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Federal (USV)

Corporal

James Knox Polk Racine

"Polk"

(1844 - 1923)

Home State: Maryland

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 5th Maryland Infantry

Before Antietam

Named for the 11th President, he enlisted as a Corporal in Company I, 5th Maryland Infantry on 9 October 1861, then an illiterate 17 year old.

On the Campaign

He was with his Company at Antietam and later remembered ...

The musketry opened in consort with the cannonade, and reverberating from cloud to mountain and from mountain to cloud, became a continuous roar like the unbroken roll of a thunder storm ... And amidst the screaming of bullets, the screeching of shells, and the terrible thunder and crash of cannon, the command "forward march" was given. We did not hear the verbal command, but the clear, silvery notes of the bugle which rose far above the din, like a glory in the air, told us that the awful ordeal was at hand.

... We could hear no other command, save Orderly [Sergeant Wm. G.] Purnell's oft repeated "Steady now boys," and soon they were hushed, for when we got in the [Roulette's] corn field the terrible fray was on in earnest. There lays the bulky form of our Major [Blumenberg] who was gallantly leading the Maryland boys when the cruel bullet broke his thigh ... Now see! we are out in the clover field, and I am so stricken with awe that really I have not as yet fired my first shot.

Our bugler at this point is standing two paces near me, when a cannon ball sweeps the head from his shoulders, and how strange, the headless body falls in the direction from whence came the cruel shot. I wipe the blood and brains of my comrade from my face with my old blouse sleeve. I am not frightened near as much as when the battle was remote ...

The rest of the War

He learned to read and write during the war, and mustered out of service on 1 September 1865.

After the War

He was a columnist for local newspapers, most notably for the Cecil Whig, using the pen name "The Old Scribe." He wrote his war memoirs in Recollections of a Veteran or Four Years in Dixie (1894, as J. Polk Racine). In 1900 he listed his occupation as "author", but by 1910 was a laborer doing odd jobs.

References & notes

Service information from Wilmer,1 as Jas. K.P. Rosine. Personal details from family genealogists, the US Census of 1900 and 1910, and the Cecil Historical Society. His gravesite is on Findagrave.

Thanks to Jim Smith for the pointer to Racine and for providing two parts of his Reminiscence of Antietam - "one of the fiercest battles ever waged by mortal man" - published in the Whig on 10 and 24 September 1898, the second part excerpted here.

He probably married Martha A Hammond (1831-1915) before the war and they had a daughter Hannah (b. 1860).

Birth

02/03/1844; Elkton, MD

Death

05/25/1923 Elkton, MD; burial in Elkton Cemetery, Elkton, MD

Notes

1   Wilmer, L. Allison, and J.H. Jarrett, George H. Vernon, State Commissioners, History and Roster of Maryland Volunteers, War of 1861-5, Baltimore: Press of Guggenheimer, Weil & Co., 1898, Vol. 1, pg. 216  [AotW citation 24298]