Samuel D. Murray was born in 1836 in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York, the son of John (1804-1879) and Martha (d. 1887).
Samuel came to Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan, in 1856 with his parents and four brothers, and by 1860 he was working as a boatman along with his younger brother William and they were living at the home of Alexander McCallum, a sawyer in Muskegon.
He stood 5’8” with black eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion and was 25 years old and probably still living in Muskegon when he enlisted as Sixth Corporal in Company H on May 6, 1861. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.) On April 2, 1862, the Regiment was encamped near Hampton, Virginia, by Old Point comfort, when Samuel wrote to Sam Eldred, a resident of Muskegon, that
We have had quite stirring times for the past few weeks. -- We left Camp Michigan (our old winter quarters) March 14, and marched to Fort Lyons, (three miles) where we pitched our new field tents for the first time. The weather was very disagreeable, it raining most of the time, which caused many severe colds. These tents answer very well in good weather, but are a poor protection against a cold driving storm.
Sunday, 15th [16th], the [Potomac] River seemed full of steam crafts of all descriptions; many North and East River steamers were among them, one or two war steamers, propellers, gun and canal boats.
On Monday morning [March 17th], the embarkation commenced. Our Regiment with two companies of the New York 37th, and one of the Michigan 5th, about 1,200 in all, “took passage” in the steamer John Brooks. The “Rangers” had comfortable quarters in the dinning [sic] saloon, below, the “shoulder straps” [officers] occupying the ladies’ cabin. None but officers and musicians were allowed on the hurricane deck. As soon as each boat was loaded she moved out into the river and “let go the mud-hooks.”
Tuesday, at noon, our squad, consisting of about 14 steamboats, 2 propellers, 2 tugs, and a number of canal boats in tow, loaded with provision[s], army wagons, artillery, horses, and all kinds of war machinery, was ready, and started down the river, the Elm City acting [as] flagship. The weather was beautiful that afternoon, and we were all in the best of spirits; in fact, it seemed more like a 4th of July excursion than what it really was. Passing Mt. Vernon and Fort Washington (on the opposite side of the river), several salutes were fired from the fort and a gun boat lying near [by]. Some of the guns were “shotted,” and the balls came whistling over our heads, as if to accustom our ears to what we might soon expect in good earnest. A few miles below Mt. Vernon we were joined by four gunboats, as an escort. We passed Cockpit Pt. batteries before sunset and had a fine view of them. The channel being such a short distance from the batteries it seems strange that so many vessels have run the gauntlet with so little loss. Just before dark our attention was called to something on the Virginia shore, and bringing our glasses to bear in that direction, we saw, what I called, two or three hundred foot, and a squad of horsemen. The Yankee happened to be running alongside of us, when she stopped, backed a little to get steady, and sent a shell among them, which sent them over the hill, out of sight, on “double quick.”
Wednesday, at daylight, we were at the mouth of the Potomac.
We entered Hampton Roads that night, but did not go on shore until Thursday morning. We marched through the yard near the Fort [Monroe], and saw, what looked to be, enough cannon and balls to “clean out” the whole South. We are first encamped about two miles from the Fort, near the mansion of ex-President Tyler, now full of contrabands.
The village of Hampton which was burned by a company of Rebels cavalry last August, must have been a perfect little paradise, containing, I should judge, about 2,000 inhabitants, of which, there must have been very many of the “F.F.V.” It was mostly built of brick, and some of the churches appeared to have been very fine and costly. Of the whole village nothing remains but heaps of blackened brick and a few chimneys that remain standing.
A little to the north of the village is a cemetery, enclosed by a high brick wall which has been used by our pickets all winter as a kind of headquarters; a breastwork had been thrown up extending along in front of the village to an old church. Here in one corner of the yard a cannon was mounted on a platform formed hastily of grave stones, fence posts, dirt, etc., and partly covering several graves, one of which I noticed was to the memory of Captain William Wilson, who died in 1701, aged 123 years.
We have fine times gathering oysters and clams. The coves about here are full of them of the best quality. I have almost fell [sic] in love with this part of the country; the soil is rich, water good, and the whole country is level and beautiful.
Gen. [Israel] Richardson left us at Alexandria to take command of a division in Sumner’s corps. Col. Terry of the 5th Michigan has been in command of the brigade.
