Sunday, July 26, 2015

Faces of the Civil War: 19-year-old Private George H. Holt

Private George Holt of Harwinton, Conn. (Blogger's collection.)

Disease took a heavy toll on the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery while the regiment was based in the defenses of Washington in the winter of 1863. Burritt H. Tolles, a 19-year-old private from Plymouth, died of fever on Jan. 12 at the regimental hospital in Alexandria, Va. Eighteen days later, Private Charles Cleveland of Terryville and Corporal William W. Johnson of Plymouth also died of fever at the regimental hospital. And on Feb. 26, George H. Holt, a 19-year-old private, succumbed to diphtheria in Alexandria, one of more than 2,500 soldiers from Connecticut to die of disease during the war. (Nearly 2,000 from Connecticut died from wounds received in battle.)

Rare today, diphtheria was a common illness during the 19th century. In 1872, former Confederate president Jefferson Davis' 10-year-old son William died of  the disease, which especially afflicted children. While he lay in the regimental hospital in the winter of 1863, Holt probably suffered from common symptoms of diphtheria: sore throat, fever, swollen glands, weakness and a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of his throat, blocking his airway. Doctors of the time sometimes resorted to a tracheotomy -- the insertion of a tube in the throat -- in an attempt to prevent a patient from suffocating, but the strategy usually was unsuccessful. There was probably little that could be done to save Holt, an unmarried farmer from Harwinton.

According to a regimental history, the remains of Holt and his three comrades who died during the winter of 1863 were returned to Connecticut for burial. Holt's name may be found on a marker and a memorial in Hillside Cemetery in Terryville, Conn. The carte-de-visites of the teenager are recent additions to my collection.

A civilian image of  Holt, probably before he joined the Union army.
A marker for George Holt in Hillside Cemetery in Terryville, Conn.
The names of teenagers George Holt and Burritt Tolles appear on a memorial in a cemetery in Terryville, Conn.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

8th Connecticut Corporal John Bentley: A father's revenge

Corporal John Bentley's grave in Antietam National Cemetery.
No photo is known to exist of the soldier from Sterling, Conn.
After a Rebel artillery shell had shattered his legs and mangled his chest and wrist at the Battle of Seven Pines, near Richmond, on June 25, 1862, William Bentley was placed with other Union wounded under a massive, tall tree that also was used as an observatory during the fighting. Initially refusing painkillers, the mortally wounded corporal/musician in the 2nd Rhode Island asked his comrades to pray for him and dictated a note to his mother.

"What heart-rending scenes did I witness in that place,” a Massachusetts chaplain recalled, “so full of saddened memories to me and to others.”

One of six Bentley children, 21-year-old William met his “his death as cheerfully and bravely as he had lived,” it was later noted, “leaving a large circle of friends to mourn his fall and cherish his memory.” His demise was well-chronicled in Rhode Island newspapers.

Nearly three months later, at the Battle of Antietam, his father desperately wanted to get even with the army responsible for his eldest son’s death. A 42-year-old private in the 8th Connecticut from Sterling, near the Rhode Island border, John Bentley had enlisted in October 1861, four months after William joined the Union army.

Union dead (foreground) buried on the Seven Pines battlefield, near the Rebel capital of Richmond.
8th Connecticut Corporal John Bentley's son was mortally wounded at Seven Pines on June 25, 1862.
(Library of Congress collection)

"Since the death of his son a settled gloom has ever rested upon his once pleasant countenance," an 8th Connecticut comrade using the intitials “W.P.M.” wrote to the Hartford Daily Courant, "and the great object of his life seemed to be to revenge his death, fearing that he might die of disease or be killed early battle, before he should know that with his own arm he had caused at least the death of one of the murderers of his noble boy."

Described as an excellent marksman, Bentley was so eager to get a shot at the enemy that he vowed to fight in the front ranks and perhaps, he reasoned, spare the life of a younger man in the regiment. "If I can only live to kill one rebel," Bentley's comrade recalled him saying, "I shall be revenged on those who have brought our country to ruin, and made life a burden to me by causing the death of my ... son, and am then ready to die, for at the longest an old man can live but a few years."

