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Frederick Downey Macomber was born in 1844 in Liverpool, England, to parents George Macomber, a fisherman, and Louisa Downey. Having migrated to the United States with his parents and becoming a resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Macomber enlisted at the age of 17, on October 14, 1861, into Company F of the 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery as a private.   Battery F, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery was mustered into federal service on October 29, 1861 at Camp Perry in Cranston, Rhode Island; with an original strength of 5 officers and 138 enlisted men. The battery was recruited by sending recruiting teams throughout the state, each taking a cannon along with them and Captain Miles G. Moies was appointed the battery's first commanding officer. Once organized, Battery F left Rhode Island on November 7th for Camp Sprague, near Washington, D.C. where the battery received its guns; four 10-pounder Parrott rifles and two 12-pounder howitzers. Captain Moies, however, for unknown reasons, resigned his commission on November 12th and 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Pope in the interim, served as acting commanding officer; with Captain James Belger, of Newport, Rhode Island, assuming command upon his arrival on November 22nd. Captain Belger commanded the battery from December 1861 to April 1863.


On December 2nd the battery moved to Camp California, near Alexandria, Virginia, and was assigned to General Sumner's division.   The battery embarked by ship on January 9th and after a difficult sea voyage,  landed at Hatteras Inlet on January 21st. The battery's horses had to be off loaded and since there were no docks which the ships could tie up to and since horses were unsuitable for transporting to shore in boats, they were simply pushed out the steamer into the water; whereupon they swam to shore. The operation took almost a full day to accomplish but no horses were injured during the unloading. On January 22nd Battery F was assigned to Williams' Brigade and quartered at Camp Winfield. On February 27, 1862 the battery embarked on a ferry boat for Roanoak Island, arriving on March 2nd. The battery's horses and a few men to care for them were landed, while the rest of the battery proceeded to New Berne; with the horses and their caretakers arriving at New Berne on the 14th. There was a battle in progress that day and despite their best efforts, the battery was unable to join the action. Nevertheless, the battery was permitted to inscribe "New Berne, March 14th, 1862" on their guidon flag..

On April 8th, 1863 Battery F performed a reconnaissance across the Neuse River and proceeded towards Little Washington as part of a force, commanded by General Spinola; attempting to relive General Foster's command which was under siege.

The next day the battery was engaged at Blount's Creek where Captain Belger was seriously wounded in the right leg, his horse having been shot from under him. He was quoted as saying, "I don't care a _____ about being wounded myself, if they hadn't killed my horse." The battery returned to New Berne on April 10th,  having marched 50 miles in just two days. On April 26th a detachment made up of Lieutenant Thomas Simpson and 14 men participated in the Siege of Fort Macon on Pamlico Sound and in April 1862 Burnside's Expeditionary Corps was redesignated, the Department of North Carolina.


On April 29th Captain Belger was granted leave and returned to Newport; being detached on recruiting service, returning to the battery on July 19th. In his absence, First Lieutenant Thomas Simpson was placed in command of the battery. The battery was also engaged in a skirmishes on May 2nd, when Corporal Benjamin F. Martingale was the first member of the battery to be killed in action.


On June 14th the battery received two new guidons, one for parade and one for drill, from friends of Captain Belger. The battery turned out in their full dress uniforms, particularly elaborate for light artillerymen, issued to the battery as a means of impressing and intimidating southerners whose land they were occupying. On June 20th the battery participated in a pageant honouring General Burnside, firing a salute in his honour and on July 4th, Battery F fired a national salute of 34 guns; one for each state in the union. General Burnside was later succeeded as commander of the Department of North Carolina, on July 6, 1862, by Major General John G. Foster. On October 29th the battery left New Berne and marched to Little Washington, N.C., where it performed reconnaissance duties.


In July 1862 Macomber was brought up on charges, accused of violating the 46th Article of War; being asleep at ones post. It was reported Macomber was regularly posted as a sentinel over the battery and fell asleep between 2 and 3 A.M. on the morning of June 5, 1862. Forced to appear before a General Court Martial convened at New Bern, North Carolina, Macomber was given a sentence of sixty days hard labour and confined at Fort Macon, North Carolina. Fortunately for Macomber, his sentence was set aside on July 8th 1862 and he was returned to duty.

On November 2nd the battery was advancing on Williamston, NC and was halted by Confederate fire at Little Creek. The battery was called up to dislodge Confederates from their positions and was successful in forcing them to retreat; first to Rawles Mill, a mile away and then to the far side of the Raonake river. The battery fired 300 rounds of ammunition, 50 per gun, during the engagements. On December 16th the Battery was engaged with the enemy at Whitehall Ferry suffering the loss of two men killed, two others severely wounded and eight horses killed. The following day at Goldsboro Railroad Bridge, three more men were wounded.


