Summary

Conflict Period:
Civil War (Union) 1
Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Sergeant 1
Birth:
11 Feb 1839 2
Monmouth, Maine 2
Maine 1
Death:
28 Mar 1910 2
Maine 2
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Andrew Jackson Tozier 2
Full Name:
Andrew J Tozier 1
Birth:
11 Feb 1839 2
Monmouth, Maine 2
Maine 1
Male 2
Death:
28 Mar 1910 2
Maine 2
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Civil War (Union) 1

Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
Sergeant 1
Enlistment Location:
Maine 1
Date:
02 Jul 1863 1
Location:
At Gettysburg, Pa 1
Military Unit:
Company I, 20th Maine Infantry 1

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Stories

At the crisis of the engagement this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet.

Andrew Jackson Tozier, commonly known as A.J. Tozier, Sr., was born in Monmouth, Maine, on February 11, 1839.  He was son of John H. Tozier and Cathirza (Arno) (Cushman) Tozier.  When he was a child, his family removed to Plymouth, Maine, and at about the age of ten years Andrew left home and went to sea.  He returned home in 1861 and enlisted in the Company F of the 2nd Maine Infantry Volunteers.

A.J. Tozier is best known for his actions on Little Round Top during the battle of Gettysburg which resulted in his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  It should be noted, however, that prior to his transfer to the 20th Maine Infantry Volunteers and the battle of Gettysburg, A.J. Tozier had experienced an incredible amount of combat.  He had been wounded four times, taken prisoner by the Confederates, paroled by the Confederates to a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, and returned by a prisoner exchange to the Union Army.  He would suffer from the effects of his wounds for the rest of his life - particularly from a Minie ball which lodged in his skull behind his ear.

After his discharge, A.J. married Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bolden of Litchfield.  He and his family lived for a time with his former commanding officer, Joshua Chamberlain, who was then the president of Bowdoin College.  He would later purchase a farm in Litchfield on Hardscrabble Road.  He died in 1910 and is buried in the Litchfield Plains Cemetery.  Among his descendents still living in Litchfield are: Helen (Tozier) Allen, Marlene (Tozier) Cook, and Lorraine (Woodman) Kenny.

Much more information about this remarkable man is available through the Historical Society of Litchfield.

The citation is simple enough: "At the crisis of the engagement this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet." But this simple 35 word citation, written by Joshua Chamberlain 30+ years after the fact, hardly does justice to the complex, compelling and just plain interesting story behind the Congressional Medal of Honor award to Sgt Andrew Tozier for actions on Little Round Top.

Andrew Tozier was born in Monmouth, ME on February 11, 1838. He spent most of his childhood living in Litchfield, ME, a small farming community about half-way between Augusta and Lewiston. He apparently had quite the independent streak in him, because as a teenager he ran away from home and "followed the sea". In response to President Lincoln's first call for troops, he joined the 2nd Maine Infantry, mustering in at Bangor on July 15, 1861 for what he thought was a 2 year enlistment.

The 2nd Maine Infantry was a colorful regiment of "contentious men". In the words of John Pullen, "if there was a fight going on they probably would have been in it and may have won it."1 A large number of the regiment's muster rolls were taken up by lumberjacks and sailors from Bangor and points north. These were men who were already used to lives of hardship in the logging camps and river drives, and on squalid merchant vessels plying the oceans. They were as tough as rusty nails from the start, and it showed in their tumultuous time in service. The 2nd had a reputation as a tough, stubborn, unyielding combat unit who were just as tough and stubborn when in camp. The regiment had its baptism of fire at First Bull Run where it produced its first Medal of Honor recipient. They went on to fight seemingly everywhere, from the Peninsula (notably at Hanover Courthouse) all the way through Chancellorsville. It's safe to say that by June, 1863 the 2nd Maine was as battle-hardened and veteran a unit as any in the Army of the Potomac. The men of the regiment fully expected to be mustered out and sent home when their terms of enlistment expired that June, and this was the case for many of the men, but....

....Not all of them, including Andy Tozier. What followed was a bureaucratic fiasco worsened by the military's inherent propensity to follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit. 

It seems when the regiment was recruited, the men intended to enlist for two years, not three. Over 100 men were

"recruited as members of the 2nd Maine and promised that [the] three-year enlistment papers [they signed] were only a formality. When the 2nd was formed in Bangor, they were enrolled for ninety days under the old militia laws. When they left the state, they had re-enrolled for two years under a legislative act creating ten volunteer regiments. When they were mustered into Federal service at Willett's Point, Long Island, only three-year men were being enrolled. No problem said about half the men, fearing the war would be over before they reached Washington. The other half just said no; they weren't signing any more papers that lengthened their service, theoretically or otherwise."2

We can sit back 150 years after the fact, shrug our shoulders and say they should have known better than to sign anything on a promise of future understanding. That would be unfair. This happened in an age when citizens weren't nearly as cynical as we are today. To them, one's word was as good as a signed piece of paper. If you made a promise, well by God you kept it. It was almost unthinkable to people of that era that the government could be so devious and underhanded in dealing with its citizens. Naive? Sure, but in 1861 such naivete was the norm. 

