Dempsey, Michael Jr.
Age: 18, credited to Fair Haven, VT
Unit(s): 17th VT INF
Service: enl 3/28/64, m/i 4/12/64, Pvt, Co. I, 17th VT INF, wdd, Poplar Spring Church, 9/30/64, d/wds, 3/27/65, amputation
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 1847, Brattleboro, VT
Burial: St. Marys Cemetery, Alexandria, VA
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Kathy Valloch
Findagrave Memorial #: 10165829
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, mother Johanna, 2/14/1887, VT
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
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St. Marys Cemetery, Alexandria, VA
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Michael Dempsey, Jr., son of and Michael (born 1816) and Johanna Collins Dempsey, was born circa 1847. His parents were married in Cork, Ireland, in 1844, Rev. Father Mahoney officiating.
By 1851 the Dempsey family had emigrated to the U.S. and were living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They were joined by Mrs. Dempsey's brother, Timothy Collins. The family moved to Castleton, Vermont, in 1857. Michael's siblings were: John (born 1853), William (born 1857) and Stephen (born 1859).
He was a resident of Castleton at the time he enlisted in Company I, 17th Vermont Infantry at Fairhaven, March 28, 1864. At the time of his enlistment, he was 18 years old, a farmer, 5' 3" tall, had grey eyes, dark hair and a light complexion. He mustered in at Burlington, April 12, 1864, for a term of service of 3 years. He collected 60 dollars of a bounty of 300 dollars, the remainder dependent on his actually completing his service.
The 17th Vermont, assigned to Brigadier General Simon Griffin's 2nd Brigade, of Brig. Gen. Robert B. Potter's 2nd Division, in the Ninth Army Corps, saw severe action. They were engaged at the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (May 1864), Cold Harbor and the first assaults on Petersburg (June 1864) and in the battle of the Crater (July 1864). They took part in the grim siege of Petersburg (June 1864 to April 1865) and sustained very heavy casualties.
Pvt. Dempsey was wounded on the line of battle, in action at Jones Farm (also known as Pegram's Farm, Peebles Farm, Poplar Grove Church), near Petersburg, VA, September 30, 1864. Attacked by McGowan's South Carolina Brigade, the 17th Vermont (about 230 men strong) was in the act of fixing bayonets when they were flanked, their line broken, and nearly surrounded. The 17th Vermont's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Charles Cummings was killed, and the shattered regiment fell back in disorder, across swampy ground, with a loss of 75 men, 14 of whom were killed or mortally wounded.
Pvt. Dempsey suffered a gunshot wound from a minie ball to the middle third of the left thigh, and the lower third of the right thigh. He was fortunate not to fall into Confederate hands when the 17th Vermont collapsed and retreated. As he was being carried off the field, Dempsey told his friend, Pvt. William H. King, to write his parents & let them know of his condition.
Taken to City Point supply base and admitted to hospital there, Dempsey was sent by transport with other wounded to Alexandria, VA, and admitted to the 2nd Division General Hospital on October 12. He was transferred to Ward E on Oct. 30, 1864, and subsequently to the "gangrene ward" on November 3rd. Suffering from "sloughing of the entire knee joint," his left leg was amputated, and the stump treated with "simple dressing, tonics and stimulants." Like too many other amputees, Michael did not recover from the procedure and died of "exhaustion" at 2nd Division General Hospital, Sickel Barracks Branch, Alexandria, at 3 a.m. on March 25, 1865. His effects consisted of 8 letters, a prayer book and a ring.
He was buried on March 27, 1865, in St. Mary's Cemetery, along with a few other Union soldiers. Today Dempsey's stone is sunken and hard to read, quite weathered. It is a Government stone of the kind one sees in National Cemeteries.
From 1887 to 1901 Mrs. Johanna Dempsey made repeated efforts to obtain a pension, but was refused due to the fact that she could not prove she had been financially dependent upon her son Michael at the time of his death. Finally the pension was granted due to her advanced age. Johanna Dempsey died at Castleton, VT, August 16, 1906.
Contributed by the late Brian Pohanka, who lived near St. Mary's Cemetery, in Alexandria, Virginia.