William Manross was the second of nine children of Jesse Manross and Eleanor Preston: Prudence 1788, William 1790, Sally 1792, Asa L. 1794, Gates W. 1797, Dimmis 1799, George Washington 1802, Lovina 1805, Matilda 1809. William, the oldest son, was born August 12, 1790 in Essex, Vt. The Manross family moved to Bristol, VT in 1810 and William appears in early town records. His father, Jesse, was appointed Surveyor of Highways, and William was appointed Hayward (Official in Charge of Fences). The records also showed he was admitted as a Freeman. This meant he was a full citizen of the town and had the right to vote in town meetings and run for public office.
The War of 1812 was the British attempt to recapture the American Colonies. William served in Vermont’s Light Dragoons beginning in March of 1812. In April, 1813 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and was honorably discharged in June, 1814. Then the British became more aggressive. On August 24, 1814 the British attacked Washington DC and burned the White House. Word had spread that the British planned a campaign to cut New England off from the rest of the country with an attack on Plattsburg, NY at the head of Lake Champlain. Thousands of Patriots rallied to the cause, including William, who joined the Volunteers for Plattsburgh on September 9, 1814. On September 11, 1814 a large force of British soldiers were met by the Patriot volunteers. The small fleet of American naval ships that were on Lake Champlain went up against a much larger British fleet. Against all odds, the Patriots prevailed against the final invasion of the Northern States. Following shortly thereafter with the successful Patriot defense of Baltimore, the British signed the Treaty of Ghent to end the war.
A couple of months later William married Sally Copeland in Bristol, VT. William’s father, Jesse, had died on Mar 13,1813 in Bristol, VT. Jesse was survived by his wife Eleanor, and all nine children. That left William, the oldest son, the patriarch of the family. Vermont was having significant economic issues as a result of the war and the collapse of prices. There were also epidemics of spotted fever and tuberculosis. The accumulated afflictions and misfortunes made dreams of a paradise further west sound all the rosier. The decision was made to migrate toward northwestern Pennsylvania to start a new life. The entire family left Bristol, VT.
On their way to northwestern PA, William and Sally had their first child. Clarissa, was born in Genesee County, New York. In all, they had six children: Clarissa 1818, Henry W. 1820, Almira 1824, Ira L. 1826, Otis, 1836, Matilda 1844. The next five children were born in Pennsylvania.
The Manross Family arrived in Pennsylvania in 1818. In the 1820 US Census they were shown to be living in Allegheny Township, Venango County, PA. That same year their first son, Reverend Henry W Manross, was born. In 1821, in Allegheny Township, it was reported that William Manross had 100 acres, one yoke oxen, and two cows for a total value of $169.00
William supported his family with a sawmill he built in 1823 along with Isaac Ball and Luther Barnes. For a number of years they manufactured lumber which was rafted to Pittsburgh. Many years they could only get $4 per thousand and were compelled to take most of that in trade. In 1824 William was elected Supervisor of Allegheny Township.
The History of Forest County reports an incident at the lumber mill. “Manross, while drawing up a log one night caught his hand between the bull rope and the shaft. His arm was drawn into the shoulder, and how many times he went over the shaft before he could make them hear him at the house, he never knew. His arm was useless afterward. It used to be said that the usual supply of the necessaries of life at Balltown was one barrel of flour and two barrels of whiskey.”
Isaac Ball’s grandson, Isaac Ball III, married William’s daughter Sally Manross. Four generations later the actress, Lucille Ball, was born. Lucy is a descendant of William Manross.
In the 1830 US Census William’s family is shown to be living in Tionesta, Venango County, PA. Allegheny township was renamed Tionesta. Eleanor Manross, the widow of Jesse Manross, died January 21, 1830, in Venango County. William and Sally’s family continued to grow. The last child, Matilda, was born in 1844. Between Matilda’s birth and 1850, William’s wife, Sally, died. In the 1850 US Census William is shown living in Tionesta, Venango County with his 14 year-old son Otis. His assets had grown to $500. William died in October 1852 and is buried in the Whig Hill Cemetery. I have had the opportunity to visit many of the areas where the Manross Family lived in the 1800’s. I found William’s grave and was fascinated to see that his headstone read William Monross and the footstone read William Manross. His father Jesse also appears with both spellings in various records. Each gravestone proudly said “Soldier of the War of 1812” and a small flag was placed next to his grave by a group that honors veterans of American wars.
