September 29, 1827 ~ May 27, 1871
From the 25th Anniversary publication
of the Yale College Class of 1846
John Butler Conyngham, son of Judge John Nesbitt Conyngham and Ruth Ann (Butler) Conyngham,
Conyngham in his Union Army uniform.
discovered July, 2007 by
Thomson '67, Zeta Zeta / LSU
was born September 29, 1827, at Wilkes Barre,
Pennsylvania; fitted for college with Dr. William A.
Muhlenberg, College Point, Long Island, N.Y., and
entered at the beginning of Sophomore year.
He studied law three years at Wilkes Barre, and
opened an office there. In Dec., 1851, he removed
to St. Louis to practice law.
On the breaking out of the war, he "enlisted as a
private at the first call for three months' volunteers
in the 8th Penn. Regiment, and was chosen
2nd Lieutenant of his company." At the close of
the three months, he re-entered the Army for
three years or for the war, as Major of the
52nd Pennsylvania Volunteers; was afterwards
promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and then to
Colonel, which office he held when mustered
out with his regiment, July, 1865.
"He was wounded in a night attack on the fortifications in Charleston harbor, taken prisoner, and
confined a number of months in the prison camps at Charleston, Macon, and Columbia." Numerous
letters received by his family afford cheering evidence of the estimation in which he was held as a soldier
He was present at the College Commencement, 1865, and soon after went to Montana. Having returned,
he "entered the regular Army with the rank of Captain in full, and the brevet of Lieutenant Colonel." Near
the beginning of 1871, while stationed at Fort Clark, in Texas, he suffered from apoplexy, followed by
Bright's Disease of the kidney. He lived to reach Wilkes Barre, where he died May, 28, 1871.
His father, a man highly esteemed by the citizens of Luzerne county, on hearing of his sickness, had set out
to bring him home; but on the way, at Magnolia, Mississippi, was killed by a railroad car, February 24th.
His Yale classmate, Attlee, who knew him well, speaks of him as "A good, solid tough character, of ancient
race, not one to be shaped and twisted by the contact of what it met in moving about the world."
He was connected with the Protestant Episcopal Church. He never married.
John Butler Conyngham was born September 29, 1827.
He graduated from Yale College in 1846, subsequently studied law, and practiced in Wilkes Barre
and St. Louis. At the first call for troops in 1861, he volunteered in the three-months' service, and
on his return joined the 52nd Pennsylvania volunteers, of which he was appointed major on
He participated in the peninsular campaign of 1862, and in the winter of 1863 was sent with his
regiment to Port Royal, South Carolina, was present at the naval...attack on Fort Sumter in April,
1863, and participated in the subsequent assault and siege operations against Fort Wagner. Upon
the reduction of that fort, Major Conyngham was placed in command of the defenses of Morris island.
He was detailed by General Terry to make a night reconnaissance of Sumter, and subsequently engaged
in the night assault on Fort Johnson, across Charleston harbor. In this assault he was captured and
detained as prisoner for several months. While a prisoner at Charleston he was one of the number
selected as hostages to be shot in case of a bombardment of the City by our forces. In November, 1863,
he was promoted to the lieutenant colonelcy, and in March, 1865, to the colonelcy of his regiment. In
March, 1867, Col. Conyngham was appointed captain in the 38th infantry, United States Army, and
transferred to the 24th infantry, November, 1869. In 1871 he was brevetted major and lieutenant
colonel for gallant service in the field. During his term of service in the regular army he was mostly
employed on the Indian frontier.
Colonel of the Fifty-second regiment, John Butler Conyngham was born at Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania,
His father, John N. Conyngham, a native of Philadelphia, was President Judge of the Eleventh Judicial District
of the State. His mother, Ruth Ann Butler, was a granddaughter of Captain Zebulon Butler, a Revolutionary
officer who commanded the patriots in the battle of Wyoming, on July 3, 1779.
Conyngham was educated at the Wilkes Barre Academy, at St. Paul's College, Long Island, and finally at
Yale College, New Haven, where he graduated. He was admitted to the bar of Luzerne County at the August
term, 1849, and afterwards practiced at St. Louis, Missouri, for five years.
Returning to Wilkes Barre, he resumed business there, which he followed successfully until the opening of
the Civil War. He had been connected with the militia, as a member of the Wyoming Light Dragoons, and
when the Eighth Regiment was formed he entered it as Lieutenant. He assisted in recruiting the Fifty-second,
a veteran regiment, of which he was commissioned Major.
Early in the year 1863, the Fifty-second was sent to the Department of the South, and here he was engaged
in all the operations undertaken for the reduction of Fort Wagner. The siege was especially severe, and the
labor in making regular approaches, under a sun in a southern clime, was very wearing. Its fall was a subject
In January, 1864, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and, in March, 1865, to Colonel. He went with
his command to the Peninsula, and in the battle of Fair Oaks won the warm commendation of General
Naglee, for his courage and skill displayed in a pressing emergency.
In June, 1864, a scheme was formed for the reduction of Charleston, which involved the capture of Fort
Johnson. The advance was to be made in three columns embarked in boats. One o'clock, on the morning
of July 3, was fixed for the embarkation. It was low-tide at that hour, and the party which the Fifty-second
headed had difficulty in crossing the bar which lay in the way; but that was passed, and when nearing the shore
they were discovered, and the alarm was given. Without quailing before the fire that was opened upon them,
they landed, captured a two gun battery, driving out the foe, and, charging the main work 200 yards on,
crossed the side of the fort and gained the coveted position, when it was found that the supporting columns
had failed to follow. No alternative but surrender remained, and the entire party fell into the enemy's hands.
The advance upon the main work was made in the face of a terrible fire, in which Colonel Conyngham
received a buckshot wound in the cheek. "The boats," says General Foster, in orders, "commanded by
Colonel Hoyt, Lieutenant-Colonel Conyngham, Captain Camp, and Lieutenants Stevens and Evans, all
of the Fifty-second, rowed rapidly to the shore, and these officers, with Adjutant Bunyan (afterwards killed),
and 135 men, landed and drove the enemy; but, deserted by their supports, were obliged to surrender to
superior numbers. They deserve great credit for their energy in urging their boats forward, and bringing
them through the narrow channel, and the feeling which led them to land at the head of their men was the
prompting of a gallant spirit, which deserves to find more imitators."
Colonel Conyngham, with the officers of the party, was confined at Macon, and was afterwards placed under
the fire of the Union guns in the city of Charleston. He was mustered out of service with his regiment
on July 12, 1865, and was appointed Captain in the Thirty-eight infantry of the regular army. He died in
May 27, 1871, of disease contracted in the service while stationed in Texas.
From the 1910 DKE Catalogue
Law student, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, 1846 - 49
Lawyer, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, 1840 - 51
St. Louis, Missouri, 1851 - 61
Private, Co. C, 8th Pennsylvania Infantry, U.S. Army, April 22, 1861 -
Major, 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry, September 28, 1861
Lieutenant Colonel, January 9, 1864
Mustered out, July 12, 1865
Captain, 38th U.S. Infantry, 1867 -
Deceased: May 27, 1871, age 43, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania