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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two teenagers who I love very much. I currently volunteer at the battlefield and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. These words often add a degree of color and character not found elsewhere in their stories. A feature of this blog is the presentation of some of these quotes. My perspective comes from a 28 year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign that fortune could have gone either way. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Unwavering Fidelity to the Cause of My Country"

I almost missed George Dickinson.

Last year as I began my research, I assembled a list of officers assigned to the U.S. Artillery regiments.  With 441 officers discovered, I thought that I had all of them until today.   Going thru Volume 2 of Heitman’s Register doing some crosschecking for something else, I discovered George Dickenson. 

Having found Lieutenant Dickenson, I ran a query in Fold 3. One of the most common records contained there is a newly commissioned officer’s letters of acceptance.  This letter, addressed to the Adjutant General is a very dry affair.  The officer acknowledges the appointment, and indicates his age and home of record.  That is usually it.

George’s letter contained this and a lot more.  Dickinson was an enlisted man in Company K,  1st Missouri Light Artillery Regiment.  He came from perhaps the most bitterly divided of the border states.  But Dickenson knew exactly where he stood on the matter of the his country.

After he acknowledged his appointment, Dickenson had this to say:

“I am fully sensible of the high honor conferred upon me and shall endeavor by a zealous performance of my duty and an unwavering fidelity to the cause of my country to merit the confidence which in this hour of national calamity her rulers have reposed in me.  I am twenty one years of age and a native of Missouri.”[1]

Dickenson was first assigned to Company A of the 4th U.S. Artillery.  Within a month of his commissioning, he was promoted to First Lieutenant on November 29, 1861 and assigned to Company G.  Dickenson remained with Company A until April 1862.  There the young man from Missouri served with Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing who would achieve immortality at Gettysburg over a year later. when he reached his new command at Fort Monroe.  After the Peninsula Campaign, Dickenson was attached Company E and the Ninth Corps.  When Captain Clark commanding the company was wounded at Antietam, Dickenson assumed command. 

George Dickenson survived the bloodiest day in American history.  He zealously performed his duty and merited the confidence reposed in him.   Three months later on December 13th 1862, far from his Missouri home, George Dickenson was killed at Fredericksburg.

If I find out nothing else about him, Dickenson’s acceptance letter put into words the sentiment of many young Americans in the opening days of the war where patriotism still motivated men to serve their country.

I am glad that I found George Dickenson.

[1] Letter from Second Lieutenant George Dickenson to the Adjutant General dated November 7, 1861.


  1. For those who say that state identity was more prevalent than national identity, here is yet more proof that national sentiment was very strong. It is even more impressive that this young patriot was from a border state.

  2. What a great find, Jim. I might have to "borrow" that quote for some programs!

  3. Thanks for your comments guys. He was a true patriot and paid the ultimate price.