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A Billy Yank Turned Governor

By Bernard Olsen
9/5/2018 • Civil War Times Magazine

Name: Franklin Murphy

Dates: 1846-1920

Allegiance: Union

Highest Rank: First Lieutenant

Unit: 13th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, Company C

Service Record: Enlisted at Camp Frelinghuysen in Newark on July 19, 1862. Fought at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Sherman’s Atlanta campaign, then marched with Sherman to the sea and through the Carolinas.

Franklin Murphy was born into a prominent family in Jersey City, N.J., in 1846. They later moved to Newark, where his father had a shoe manufacturing business. The outbreak of the Civil War found Murphy enrolled at the Newark Academy.

Murphy ran away from home at age 16 in the summer of 1862, lied about his age and enlisted in the newly formed 13th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Ezra A. Carman. After a few weeks of camp life members of that unit were sent south as part of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, XII Corps, to fight in the Battle of Antietam. At daybreak on September 17, the 13th New Jersey passed through the Cornfield and reached the Hagerstown Road north of Dunker Church. From a concealed ridge, Confederates poured fire into the Federals. Musket balls tore though his kepi, but Murphy escaped injury. He later wrote: “Seventeen days after leaving home we fought at the Battle of Antietam…one of the greatest and most momentous of the Civil War. We had never had a battalion drill; some of us didn’t even know what a line of battle was and they sent us into that fight against a lot of rebels who were protected by a natural breastwork formed by a ledge of rocks, to be butchered, a position untenable even to veterans.” Murphy had experienced his baptism of fire, what Civil War soldiers called “seeing the elephant.”

Murphy and his comrades were ordered to relieve troops commanded by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter covering a portion of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal before moving to Harpers Ferry. After the Battle of Fredericksburg, they took up winter quarters near Stafford Court House.

Hostilities resumed the following spring with the Battle of Chancellorsville. Murphy’s unit supported the right flank of the XI Corps and defended the III and XII corps. The 13th New Jersey suffered 130 killed, wounded or missing in that bloody engagement.

By June 1863, Murphy and his comrades had moved on to Gettysburg. There, Murphy fought at Culp’s Hill—again miraculously escaping injury. Family lore relates how he was detailed to deliver three Confederate prisoners to the provost marshal in the days before the battle. It took him three days without sleep to accomplish his task. He then crawled under a bush and took a nap before the battle began.

Late in the summer of 1863, Murphy found his New Jersey regiment reassigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, XX Corps. He saw action at Chattanooga and in Sherman’s Atlanta campaign, March to the Sea and march through the Carolinas.

After Johnston’s surrender, Murphy marched to Washington, D.C., and participated in the Grand Review before returning home to Newark. He married, raised a family and became a fabulously wealthy varnish manufacturer. He was elected governor of New Jersey in 1901. Franklin retired to Palm Beach, Fla. He died on February 24, 1920, at age 74.

 

Originally published in the February 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here

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