Held by The Filson Historical Society
Creator: Nathan S. Brinton
Title: Papers, 1863-1864
Rights: For information regarding literary and copyright interest for these papers, contact the Curator of Special Collections.
Size of Collection: 0.33 cubic feet
Location Number: Mss./A/B858c
Scope and Content Note
These are the papers of Major Nathan Sharpless Brinton which chiefly document the loss of $2.6 million of Union Army payroll during the sinking of the Steamer Ruth on the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois on the night of 4 August 1863. Brinton was paymaster for the money, and collected documents related to the trial held to determine his culpability in the loss. Papers include statements by witnesses, proceedings of a court of inquiry, a board of survey report, and General Order No. 344 which found no misconduct in the loss of the funds. Finally, there is also an 1864 letter of promotion to Brinton’s younger brother, Joseph Painter Brinton.
Folder 1 consists of statements and depositions by various witnesses and other individuals associated with the Steamer Ruth . It is likely that versions or copies of these documents are found in “Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry…” Statements and depositions are included from Peter Vandevort (Pilot of the Ruth), Major William H. Jameson (Paymaster), Major J. W. Brigden (Paymaster), Major George L. Febiger (Paymaster), Major J. M. Pumphrey (Paymaster), Major T. D. Greenwalt (Paymaster), L. S. Ellithorp (Diver), and J. H. Beidler (Doctor). These documents are dated August 1863. Folder 1 of this collection has been digitized. To view PDF scans, click on the links provided in the folder list below.
Folder 2 consists of a document entitled “Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry Commenced by the Special Orders No. 408 Was Department Adjunct General’s Office, Washington, Sept. 11 th 1863. Destruction of Steamer Ruth by Fire!” This is a copy of court proceedings and statements prepared for Major Nathan S. Brinton regarding the destruction of the Union Army payroll on the Steamer Ruth .
The examinations and statements concern the fire on board the Steamer Ruth , possible causes, the subsequent sinking of the Ruth , and the destruction of the Union Army payroll on the ship. Witnesses discuss where they were when the fire broke out, their subsequent actions, and what they witnessed during the fire and subsequent evacuation of the ship. Witnesses are also questioned as to any possible allegiance or sympathy to the Confederate States of America.
As it was compiled from two or possibly three separate sources, and the pagination within the second portion is not in order, the logical order of this document can be confusing. A general table of contents is as follows:
Page 1-63: Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry
Page 1: Table of Contents for pages 2-38
Page 2-38: Evidence in the matter of the Burning of the “Ruth”
Page 56-39 (pages are in reverse order): Evidence in the matter of the Burning of the “Ruth”
Unnumbered page: Table of Contents for pages 39-81
Page 57-82: Evidence in the matter of the Burning of the “Ruth”
The document in Folder 2 begins with the Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry (pages 1-63), which contains the following contents:
Page 1: Details for the Court
Page 3: Examination of Major William H. Jameson, Additional Paymaster
Page 7: Examination of Major James A. Farrish, Additional Paymaster
Page 8: Examination of Major George L. Febiger, Paymaster
Page 12: Examination of Benjamin R. Pegram, Captain Steamer Ruth
Page 16: Examination of Humphrey G. Root, Clerk Treasury Department, Washington, D.C.