Late in the afternoon on Sept. 17, 1862, the 8th Connecticut pushed up a ridge near the village of Sharpsburg, Md., far ahead of the faltering 4th Rhode Island and overmatched 16th Connecticut, a regiment in its first battle of the war. Nearly cut off from the rest of the IX Corps, the regiment soon was forced to retreat back toward Antietam Creek.

Carefully aiming and firing during the onslaught, Bentley "displayed bravery second to none,” his comrade recalled, and "... after each discharge of his piece, he would watch eagerly the effect of his charge, and several times was heard to exclaim, 'I hit him! I hit him!' "

Among the last of the regiment to leave the field, Bentley fired one, final shot, shouting “I fetched him!” as the bullet hit its mark. But moments later, a bullet tore through his ankle bone, staggering him and adding his name to the 8th Connecticut’s lengthy list of casualties. (Eight soldiers from Bentley’s Company F, comprised of soldiers from eastern Connecticut towns, were killed or mortally wounded at Antietam.) Carried by comrades to a field hospital, probably on the nearby farm of Henry Rohrbach or John Otto, Bentley was not considered dangerously wounded.

Document in Bentley's widow's pension file notes that he died at Big Spring General Hospital, one of several
names for the hospital near the Antietam battlefield. In 1868, Bentley's wife married a man named David Hicox.

"I visited him three weeks after he received his wound," his comrade wrote, and "he appeared very cheerful." Although Bentley's leg wound was painful and his mouth was so sore that he couldn't even eat hard crackers, he was optimistic and was told by a doctor that his foot could be saved.

But Bentley's optimism proved unfounded. The wound became infected, and on October 17, 1862, a little more than one month after he was shot, he died at Crystal Springs Hospital in Keedysville, Md., two miles from the battlefield. A farmer, Bentley left behind a wife named Zilpha and five children ranging in age from 2 to 14.

"But, poor man, he is gone, and we hope is now at rest with his son, where there are no wars," the soldier in his regiment wrote to the Hartford newspaper. "Long will he be held dear in the hearts of every member of his company, as a faithful friend and brave soldier.

"He should not be forgotten by his country."

No image of John Bentley -- "another victim of this wicked rebellion," according to his 8th Connecticut comrade -- is known to exist. He lies buried in Antietam National Cemetery under grave No. 1117.


Hackett, Horatio B., Christian Memorial of the War: Or, Scenes and Incidents Illustrative of Religious Faith and Principle, Patriotism and Bravery in Our Army, Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1864), Page 111

Woodbury, Augustus, The Second Rhode Island Regiment, Providence: Valpey, Angell and Company, 1875, Page 386

Hartford Daily Courant, Oct. 31, 1862.

1860 U.S. census

John Bentley's "widow's" pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

Corporal John Bentley, wounded at the Battle of Antietam, died at Crystal Springs Hospital near the battlefield.
This is the back of the farmhouse that in 1862-63 was part of the hospital in Keedysville, Md.
It is privately owned today. (Read my Q&A with the current owners here.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Collector's Corner: Gem tintype of 14th Connecticut Sergeant Thomas J. Mills, who was mortally wounded at Antietam

A gem tintype of  Thomas J. Mills, who was mortally wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.
When it comes to Civil War collecting, luck often plays a big factor. 

Just seconds before I was to go for a run during our vacation last summer in Myrtle Beach, S.C., my iPhone rang. The caller was an antiques dealer from Michigan, who had noticed an image of 8th Connecticut Sergeant George Marsh on my blog. She had just purchased five images of Marsh and his family and wanted to know if I had more information on the man who may have been the first Connecticut soldier killed at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Our conversation soon turned to whether she wished to sell the images, and a week later we struck a deal. The terrific photos -- two pre-war images of Sergeant Marsh, a member of his regiment's color guard, as well as photographs of the soldier's father, mother and sister -- soon were on their way to their new/old home in Connecticut.

