John B. Horner
Lt. John Ross Horner 80th, New York. (20th
New York Militia) Killed in the Civil War. Buried in the
National Cemetery of Sister Mary Horner McAllister.
John Ross Horner was a farm boy from southern Adams County,
Pennsylvania. His father,
at the age of 59, would raise
Co. C of Cole's
Maryland Cavalry and serve as its Captain for two years
until forced to resign because of ill health. John Ross was
attending Delaware Literary Institute in New York along with his
good friend and fraternity brother, Ambrose Baldwin. At the
outbreak of the Civil war in 1861, they both were instrumental in
recruiting Co. K of the New York State Militia also known as the
Ulster Guard. Baldwin had served a 3 months enlistment in the
summer of 1861 and no doubt shared the knowledge he had gained
with his good friend, John Ross, as Ambrose Baldwin was chosen the
Captain of Co. K and John Ross, 2nd Lieutenant beginning September
17, 1861. Horner was later promoted to 1st Lieutenant December 21,
At the second battle of Bull Run, August 30, 1862, the 20th New
York found themselves heavily engaged. As the Ulster Guard moved
against Brown's Confederate brigade through an open field, the
fury of hell broke loose upon them. With a crash like the sharpest
thunder, Confederate fire burst upon the Union ranks. Before the
attack, commanding officer, Col. George W. Pratt had offered, "If
there be any sick men (those) lacking in courage), let them fall
out now", but not one man did so. Perhaps their youthful
enthusiasm, perhaps the confusion of the woods or the Confederate
musket fire, or a combination of all these things, caused the
Regiment to go off course. Instead of striking the left of Brown's
Brigade as planned, they reached the far right. This misdirection
brought about their isolation and allowed the 15th Alabama and
21st Georgia Confederate Regiments to pepper them constantly with
deadly musketry fire. Col. Pratt suffered a mortal wound from
which he would die two weeks later.
Even so, the 20th Militia came within twenty-five yards of the
embankment which was their goal, but their losses were so
extensive that now the Regiment, which had numbered 450, looked
more like a large Company(100+ soldiers). They fell back, some
tried to regroup and charge again, but were again repulsed. Dead
and fatally wounded bodies lay everywhere. One could have walked
across the field from body to body without ever having to step on
Lt. Col. Theodore Gates, now in command, ordered a general
retreat which was accomplished in considerable disorder. Somewhere
in this carnage, John Boss Horner fell, mortally wounded. The
Union forces were driven from the field and only able to return
under flag of truce two days later.
The day after John Boss died, Capt. Baldwin hastily scratched
out the following note to Capt. John Horner back in Adams County,
Centreville, Va., August 31, 1862 John Horner, Esq. Dear sir,
Lieut. J. Boss Horner has fallen-shot dead yesterday while
bravely executing his duty. Shot in the breast, then in the
head. l have not yet been able to get his body, but will if I
can. The enemy drove us from the field. Allow me to mingle my
regrets for a brave comrade along with his kindred.
A. N. Baldwin, Capt. Co. K, 20th Reg't, N. Y. S. M.
After a reply from Capt. John Horner, Capt. Baldwin penned a
more leisurely letter a week later:
Upton's Hill, Va. Sept. 6, 1862 Capt. John Horner, Dear sir,
Yours of Sept. 4th inst. received and I take this early
opportunity to answer it. I am glad to inform you that his
body(your son's) has been properly buried and a mark placed over
it. It is by a culvert on the railroad where the battle raged
the hottest. John Hanmore, No. 446-8th St., Washington, can give
you the exact locality. He was a friend of our regiment and went
out with our surgeon to the field, under flag of truce and
helped bury him. The rebels had stripped him off his shoulder
straps and shoes, taken his watch, purse, sword and revolver.
Hanmore cut off a lock of his hair and some buttons, which you
can send for to him. I could not get to the field to secure his
body, nor could they bring it away, being there on Monday with
too few ambulances to even
bring away all our wounded, so they wrapped him in a blanket
and buried him like a true soldier, as he was.
Our relations were of a brotherly kind-schoolmates-members of
the same fraternity there. I am not satisfied with merely what
officially pertains to my duty, but would mingle the tear of
sympathy with those of a bereft family. Please consider me not
as a stranger, but as a friend. An intimacy of years had bound
me very close to your son; otherwise I should not have taken
measures to officially connect him with me as a Lieutenant. He
was loved by all the men and respected by all.
With great respect, yours, etc.
A. N. Baldwin, Capt., Co. K, 20th N.Y. Inf.
Capt. Baldwin had noticed the body of his friend in a mass
grave with 83 other bodies.
He rescued it and had it buried by a Confederate detail who
were already burying one of their own dead. He also marked the
grave site and drew a rough map showing its location.
John W. Hanmore did, indeed, send a letter and map to Capt.
John back in Adams Co. showing the location of his son's grave
site and when Capt John journeyed there in 1864 with a contingent
of Cavalry, he brought his son's body back to Gettysburg where it
resides in a place of honor in the New York section of the
Soldier's National Cemetery.
In 1863, when the 20th N.Y. was hurrying to Gettysburg for the
fiercest battle on the North American continent, they stopped at a
farm for something to eat as their forage wagons had not yet
arrived.. Members of the family there noticed on the caps of some
of the soldiers "20th N. Y." They said, "That is the Regiment to
which our son and brother belonged. Had you known Lt. John Ross
Horner?" One of the soldiers replied, "Yes, he was our Lieutenant
and was killed in the 2nd Bull Run Battle." Without knowing it,
they had stopped at Capt John's farm. Capt Baldwin promised that
if his life was spared in the forthcoming battle, he would come
back to visit Capt. John.
In my journal entry for Tuesday, June 30, 1998, I wrote as
"Today, along with several dozen other Civil War Institute
participants from Gettysburg College, I stood a short distance
from where 1st Lieutenant John Ross Horner fell and was buried
on the Manassas (Va.) Battlefield." After reviewing the facts of
how John Ross Horner had died there, I continued, then read from
John W. Hanmore's letter of January 25, 1863, 'My dear sir, you
may well be proud of your son. My acquaintance with him was a
casual one, but my acquaintance with the officers and men of the
20th has been with some of them life long. Their praise of your
son was unbounded'"! I noted that when the 20th New York had
stopped at Capt. John Homer's farm on its way to Gettysburg,
Capt. Baldwin had promised that if his life was spared in the
upcoming conflict, he would come back to visit Capt. John. "On
the third day of the Gettysburg Battle, at the climax of
Longstreet's assault, an exploding shell nearly tore off the leg
of Capt. Baldwin. He died shortly thereafter, as did so many
Civil War soldiers, alone, without a friend to speak to him, far
from home and family. Our tour guide was very generous in his
remarks, all were visibly moved, some were in tears.
After the others had moved on down the trail, I lingered for
a few moments, reflecting on the great sacrifice made by John
Ross Horner and others like him, who considered it a matter of
honor to give up their lives for what they perceived to be a
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