James Jardine was born in Helensburgh on April 16th 1837, the eldest son, and brother to five – Peter, Catherine, Graham, Marion and Malcolm – of Graham Jardine and his wife Mary, nee Brodie, the family originally owning two premises in Sinclair Street, Helensburgh. The family moved to America in the early 1850s, with evidence suggesting that James and his folks spent some time in New York, prior to moving to Ohio.
James enlisted in the Union Army at Toledo, Ohio, on September 5th 1861, he re-enlisted ‘in the field’ on January 12th 1864, and was mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas on August I5th 1865.
It was at the age of 26, on May 22nd 1863, that James was to cement his name in Scottish History by becoming one of 24 Scots awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. Whilst serving as Sergeant in Company F, 54th Ohio Infantry, James was awarded this distinction for his actions on May 22, 1863 at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
His citation reads:
The President of the United States, in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to JARDINE, JAMES
Rank and Organization: Sergeant, Company F, 54th Ohio Infantry.
Place and Date: At Vicksburg, Miss., 22 May 1863.
Entered Service At: Hamilton County, Ohio.
Date of Issue: 5 April 1894.
Citation: Gallantry in the charge of the “volunteer storming party.”
The Vicksburg campaign was waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863. It included battles in west-central Mississippi at Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, Big Black River and numerous smaller battle fields. On the morning of May 22, General Grant launched what he hoped would be a crushing assault against Vicksburg. In the fighting that followed, the Union Infantry was repulsed and thrown back along a three-mile front. The Union Army suffered more than 3,000 casualties, and 97 Union soldiers earned Medals of Honor (the second largest single-day total in history.)
James Jardine was one of eighty soldiers cited simply for “Gallantry in the charge of the ‘volunteer storming party,’ seemingly innocuous wording that actually denotes the fact that Private Jardine was at the head of his attacking force where the enemy fire was hottest and the danger the greatest.
Following the failed assault on May 22 1863, a forty-seven day siege was laid against the city, which finally surrendered to Union forces on July 4 1863.
In a remarkable interview published in Inter Ocean newspaper of Chicago, Illinois, (a newspaper published in Chicago from 1865 until 1914) May 29 1895, James recalls the events of that day.
“It was at Vicksburg, May 22 1863,” he began. “Volunteers were called for, two from each company; to lead the column to storm the rebel works. On account of losses of men and officers, Companies F and K of the Fifty-Fourth Ohio Volunteers had been consolidated. As no one volunteered for the duty, as sergeant I was instructed to order out the first two men on the roll for picket duty. Looking at my book, I found that the first two names were of an old man and his only son, named Goldsberry, of Company K. I wouldn’t detail them to what I felt was certain death, and throwing down the book, I said, ‘Captain, you may detail one of those two men if you will: I’ll go for one, but I can’t detail them for it.’
“When I said this, six boys of our company stepped out, and said they would go with me, but only one was wanted. Edward McGinn was chosen. Two men from each company of the division made a total of 150 men to lead the attack. The assault was made at Graveyard road, a narrow pass where only four men could march abreast.”
“When the signal was given, we rushed forward, and those in front were within 100 feet of the fort before the rebels opened fire on us. Our orders were not to fire until within the fort, and to use our bayonets only in the attack.
“Twenty-four of us had crossed the ditch and were on the wall of the fort where the rebel fire was so hot that it drove back the rest. We couldn’t retreat, so we lay down on the sloping parapet of the fort, and there we stayed from 10 o’clock in the morning until dark. The parapet was sloping, of course, and with our bayonets and hands we scooped out the earth beneath us, and partly sheltered ourselves.”
“The rebels in the fort were within four feet of us, but didn’t dare to raise their heads over the edge of the wall to shoot us. When they pushed their guns over the edge, we shoved them aside with our bayonets. Among our number was a brave young fellow named Trogden, of the Eighth Missouri Regiment, who planted our colors beside him, and there they waved all day, with the rebel flags just above them in the fort.”
“Just before dark it occurred to the rebels to roll shells down the wall. They killed, by these, two men of the Fifty-Fifth Illinois, a Chicago regiment, and wounded many more.”
During the interview, James is questioned as to his personal injuries sustained during the assault.
“I got a bayonet prick in the knee which I have felt to this day. That was the only thing worth speaking of, though they drew blood on me in five different places and there were nine bullets that passed through my clothes without striking my body. If the others had only followed us we could have taken Vicksburg that day, but the rebel fire was too hot for any man.”
James then continued to recount his further experiences in the Army, having seen battle at Shiloh, Jonesboro, Jackson, Mission Ridge, Buzzard’s Roost, Dallas, Resaca, Dalton, Rome, Kenesaw Mountain. Nickajack Atlanta, Erle Church, Fort McAllisterand Bentonville. He was also active during the sieges of Corinth, Jackson, Vicksburg, and Savannah. He was seriously injured three times during his active service.
At the end of active service, James headed west, mining for silver, having assumed that he was not entitled to a pension. At the time of the interview James was drawing a veterans pension of $12 per month. He stated: “Now I would like to have a pension and know I could get $24 a month, which would support my old wife; and me; but now the trouble is for me to find some of my old comrades by whom I can prove when and where I received the injuries that entitle me to a pension.”
James ended the interview by making an appeal for any old comrades of Companies F or K, of the Fifty-Fifth Ohio Volunteers to come forward and provide the detail required. All correspondence could have been sent to his brother who lived at No. 446 Warren Avenue, Chicago.
Following his Colorado silver mining days, records suggest James may have worked in Toledo in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s for a man by the name of Henry Weitzel. Henry operated a Retail winery and bottling place.
James died at the age of 85 on December 9th, 1922 and his grave can be found in Section 20 of the Ohio Veterans Home Cemetery, Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio, USA
As an interesting aside, a monument to the American President, Abraham Lincoln, was erected in the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh 1893 in memory of the Scottish Soldiers who fought in the American Civil War. It is said to be the first monument outside of the USA dedicated to the American president.
The monument carries a quotation from Lincoln: “To preserve the jewel of liberty in the framework of freedom”.
Acknowledgements: Main photo: HomeOfHeroes.com and Young James: Vicksburg National Military Park. Additional research Jeff Giambrone of Vicksburgh and Helensburgh Heritage Trust.