Tad Sattler, a 14th Connecticut Civil War re-enactor, recently got lucky when he stumbled onto an eBay auction of old, miniature photo album. Among the 22 images in the fragile family keepsake was a gem tintype of Thomas J. Mills, a color sergeant in 14th Connecticut, who was mortally wounded at Antietam. From New London, Mills died on Oct. 16 or 17, 1862, at Smoketown Hospital near the battlefield.  (See my Antietam hospital site post here.) Mills left behind a wife named Sarah, whom he married in 1853, and a 6-year-old daughter, Julia. After the war, his remains probably were re-buried in Antietam National Cemetery under a stone marked "Unknown."
According to this document in Mills' widow's pension file, he died on Oct. 16, 1862 at Smoketown Hospital.
Another document in the file notes he died on Oct. 17, 1862.
Sattler, who has an impressive collection of Connecticut Civil War militaria, was ecstatic when he won the auction and amazed when the album arrived in the mail this week. Only an inch thick, the album measures 1 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches.  "It came in a flat-rate, small priority box and weighed close to nothing," Sattler said. "I thought there was no way this could be a photo album." The image of Mills is about the size of a thumbnail.

Earlier today, Sattler answered five questions about his fabulous purchase:

What was your reaction when you first saw the Mills image on eBay?

Sattler: The item's availability on eBay was brought to my attention by my friend, Alan Crane. (See my post on Crane's amazing Civil War discovery here.) When I first saw the pictures on the site, I couldn't make out much detail, but the "Died at Battle of Antietam" written under the image caught my eye. I wasn't overly excited until I researched the name, which revealed more information than the seller listed in the auction detailed. I always research the names because sometimes a seller will say that the soldier was in a certain regiment and then you find out no one with that name existed in said regiment.

Sattler says the most unusual item in his Civil War collection is
this wooden peg leg, which may have belonged to a 14th Connecticut soldier.
The seller listed the name as Thomas J. Mills and that he first served as a 1st lieutenant in the 1st Connecticut (a three-month regiment) and joined the 14th Connecticut as a sergeant. The day the auction ended, I looked up his name in the 14th Connecticut regimental history and realized that he was not only a sergeant but a color sergeant who was mortally wounded in the 14th's first battle shortly after leaving Hartford. In paperwork provided to me by Fran Moir, I learned that Mills carried the regimental flag. At that point, I realized that this was no ordinary soldier and I really wanted this image for my collection.

How did you feel when you knew you won the auction?

Sattler: I was on vacation when the auction ended, and I normally do not bid on items like this until the very end because it usually just drives the price up. But seeing that I didn't know where I would be at the auction's end and that no one had placed any bids yet, I submitted a proxy bid two hours previous to the end time. Within an hour someone else bid, which made me a little nervous. Someone else placed another bid at the very end, but I still came out on top. I don't know if anyone else realized the significance of this image, but I was ecstatic to be its new keeper, and hopefully I will be able to bring it to light for future generations.

You have a fairly extensive collection of Connecticut Civil War items. Where does this item rank in the collection?

Sattler: I would have to say image-wise that this ranks in the top two of images I own. It is second behind an image I have of John Hirst, David Whiting and Elbert Hyde of the 14th Connecticut taken in the field with a fake campfire. Hirst talks about this very image in his letters sent back home. The Mills image is extremely tiny -- it's about the size of a thumbnail.

What's the most unusual item in your collection?

Sattler: It  would have to be a wooden peg leg that came out of trunk in East Glastonbury, Conn., that also contained an image of a Civil War soldier that appears to be missing a leg, possibly a 14th Connecticut soldier.

What do you know about Mills?

Sattler: This image actually shows him with shoulder boards, but you can't make out the rank because the image is very small and because they actually tinted the boards along with the buttons as well as his cheeks. I find his story extremely interesting because I have to question why someone who was an officer became a color sergeant. If he had lived or survived Antietam, would he have been promoted to an officer? His death led to Charles Dart becoming the next color sergeant to carry the regimental flag, and he too was mortally wounded, at the regiment's next battle at Fredericksburg, Va., on Dec. 13, 1862.

