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This biography is from HEROES OF ALBANY, by Rufus W. Clark, D. D.

Capt. John A. Fee

John A. Fee was born in Albany, Jannary 16, 1837. When the guns which were fired against Sumter echoed through the north, and were awakening responses in the hearts of the loyal, Capt. Fee was at once aroused. Seeing the true position of affairs, and comprehending something of the vastness of the struggle upon which we were entering, he saw that lives would have to be given, and blood poured out, before peace would again smile upon our land.

Conceiving it to be the duty of every man, who had the interests of his country at heart, to give his services to the country in the hour of her need, he would immediately have taken part in the struggle, if the earnest persuasion of friends had not deterred him. Restless under this restraint, and impatient at being a spectator only of scenes in which he desired to be a participant, he enlisted in October, 1861, in the Ninety-first Regiment N. Y. S. V., then forming in Albany. He was at once appointed Orderly Sergeant of his company.

Upon the filling up of the regiment, they were ordered to rendezvous at Governor's Island, New York Harbor, and after a few weeks detention at that place, they were ordered to Key West, Florida, where he remained until September, 1862. While at Key West, by his gentlemanly manner, his soldierly bearing and strict attention to duty, he was called the model warrant officer of that post. He secured the approbation of his officers to such a degree, that a petition was sent to Gov. Morgan, signed by every commissioned officer in the regiment, asking that a commission be given Sergeant Fee. He was immediately appointed Second Lieutenant in the Forty-eighth Regiment N. Y. S. V., then holding Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island, Ga. Joining this regiment a stranger to all, by the exercise of those social qualities with which he was so eminently gifted, he soon surrounded himself by a circle of friends, and became one of the leading spirits of the regiment.

He remained at Tybee Island, where his company was stationed, until his regiment was sent to join the expedition under Gen. Seymour, in which was fought the battle of Olustree. After the battle, Lieut. Fee was complimented for his bravery in action. Returning to Tybee Island, he remained there (upon the resignation of his Captain) as commandant of the post until April, 1863. While in command of Tybee Island, he received a special letter of thanks from the commander of the district, for preventing a vessel, supposed at that time to be either the "Alabama" or "Florida," from entering the harbor of Savannah, then held by the rebels. Discovering her approach in the gray mist of the morning, he gave her such a warm reception with his thirty-two pounders that she quickly retreated.

The regiment being ordered to join Gen. Grant, they united with the Army of the Potomac in April, 1863. At that time Lieut. Fee received his commission as Captain. In the actions that ensued, Capt. Fee became conspicuous for his bravery among a regiment of brave men.

Never absent or sick when an engagement was about to take place, he was with his company as their leader in every engagement in which it took part. He was always careful, too, of the interests of his men, ministering to their comfort when sick or wounded.

Modest, almost to a fault, in regard to his own actions, the part he took had to be learned from others. The following extracts from a letter, received from the Orderly Sergeant of his company, after Capt. Fee's death, will show the estimation in which he was held by his company and regiment. He writes:

"We arrived in Virginia April 23, and from that period until June 30, the day on which Capt. Fee received his death wound, the regiment had been marching, picketing, skirmishing, driving the enemy from his works and occupying them; night and day exposed to the incessant and unerring fire of his sharpsliooters, so that one could scarcely hold his finger above a certain elevation, without the certainty of having it shattered. Through all this, Capt. Fee was the cool, intrepid and skillful commandant of his company, ever among the foremost in the light, inspiring his men to deeds of heroism by his noble example and gallant words of cheer; and well do they sustain in the regiment the reputation which he and they so well have won.

"The first battle in which the Forty-eighth was engaged in Virginia, was fought at Chester Hill, on the Petersburg and Richmond railroad. We landed at Bermuda Hundred on the 6th of May, bivouacked that night, and the next morning took up the line of march. The day was excessively hot, and the roads a mass of blinding dust. About two p. m. we came up with the enemy, and engaged him, the fight lasting about three hours. Our regiment took up a position in a broken field, to reach which we had to cross a deep creek, penetrate a piece of woods, and climb a steep embankment on the other side of the railroad, exposed all this time to a very heavy fire. In the same field, and within short range, was a portion of Stonewall Jackson's famous old brigade. They had with them a battery of light field pieces, and the work began a fair, stand-up field fight. Neither side would yield an inch. We kept them to their work while our troops were destroying the railroads and bridges. The object of the expedition having been accomplished, we received orders to retire.

"On that day Capt. Fee acted with his accustomed gallantry. Always exposed, and never flinching from the stern work before him, he added another leaf to the laurels he had already won. The Forty-eighth lost heavily, and our company lost twelve men.

