Dear Old Flag
Private John Henry Shields
6th Maryland Volunteers, Company H
Early in the second year of the Civil War, the Sixth Regiment of Maryland Volunteers was organized at Baltimore. Although he had just passed his 38th birthday and had four - and possibly five - small children at home, John Henry enrolled in the newly-formed infantry regiment at Hagerstown on August 21, 1862, and was mustered into service in Baltimore in September as a private in Company "H" of the Sixth Maryland Volunteers. After a period of training which appears not to have exceeded two weeks, John Henry's regiment was attached to the Army of the Potomac and posted to the defense of Williamsport, Maryland, on September 20, 1862.
In thus enrolling in the Union Army, John Henry found himself in a situation similar to that encountered by countless other families during the War Between the States. Most of his father's brothers had settled in Tennessee during the late 1700's and early 1800's, and a number of their children - John Henry's first cousins - are known to have served in the Confederate Army. It is not known, however, that John Henry was ever directly engaged in combat with any of the units in which the Southern members of the family were enrolled.
Family records of the later 1800's record John Henry's military career as follows: "Enrolled August 21, 1862, and was mustered into service as a private of Company H, 6th Maryland Infantry". He was wounded May 9, 1864, and was discharged Feb. 6, 1865 as a private, on surgeon's certificate of disability. He is reported present on all rolls of his company except as follows: "August 31, 1863, Absent without leave. Left Regt. near Frederick Junction July 7/63." Rolls from June 30 to December 31, 1864, inclusive, bear remark, "Absent wounded May 9/64".
It was at Spottsylvania, on the second day of the battle, and the fifth consecutive day of intensive engagement by the regiment against Confederate forces, that John Henry Shields sustained - on May 9, 1864 - a wound which resulted in the loss of his left arm.
On his application for pension, filed February 7, 1865 (the day after his discharge from the Union Army), John Henry stated: "was wounded in battle, Spottsylvania, Va., May 9, 1864 by musket ball in left arm necessitating amputation near shoulder . . . "
Civil War records in the Federal Archives at Washington, D.C. reveal that John Henry Shields was admitted to Harewood Hospital, Washington D.C., on May 26, 1864 - seventeen days after the date he was wounded - and was discharged from the hospital and from the Union Army on February 6, 1865. His certificate of disability for discharge bears a notation signed by the surgeon commanding the hospital: "Loss of the left arm near the shoulder by amputation for gun shot wound received May 9th, 1864, in battle near Spottsylvania C. H., Va., in consequence of which he is totally disabled for military service and for civil occupation wholly."
John Henry's absence without leave in 1863, when he left his company at Frederick Junction on July 7, took place shortly after his regiment had rejoined the Army of the Potomac to take part in the pursuit of Lee from Northern Maryland to Manassas Gap, Virginia, after the Battle of Gettysburg. It appears highly likely that he took "'French leave" to visit his wife and family while the regiment, in the course of the pursuit, was at its closest point to his home.