Have something you would like to share for Collector's Corner? E-mail me

Mills' image appears in this tiny, fragile family album, which measures 1 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches.
When the miniature album arrived in the mail, Tad Sattler was amazed. "It weighed close to nothing," he said.
Wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862,  Mills died at Smoketown Hospital near the battlefield on Oct. 16 or 17, 1862.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Interactive panoramas: Fort Morgan on Alabama's Gulf Coast

Click here for battlefield panoramas from Antietam, Cedar Mountain, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Harris Farm, Manassas, Malvern Hill, Salem Church,  Spotsylvania Courthouse and more.

   South side of Fort Morgan, facing the Gulf of Mexico. (Click at upper right for full-screen version.)

On a sun-splashed morning, two men fished in the surf, a couple walked slowly on State Rt. 180 and a handful of visitors surveyed the immense brick walls of historic Fort Morgan, one of the Rebels' defenses along Alabama's Gulf Coast. Several miles down the two-lane road  to the fort, vacation homes dot the landscape near white sand beaches, where hundreds of tourists enjoyed perfect summer weather. Nearly 151 years earlier, the scene along this coast was much different ...   

      Slaves and New England masons constructed the fort in 1834. Forty million bricks were used.

.. For the 500-plus Rebel soldiers garrisoned at the fort, life was bleak. Fort Morgan was a key outpost guarding strategic Mobile Bay, but its remote location led scores of men there to turn to an age-old demon: alcohol. "Many of the soldiers here were drunk all the time," a living historian at the fort told me during my recent visit.

The interactive panorama above shows the "murder ditch." If an enemy got this far, the fort's defenders might fire, say, canister from the embrasures, making life quite difficult for attackers ...

      Interior of the fort, which also was used during Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II.

... W
hen Admiral David Farragut's 18-ship fleet tried to slip past the fort and into Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864, one of his vessels, the ironclad U.S.S. Tecumseh, was sunk by a mine with a loss of nearly 100 sailors. The wreck of the ship still lies today upside down at the bottom of Mobile Bay, apparently untouched by archaeologists since the late 1960s. After an 18-day siege by forces that included the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery, the Yankees captured the fort on Aug. 23, 1864. The four-story citadel in the fort's interior -- the barracks where many of the enlisted men lived -- was heavily damaged during the 1864 siege and later torn down. Little evidence of it remains today. ...

                                    A view of the cramped quarters for soldiers at Fort Morgan.

                             1864 image of the ruins of Fort Morgan's citadel. (Library of Congress)

On April 30, 1863, 
Fort Morgan's Confederate commander was decapitated when a cannon tube exploded after it was test-fired. "I immediately went over and found that his head was entirely severed from his body and scattered some distance," a comrade wrote in a brutally honest letter to Lieutenant-colonel Charles Stewart's wife that July. "...I believe the piece that struck him, from observation made by other officers, myself, weighed over 200 pounds -- after hitting him it struck against some sandbags and fell into the ditch below. I am satisfied that he never knew what hit him." Pieces of the officer's head, Charles Collins noted in the letter to his Stewart's wife, were gathered and placed in his coffin. A partial dental plate was also collected -- it may be seen today in Fort Morgan's museum along with a transcript of Collins' letter ...

                                           Beach and Mobile Bay on the north side of Fort Morgan.

... On Feb. 12, 1861, two months before the war started, a Rebel chaplain drowned in Mobile Bay, on the north side of the fort. An Alabama Historical Association marker (below) near the site notes that 23-year-old Noble Leslie DeVotie, a former student at the University of Alabama and a founder of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, was the "first Alabama soldier to die in Civil War." Of course, the war did not officially begin until the Rebels bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. DeVotie's body was recovered three days after he drowned.

             Confederate chaplain Noble Leslie DeVotie drowned near Fort Morgan on Feb. 12, 1861.

