Vitruvius Frederick Ashman Witcomb
by Wayne Spencer
Born: March 1820 in Bath, Somerset, England
Married: December 25, 1841 to Mary Ann Turffery at St. John the Evangelist Church,
Waterloo, South Lambeth, England
Immigrated to U.S. In January 11, 1855 with his wife and two daughters from Liverpool, England. Port of entry New York aboard the ship Southampton.
Died: in Brooklyn, NY
Vitruvius Witcomb was my Great Great Grandfather. I found his history very interesting since his name appeared in a number of census. He and his family resided in Camberwell, Surrey, England in 1851. In the June 1890 census, at age 70 he resided with his older daughter (my great-grandmother) Fanny in New York City. In the 1900 census at age 80 he resided in Brooklyn. Needed is his exact date of birth and death and the place where he is buried.
More information will be added as it is available.
Records in 48th Infantry:
WITCOMB, VITRUOIUS.—Age, 42 years. Enlisted, August
28, 1862, at Brooklyn, to serve three years; mustered in as private,
Co. H, August 30, 1862; mustered out, June 27, 1865, at
Raleigh, N. C, as Vitrivius Witeomib; also borne as Vitruvius
The following is an excerpt from "The History of the Forty-eighth
Regiment New York State Volunteers" by Abraham John Palmer
Many Personal adventures might be added, while we remained in Fort Pulaski, did space permit. For instance, the unique experience of a boat's crew of five men under the command of Lieutenant
Perry,who on September 27, 1862, were sent up the river with dispatches under a flag of truce, and
who undertook to row past the pickets and take a look at the rebel ram that was being built at
Savannah.The fire for the rifles of the pickets did not stop them, but a shot from Fort Jackson did. They were held as prisoners for three days, and then were let go. Foley, who was one of the crew,
and who has told the writer of the adventure, says that the reason the rebels let them go, he suspects, was because they were such a "lively crowd." They did not esteem themselves as the most
"shining lights" of "Perry's Saints." Their names were: Lieutenant Perry; Privates Luyster of
Company H, Smith of C, McGinniss and Foley of F, and Moon of D.
General Hunter again assumed command of the Department after the lamented death of General Mitchel,and life at Fort Pulaski resumed with us its monotony. Our duties were all routine. Many sports, however, were engaged in to while away the time, and all will recall the fishing for sheep's-head, the duck-shooting in Calabouge Sound, the rowing, baseball, and other sports. Our baseball nine was a fine success. In games with picked nines from other regiments it generally won the laurels. In a game with the nine of the Forty-seventh New York, played at Fort Pulaski, January 3, 1863, it won by a score of twenty to seven. But the great source of amusement was "the theatre." It may be doubted if anything (in that line) was as fine in in the war as the three theatres which were erected respectively at Fort Pulaski, GA, as St. Augustine, FL and at Hilton Head, SC, by the Forty-eighth Regiment, where entertainments of a not unpretentious class were given by the actors and actresses of the "Barton Dramatic Association."It so happened that there were in the Forty-eighth several
professional actors, and especially one scenic artist. Major Barrett, who was its president, has furnished from memory a list of the members of the Association, and a sketch of its career:
James A. Barrett, President
Robert Dixon, Stage Manager and Tragedy
James White, Heavy Tragedy
C.L.Harrison, Scenic Artist and Costumer
A.J.DeHaven, Property Man and Comedian
William H.Owen, James Barnes, Joseph Murphy, John Dupree, Comedy and Song
E.J.Barney, Thomas B. Wood, James S.Wyckoff, J.L.Michaels, Walking Gentlemen
Lewis W.Burr, Abraham J. Palmer, Leading Ladies
Vitruvius Witcomb, Old Lady
N.W.Pease, John Stwart, Chambermaids
The Regimental Band, Orchestra
Colonel Barton gave us permission to use an out-building, 25x70, for the purpose, and detailed all of the mechanics that were needed to do the work; and in a very short time, considering their
facilities, they had erected a very well-equipped and attractive little theatre near the north dock, with a stage at one end, private boxes, orchestra, side-scenes (parlor, kitchen, and street), and a
drop-curtain on which was painted a picture of the bombardment of the fort. They sent to New York for canvas, paint, costumes, lamps, a printing-press, and books of plays, and improvised chandelier and foot-lights of old tin-cans. The theatre seated about one hundred persons. On the opening night an address was delivered by Corporal Michaels, followed by farce "Family Jars;" that by "The Flea," by Owens of Company H; then an exhibition of light balancing by De Haven; then the first act of the tragedy of Richard III.; a song by Dickson; and the whole concluded with a tableau of Washington's grave. It was a fine success. At first we played a simple comedy, such as "Box and Cox," "The Secret, or a hole in the Wall," "Rough Diamond," and the like; but the dramatic element soon asserted itself and ventured upon three acts of "Othello," against the judgement of most of the officers, who said that they did not care to hear such a piece "murdered." The company felt that their reputation was at stake. but with White as Othello, Dickson as Iago, Burr as Desdemona, and Palmer as Emilia, the play was pronounced a great success by the few officers who had consented to witness it, and a loud call was made for the production of the whole play in five acts. This was done and received with great applause. From that time our reputation was established, and the fame of the "Barton Dramatic Association" soon spread throughout the department. Major Barett writes, "Our two leading ladies were said to be the handsomest women in the department." The regular play-nights were Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; but the fort soon became a popular resort for visitors, and we were often called on to give special entertainments for the benefit of guests.
On the night before the expedition started for Bluffington, the writer played Trudgeon in the "Ghost
on the Wall," and captivating the heart of the captain of the transport on which we embarked that night, shared his hospitality during the expedition. In this way incidental benefits came to the
In June, 1863, we closed our little theatre, and in the real tragedy in which we participated on Morris Island, the tragedies we played were soon forgotten. Subsequently the fixtures of the theatre
were transferred to St. Augustine, FL; when the remnant of the regiment was stationed there after the fatal losses at Fort Wagner. At a later period they built another theatre, 40x100, at Hilton Head,
where they played to crowded houses of citizens and soldiers, until marching orders sent them once more to the front. The "Barton Dramatic Association" has long been a story of the past, but its
memories are pleasant still to all who participated in its pleasures.