Elsebough, John

139th New York Infantry
5th New York Heavy Artillery

John Elsebough
Private, 139th New York Infantry, Company H
Corporal, 5th New York Heavy Artillery, Company I

John Elsebough was born in Germany on December 20, 1836. After immigrating to America, he settled on Long Island and found work as a farmer. He and his wife, Abbie, lived in Smithtown. She died, however, in 1860. The following year, John married his second wife, Katherine Walsh, on October 8, 1861.

John and Katherine moved to Coram. They had a farm on the east side of the Coram-Mt. Sinai Road. They were blessed with their first child, Josephine, on August 29, 1862.

Elsebough, John

John Elsebough sitting on left, wife Katherine seated at right, at their Coram home.

A week before Josephine's birth, John enlisted with Company H of the 139th New York Infantry on August 22, 1862. He was twenty-five years old at the time, stood five feet seven inches high, had hazel eyes and black hair. The 139th was organized in Brooklyn. After a short training period, the men were sent to Washington, D.C. They soon moved on to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, where John and the others participated in drilling and training exercises.

Elsebough soon came down with a series of illnesses that eventually led to his discharge. He was in the camp hospital suffering from malarial fever from February 12 until March 29, 1863. In April, he returned to the hospital, this time with typhoid and malarial fever; he remained there until June 23. He returned to active duty on July 21, 1863, but was sent to the hospital four days later, again suffering from fevers. On August 18, 1863, he returned to the hospital with chronic diarrhea. After all this, the regimental surgeon, Dr. J. Thompson, found him incapable of continuing to be a soldier and ordered him discharged. The doctor wrote that Elsebough had should be discharged because of:
excessive debility brought on by repeated attacks of Bilious remit fever. He has been in the hospital ever since October 1862, with the exception of about a week. He would be useless in the Invalid Corp.

Elsebough was just one of many who suffered terribly from poor and unsanitary camp conditions. He was discharged and sent home on August 18, 1863. After returning home, Elsebough regained his health. Despite the fact that he had a family and, technically, had served his time, he must have felt strongly about the war-or about fulfilling what he still felt was his obligation. As soon as his health returned, he enlisted in the army again.

On January 2, 1864, Elsebough became a Corporal in Company I of the 5th Regiment in the New York Heavy Artillery division. He joined the regiment when it was stationed at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, as a reserve division. The regiment performed guard and picket duty, and was responsible for strengthening fortifications and earthworks.

Members of the 5th New York Heavy Artillery, with their headquarters in the background.

On July 4, 1864, Confederate forces, led by General Jubal Early, attacked the regiment. Although the Confederates attacked with superior numbers, Union forces held their position and forced the enemy to retreat.

On July 29, Elsebough and members of his battalion were assigned to General Sheridan's command. Grant was sending Sheridan into the Shenendoah Valley to drive out the Confederates and remove any further threat to Washington, D.C. On August 12, 1864, the battalion engaged in a brisk fight with the Confederates, who retreated to Fisher's Hill. The 5th was part of a plan that relentlessly pursued and eventually destroyed Early's forces. On August 23, they attacked again at Halltown. The 5th met severe resistance, but succeeded in driving the enemy back. The regiment lost nine men that day, and thirty-four men were wounded. On September 3, Elsebough's regiment encountered the enemy at Berrysville. They lost two men and several were wounded in this attack.

The next day, they marched to Summits Point where they put up breastworks. They remained in position until September 17, when Grant visited and inspected the regiment. Two days later, the 5th advanced to Winchester, Virginia, where the men engaged in battle. They charged the enemy and drove them from the woods. In fierce hand-to-hand combat, they forced the Confederates to retreat. The battalion suffered nine dead and forty wounded.

This constant fighting was beginning to take its toll on the battalion. The men were tired, and they had lost many of their comrades. But they had to push on. On September 22, they attacked the enemy again at Fisher's Hill. Charging up the hill, they captured four forts and the artillery in those forts. They then followed the enemy to Cedar Creek, where they engaged the enemy on October 13. The Confederates launched a counter-attack. Under tremendous pressure, the 5th held their position; they lost ten men and eight were captured.

On the morning of October 19, an undetected enemy force attacked and surprised the battalion before they could get into position. Confederates captured 262 men in this attack. The 5th was reduced to 125 men; Elsebough was one of them. The battalion was ordered back to Harpers Ferry and remained there for the rest of the war.

When John Elsebough received his discharge on July 19, 1865, at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, he returned home to Coram. He and Katherine had three more children: Amelia, born in 1870; George, born in 1873; and Henry, born in 1875.
Elsebough was an active community member and took a strong interest in the Coram Methodist Church. He also was a member of the G.A.R. Post in Port Jefferson.

The Elsebough home on the Coram Mt. Sinai Road in Coram.

John Elsebough died on February 8, 1916, of Brights disease, which affected his kidneys. He was buried in the cemetery at Coram.

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