Page 19: Examination of Peter Vanderwort, chief engineer of the Steamer Ruth
Page 22: Examination of Major Nathan L. Brinton, Paymaster
Page 29: Examination of Henry Goddard, clerk to Major Brinton
Page 31: Examination of Andrew Fleming, Pilot on Steamer Ruth
Page 31: Examination of James A. Spencer, second clerk on Steamer Ruth
Page 33: Examination of James Cain, first mate on Steamer Ruth
Page 37: Examination of Milo L. Moore, carpenter on Steamer Ruth
Page 41: Opinion of the court
Page 44: Statement of Major William H. Jameson, Additional Paymaster
Page 47: Statement of Major William H. Jameson, Additional Paymaster
Page 49: Statement of Major James A. Farrish, Additional Paymaster
Page 55: Statement of Major Nathan L. Brinton, Paymaster
There is then a second document entitled “Evidence in the matter of the Burning of the ‘Ruth’ Taken Before the Board of Survey.” This contains examinations of the following individuals:
Page 2: Examination of Major Nathan L. Brinton, Paymaster
Page 13: Examination of Henry L. Goddard, Paymaster’s Clerk
Page 18: Examination of Major Josiah Tilden, Paymaster
Page 21: Examination of Major T. D. Greenwalt, Paymaster
Page 26: Examination of Major William Wallace White, Paymaster
After the last page of the examination of Major William Wallace White (page 38) the page count begins on page 56, counts down to page 39, has a table of contents related to pages 39 to 82, and then begins on page 57 and counts pages up to page 82.
The table of contents for these pages reads as follows:
Page 39: J. L. Greves, Paymaster’s Clerk
Page 40: Major J. W. Brigden, Paymaster
Page 43: Charles A. Clark, Teamster
Page 45: Delany Blackwood, Chambermaid
Page 48: Margaret Ann Hill, Chambermaid
Page 51: Major George L. Febiger, Paymaster
Page 54: H. H. Wernse, Teller Assistant Treasurer
Page 56: Daniel Kelcher, Watchman U. S. Treasury
Page 58: Sergeant Sebastian Worth, Company I 9 th Wisconsin Volunteers, Guard
Page 60: Benjamin Farrar, U. S. Treasurer
Page 61: Corporal John Dieterle, Company I 9 th Wisconsin Volunteers, Guard
Page 62: Private Phillip Sohns, Company I 9 th Wisconsin Volunteers, Guard
Page 64: Private Anton Wibes, Company I 9 th Wisconsin Volunteers, Guard
Page 65: Captain Benjamin R. Pegram, Master of Ruth
Page 70: Peter Vandevort, Pilot of Ruth
Page 74: Major W. B. Mendenhall, Paymaster
Page 77: Captain Phillip Kruer, Commander of the Guard
Page 81: Major N. S. Brinton, Paymaster
Folder 3 consists of the Report of the Board of Survey. This ten page document summarizes the movement of the money from Washington, D. C. to the Steamer Ruth, the evidence brought before the court, and the findings of the court. It is dated September 1863.
Folder 4 consists of a print copy of General Order No. 344, which states that the court of inquiry finds that the Steamer Ruth was destroyed by an incendiary, and that no government official is guilty of misconduct or neglect in the loss of the Union Army payroll. This document is dated 19 October 1863.
Folder 5 consists of a letter promoting Joseph P. Brinton to brevet Colonel. This letter is dated 10 November 1864 and is signed by Edward Stanton, Secretary of War. An envelope is included in this folder. Joseph was the younger brother of Nathan S. Brinton.
Nathan Sharpless Brinton was born 10 November 1829 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He married Mary D. Buckley, and the two apparently had no children. Brinton was commissioned in the Union Army as a Major and Additional Paymaster 1 June 1861. On 4 August 1865 Brinton was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel, and honorably mustered out 1 October 1865. He died 25 September 1914, and his wife died August 13, 2013.
Folder 1: Statements and Depositions, August 1863 (click links below to access PDFs)
Folder 2: Court of Inquiry into the Destruction of the Steamer Ruth , 11 September 1863
Folder 3: Report of the Board of Survey, September 1863
Folder 4: General Order No. 344, 19 October 1863
Folder 5: Joseph Painter Brinton Letter of Promotion, 10 November 1864
Brinton, Joseph Painter, 1835-1915
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry
Deep diving – Mississippi River
Mississippi River Valley – History – Civil War, 1861-1865
Stanton, Edwin McMasters, 1814-1869
Steamboats – Fires
Steamboats – Ruth
United States. Army. Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, 9th (1861-1866). Company I
United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Destruction and pillage
United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Equipment and supplies
United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Naval operations
United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Transportation