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Lieutenant Rumsey, staff officer to WHL Wallace

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Lieutenant Israel Parsons Rumsey

Chicago Light Artillery

Battery B

Born in 1836 in Genesee County, New York and product of a comfortable, loving home and efficient school system, Israel P. Rumsey heeded the call to “Go West,” and in early 1857 made his way to Iowa, where he intended to set himself up in the new State Capital, then building at Fort Des Moines. Unfortunately, young Rumsey crossed the Mississippi River as farm produce prices hit the skids (precursor to Panic of 1857, which gripped the Northern States a few months later) and hearing sad tales of other hopefuls returning east from Des Moines – “No work” – I.P. Rumsey altered course; he decided to try his luck in Keokuk, instead.

Having experience as a clerk in wholesale and retail back East, the young man soon found employment in a local store (on a wage of $20 per month.) After a few months, he used that experience to acquire a newspaper route; and when his original Keokuk employer pleaded that he return (at nearly double his original wage) Rumsey sold the newspaper route to another man for $50 and a compass, and spent his remaining time in Keokuk working for Hitchcock’s… until learning that “Chicago was the place to be.” In 1858 I.P. Rumsey left Iowa, never to return.

Following on two years of relative success in the commission business in Chicago, Rumsey got caught up in War Fever following the attack on Fort Sumter, left his business, and helped raise a company of men for the Chicago Light Artillery. Mustered into service on May 2nd 1861, the new unit was designated Battery B (and for his assistance in recruiting, Rumsey was appointed Second Lieutenant.) The new unit, under Captain Ezra Taylor, was soon sent south and helped defend Cairo and Bird’s Point, Missouri. In January 1862 Battery B became part of the buildup for an operation on the Tennessee River, assigned to McClernand’s Division. Following success at Fort Henry, the Battery followed McClernand’s Division east, and got caught up fighting against the Rebel breakout on February 15th. In the after-action report, McClernand gives Taylor’s Battery a glowing review; and in Colonel WHL Wallace’s Fort Donelson report, Lieutenant Rumsey, on Wallace’s staff, serving as AAG and ADC, receives favourable mention.

In the buildup of Federal forces at Pittsburg Landing, Taylor’s Battery remained with McClernand’s First Division until the first week of April (when Battery B was transferred to the 5th Division; Ezra Taylor was promoted to Major and assigned as Sherman’s Chief of Artillery; and Samuel Barrett was promoted Captain and took command of Battery B.) And I.P. Rumsey remained with WHL Wallace when he was promoted to Brigadier General; and transferred with him to Smith’s Second Division (where Captain William McMichael was found established as Assistant Adjutant General). During the Battle of Shiloh, Lieutenant Rumsey acted as courier and ADC for General Wallace. (It was Rumsey who went in search of the fugitive Colonel Thomas Sweeny; requested, unsuccessfully, for General McClernand to “close the gap” and reconnect to WHL Wallace’s right; and found “McArthur’s force had been moved by someone, from where it was supposed to act in support of Colonel Stuart.”)

After the war, back home in Chicago, Israel Rumsey revealed in his writings that, “the compass he acquired in Keokuk served him faithfully on the many battlefields where he found himself.”

References:  OR 7 pages 170 and 197 – 8.

Life and Letters of General WHL Wallace by Isabel Wallace, pages 152, 160 – 3, 190 – 3.

“Young Man on his Way Up” by Lida L. Greene, Annals of Iowa, vol.39 pp.546 – 550 (1969)

Israel Parsons Rumsey Papers

SDG "Epic Day of Hiking" post by Hank of 28 NOV 2012.

SDG "Barrett's Battery B" created 6 DEC 2018.

https://www.lflbhistory.org/media-gallery/detail/55/60  Lake Forest History Center bio of Israel P. Rumsey (with photo)

http://taylors-battery.com/2nd Lt. Israel Rumsey.htm  

https://civilwar.illinoisgenweb.org/acm/art-1b.html  Roster of 1st Illinois Light Artillery Battery B

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/133931276/israel-parsons-rumsey

https://www.chipublib.org/fa-american-civil-war-photographs-and-images-and-grand-army-of-the-republic-photographs-and-images/

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