                            For more images of my visit to Fort Morgan, click here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Photo journal: A day at Fort Morgan on Alabama's Gulf Coast

The main entrance to Fort Morgan notes the year the fortress was named.
Original plans for Fort Morgan.
(Library of Congress)

"Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" Admiral David Farragut famously said after one vessel in his 18-ship fleet was sent to the bottom of Mobile Bay as the Union navy steamed past Fort Morgan on Aug. 5, 1864. Four days later, Union troops that included the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery landed on the east side of Fort Morgan to begin a siege that ended with the Rebels' surrender on Aug. 23, 1864. The Confederates' commander was killed and the fort's barracks were so badly damaged that they were later torn down. (The wreck of the U.S.S. Tecumseh, the Union vessel sunk by a mine during Farragut's attack, lies in Mobile Bay today.) 

U.S. troops occupied Fort Morgan during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II before it was deactivated in 1946 and turned over to the state of Alabama. I shot these images during an early-morning visit to Fort Morgan, 22 miles from Gulf Shores, Ala., on the Gulf Coast.

A living historian walks through the main entrance to Fort Morgan.
A visitor's shadow eerily appears on a wall of a casemate.
A tourist slips into the powder magazine, which held more than 60,000 pounds of powder during the
 Union navy's siege in August 1864.
Impressive brickwork in an inner area of the fort.
If necessary, fort defenders could  fire through the embrasures.
A view through an embrasure shows the "murder ditch," which could be vigorously defended
with cannon fire if an enemy  penetrated the fort's defenses.
The Confederate national flag flies near Fort Morgan's  museum, but for how long?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

'Sad sight': Connecticut soldiers who died in each other's arms

A state-issued marker for Corporal George Page in Calhoun Cemetery in Cornwall, Conn.

After the Union army rapidly retreated, re-grouped and finally routed the Rebels at the Battle of Cedar Creek on Oct. 19, 1864, the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery aided its wounded and collected its dead. Among the 13 bodies found near a stone wall the next day were the remains of George W. Page, a 25-year-old corporal from Cornwall, and Charles Reed, an 18-year-old corporal from Salisbury.

JANUARY 2007: George Page's gravestone notes he was
 "killed in the battle of Seder Creek."
(Find a grave/Andrea Price-Johnson)
The two friends in Company G had crawled "quite a distance to each other from where they were hit," 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Lieutenant Michael Kelly wrote, and were found by their comrades clasped in each other's arms.

"It was a sad sight," Kelly wrote about Page and Reed. "They were robed [sic] of all their effects... by the Rebs -- shoes Pants blouse -- all that was any good was gone."

When Page and Reed were tossed into a trench with the rest of the regiment's dead, "many a rough and war worn veteran's face was washed with tears," assistant surgeon Judson B. Andrews noted, "as he turned away from so affecting a sight."

Page's remains were probably recovered and re-buried in Cornwall in Calhoun Cemetery, where he lies under a stone inscribed that he was killed at the battle of  "Seder Creek."  During a recent visit, I found that marker face down in the grass, broken in two and forgotten. A weather-worn, state-issued marker in front of the toppled gravestone memorializes the young soldier.

The final resting place of Page's friend, Charles Reed, is unknown.

JUNE 2015: Page's original marker lays cracked and face down in the grass.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Descendant visits for first time grave of his 8th Connecticut ancestor, who was killed at the Battle of Antietam

Robert Anderson holds a copy of an image of his great-great-great uncle Robert Ferriss, who's buried
in Center Cemetery in New Milford, Conn. Ferriss was a corporal in the 8th Connecticut.

After he was killed at the Battle of  Antietam, 27-year-old Corporal Robert Ferriss of the 8th Connecticut was found with a “very pleasant smile upon his countenance,” according to his captain, “as if he had lain down to his long rest with the sweet consciousness that his work was done, and well done.”  David Lake, another member of the regiment's color guard from New Milford, Conn., died a day after the battle, on Sept. 18, 1862. A bullet had torn through the sergeant's hip and glanced upward into his bowels, causing his death.