"Our next engagement was at Drury's Bluff', fought May 16. We captured the enemy's outer works, and moved forward towards his next line, which was of the most formidable character. Our line was thin, and our flanks were exposed. They charged us six times in quick succession, and in great force, and each time they were bloodily repulsed. At length they massed their forces on our right and left, and succeeded in crushing in both flanks. An enfilading fire was the result, which it was impossible to withstand. A few moments before our flanks were turned, Capt. Fee was selected by the commanding officer of the regiment to take his company and reconnoiter the enemy's position in our front. While doing so, he had one man killed and five wounded. When we returned, our line was abandoned, and the enemy had advanced beyond it on the right and left. It was a critical position, and capture appeared inevitable; but owing to Capt. Fee's coolness and skill, and the confidence his men reposed in him, we succeeded in rejoining our regiment with a loss of only eight or ten men.

" Our next engagement was the battle of Coal Harbor, fought June 1st. On that day we marched twenty-seven miles; men died from exhaustion and sunstroke on the march. We arrived at the scene of action at the very cj-isis of the battle, and when victory was in the balance. Heated, weary and foot-sore, we formed line of battle. At once the order Avas given, " forward, double quick." The brigade dashed on with wild and deafening cheers, through the crashing of musket balls, grape and cannister, and solid shot. There was between us, where we formed our line, and the enemy's works, a ploughed field, half a mile in width. Beyond, and l)ordering that, was a narrow belt of woods, which we made penetrable, though one might suppose a bird would find it diflScult to work its wings there. Emeroino from these woods, the enemy, l)ehind strong breast works, con fronted us. We lost heavily before reaching this line of works, but the boys never wavered and never flagged for a moment. Although death was holding a high cai-nival there, they kept right on; climbed the hill crested by the works; mounted these, and either killed, captured, or put to flight their occupants. They also repulsed every attempt on the part of the enemy, to recover their fine position. In this battle, Capt. Fee was conspicuous for his bravery; earning and receiving the thanks of his commander, and the admiration of his men. It was by such reckless braver}^ as he displayed in this battle, that has secured his high position in the regiment. We remained at Coal Har])or threeor four weeks; all the time at the front, picket firing and skirmishing, with occasional charging, when the army changed its base, and l)y a flank movement we arrived in front of Petersburg. From that time until Capt. Fee's death, we occupied the front line of works. The day on which Capt. Fee received his wound, eTune 30, there was a general charge to be made along the whole line. We were outside of our works, to within a hundred jards of the enemy's works. While getting into position, Capt. Fee, and live of his company, were killed or wounded. " Capt. Fee was wounded through the right arm and body l)y a rebel sharpshooter; the ball in its course completely shattering the bone of the arm. "The surgeon of the regiment, it is said, ftiiled to treat the wound properly. Instead of removing the arm, which should have been done, or at least the splinters of bone, he merely bound up the wound. In that condition, Captain Fee was removed to Chesapeake hospital, Fort Monroe. He continued to sufler from the 30th of June until the 11th of July, when one of the splinters of ])one, working its way out of the arm, severed one of the arteries, and he nearly bled to death. When it was decided that the arm must be removed, nature had suflered so severely from loss of blood, that it was thought if attempted at that time, the patient would die in the operation. Two days afterwards it was decided that the operation should be performed. When asked l)y the surgeon in charge, if he had courage to stand the operation, his answer was, ' I have courage to stand any operation you have courage to i)erform.' The surgeon said to a relative of his afterwards, ' I never, in all my experience, saw a man exhibit such courage under intense sufiering, as that shown by Capt. Fee.' "After the removal of his arm, the surgeon saw he must die. Althouoh a man of stroug; constitution, nature could not stand such drafts. "During the day preceding his death, and until within a few hours of that event, he was conscious, and supposed he was going to recover. A few hours before his death, he became delirious, and continued so until about an hour l^efore he died, when consciousness again returned. During this delirium, lie was again on the battlefield, again in command of his company Now they were charging the enemy, and now shouting when they were driven. Then the sharp, clear notes of command would rino- out in that abode of sickness and death, and then some low, murmured words of prayer would come from his lips. "Within a short time of his death, consciousness having re turned, he became aware that he was dying; but he expressed no reo-ret, and manifested no shrinking from the foe whom he had met on so many battle fields. He said he would like to live to see the end of the war, but if otherwise ordered he was willing to go. "The only anxiety evinced by him, was in regard to his mother. He feared that she would grieve too much for his loss; that she would feel too bitterly his death when he was gone. But he committed her to the care of Him in whom he himself trusted. Havino- mven directions in regard to his eflects, and having sent messages of love to each of his absent relatives, he calmly awaited the call of the Great Commander, whose summons we must all obey. Almost his last words were, ' I have given my life for my country.J V

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