Alfred M. Burns

Alfred M. Burns was born 1838 in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the son of James (b. 1815) and Allace (b. 1820).

James and Allace were both born in Pennsylvania and probably married in Pennsylvania sometime before 1838. (In 1840 there was one James Burns living in Bethel, Berks County, Pennsylvania.) In any case, Alfred’s parents moved from Pennsylvania to New York sometime between 1838 and 1840, and by 1842 they had settled in Michigan. In1850 Alfred attending school with his siblings and living with his family in Lyons, Ionia County. By 1860 his family was still in Lyons, although Alfred was not listed with them. In fact he was working as a carpenter and joiner with Benjamin Donaldson in Saline, Washtenaw County.

Alfred stood 5’8” with blue eyes, sandy hair and a light complexion and was a 23-year-old mechanic in Ionia County when he enlisted as Third Sergeant in Company E on May 13, 1861. (Company E was composed in large part by men from Clinton and Ingham counties, as well as parts of Ionia County.)

Alfred was most likely the subject of the following story, reported in the Sturgis (Michigan) Journal in August of 1861:

A gentleman by the name of Burnes [sic], a member of the Third Michigan Regiment, was captured soon after the Federal forces retreated [from Bull Run], and was put in irons. After which he was robbed and then subjected to many indignities, among which he was forced against a tree and then a bayonet was thrust at him so as just to graze the body and pinion his clothes to the tree. After awhile the persecutors of Burnes left, to engage in the more refined business of plundering the dead; and he finding that one of the handcuffs was not clasped, succeeded in getting it off, and, watching an opportunity fled, and though fired upon by the rebels succeeded in making good his escape.

Alfred was discharged on July 29, 1861, at Hunter’s Farm, Virginia for “an oblique inguinal hernia left side which incapacitates him for performing the duties of a common soldier and it was caused by” extreme “exertion and fatigue and made its first appearance during the march . . . from Washington to Bull Run”. Another member of Company E, Charles Finch stated years later that the hernia occurred while Alfred was “in action” at Blackburn’s Ford, Virginia, on July 18, 1861. In fact, Alfred himself said some years afterwards that the rupture occurred while they on a double quick march to support their skirmishers at Blackburn’s Ford that he stumbled and fell.

Following his discharge Alfred returned to Michigan and he was probably the same Alfred M. Burns who enlisted as a 23-year-old Corporal in the First Michigan Lancers on December 7, 1861, at Coldwater, Branch County for 3 years, and was mustered on December 31, 1861, at Detroit. The Lancers were organized at Detroit, Saginaw and St. Johns, between November 30, 1861 and February 20, 1862, and mustered out of service on March 20, 1862. As a result, Alfred was transferred as a Private on February 28, 1862, to Company K, First United States Sharpshooters, and was mustered on March 20 (the day the Lancers were mustered out) at Detroit, listing his residence as Wayne County. (The First U.S. Sharpshooters were comprised of companies from several different states; Michigan was represented in Companies C, I and K.)

On March 22 the regiment moved to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and subsequently participated in the advance on and siege of Yorktown April l-May 4, the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, the battle of Hanover Court House May 27, the Seven days before Richmond June 25-July 1, the Battles of Mechanicsville and Gaines’ Mill, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill. The regiment was on duty at Harrison’s Landing until August 15. It also participated in the Battle of Groveton August 29-30 and the Maryland Campaign September 6-22: the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam September, as well as the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 12-15.

It also made the notorious “Mud March” of January 20-24, 1863, and remained at Falmouth, Virginia, until April. It was in the Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6, and the Gettysburg Campaign June 11-July 24. It participated in the Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2, and in the battles of the Wilderness May 5-7, Spotsylvania May 8-12, the North Anna River May 23-26 and Cold Harbor June 1-12.

The regiment joined in the siege of Petersburg from June 16 to December 31, 1864, and the numerous engagements fought in that area. The veterans and recruits of the regiment were assigned to Companies I and K in August of 1864, when the regiment was mustered out, and consolidated with the Second U.S. Sharpshooters on December 31, 1864.

It is not known if Alfred ever returned to Michigan.

He was married to Margaret Jane Jewell in Bethel, New York and they had at least one child, a daughter Lillie.

Alfred was apparently a single man by the time he was admitted to the National Military Home in Togus, Maine (no. P-867027).

He received pension no. 867,027.

Alfred died on December 19, 1898 in Togus, and was buried in the Togus National Cemetery: west cemetery, section J, row 3, no. 34, grave 1462.

Sometime in 1916 his daughter tried to reestablish contact with him, not having seen him since she was a little girl. It is not known if she was ever informed that her father had died many years earlier.