Otis Manross and the Civil War
Otis, the youngest son of William and Sally, was born in 1836 in Allegheny Township, Venango County, PA. He was 16 when his father died. Otis enlisted in the 83rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers August 28, 1861 He served until his death from wounds received during the battle of Laurel Hill, VA. On May 18, 1864. Some of the major battles he participated in: Defense of Washington DC, Manassas, Mechanicsville, Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, and Laurel Hill.
Gettysburg, PA July 3, 1863 Little Round Top
“Early on the morning of the 3rd of July, the 83rd arrived on the battlefield of Gettysburg, and immediately formed in line in support of artillery posted on the center, and at four PM, when the battle was waxing hot upon the extreme left, Vincent’s Brigade was ordered to move rapidly and take position on Little Round Top, which was now beginning to be threatened, Sickles’s line, that had covered it, having given way. Several pieces of artillery had been dragged to its summit, but were without supports. Little Round Top is a granite spur, rising abruptly on all sides a hundred or more feet, of an area of three or four acres, and covered with massive ragged rocks, and a scattered growth of trees and bushes. It was a key-point to our position, and its occupation was vital to the safety of the army. Passing across the rear and left of the hill, Vincent posted his brigade on its front, the 16th Michigan on the right, facing an open swamp, the 20th Maine on the left, facing the valley between Round Top and Little Round Top, the 44th New York on the right center, and the 83rd Pennsylvania on the left center. Each rock was a fortress, behind which the soldier instantly took shelter.
Scarcely was the line established, when a powerful body of Longstreet’s Corps, let by Hood, came on at double-quick, with bayonets fixed, and uttering unearthly yells, intent on carrying this coveted position, and annihilating its defenders. He struck first the center, where were the 83rd and 44th. Rapid volleys from their well poised muskets checked his fiery onset. Finding it vain to face this deadly storm, he turned to the left; and here, at first, with some success; for the 16th having less protection, quailed before him; but supports were sent in, and by the exertions of officers the ground was again recovered. Here while re-forming his line and directing the fight, Colonel Vincent was mortally wounded. He was laid upon a stretcher and carried to the rear. Colonel Rice of the 44th, succeeded to the command.
Failing upon the center and right, the enemy now re-formed his ranks, and moved with even greater daring and pertinacity upon the left. As he passed the front of the 44th and the 83rd they gave him a volley; but without heeding it, he passed on through the wooded vale, and burst with renewed violence upon the left flank. The left of the 20th had not support and Colonel Chamberlain, to give as much protection to the rear as possible, had re-formed it so that it formed nearly a right angle with the main line. The enemy’s mad onset was met with unflinching firmness. The contest was soon at close quarters, the men clubbing their muskets, and struggling with desperate valor for the mastery. The enemy had pushed through the valley, until his line lapped around the left, and his shots began to reach the 83rd in rear. But the steady fire of the brigade had told fearfully upon his ranks, and his fire began to slacken. Colonel Chamberlain noticing this, ordered a charge, and advancing with a yell, drove and scattered his remaining force, and captured a number of prisoners. At this moment a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves came to its support and the enemy, seeing reinforcements, fell back in disorder. The skirmishers of the 83rd dashed forward in pursuit, and brought in seventy-four prisoners, and over three hundred stand of arms. The brigade remained masters of the field – ever a glorious field – and the position was not again seriously menaced.” From “A Brief History of the 83rd Pennsylvania.”
