During Civil War days is was often a fact that a soldier or sailor signed up for service under a name other than their own. Ontario or Quebec born Asa Hagert was such a fellow. His army name to start with was Asel Hagerty, but during the one year he served in the 61st New York Infantry and the paper trail after the war, it has resulted in his spelling his name four different ways. But regardless, this 37 yr old signed up in NY with the 61st in August of 1864 and thought that he would try something other than making shoes for a living.
He started with a windfall, almost like winning the lottery of the day. He was given $300 from a fellow who got drafted by decided that he would find a replacement that would do the soldiering for him and along came Hagerty. In those days the $300 was enough to buy a man a farm. His monthly wage in the service would have been about $13,
Hagerty's first duties were at Hart's Island NY but he was soon moved to the 61st where initial duties would have him acting as an aide to the Regimental Adjutant and in charge of mail services. But soon he would be at the front lines and facing the horrible battle at a place called Sailors (Sayler's) Creek Virginia. Here the Confederates with about 11,500 soldiers would duel with the Union's 15000-16000 soldiers. It would onlt be a day long battle and the Union would end up with some 1150 casualties. The Confederate casualties numbers seems unknown but one figure suggest it could be as high as 8,000. All in just one day's work. Nine Southerm Generals alone would be captured that day.
Here you can see the Union troops in blue forcing the Confederates still further south and towards the Appomattox Court House.
The Confederates were routed and in battle lost more than 40 of their regimental or national flags or colours.
On 10 May 1865 Major General Meade, who was then the commander of the Army of the Potomac wrote to breveted Brig. General ED Townsend. He advised that he had given a furlough and leave of absence to 42 different men who were being accompanied to DC to present Townsend, who was then the Assistant Adj. General.. with the very flags they captured from the enemy. Private Asel Hagerty was one of the proud bearers of a flag. He and the others were also recommended by Meade for the Medal of Honor.
For those following this blog from the beginning you will hopefully recall the name Townsend from one of the earliest blogs. He was one of those who helped push through the recommendations for the very creation of the medal back in 1862.
MOH resource materials do not seem to have much available info on Hagerty. His citation is documented as being nothing more than... "Captured enemy flag." But further research has located Meade's letter to Townsend in which he identifies the flag as being that of the 4th North Carolina Infantry, a southern unit. This unit must have been very brave. It fought in over 60 skirmishes or battles throughout the war and the loss of its flag must have been quite devastating to the regiment.
This is the very flag that Hagerty captured.
The incredible losses at Saylors Creek were witnessed by none other than General Lee who was looking on at the battle from high upon a hill. He was devastated and just three days later he surrendered his army at Appomattox. The Union generals showed their respect for their enemy by standing and saluting the Confederates as they marched past, bringing the war an end after four years and over 1,000,000 soldiers and sailors killing each other. More were lost in this war than all other US wars COMBINED.
Asel was released from the military in 1865 and moved to the Defiance area of Ohio where he would get married in 1878 and made a living till retirement in the dry goods and other business ventures including farming.
His grave became lost to the MOH world and about 1984 a search was put on to try and find out where this hero was buried. It was finally found and confirmed in 1994 by earlier members of the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US, of which I am a member. They then went about having a suitable marker made and placed at his place of rest and conducted a full military unveiling in 1995.
This is Hagerty's new marker front and back. The back is most unusual, and it is doubtful that there are others like it.
It is a wonderful reminder to all readers that not only was this Canadian an American war hero but he was also very instrumental in the closing days of the war..to actually help bring it to an end.
His battle took place 148 years ago this Saturday.