A Sword for Lt. Randolph Ransom
by Gordon Thorsby
Thirty-five young men of Flushing marched off to Flint on July 29, 1861 to fight. Randolph Ransom, 32 years old at the time. They called themselves the ‘Flushing Light Guard.” The town gave them a grand send-off with speeches and fanfare off as they went to join Thomas Stockton’s Independent Regiment, eventually the 16th Michigan.
Upon organization, fellow Flushing resident, Miner Newell was made 1st Lieutenant of the Company C and Randolph made 2nd Lieutenant. Newell was quickly promoted to Quartermaster and Randolph was made 1st Lieutenant. In September, a delegation arrived from Flushing at the training camp at the State Fairgrounds in Detroit. They presented Randolph with a sword with a lanyard of gold metallic lace and its belt with the scabbard. It was a very great honor from the town and Randolph was probably quite proud.
It was at their first major action of Gaines Mill on June 27,1862 that the 16th incurred its greatest casualties of the entire war, losing 64 killed, 119 wounded 68 missing or captured. On that day, five of the young men from Flushing were wounded and all were captured in the great confusion and retreat in total darkness. Captain of the company, Thomas C. Carr was killed and to fill the position, Ransom became Captain of C. Company.
Returning to Washington, the army, now under a new commander, Maj Gen John Pope marched into Northern Virginia on August 14. It was on August 30 that Butterfield’s Brigade of Porter’s Corps was pressed into action. They were ordered to attack a protected defensive position of Bradley Johnson’s brigade of Stonewall Jackson’s Corps.
The 17th New York moved out first in line of battle. The other regiments, 44th NY, 83rd Penn, 12th NY, and the 16th Mich advanced behind the 12th in columns. The men of the 16th, under command of Capt. Thomas Barry yelled as they double-quicked across the pasture. “As we came out of the wood, we were exposed to the full fire of the enemy, but we advanced steadily on,” Captain Martin reported. “The ground around was [torn] and had a resemblance as though…rooted by a drove of hogs.” Martin requested that the regiment deploy in line- of-battle. Eventually, the 16th did deploy in line-of-battle while under severe fire. Johnson’s brigade was behind the railroad cut. Ransom would have had his sword drawn directing the fire and leading the company. Martin continued, “We were firing at very close quarters [were] under great disadvantage-they being well protected, and we having no protection...Captain Ransom of Company C was the first officer killed. He was shot in the right temple and fell by my side. Lt. Chittick was also killed, shot in the head. Sgt. Kitchen, the color sergeant, was killed, shot in the head."
The regimental surgeon, searching the battlefield the next day while under a flag of truce, found those of the 16th, the bodies of brave soldiers fallen like sheaves of human grain …within a space within two to four rods of the sunken cut.”
The Union army left the field and Confederates dug graves for the fallen. There was Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg In October, 1863, during the Rappahannock Campaign, the 16th was camped near the Manassas battlefield. During repeated rains, the earth revealed the “remains of comrades buried where they fell,” recorded by Sgt. John Berry of Co A.
Lt. Salter of Detroit recorded this note, “I went over the ground that our brigade had fought over and found it covered with human bones any skeletons entire…Also found remains of Capt. Ransom, Lt. Chittick and color bearer, a young man named ___ of our regiment They were recognized by the clothing which still remained on them.”
A favorite son of a small Michigan town had not been able to return home. His remains were transported back to Michigan and buried in Flushing. History records Randolph Ransom as the first man from Flushing killed in the Civil War from a large group of men who joined up.
Randolph Ransom was Captain for a month when killed. When the GAR post was established in Flushing in 1877, it was named the Randolph Ransom Post. The sword, with its lanyard, and the belt, a gift of the town of Flushing, was never recovered.
On the same day of Ransom’s death in the same pasture, Pvt. Lorenzo Wickham, of Co. C of Flushing was also killed. Nobody knows where Wickham lies.
The soldiers and Sailors Monument in Flushing Cemetery
The Sixteenth Michigan Infantry, Crawford, Kim, Michigan State University Press, 2019.
Return to Bull Run, Hennessy, John J., University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.
History of Genessee County, Wood, Edwin, Federal Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 1916.
Flushing Sesquicentennial History: Flushing Historical Society, 3 volume set, 1985.
Note: Top photo is 1st Bull Run.