The battery then returned to New Berne, on November 12th, where it remained for the winter. In January 1863 the Department of North Carolina was redesignated the 18th Army Corps and Battery F was assigned to the artillery brigade under Colonel J.H. Ledlie. It seems Macomber didn’t learn from his first period of confinement, because the Battery Muster Roll for January and February 1863, as well as the Special Muster Roll of April 12, 1863 reveals that Macomber was again “present in confinement since February 16, 1863”.   After Several months of routine operations the battery, on October 10th, 1863, left for Fort Monroe, arriving on November 5th and camped at Newport News. On November 23rd  the battery moved to Point Lookout, Maryland and prison camp guard duty, until January 23rd, 1864.

On January 24th, 1864 the battery was sent back to Virginia and transferred to the Defences of Yorktown, Virginia, serving in the Army of the James, under the command of Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler; often referred to as “Butler the Beast”. Battery F was then assigned to the artillery brigade of the 2nd Division of the 18th Corps and from February 6th through the 8th it participated in Wistar's Expedition towards Richmond, Virginia. That raid was unsuccessful due to a traitor in the Union ranks who informed the Confederates of the plan. The traitor was eventually caught and executed.


0n April 23, 1864 the battery was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of the 18th Corps and on May 3rd the battery left Yorktown and sailed up the James River to participate in the forth coming Siege of Petersburg; arriving at Bermuda Hundred on May 6th. On May 12th the battery engaged the enemy on the Richmond and Petersburg Pike, the primary road between the two cities. On the 14th the battery was engaged at Drury's Bluff and on the 16th engaged again at the same place and lost 3 men killed, 8 wounded and 4 missing along with losing 26 horses, 2 guns and 4 limbers. The two guns lost being fully one third of the battery's fire power. It was during that engagement that Captain Belger was captured by the Confederates and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond. Although he was able to escape, he never rejoined his battery. Further records reveal the 1st Rhode Island was involved in the Wilderness Campaign on May 4, 1864, in an artillery brigade of Captain Frederick M. Follett, in Brigadier General Godfrey Weitzel’s 2nd Division, 18th Army Corps, accompanied by the 7th Battery, New York Light Artillery; with Battery E 3rd New York Light Regiment and Battery D, 4th U.S. Artillery Regiment.

Regimental histories of the 1st Rhode Island reveal it also participated in operations against Fort Darling from May 12th through the 16th 1864, during which Macomber was seriously wounded at Proctor’s Creek on May 12th, and in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff at Hampton, Virginia from May 14th through May 16th.  Macomber was transported to the Portsmouth, Rhode Island Hospital and company records listed him as being absent in the hospital from May 13, 1864 through all of October 1864; his left arm being permanently disabled. Fredrick Macomber was officially discharged from service and mustered out, on November 2, 1864


On December 5, 1863 Macomber applied for an invalid pension while living in Androscoggin County, Maine. His application was approved and a pension was granted for “3/4 disability, probably permanent, by gun-shot wound of left arm”. He was paid a sum of $6 (US) a month and it was back dated to the time of his discharge, on November 2, 1864. He was living at Auburn, Maine when he began receiving his pension and was still only 19 years of age.


In 1870 Macomber arrived in New South Wales, Australia and made his way north to the warmer climate of Queensland, around 1873. For reasons unknown, his pension had earlier been stopped and in Newcastle, New South Wales he applied for a restoration of his pension, application No. 36971, in July 1886. He informed them he was now 43 years of age, still disabled, unmarried, had no children and had received a pension for 22 years.


Macomber was found to be living in Ingles, New South Wales in 1899 and sometime after 1901 Macomber became a resident of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum in Dunwich, Queensland; under the Office of Insolvency, Intestacy and Insanity in Brisbane, Queensland. The Dunwich Benevolent Society’s register records his admission number as being 6218, but the registry reveals the last entry for 1901, was 4328; so the exact dates of his being admitted or released or being readmitted there, is uncertain.  It is known that Frederick Downey Macomber died at the Asylum, because his death certificate records his death at the Benevolent Asylum as occurring on May 1, 1909. After living in Australia for thirty-nine years, Macomber died at the age of 65 of “Valvular disease if the heart”.   Being  deprived  of  a  proper  headstone  for  his  grave, a headstone  was supplied  by  the  American  Veterans Administration  in  Washington DC and erected  on  his  gravesite in the cemetery of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum in June 1992.


Adjutant General’s Report, 1865

“Battery F, First R.I. Light Artillery”, Phillip Stephen Chase, 1892

 “Battery F, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery in the Civil War1861-1865”, 

          Philip S. Chase, 1892

“Biographical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789-1903”; Francis B. Heitman

“Compendium of the War of the Rebellion”, Frederick H. Dyer

 Dunwich Cemetery Records, Queensland

“History of Battery F, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery”,  Lieutenant Philip S. Chase.

Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool, Merseyside, England

 Queensland State Archives

Registrar General's Indexes from 1837, Liverpool, England
 Report of the Adjutant General of Rhode Island, 1865.
  “Service with Battery F”, P. S. Chase, 1889 -  U.S. Pension Files

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