“As a company we feel his loss deeply, one of our best and most efficient officers had fallen,” Captain William Roberts wrote to Ferriss' mother that September. "He was looked upon among the 1st to take command of important & dangerous posts. Brave, yet prudent, firm and unyielding. Our country has lost a gallant soldier, our state an excellent citizen, his comrades a trusted friend and his parents a noble son."

In the fall of 1862, the remains of the Lake and Ferriss were returned to New Milford, where they were buried side-by-side in Center Cemetery. At Antietam, nine other color-bearers in the 8th Connecticut were killed or mortally wounded, perhaps the highest total for any regiment that served in the Union army that day. (One of the color-bearers, George Marsh of Hartford, may have been the first Connecticut soldier killed at Antietam.)

On a hot Sunday afternoon nearly 153 years after Antietam, the great-great-great nephew of Ferriss visited for the first time his ancestor's slender, weather-worn gravestone, likely a replacement for the original stone.

"This is just awesome," said Robert Anderson, a lifelong Connecticut resident, who spent at least 20 minutes looking in the hilly cemetery for the marker in a sea of other gravestones, many dating to the 18th century. An old metal Grand Army of the Republic marker and an American flag marked the graves of Lake and Ferriss, whose brother, Stephen, served as an officer in the 28th Connecticut and survived the war.

After several minutes' reflection, Anderson had his photo taken at Robert's grave, a copy of an image of his ancestor firmly grasped in his hand. About 15 minutes later, another discovery was made: Only yards from Ferriss' grave appeared the gravestone for Roberts, the officer who wrote in detail to Louisa Ferriss about her son's death on a ridge near the village of Sharpsburg, Md., so long ago.


William Roberts' letter to Louisa Ferris, September 1862, Robert Anderson collection.

8th Connecticut Pvt. Charles Garlick letter to his father, September 28, 1862, Western Connecticut State Archives and Special Collections, Box 2, Item 4.

The side-by-side graves of 8th Connecticut color-bearers Robert Ferriss and David Lake.
8th Connecticut Captain William Roberts, who wrote a condolence letter to Robert Ferriss' mother,
is buried only yards from Corporal Ferriss, who served under him in Company I. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Then and now: General John Sedgwick monument dedication

THEN: A huge American flag covers the Sedgwick monument in this image on dedication day, May 30, 1900.
(Period images from excellent Cornwall Historical Society collection)
NOW: The original cannonballs were sold for scrap during World War II and replaced with fakes. 

On May 30, 1900, more than 3,000 people gathered in sleepy Cornwall Hollow, Conn., for the dedication of a monument in honor of the town's favorite son, Major General John Sedgwick. Thirty-six years earlier, on May 9, 1864, "Uncle John" had been killed by a sharpshooter at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Va., a death that struck the Union army "like an electric shock."

John Sedgwick was killed by a sharpshooter on May 9, 1864.
(Library of Congress collection)
Cornwall Hollow today remains just as sleepy as it was more than a century ago. As I slowly made my way along the country road toward the out-of-the-way monument Saturday morning, I trailed a farmer trucking hay. Unknowingly, my visit just happened to be on the 115th anniversary of the monument dedication, which in 1900 was attended by the governor of Connecticut and his staff, 20 members of the Grand Army of the Republic Admiral Foote Post of New Haven; General J.F. Kent, a member of Sedgwick's war-time staff; the major general's great-niece and the Citizen's Band of Winsted, Conn.

Before the monument dedication, a crowd gathered around the monument for Sedgwick across the road in the cemetery where the general was buried on May 15, 1864. Upon that monument rested a large cross of red, white and blue flowers, given by the daughter of the general who succeeded Sedgwick, Horatio Wright. In a moment that surely stirred passions of veterans, a former Union soldier briefly laid at the foot of the cemetery memorial a large section of a captured Confederate flag that once flew in Richmond.

Thirty yards or so from the new monument, organizers set up a huge tent (see photo below), where dignitaries and guests were fed. During his dedication speech, the governor may or may not have scored points with the crowd when he compared Sedgwick favorably to Robert E. Lee. Another speaker, former Union officer George Ruggles, said of Sedgwick: " honor was too great to pay his name."