Laurel Hill, VA May 8, 1864
“During the night of the 7th the corps moved on toward Spottsylvania, and at Laurel Hill, six miles from the Court House, found the enemy across its path. It was supposed that only the cavalry was in front, and that the infantry had only to show itself to clear the way. The 83rd was ordered into position on the right of the road, the 44th on the left, and advanced under cover of two pieces of artillery. The troops were weary, and little enthusiasm in the charge could be excited. At the brow of the hill the rebel skirmishers were met and driven. It now became apparent that the enemy’s infantry was present in force; but the line moved on, and now at a double-quick with fixed bayonets. As the 83rd approached the wood where the enemy lay, it received a volley, and here it was discovered that they were protected by a breastwork of logs and rails, prepared to receive an assault. Secure in their position and in largely superior force, the rebels poured in a murderous fire. Maddened by this merciless slaughter, the 83rd rushed up to the very works, and a desperate hand to hand conflict ensued, in which bayonet thrusts were given and parried, several men of the 83rd crossing the works and striving with desperate valor to drive out the foe. For half an hour did these two small regiments maintain the unequal contest, much of the time at close quarters; but were finally compelled to retire, having suffered a most grievous loss. The two lines, scarcely eighty rods apart were thoroughly fortified during the night. The regiment had about fifty killed, and over a hundred wounded or taken prisoners. From its entrance to the Wilderness fight, to this time, it had lost over three hundred men.” From “A Brief History of the 83rd Pennsylvania.”
Otis Manross was wounded in the Laurel Hill, VA battle on May 8, 1864 and died 10 days later.
Manross soldiers in the Civil War
Captain Newton Manross, son of Elisha Manross. Newton, a professor at Amherst College, was appointed Captain of the hastily formed Company K 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. The unit was formed because of the urgency to stop the Confederate invasion of the North at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the war. At the age of 37 Captain Manross was struck by a cannon ball and expired two hours later on September 17, 1862. The invasion had been stopped and the Confederates retreated back to Virginia.
Eli Manross, brother of Captain Newton Manross. Eli enlisted in Company B, Connecticut 5th Infantry Regiment on July 22, 1861 and served as a Corporal before being promoted to Sergeant. Some of the major battles Eli and his unit participated in were the Second Battle of Bull Run, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He was wounded at Chancellorsville but remained in the army through July, 1864.
John Manross, brother of Captain Newton Manross. John enlisted in Company B Connecticut 2nd Heavy Artillery Regiment on January 1864. He and his unit participated in several key battles: Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Washington DC, and in General Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign August to December, 1864. On January 31, 1865 he received a disability discharge due to medical issues caused by firing artillery for 12 months.
Otis Manross, (above) son of William Manross. Otis enlisted in the 83rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers August 28, 1861. Some of the major battles he participated in: Defense of Washington DC, Manassas, Mechanicsville, Battle of Bull run, Antietam, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness and Laurel Hill. The Battle of Laurel Hill was one of the few in which the bayonet was used to any extent. The Union soldiers faced a brigade which outnumbered them in both men and firepower and launched a bayonet charge. Otis was wounded in the Laurel Hill, VA Battle on May 8, 1864 and died 10 days later.
Preston L Manross, son of Asa L Manross. Preston enlisted in Company D, Pennsylvania 18th Cavalry Regiment on September 20, 1862. Preston and his unit participated in the following major battles: Gettysburg, Hagerstown, Rappahannock Station, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Charlestown, and Cedar Creek. He was discharged June 12, 1865 following the surrender by General Lee at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
Elliot Manross, son of William Harrison Manross. Served in the 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. He and his regiment participated in the following key battles: Battle of Antietam, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
Gates H. Manross, son of Asa L Manross. Gates enlisted as a Sergeant on June 27, 1863 following the Pennsylvania Governor’s June 26th call for 60,000 men to enlist at once to stop the Confederate Army at Gettysburg. The 56th was the second Union infantry regiment on the field on July 1st and the first to open fire on the Confederates. They later retreated to successfully defend Culp’s Hill for the rest of the battle. Gates and most of the regiment was mustered out after the successful Battle at Gettysburg.
William Manross and the road to Pennsylvania