Bodamer, John A.
Rank : Sgt.
Regiment : 24th New York Cavalry Regiment. Co. M (1863-1865)
Service : 1861-1870 November 25
From the beginning days of the Civil War in April, 1861, John Bodamer was a drummer in the 21st New York Infantry. After serving through several campaigns in Virginia and Maryland, he was honorably discharged in May, 1863. On December 26, Bodamer reenlisted at Buffalo, N.Y., as a Corporal in Co. M, 24th New York Cavalry. The regiment left the state at the end of February, 1864, and served under quiet conditions, dismounted in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., until the end of May. Once remounted and attached to the Army of the Potomac, revitalized by the new leadership of Ulysses Grant, they entered into a seemingly unbroken string of bitter engagements, including the Wilderness, Spotsylvania C.H., North Anna River, Cold Harbor, Bethesda Church, and Petersburg. Exhaustion clearly took its toll on the regiment: "Three men died last night on the march.," wrote Bodamer; "One time a thousand men layed on either side of the road completely played out" (1864 May 29). After Cold Harbor, Bodamer remarked on how both sides seem to have played out, exchanging fire only lackadaisically, "both parties do not seem to care a great deal about firing" (1864 June 11).
On June 15th, Bodamer joined in the first assault on Petersburg, an engagement "where our boys dropped like rain" (1864 June 18), but otherwise accomplished little. On July 30, the 24th N.Y. Cavalry fought alongside a "colored" regiment during the disastrous Mine Assault. Bodamer insisted that the "colored" troops went in well, but "ran like sheep" when charged by the Confederates, and he was enraged at being asked to serve with Blacks: "I say put the niggers out of our Corps as I don't want to be in the Corps they are in" (1864 July 30).
While on duty following the Battle of Weldon Railroad, Bodamer and his entire detail of almost 400 men from the 24th Cavalry were taken as prisoners of war. Transported through Petersburg and Richmond, the men experienced inhuman conditions in a series of Confederate prison camps, including Libby, Belle Isle, and Danville.
Bodamer witnessed what he claimed were two murders by guards. In the first, the guard, a 15 year old boy, shot a prisoner in revenge for a brother killed by Union soldiers, and following the second incident, Bodamer claimed the guard was actually promoted, rather than punished. Death also visited the prison through accident or neglect. In one of the more gruesome episodes witnessed by Bodamer, a prisoner was eaten alive by hogs while too ill to fend them off. Making matters worse, hunger and the elements worsened as winter set it. By November, "the screams in Prison No. 6, pen and language cannot express the misery that exist" (1864 Nov. 6). Bodamer survived the winter and was paroled in February, 1865. He appears to have transferred into the regular army after the war, and was discharged as a 1st Lieutenant in the 10th Cavalry in November, 1870.