From September 20, 1862, through April of 1863, Samuel was on detached service recruiting in Michigan, and while at home he married New York native Mary P. Smith (b. 1839). He returned to the Regiment in the Spring of 1863, was wounded on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was promoted to Sergeant by the time he reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Courtland, Kent County, presumably returned home to Michigan on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864, and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February.
Samuel was serving with the Third Michigan when it participated in the Battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia on May 12, 1864, and many years after the war, he described his participation in that battle. “The old soldiers will all be interested,” wrote the Muskegon Chronicle on June 9, 1903,
in the following reminiscence of a gallant action of the “Old Third” which the Chronicle reproduces today from the Chicago Inter-Ocean of June 7, where it appeared under the head of “Curbstone Crayons: the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania -- Who Served the Guns?” Samuel D. Murray, who is mentioned in the article, is a well known former Muskegon man, a man who is well capable of all the heroic courage and unswerving determination necessary to meet such a deadly fire. The Inter-Ocean says:
“Some of us,” said the captain, “have been looking for 20 years for men who played a very unusual part in the fight at the bloody angle at Spotsylvania on the 12th of May, 1864. After Hancock's Corps had captured the first line of Lee's works at the salient, and after the 6th Corps under Wright had plunged into the fight, there were several pieces of artillery left near the angle, which were put in action again by infantrymen from different Regiments. Up to May 15, we of the Army of the Potomac had not been able to locate more than one of these men.
“Eight or 10 guns were captured by Hancock's men in the first charge early on the morning of May 12. When the rebels attempted to recapture the works at the angle, some of these guns were drawn out and turned on the charging enemy. Later, two guns of battery C, Fifth United States artillery, were ordered close up to the angle by General Wright himself. The guns went as ordered, but . . . 7 of the 23 men had been killed and 16 wounded.
“Then, of course, the guns were abandoned. 10 years ago, the only survivor of that squad were Lieutenant Metcalf and Sergeant William E. Lines. To show the character of the rifle fire poured on the men manning the guns if may be said that in the time given to firing 9 rounds, 27 bullets passed through the lid of the limber chest and 39 bullets through the sponge bucket of the right gun. In spite of the fact that no men could live in such a fire, officers of a Vermont Regiment and of the 95th Pennsylvania ran to the assistance of Lieutenant Metcalf and Sergeant Lines, but these fell before the guns were abandoned.
“Later men of the 5th Wisconsin and other Regiments manned these guns and some of those captured that morning. Until very recently Judge J. C. Anderson of Manitowoc, who served in the 5th Wisconsin at Spotsylvania believed he was the sole survivor of this second gun squad. In relating his experience at the reunion of his Regiment last year, he told how, as the last load was rammed home, John Lehn of company E sank down wounded. Then as Anderson went toward the other guns manned by infantrymen, seeking ammunition, something struck him that put him out of action. But he remembers that two of the captured guns were blazing away at the enemy. He stated that he had repeatedly made inquiries for the men serving these guns but could learn nothing of them and his conclusion was that all were dead.”
All of the boys who saw service in the army of the Potomac became interested in pushing the inquiry, and I was boasting that it was no common man who could brave such a deadly fire, when my friend Samuel D. Murray, who lives out on Oakley avenue, said quietly: “t wasn't such a great thing. I manned one of those guns myself and others of my Regiment, the Third Michigan were with me. At that time, Second Corps men of a dozen Regiments and 6th Corps men of several Regiments were fighting together. Organizations had broken up, and men of different companies left without officers were doing the best they could. Some of us loaded up the guns and blazed away as long as we had ammunition. My partner, toward the last, was in doubt whether we had rammed home a load or not, and to make the thing sure, we put in another and let go.
“The gun, double shotted, turned a somersault, and went splashing into the mortar-like mud between us and the enemy. That put us out of action, . . . About that time an officer rode to where the boys were huddled close to the breastworks and ordered them to scale them. The men, suspecting that he was drunk, paid little attention to him, but one fellow asked why he didn't try it himself.
“Thereupon the officer spurred his horse up the steep incline into the very faces of the rebs. As soon as he reached an elevation that brought him in range of the riflemen crouching on the other side his horse was struck and rolled with his rider into the mud at the bottom, floundering and throwing mud over the men firing at the rebels. One of the boys turned his rifle on the wounded horse, and others pulled the rider out of the mud as miserable a looking creature as I ever saw. he went to the rear crestfallen, and I have often wondered who he was, and what became of him. It was probably a brave act, but it seemed to us a very foolish one .