The U.S. government also got into the act, donating piles of cannonballs that surrounded the monument as well as a cannon tube, reportedly used by Sedgwick's troops during the Mexican War and Civil War. (The cannonballs were used for scrap during World War II and replaced with fakes.) The next day, the local newspaper devoted 5 1/2 columns of coverage to the big day, surely the greatest event in the small town's history.

SOURCE: Hartford Courant, May 31, 1900

THEN: The horse-and-buggy was one mode of transportation to the dedication in 1900. The large tent in the left
background accommodated dignitaries and their guests, who were fed there before the dedication.
NOW: I was the only soul at the monument when I shot this image Saturday morning, quite a contrast
 to the thousands of people who gathered for the dedication on May 30, 1900.
THEN: The cannonballs and cannon tube for the monument were donated by the U.S. government.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

'Silent grief at work': Deaths of 16th Connecticut brothers

16th Connecticut Sergeant William Levaughn of Rocky Hill died in Andersonville.
(Connecticut State Library)
While imprisoned with his younger brother in Andersonville, Roland Levaughn, a 24-year-old sergeant in the 16th Connecticut from Rocky Hill, was made responsible by the Rebels for distributing meager rations to about 90 men. He deftly accomplished the task, “keeping the men satisfied with his management even in the hungriest of days,” according to another 16th Connecticut soldier.

Like Roland, William Levaughn also had languished at Andersonville since early May 1864. On September 5, 1864, the twenty-one-year-old sergeant in the 16th Connecticut died of dysentery.

“I was aroused from my sleep by one of the boys, who gave me the sad news that Orderly Sgt. L, of Co. C, was dead,” recalled 16th Connecticut Sgt. Robert Kellogg, who was also asked to break the news to Roland. “It was a hard task to go and do this, but I did it. Elder Shepherd conducted a very touching and beautiful funeral service over the body before it was carried out,” Roland attended, saying little.

“We all knew that silent grief was at work,” Kellogg recalled, “and we deeply sympathized with him.”

Moved from Andersonville to a camp in Charleston, South Carolina, Roland died there on September 22, 1864.

16th Connecticut Sergeant Roland Levaughn survived Andersonville but died in another Rebel camp.
(Connecticut State Library)


“Military and Biographical Data of the 16th Connecticut Volunteers,” George Q. Whitney Papers, RG 69:23, Boxe 8, CSL, Hartford. Conn.

Kellogg, Robert, Life and Death in Rebel Prisons, Hartford, CT: L. Stebbins, 1865, Page 239.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A life shattered: 143rd New York Lt. Edward Carrington

Edward Carrington's toppled gravestone in Center Cemetery in rural Colebrook, Conn.
Carrington was only 27 when he died on March 6, 1865, a little more than a month before Lee surrendered to Grant.

Toppled and broken into three pieces, Edward Carrington's marble gravestone lay in the grass, apparently a demise by natural causes. Harsh Connecticut winters and gravity were the culprits, a caretaker of Center Cemetery in rural Colebrook told me Saturday morning. Although the stone won't be fixed by Memorial Day, he assured me it would be repaired.
A lieutenant in the 143rd New York, Edward Carrington
was an 1859 graduate of Yale.

(Photo: Colebrook Historical Society)

A lieutenant in the 143rd New York, Carrington survived battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Kennesaw Mountain only to die in an obscure scrap while on detached duty at the Battle of Natural Bridge in St. Marks, Fla., a little more than a month before the Civil War officially ended. The Rebel bullet that killed him on March 6, 1865, tore through the front of his small uniform jacket, ripped through his liver and exited through the back. He was only 27.

