A group of members of the New York 42nd Infantry – the Tammany Regiment – meets for the dedication of its monument on September 24, 1891. My great grandfather James Elson was part of this regiment, & he can be seen in the front row, fourth from left, bearded, wearing a bowler hat & carrying a cane. James was born in England in about 1845, & made his way to the United States as a young lad apprenticed to a man who has been described as a leather-worker & a checkerboard maker, but who appears to have been first & foremost a brute. Though James’s history is hazy, & he never talked much about it to his children, it seems that he escaped this unhappy situation, spent some time at the Newsboys Home in New York, met the son of a Connecticut farmer while there, & ended up working on the Southport farm while in his early teens. He also claimed to have shined Abraham Lincoln’s shoes at one time…. James enlisted in the Union army when the Civil War broke out. He was underage, but he lied about it & was accepted, joining the Tammany Regiment. He was wounded in the head at Antietam (not seriously) & went on to take a bullet in the leg at Gettysburg. Family legend has it that he cut the bullet out himself while in the field, using his trusty penknife. Later, field surgeons wanted to remove the leg, but James refused; the limb healed nicely, & though he’s shown with his cane in the photograph, he never had problems walking.
The regimental monument was dedicated when James was about 45 years old. At this time he was living in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife & family, & he became a successful foreman & inventor for the McLaughlin Brothers toy manufacturers. He also invented a folding lunchbox & a ferryboat gate!
The Tammany Regiment was named for Chief Tamanend of the Lenni Lenape Delaware tribe, a ‘friendly’ (to the British) Indian who lived from about 1628 to about 1698. To see a photo of the beautiful monument itself (the photographer here was more interested in the fellas than in the fantastic sculpture above their heads), see Tammany monument . There is a link above the photo that will take you to more information about the regiment itself.
A photograph of James, in uniform, at age 17, can be seen here .