“This,” continued the captain, “bears out all that I have said about old soldiers placing a modest estimate on their own services in battle. That struggle at the bloody angle at Spotsylvania, extending over 24 hours, was the nearest approach to a hand-to-hand battle that we had during the war. Trees, nearly 2 feet in diameter, located in the zone of fire, were cut down by rifle balls. Union soldiers, shot on top of the works fought for, fell within the rebel lines, and Confederates fell on the Union side. One man was shot through arm and body by a ramrod. It was a furious fight, and yet Mr. Murray, who worked at one of the guns in that fight, is not boasting of the part he played. Having found Murray I would like to find the officer who rode a horse to the top of the breastworks. Drunk or sober he was a fellow worth knowing.”
Murray was promoted to First Lieutenant and transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, replacing Lieutenant Milton Leonard who had been killed in action. In July he was transferred to Company F, and on July 6, 1864, from near Petersburg, Virginia, he wrote to his old friend and former comrade in Company H, George Lemon, who was then living in Mishawaka, Indiana. Murray said that since he last wrote the following developments had occurred in the “old company.”
On the 22nd June Brandeis was killed, Miller, Crandall and Wood were captured. Chubb, Byers, Warren, Denny Thayer, Tompkins, Henderson and myself is all of the ‘Rangers’ that is left for duty. Hart and Wright is with the train. Griswold is in ‘Harewood’ hospital doing well, Coda White is in hospital. We have since learned that Herrick was killed in the charge of May 12th. John Martin has been home on furlough; he had a bad wound but is getting along finely. He was paid up to April 30th in Washington and also got the back bounty that we thought lost. We have heard from Capts Geer and Brennan; they are both prisoners. Geer has lost a leg. It will make no difference with your claim for commutation money whether you are discharged or not. You will have to . . . get them certified to by some officer acquainted with the circumstances. Say, Remington or Geer will be there soon, then I think Col. Smith might approve the same and you can draw the money in Detroit. Perhaps you had better consult Robinson and Brooks War Claims Agents opposite Col. Smith's office Detroit. It cannot be put on the muster rolls as your descriptive roll must come from Michigan as the books were all taken there. I had a letter from White, he is in Muskegon. Col. or Gen. B. R. Pierce was wounded slightly as the paper stated -- he is now in command of our Brigade -- I have heard nothing from Otrey. The boys unite in sending their compliments and good wishes, hoping that you may soon recover and enjoy the freedom and blessings you have so well earned.
By October Samuel was absent on sick leave in Michigan, and commissioned Captain of Company G as of September 19, 1864, replacing Captain Gregory. However he was discharged on December 2 or 5, 1864, for disability, and the commission was returned.
After he left the army Samuel eventually returned to Muskegon. By 1870 he was working as a carpenter and living with his wife in Muskegon’s Second Ward. That same year he testified for the prosecution in the second trial of George Vanderpool, formerly of Company H, who had been charged with murdering his business partner in Manistee.
Samuel was still living in Muskegon in 1871, 1876-77, in 1879 when he became a charter member of the Grand Army of the Republic Kearny Post No. 7 in Muskegon, and in 1880 was elected Junior Vice Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic Department of Michigan.
He was also a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and he testified for Calvin Culver’s pension application.
For many years Samuel operated a confectionery and restaurant called “Sam. Murray’s,” and in 1881, for example, he advertised his establishment as a restaurant, dining hall, bakery and candy works:
Oysters dished up as you like ‘em. Candies made every day of pure white sugar. Cream caramels, Cream ices, Chocolate creams and Chewing candies ‘til you can’t rest. Meals at meal time, 25 cents. Tea, Coffee, and Lunch any time. Ice cream made to order. Fine fruits in their season. Choice cigars always. At Uncle Sam’s in Rifenbourg’s block, Muskegon.
Samuel was still residing in Muskegon in 1882, in 1883 when he was drawing $8.50 for chronic diarrhea (pension no. 58,857), and in 1885. However sometime in the late 1880s he moved to Peoria, Illinois, and by 1888 he was residing in Chicago, in Minneapolis in 1890 and back in Chicago by 1896 and in 1903.
Samuel reportedly died in New York in 1905.
His widow applied for and received a pension (no. 599716).