Born in Hartford on Feb. 15, 1838, Edward was the son of Sarah Ann and Edward Carrington Sr., who moved to Colebrook when their son was young. A brilliant man, Carrington graduated in 1859 from Yale, where he was class valedictorian, and earned a law degree from Columbia, graduating in 1861 with highest honors. "Although I
have familiarly known many thousands of young men coming from all parts of the
country," a Columbia professor wrote, "I have never been acquainted with one who has so much impressed me by his native gifts as he." (Hat tip: Bob Grigg.)

When war broke out, Carrington was working as a lawyer in New York. After the death of his former Yale classmate, Lieutenant Deiday Hannas of the 6th New York Cavalry, on Sept. 10, 1862, Carrington was especially motivated to join the Union army. He enlisted as a 2nd lieutenant on Oct. 27, 1862. At Kennesaw Mountain in the summer of 1864, every soldier on the commanding general's staff was wounded -- except for Carrington, whose luck ran out in the spring of 1865.

"But in the advance upon St. Mark's, he was, as always, in his place, at the post of danger, and death, that 'loves a shining mark,' sought him there and laid him low," the New York Times noted in an obituary published March 27, 1865. "His only brother is Adjutant in a colored regiment in the Army of the Potomac. May Heaven heal the bitter wound caused by the death of the one, and spare their many friends the pain of the fall of the other."
The uniform jacket that Edward Carrington wore the day he died, with bullet entry wound at bottom left,
is in the vault of the Colebrook (Conn.) Historical Society.
Close-ups of where the bullet that killed Edward Carrington entered  (left) and exited his uniform jacket.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Greene brothers' artifacts and a huge family tragedy

A pre-war image of 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Quartermaster Sergeant James Greene in
the collection of the Colebrook (Conn.) Historical Society.
A brownstone monument for James Greene in Center Cemetery
 in Colebrook, Conn. A close-up  of the monument (below) reveals the 

weather-worn name of  Greene and the site where he was wounded.
On a brisk May morning, I traveled to tiny Colebrook, in Connecticut's beautiful Litchfield Hills, for a visit to the town's historical society. In a large vault in an early 19th-century building that was first used as an inn, two historical society members allowed me to dig into two boxes that contained artifacts from a family that suffered a massive tragedy during the war.

Three sons of Allen and Lois Greene died during the war. George, 26, who served in the Union navy, died of disease in a hospital in Peru in Feb. 22, 1863. Youngest son Stephen, 18, and James, 25, who both served in Company E of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, perished in the summer of 1864.

After they suffered leg wounds at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864, James and Stephen wrote letters home to allay fears of their parents. At the time, the brothers’ wounds were not considered serious. James, a quartermaster sergeant, was transported to a hospital in Alexandria, Va., and Stephen, a private, was sent to recover at De Camp Hospital on David’s Island in New York Harbor.

When they heard that James’ health had declined, his wife Martha and father rushed to Alexandria, but they arrived about two hours before he was to be buried. The bullet in James’ foot was not removed until nine days after he was wounded, “and then amputation afforded but a faint hope for him,” the Winsted (Conn.) Herald reported on July 15, 1864. He died on July 6.

After he arranged for his son to be embalmed, Allen Greene took a train north, hoping to visit Stephen, who suffered from a wound in his left knee, at the hospital in New York. But he took the wrong train and instead went directly home to arrange for James’ funeral. Upon his arrival back in Colebrook, Allen Greene found letters that said Stephen had died three days earlier.

Those letters may not have survived, but James Greene's wartime ledger book and a portion of a letter Stephen wrote to a friend are preserved in the Colebrook Historical Society's collection. Also preserved in the collection is a pre-war image of James, whose thoughts of an obscure crossroads town called Cold Harbor were a long way off.

James Greene signed his small ledger book and identified his regiment and company. The "Heavies" were
stationed at Fort Worth, one of the defenses ringing Washington, in 1864.
In his ledger book, Greene noted: "Reveille at 4:30. Embarked at 8 a.m.," and added 
"passed Mt. Vernon," George Washington's home, "at 10:30. A nap despite the beautiful scenery."
Inside the ledger book, Greene accounted for what was issued to troops on March 12, 1864.
A war-time letter signed by 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Private Stephen Greene.