Private, Co. C, 19th Mich. Inf., Aug. 7, 1862 - May 1, 1863
Private John N. Demarest (b. 1818 probably near Broadalbin, Fulton County, N.Y.) was the third-oldest son of Nicholas P. Demarest (b. May 7, 1787 - d. June 13, 1867) and Jane Brouwer Demarest (b. Sept. 29, 1791 - d. Mar. 7, 1871). He was also the brother of William W. Demarest (b. Mar. 16, 1813 - d. July 9, 1894) and uncle to his three sons who served in the American Civil War: Charles H. Demarest (b. June 27, 1842), Andrew J. Demarest (b. 1843), and George Wesley Demarest (b. Sept. 20, 1846) - all from Girard. Branch County, Michigan.
John N. Demarest was the older brother of Henry N. Demarest (b. July 23, 1827 - d. Dec. 24, 1900) and uncle of his son: James Henry Demarest (b. Feb. 19, 1854 - d. Aug. 5, 1928). John N. Demarest and his wife, Harriet Aldrich Demarest (b. 1820 - d. Mar. 13, 1872) had the following children: Elihu C. (b. Dec. 8, 1845 Aug. 17, 1916), Abisha (b. 1848 - d. 1862?), Mary A. (b. July, 1850 d. 1877), Adelbert (b. Nov. 14, 1855 - d. Oct. 13, 1922), Della F. (b. Sept. 1, 1857 - d. 1864-76?), and Arminda (b. Sept. 11, 1860 d. Feb. 8, 1877).
John N. Demarest of Girard, Michigan was 43 years old when he enlisted in Company C, 19th Michigan Infantry at Coldwater, Michigan with his 20-year-old nephew, Charles H. Demarest (see biography of Pvt. Charles H. Demarest) on Aug. 7, 1862. Uncle and nephew were mustered in at Camp Willcox in Dowasiac, Michigan on Sept. 5, 1862 and left for the Ohio River / Kentucky front on Sept. 14, 1862.
Pvt. John Demarest marched with the 19th Mich. Inf. through Kentucky and Tennessee during the Fall and Winter of 1862-63. He and his nephew avoided diseases that took many of their comrade's lives during that time. While on a foraging expedition with other Federal regiments in Colonel John Coburn's Brigade near Thompsons Station, Tennessee on March 5, 1863, Pvt. John Demarest and his nephew were in a 5-hour battle with Confederate forces commanded by General Earl Van Dorn.
Company C of the 19th Mich. Inf., which both Demarests were in, was under the immediate command of Captain Charles P. Lincoln from Coldwater, Michigan during the battle of Thompsons Station. Captain Lincoln wrote a detailed description of the battle ("Engagement at Thompson's Station, Tennessee". M.O.L.L.U.S., Commandery of the District of Columbia, 1893) that documented the chaos uncle and nephew were enveloped by. As Confederate Brigadier General Nathan B. Forrest sent cannons to a hill about a half-mile southeast of the 19th Mich. Inf.'s position, Co. C sent 4 sharpshooters toward the Confederate battery. Unfortunately, they were spotted in a cornfield below the Confederate position and were shelled from on high - the 4 would-be snipers ran back to and over the stone wall protecting their regiment.
As the Federal troops were being flanked and eventually surrounded, they were subjected to both heavy cannon and rifled-musket fire. Finally the 19th Mich. Inf. felt the full brunt of several Confederate assaults and the fighting was at close-quarters and hand-to-hand. With fixed-bayonets, the men of the 19th Mich. Inf. counterattacked Rebel soldiers at a stone fence by the foot of a hill; here Whitfield's Texas Brigade battled the 19th Mich. Inf. and suffered the indignity of having their color-bearer bayoneted by a Sergeant of the Demarests' Company C. The Michiganders kept the Texas Brigade's flag until the 19th Mich. Inf. was captured at the end of the battle.
After surrendering, the men of the 19th Mich . Inf. was approached by one Confederate soldier who stated "For God's sake, give me one of youan's guns, for youan's killed weans before weans had thought of firing at youans!". It seems the Southern soldiers were impressed with the fight put up by the Yankees this day. The battle had been a bloody one for the 19th Mich. Inf. - many of the two Demarests' comrades lay dead and wounded (see biography of Pvt. Charles H. Demarest). As best can be determined, neither uncle or nephew were seriously wounded during the day's fighting.
Pvt. John Demarest, his nephew Charles, and their comrades in Coburn's Brigade were then force-marched into captivity by their Confederate conquerors - doing 75 miles in 6 days before being sent by railroad cars to Richmond, Virginia and placed in Libby Prison once there. Before railroad departure from Tullahoma, Tennessee the men of the 19th Mich. Inf. were given "3 cheers" by their Confederate captors as they boarded their railroad cars for Richmond - the men from Southern Michican returned the salute. Colonel Henry C. Gilbert, commander of the 19th Mich. Inf., thought highly enough of the man commanding their escort, Colonel James Gordon of the 4th Mississippi Cavalry, that he presented Colonel Gordon with his saddle and sword before boarding the train at Tullahoma.
Imprisonment at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia was an ordeal for Pvt. John Demarest; it was at Libby Prison where he became ill with the sickness that eventually took his life. The poor sanitation, food, and housing conditions, along with his age, undoubtedly played a major role in his poor health during that time. His service records state that Pvt. John Demarest "Died at Camp Chase, Ohio, May 1, 1863 of disease caused by cruel treatment while in Libby Prison, Richmond, Va.". Before dying at Camp Chase (near Columbus. Ohio), John Demarest and his nephew Charles were repatriated from Libby Prison sometime in late March or April of 1863. The exact nature of Pvt. John Demarest's illness is not known at this time.
On March 13, 1865 - two years after his father, Pvt. John N. Demarest, and cousin, Pvt. Charles H. Demarest, were being sent into captivity at Libby Prison - 19 year old Elihu C. Demarest enlisted in Company I, 5th Michigan Cavalry at Girard. Branch County, Michigan. Perhaps the fate of his father played a major role in his decision to enlist in the Federal army. John N. Demarest is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery, Girard, Branch County. Michigan.
by Kenneth Elburn Byrd - Indianapolis, Indiana
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