All of this came to a head after the Battle of Chancellorsville, just as Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia began their foray north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The men of the regiment who said "No thanks" when asked to sign papers changing their two-year enlistments to three years were sent home to be mustered out as they originally expected. The rest, those who naively believed the government would do right by them when the time came, were about to find out the military bureaucracy could be every bit as stubborn as they were, and a lot less honorable to boot. After their counterparts left, the unhappy three-year men entered a kind of limbo, an uneasy no-mans-land outside the ordinary structure of the military hierarchy. They were in a face-off against a government they saw as dishonest, which in turn saw the men as no better than mutinous shirkers in a time war. They were shuffled around, often not fed and always threatened with court-martial, prison and even the firing squad. They were, in the words of Joshua Chamberlain "falsely dealt with," and the whole sordid affair was "clumsily done."

This begs the question of why Chamberlain would be concerned about men from another regiment. In its infinite wisdom, not willing to back down and not knowing what else to do with them, the powers-that-be dumped the 100 or so "mutineers" in the lap of Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. Chamberlain could fold them into his regiment if he wanted, turn them over to the Provost Marshal when things settled down, or he could shoot them if the need arose. Like it or not, the angry orphans of the 2nd Maine were now Chamberlain's problem. In the meantime, it was clear to all that some sort of confrontation with the Army of Northern Virginia was inevitable. No one knew when or where, but it was likely going to be sooner rather than later. There wasn't much time to repair a situation like this, but that was the challenge Chamberlain faced. How he handled it, as much as his actions on Little Round Top, marked him as a gifted leader.

Ideally, Chamberlain wanted the men folded into his regiment. Extra manpower was always welcome, and these men were hardened combat veterans. The men of the 20th were relatively unbloodied, and they could use some veteran leadership to stiffen them when things got tough. Obviously, it wasn't that simple. Badly treated at every turn, and feeling they'd done their part, the men of the 2nd were not apt to rally 'round the flag for just anyone. The first thing Chamberlain did was get the men of the 2nd some food. Then he heard them out. He listened to their story of the shabby way they'd been treated. He was impressed. After listening to the men, he told them bluntly that he thought they were in the right, but they had no choice. There was nothing he could do about things right now. As far as the military was concerned, they'd signed for three years and that was their obligation. If the men agreed to serve, Chamberlain would give them every opportunity to right the wrong, helping them as much as he could. Chamberlain was as good as his word. He wrote a blunt letter to Governor Coburn, stating

"The transfer of the 'three years men' of the 2nd Maine has been clumsily done... you are aware Governor that promises were made to induce these men to enlist, which are not now kept, and I must say I that I sympathize with them in their view of the case. Assured as they were that they would be mustered out with the 2nd, they cannot but feel they were falsely dealt with."

He urged the Governor to respond to the men's petition. Mutinous or not, in the end they were "all really good and true men."3

Whatever he actually said must have been what these men needed to hear, because the great majority of them actually joined the 20th. In fact, only half a dozen or so refused Chamberlain's offer. In the long run, all of the men accepted their fate, except for one hard case, Pvt Henry Moore. Moore never backed down even after being sentenced to death -- a sentence commuted by President Lincoln. Imprisoned instead, he was released at the end of the war, returning home to become lost to history.

Won over, it was up to Chamberlain to parcel out his new men. He shook up the entire regiment, moving some of his own men to different companies and spreading the 2nd Maine men into others. He broke them up as much as he could to quiet their mutinous spirit, and to give his companies some much needed veteran influence. Perhaps his most inspired decision was making Sgt Andrew Tozier as the color sergeant of the 20th Maine. This was actually a bold move. Color sergeant was one of the most coveted positions in the regiment, and doubtless other original 20th Maine men felt they deserved it more than some mutinous newcomer. But the decision was made.

Tozier had seen a lot in the two years since his mustering in, more than most men see in a lifetime. He was wounded twice in the same battle, Gaines' Mill; an ankle wound that left him with a permanent limp, and he had his left middle finger shot off. He was captured on the Peninsula and spent time in both Libby Prison and Belle Isle before being exchanged.4 Now, unexpectedly, his initial 2 year obligation had been unilaterally extended for another year. He again found himself marching in the suffocating summer heat, this time with a new and untested regiment. The marches were forced and very hard. At the end of the line lay the 20th's date with destiny.

There's no need to rehash the entire confrontation on the slopes of Little Round Top. Suffice to say, the entire 3rd Brigade of Barnes' 1st Division, V Corps found itself atop and along the slopes of Little Round Top, the tail end of the Union line, with the 20th's right butted up against the 83rd PA. They all shuffled into position, erecting what protective cover they could, and prepared to meet the coming onslaught of ferocious rebel troops.

