in the finest army on the planet.

New York World, 9th. (1863)

Webmaster's comment:

(1) The article indicated when John Tommy arrived in New York City, he was ignorant of the English language. However, he learned quickly. By the time he was captured in Stafford County, he could communicate in English.

(2) On the second day of battle in Gettysburg, Gen. Daniel Sickles ordered his soldiers to attack the Confederate in the wheatfield, on his own initiatve, like a sore thumb sticking out. The Confederate counter-attacked and drove them back. Other adjacent Union soldiers had to assisted Sickles' men and bailed them out. It was in this battle that John Tommy got hit by a canon shell.

(3) It was the New York World reporter's opinion that John Tommy was the only Chinese serving in the American Civil War. Of course the statement is not quite correct. as we know it today. At least one other Chinese we know, served in the American Civil War in the same battle of Gettysburg ---- Joseph Pierce of the 14th Connecticut Voluntary Regiment. There are other Chinese serving at different battles and in different Navy ships in the American Civil War.

(4) The 3 articles of the unnamed Chinese indicated

(4)(a) the 4th Texas Regiment captured the unnamed Chinaman on March 19, 1862, in the North part of Fredericksburg. And before that, a local Doctor captured the unnamed Chinese on March 17, 1862, in Stafford County, and handed hime to the 4th Texas Regiment, and the Chinaman was forwarded to Richmond on Wednesday, about two days later.

(4)(b) John Tommy's muster roll document said that he fell out of ranks while detachment of the regiment was on the march in Stafford and Prince William counties, Virginia on 17 March, 1862. So the date and place of capture of John Tommy matches the date and place of the unnamed Chinese, and that would lead me to conclude that the unnamed Chinese was John Tommy.


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Webmaster : Gordon Kwok
Email address: gordoncwrt@gmail.com
April 2, 2008
Revised and uploaded on January 31, 2009