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McMahon, John


Age: 21, credited to Bakersfield, VT
Unit(s): 13th VT INF
Service: enl 9/11/62, m/i 10/10/62, Pvt, Co. G, 13th VT INF, m/o 7/21/63

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Birth: 07/07/1841, Bakersfield, VT
Death: 04/03/1911

Burial: St. George Cemetery, Bakersfield, VT
Marker/Plot: 43
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Kimberly Ovitt
Findagrave Memorial #: 20402398


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, 12/30/1887, VT
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: 13th Vt. History off-site


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Copyright notice


St. George Cemetery, Bakersfield, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.




My Dear Comrade: I have read your notice through and will try to tell you something of myself and at least say a word in appreciation of work you are doing so well. I am no literary character and ray memory fails me when I sit alone away from my comrades and try to put anything on paper; but if I was able to meet with them once again and talk over old times I could recall things that occurred which now escape my memory. Thirty-three years is about the lifetime of an ordinary man and If by reason of great strength we are some of us spared to the allotted age of three score and ten years the most of us get there with an impaired memory.

I was born in Bakersfield, Vt., my parents were Hugh McMahon and Bridget Owens. I enlisted in Company G, 13th Regiment, Vermont Volunteer Infantry, as a private in 1862. Company G was known as the Bakersfield company. I went with the boys to Enosburg, Vt., where we elected officers for the company. We went into camp at Brattleboro, Vt., the last of September, 1862, and were mustered in by Major Austine. In a day or two we got our guns and felt as though we were equipped in great style. We staid in Brattleboro until October 11th, as I remember it, when we started for Washington. While at Brattleboro we had a wrestling match one evening, when I threw 17 men. We wrestled the old fashioned "collar and elbow" hold. I have won several hard contests at wrestling since then; but then and even now when I think of it, that evening seems to be the best work I ever did in that line.

When we first got to Washington we were brigaded with two New Jersey regiments and, I think, the 12th Vermont but soon an order was read to us that brigaded the Vermont troops together. I remember the pleasure with which we heard the order. We went from Washington to Camp Vermont and from there to Fairfax Court House. We heard that it was warm there before we went South, but the snow came at Camp Vermont earlier thaji it came in Vermont that year. While we were at Fairfax Court House Stuart's Cavalry came down near us and we could see their camp fires at night. We expected trouble. Some of the men in Company G of the 12th 'Vermont under a captain, if I recollect. Captain Ormsbee, went up there to see what they were doing but they were all gone. We went down to Wolf Run Shoals and our regiment and the 12th Vermont were together. Colonel Blunt ot the 12th had charge of us. He was a worker and we had the hardest and meanest work we ever did. We had to lay corduroy road from the Shoals to Fairfax station to get our supplies into camp and through the company streets and dig rifle pits down by the Occoquan to protect the ford. We were sick here with malaria and colds.

After that the 13th Regiment went down on the Occoquan and some of the 13th and a couple of supplv wagons got gobbled up by Mosby while on the way to Fairfax station for supplies. Mosby hung around some before that and got General Stoughton at Fairfax Court House. He was three miles from his troops and had a small guard. Of course that is all history now; Mosby came in the night and quietly took him away. Stoughton had 14 horses himself and Mosby got forty in all. We heard that President Lincoln said that he could make another brigadier general but that the horses cost him $12.5 apiece.

The boys were disgusted with the General for getting gobbled up so foolishly and said the reason he had his headquarters so far from camp was because he enjoyed female society so well, but I don't know. After that General Stannard was appointed our brigadier general and we went to Gettysburg. We started June 2.5th. While on the march we passed a house where officers were assembled at dinner. We privates could not get in. I was a pretty good forager and got into the window with the help of one of the ladies in the house. I then bought and handed out stuff to the boys. They had about 50 canteens full of whiskey and a lot of food. I did not get out until dark and did not know where my company was until I heard an officer call out an order to a squad and knew his voice and went to my place in camp. The first of the fight at Gettysburg our brigade was at Emmitsburg and the first gun of the battle was fired before we got there. I had not been detailed much to guard duty but now I was sent out on the skirmish line. I went out and got in behind some rails in the corner where they crossed. I had scarcely got in position when a bullet fired from the front in the rifle pit grazed my face. I hugged the ground pretty close I can tell you, but the Johnny was after me and kept shooting. He shot over, but the bullets came awful close to me. There was a Buck Tail who laid .lust behind me, out of range, who saw how I was fixed and called, "Hold on, lie close, Til help you out." The rebels charged and I got out of it.

On the morning of July 2nd, 1863, we knew we had got to fight. We went up with Randall and drove out a Georgia regiment and saved a battery belonging to the United States and brought away the guns. Randall's horse was shot on that charge. The third day we had to form a line under a heavy fire. I thought my time had come. Then the charge on Pickett's men was a hard place. I understand that the history of the fight says that "the only troops operating on Pickett's right flank were the troops of General Stannard's 'Vermont Brigade." So the people can all read it better than I can write it. A soldier is an atom of the machine. He must keep his place, he must do his duty. He knows that he is now in position and his only chance for life is to keep in position, become a part of the whole and attract as little attention as he can. This I tried to do and I can't tell much about it. I was busy. They said that some of the boys during the heavy cannonading went to sleep. I did not but 1 wanted to. Well, I lived, I got my discharge and am now living on a farm in Vermont in the town of Bakersfield with my brother, Thomas, awaiting the call of the long roll when t shall be mustered out. The government has been good to me and I am not in need.

I have in my room the belt for the world's champion collar and elbow wrestler, hut I can do no wrestling now; the malaria of the Occoquan has settled in my bones and I am disabled by rheumatism. Now, Comrade Sturtevant, in a general way I have done as well as I could and with the kindest wishes and tenderest remembrance for the old fellows who went over the ground with me in 1862 and 1863 I will close.

East Fairfield, Vt., April I8th, 1905.

This man was known for his great strength and after the war he became the champion wrestler of the world, wearing the belt for several years. After the company had captured one of the guns of the regular battery and was slowly drawing it up the slope out of the valley of Plum Run, Lieutenant Clarke, relieved McMahon and five or six others of their rifles, carrying them himself, so that they could better push the cannon. When they reached the top of the ridge, McMahon, in taking his rifle back, slapped the officer on the shoulder and said, "By thunder. Lieutenant, you ought to be a brigadier general!" At latest reports McMahon was still living in Bakersfield, though not in the best of health. When the sporting world rang with his praises his comrades were glad to say that he had a prouder distinction as a gallant soldier.

(By a comrade who saw and heard.)

Source: Sturtevant's Pictorial History, Thirteenth Regiment, Vermont Volunteers, War of 1861-1865, p. 621


John McMahon, who died suddenly in his home in Bakersfield, this state, Friday, was formerly champion collar and elbow wrestler of the world. He was a veteran of the Civil war.

Source: Vermont Phoenix, April 14, 1911
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.