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J.H. Spencer

J.H. Spencer

Federal (USV)


Joseph H. Spencer

(1835 - 1873)

Home State: Minnesota

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: Signal Detachment, Army of the Potomac

Before Antietam

He went to Minnesota in the 1850s. At age 26, a store clerk with Skinner & Brothers in Northfield, he enlisted there as First Sergeant of Company G, First Minnesota Infantry. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of Company F on 2 August 1861 and was detailed to the Signal Corps later that month and assigned to the Department of the Shenandoah.

On the Campaign

On 5 September he was at Seneca, MD and on the 12th he was sent from the "Upper Potomac" to the station on Sugarloaf Mountain. He was at Hagerstown, MD as a telegraph relay to General McClellan from 20 September to at least 10 October 1862.

The rest of the War

He was assigned to the Office of the Signal Officer of the Army in Washington, DC in January 1863 and appointed Captain, Signal Corps, USA to date from 3 March 1863. In April 1865 he was posted as Chief Signal Officer in the Department of the Columbia and was promoted to Major on 7 October 1865. He mustered out on 12 October 1865.

After the War

He went back to Northfield, MN and was Financial Secretary for Carleton College and an insurance agent. He moved to Stillwater, MN in 1872, but died there in 1873 of liver disease, thought to have been caused by malaria he caught in the Service.

References & notes

His basic service from Minnesota,1 with details from Brown.2 Maryland Campaign events from Captain B.F. Fisher's Report. Personal details from a bio sketch online from the Signal Corps Association. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a Brady Studio photograph at the Library of Congress.


07/26/1835; Barton, VT


03/25/1873; Northfield, MN; burial in Northfield Cemetery, Northfield, MN


1   State of Minnesota, Board of Commissioners, Minnesota in the Civil War and Indian Wars 1861-1865, 2 volumes, St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1890-93, Vol. 1, pp. 58-59  [AotW citation 28697]

2   Brown, J. Willard, The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion, Boston: U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, 1896, pp. 63, 82, 499, 874  [AotW citation 28698]