Hard-Fighting John Hammond
Although many citizens heeded the call to defend and preserve the Union, no one in Essex County, New York, felt more strongly about serving his country than John Hammond. The son of Charles F. Hammond, a local businessman in Crown Point, New York, John was born on August 17, 1827. He attended St. Albans Academy in St. Albans, Vermont, and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York, in 1847.
When he was 22 years old, Hammond left Crown Point to join the gold rush in California. During the trek west, he encountered slavery for the first time in a small shantytown called Napoleon, Ark. There, he later claimed, he survived a cholera epidemic by eating charcoal.
After completing the overland route to California, a trip that took him almost five months, Hammond wrote to his father about the hardships of being a gold panner, the adverse weather conditions, Indians, loneliness and untrustworthy individuals. Three years later, Hammond returned to Crown Point and married Charlotte Maria Cross. He then went to work in his father’s lumber business–until the Civil War broke out.
After the Union rout at the First Battle of Bull Run and the havoc caused by J.E.B. Stuart’s Southern cavalry, the need for mounted Federal units intensified. Hammond became instrumental in organizing potential recruits. Incredibly, more than 100 men from the small community of Crown Point enlisted. While on Staten Island, they were formed as Company H of the 5th New York Cavalry. Hammond’s father advanced the funds to purchase horses for virtually the entire company.
Hammond was wounded twice during the war. He fought against the “Gray Ghost,” John Singleton Mosby, on numerous occasions and captured 25 of Mosby’s Partisan Rangers at Middleburg, Va. He faced Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester, Va., and also took part in the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor. At the outset of the Battle of the Wilderness, Hammond and a detachment of about 500 soldiers, armed with Spencer carbines, held off the advance of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s III Corps for almost six hours near Parker’s Store.
Rising through the ranks from captain to colonel, Hammond eventually commanded the entire 5th New York Cavalry Regiment. On June 22, 1867, he was appointed brevet brigadier general for faithful and meritorious service. After the war, he became president of the Whitehall & Plattsburgh Railroad Company. In 1878, he became a member of Congress.
John Hammond died of pulmonary tuberculosis on May 28, 1889, at the age of 61. A beautiful monument now marks Hammond’s grave at Forrestdale Cemetery in Crown Point.
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