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Federal (USV)


William Henry Harrison Mapes

(1838 - 1932)

Home State: New York

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 28th New York Infantry

Before Antietam

He was a contractor for the state and was working on a dam construction project at Lockport at the start of the war. Age 24, he helped raise troops and enrolled on 25 April 1861 in Lockport for two years and mustered as Captain, Company C, 28th New York Infantry. Immediately prior to the Maryland Campaign, Mapes had been on recruiting duty for the Regiment in New York. By his return in the first week of September 1862, the unit had been reduced to 4 consolidated Companies and he was in command as the senior officer present.

On the Campaign

He commanded his tiny regiment - about 65 men on the line - in action at Antietam on 17 September 1862.

The rest of the War

He remained in command until 1 November 1862, and resigned his commission on 6 November. He helped organize a new cavalry unit and enrolled again, on 2 November 1863 in Lockport and mustered as Captain, Company I, 2nd New York Mounted Rifles. He was promoted to Major on 5 February 1864, and captured in action at Peeble's Farm near Petersburg, VA on 30 September. He was held at Libby Prison in Richmond, VA, at Salisbury, NC, and at Danville, VA.

Asked to the greatest hardship experienced in prison, Major Mapes answered in one word, "Starvation." The food was scanty and consisted of little black beans and cornbread, issued every two days, the slabs of bread, about two by two by six inches in size, made of meal ground cobs and all. This unvaried died caused scurvy, from which men died by hundreds. Some of the men had a little money which they succeeded in concealing from the guards and Major Mapes one day bought from a huckster a good-sized bunch of onions for which he paid 75 cents. He found a loose brick in the wall, took out some bricks from the inside, put in the hole his precious store of onions, and carefully replaced the outer brick. Every night after his comrades were asleep, he would go to the wall, remove the outer brick, reach in and get one onion - only one, were it large or small - and eat it. That onion a day saved him much suffering, says the Major, though scurvy finally got him, settling in his feet.
After about 6 months a prisoner, he was paroled, exchanged, and rejoined the regiment in early 1865. He mustered out with them on 10 August 1865 at Petersburg, VA.

After the War

He moved to Lyon County, KS and bought a farm in 1878. By the time of the Regiment's reunion in 1896, he was living in Emporia, KS.

Major Mapes visited the battlefield of Antietam in 1921, the guest, with others, of the state of New York, having been delegated by that state to assist in the dedication of her monument to her sons who fell there.
He died in Emporia at age 94 in 1932.

References & notes

His service and other details from the History 1 and the Adjutant General.2 His gravesite is on Findagrave, source also of some personal details and the quotes above, transcribed from a bio sketch in the Emporia Gazette of 20 May 1923.

He married Harriet Elizabeth "Hattie" Wiley (1839-1912) in 1861.


01/19/1838; Lockport, NY


02/22/1932; Emporia, KS; burial in Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery, Emporia, KS


1   Boyce, Charles William, A Brief History of the Twenty-eighth Regiment New York State Volunteers, First Brigade, First Division, Twelfth Corps, Army of the Potomac, Buffalo: C.W. Boyce, 1896  [AotW citation 686]

2   State of New York, Adjutant-General, Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York [year]: Registers of the [units], 43 Volumes, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1893-1905, For the Year 1899, Ser. No. 21, pg. 358; For the Year 1895, pg. 973  [AotW citation 22446]