We don't know much, relativelty speaking, about what Andy Tozier did that day. What we do know comes down to us in dribs and drabs, usually written many years after the fact. Tozier didn't keep a diary, and in fact there are no pictures of him before, during or after the war that I'm able to find. He simply went about doing his job quietly and efficiently. We do know he had to have had some solid soldierly qualities for Chamberlain to make him regimental color sergeant. That was not a position given to just anyone. For the enlisted man, it was the highest level of responsibility available. The color bearers had to be out there at the very front, holding the regiment's flags high enough to be seen through the smoke and confusion to provide a rallying point for everyone else. The casualty rate among color bearers was extraordinarily high. I haven't seen actual figures, but my guess would be between 50% and 75%. So Tozier, a member of the regiment for a matter of days, after being labeled a mutineer, found himself at the center of the unfolding maelstrom.

So, late in the afternoon, the men of the 20th readied themselves as best they could for the coming assault by Oates' brigade of Alabamians. It's safe to say both units were just about spent after some seriously hard marching in the steamy heat of July, with little rest and even less food or water. The attacking Alabamians slightly outnumbered the Maine boys, but this already miniscule advantage was more than offset by their need to attack uphill against highly motivated defenders. But attack they did. Historians have spilled a goodly amount of ink, and spent countless hours doing research to try and parse out what happened on Little Round Top that day. So far, a fairly accurate picture has emerged, but many of the finer details remain obscured. 5 We do know there were a series of assaults by Oates' men, probably over the course of an hour to an hour and a half. Each one came near to succeeding, but each one was fended off by the men of the 20th. 

In fact, by the third assault the 20th was near the breaking point. Its lines thinned by heavy casualties, practically out of ammunition, all around them roiling with noise, smoke and confusion. The officers did their best, but it was one man who provided the extra boost the men of the 20th needed.

"As the [regiment's] center began to break and give ground in the face of the Alabama regiments’ onslaught, [Sgt Andrew] Tozier stood firm, remaining upright as Southern bullets buzzed and snapped in the air around him. Tozier’s personal gallantry in defending the 20th Maine’s colors became the regimental rallying point for Companies D, E and F to retake the center. Were it not for Tozier’s heroic stand, the 20th Maine would likely have been beaten at that decisive point in the battle."6

And as Chamberlain noted in his citation, Tozier had to retrieve a musket and ammunition from what he could scrounge around him, load and fire his piece one shot at a time, while holding the colors high.

He "stood with the 20th's flag cradled in the crook of his shoulder and a musket in his hands. All alone between the lines...Tozier was fighting his own private war, calmly loading and firing...seemingly immune to the lead slugs filled the air around him."7

We can only imagine what kind of faith and courage it took for Tozier to stand there like a beacon to both sides. We can only imagine what thoughts ran through his mind in that exposed position, vision obscured to zero by smoke thicker than a Bay of Fundy fog, muskets cracking and crashing all around, the sounds of bullets whizzing by inches away, the yells of friend and foe alike stabbing through the fog of smoke. Surely he knew he must die, yet he held his ground. As Chamberlain said,

"...the two center companies lost nearly half there numbers, and the color guard entirely cut away, the color staff rested on the ground and supported in the hollow of his shoulder, while with a musket and cartridge box he had picked up at his feet, he was defending his color..."



And he didn't die. That's the amazing thing. He didn't die when by all rights he should have been riddled with minie balls. "It was an insane act to stand there and defy death that way, and the odds were that he should have died instantly. The pure irrationality of the act seemed to mesmerize those around him, friend and foe alike." Chamberlain said of this solitary figure defying death as "presenting a figure that seemed to have paralyzed the enemy in front of him, who might have otherwise captured the color. This was the object which I made the rallying point of the regiment, and the center guide for the following charge." 8 When the 20th made it's storied charge, there was Tozier at the center, holding the colors aloft and leading the way.

Andrew Tozier survived Gettysburg, and he remained with the 20th until his official mustering out in July, 1864, receiving another wound at The Wilderness. After his mustering out, he returned to ancestral home in Litchfield, where he spent the rest of his life as a dairy farmer. He never made a big deal out of his remarkable contribution that day. There's no record of him ever talking about it. Maybe he talked about it to his wife and family, but there is no record of it. Indeed, it was an act that was almost lost to history. Chamberlain didn't mention Tozier's stand in his official report, but that was hardly unusual in a single paragraph after-action report. But he didn't mention it in the quasi-official state historical study "Maine at Gettysburg", either. It wasn't until after the dedication of Maine's Gettysburg Memorial that the episode came back to the forefront. It dawned on Chamberlain and other former members of the 20th that Tozier had never been recognized for his actions. Finally, in 1898, Chamberlain submitted an application for the Congressional Medal of Honor for Tozier. Thankfully, Tozier was still alive to have the medal placed around his neck. There is no record I can find of him making public comment about the award. But then, that's just the kind of man he was.

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