Who Was Albert F. Mitchell?
The Black Powder Cartridge News|Winter 2020
When somebody hears the words “Sharps rifle,” the first things that probably come to mind are the great buffalo hunts, the “Wild and Wooly West” and tales of long-range shots, Indian attacks, and hunters freezing in blizzards.
Robert Saathoff

However, this is a different story. This is about a man and his rifle, who probably never left the eastern seaboard, living most of his life in upstate New York and who desired and then purchased an 1878 Sharps Borchardt target rifle.

Albert F. Mitchell (aka “Elbert” and “Alfred” in various Civil War records) was probably born and raised around Saratoga Springs, New York. From court records, he is listed as a village trustee. He was buried in Greenridge Cemetery in Saratoga Springs with his wife, Cordelia.

On May 11, 1861, at the age of 18, Mitchell enlisted in the Union Army at Elizabethtown, New York. When arriving in New York City, he was mustered in on June 3, 1861. He was to serve two years and was assigned to the 38th Regiment, New York State Infantry and placed in Company K. The leader of Company K was Captain Samuel Dwyer who was later killed at the Battle of Williamsburg. The 38th Regiment was also known as the Second Scott Life Guard for General Winfield Scott, who at that time, lead the Union Army. On June 19, they were issued altered muskets and began their journey towards Washington D.C., arriving on June 21, encamping on Meridian Hill for training. They were issued four balls with powder but then were not given a chance to use them. President Abraham Lincoln and General Scott reviewed the regiment in front of the White House on July 4, 1861. The day of July 7, the regiment exchanged arms at the Washington Arsenal and began their journey towards Manassas Junction and Bull Run Creek. Eventually, they encamped at Centreville and two days later, on July 21, engaged the South at the “Stone Bridge” over Bull Run Creek. This was one of the first encounters of the battle of the first Bull Run. There, they fought gallantly and repulsed the opposition three times, taking heavy losses and eventually were overrun in the late afternoon.

NEW YORK STATE MILITARY MUSEUM

This is from a service report from an unknown Sargent at Bull Run. “Albert Mitchell had his cap knocked off by a piece of rail struck by a cannonball from a fence nearby. The same ball threw a rail, which struck my shoulder, bruising it slightly. Our boys are some tired, foot-sore and lame, but in time will get over it.”

During the July 21 engagement against the opposition at the first battle of Bull Run, the 38th Regiment lost 128 killed, wounded and missing before retreating back to Washington. In August and September of that year, the regiment was employed in construction work at Forts Ward and Lyons with Howard’s brigade and in October the regiment was assigned to Sedgwick’s brigade, Heintzelman’s division. The winter camp was established in October 1861, on the old Fairfax road and occupied until March 1862, when, with the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, the regiment embarked for Fortress Monroe. The 38th participated in the siege of Yorktown and the battle of Williamsburg, where the loss to command was 88 killed, wounded and missing. They shared in the engagement at Fair Oaks and in the Seven Days’ Battle after which it encamped at Harrison’s landing until August 15 of 1862. From there, the regiment moved to Yorktown and Alexandria; were active at the second Bull Run and a day later at Chantilly. They reached Falmouth, Virginia on Nov. 25, and engaged the South at Fredericksburg, losing 133 members killed, wounded and missing.

CIVIL WAR INDEX, NEW YORK STATE MILITARY MUSEUM

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