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 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 conditions for soldiers at Fort Morgan.

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

On April 30, 1863, 
Fort Morgan's Confederate commander was killed when a cannon tube exploded after it was test-fired, decapitating him. "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: "..no 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.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mother to Cold Harbor casualty: 'Look to Jesus, my dear son'

Private Lyman Smith of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery.
(Image courtesy of Smith descendant)

Unaware of her son Lyman's fate, a worried Julia B. Lyman of Litchfield, Conn., wrote a letter to him four days after the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery received its baptism of fire at the Battle of Cold Harbor, near Richmond. Lyman was a 22-year-old private in the regiment.  

Litchfield, Sunday June 5, 1864

I don't know if this will reach you, my beloved Lyman, but I must write, for you are in my thoughts all the while and one line from your pen I should prize more than silver or gold.

We read the daily papers and look fearfully for your name among the killed, wounded, and missing. May God, who I trust has hitherto kept you, continue to watch over you and  'Cover your head in the day of battle.'

I should have no comfort now, did I not rejoice that the 'Lord God Omnipotent reigneth'

We often wish we knew which corps you were in.

The 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery suffered more than 300 casualties here on June 1, 1864. 

There was a dispatch yesterday that Tyler had been attacked and had repulsed the enemy with the loss of three or four thousand men and that he was wounded in the foot so badly that it had to be amputated. He had before heard that your regiment was assigned to his command.

All we can do is to wait and trust.

Your father has just come in and says 'give my love to Lyman and tell him I hope he may be spared to come home' -- and dear Lyman, we all unite in the same prayer and hope for you.

Everything is beautiful here now. I would write you about the farm, and how nicely Ed is getting along, but have no heart to do it, for all lesser subjects are swallowed up in our one great anxiety for your present safety. Just as soon and just as often as you can, write. We want to hear from you.

Look to Jesus, my dear son. He can carry you safely through all the dangers, and I trust He will. I have given you his care time after time and shall continue to do it daily and hourly.

With deep affection
I am your mother,

Julia B. Smith

Lyman Smith was shot in the head and killed instantly at Cold Harbor, one of 27 soldiers killed or mortally wounded in Company A. "Break the sad news to Lyman's mother and father," Private Lewis Bissell wrote about his cousin on June 2, 1864. "I have not seen his body but some of the boys have and attached his name. Robert Watt lies near him. Tell his mother that I have his Bible. I shall send it home if possible. If not, will keep it until I can." 

Source for Julia Smith letter:

Smith, Richard, The Old Nineteenth, The Story of the Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery. New York: iUniverse Inc., 2007, Page 331

In the Litchfield Enquirer on June 9, 1864, the name of Private Lyman Smith of Company A was listed
 among those killed at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Amazing discovery: Image of his 18th Connecticut ancestor

Corporal John E. Barrows of the 18th Connecticut was captured at the Second Battle of Winchester (Va.)
(Images courtesy of Alan Crane)
When he was married 10 years ago, Alan Crane and his wife bought a family poster and filled out entries for his ancestors.

Great-grandfathers. Check.

Alan Crane and his sister celebrated after winning the auction
for an image of 18th Connecticut Corporal John E. Barrows.
Great-grandmothers. Ditto.

Great-great grandmothers. All good.

Great-great-grandfather 1. Got it.

But when the Norwich, Conn., resident got to entry for his other great-great-grandfather, Crane didn't have a clue. That set him on a journey to fill in the blank in his family story and led to an amazing discovery last fall at an antiques auction in New York.

After doing some digging on ancestry.com, Crane determined that his missing great-great-grandfather was John E. Barrows, a corporal in Company H in the 18th Connecticut. From Windham, a small town in eastern Connecticut, Barrows was captured at the Second Battle of Winchester (Va.) on June 15, 1863, and confined in a Rebel prison at Belle Isle in Richmond, where he contracted an illness. After he was paroled on July 14, 1863, Barrows spent the rest of the war in and out of hospitals until he was discharged on June 23, 1865.

Over the past 10 years, Crane found mentions of Barrows in the 18th Connecticut's regimental history, snippets of information in the Willimantic (Conn.) Chronicle and his grave in Willimantic Cemetery. In Barrows' widow's pension file, he even found a poignant letter from his great-great grandmother to the Connecticut Adjutant General's office in which she pleaded for government assistance. Any aid, she wrote, would be looked upon with favor by the "god of widows and orphans."

John E. Barrows' grave in Willimantic (Conn.) Cemetery.
He was only 34 when he died.
But Crane still was missing the holy grail of his search: a wartime image of his great-great grandfather.

Fast-forward to last fall.

Crane, who over the years has collected or catalogued every 18th Connecticut image he could find, received a text from a friend who was on a similar mission to find an image of his ancestor, who was in the 77th New York. His friend's message included a link to an auction in Scarsdale, N.Y. Stunningly, one of the photos offered for auction was a wartime carte-de-visite of Barrows, his name, company and regiment spelled out in ink below the image.

"I nearly passed out when I saw it," said Crane, who took off from work and traveled to Scarsdale with a "wad of cash." Luckily, he put in a winning bid for the image of his great-great grandfather as well as images of other soldiers who may have known Barrows while he was at Camp Parole, Md.

Amazingly, Crane had similar fortune during his search for information on his other Civil War ancestor, Alvin M. Crane. At a local flea market, he bought a framed Soldier Memorial poster for the 21st Connecticut captain. And last year, Crane bought on eBay a Revolutionary War receipt signed by his fifth great-grandfather, Hezekiah Crane Jr.

"All in all," Crane said, "I'm pretty lucky with this kind of thing."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Battlefield panoramas: Antietam and Gettysburg

An iPhone and dermandar.com allow us to display pretty cool interactive panoramas of Civil War battlefields. The top panorama, of course, is iconic Bloody Lane at Antietam; the second panorama is of Crystal Springs farm, the seldom-visited site of the Union army's IX Corps hospital near the battlefield. In the first Gettysburg pano below, I walked down the slope of Barlow's Knoll to get a Rebel's-eye view of the attack that crushed the 17th Connecticut on July 1, 1863. The bottom image, taken on a cool spring morning near the crest of Culp's Hill, is from the perspective of the Union army, which defended it from July 1-3, 1863. Click on the top right of each image for an enlargement, and check out more interactive panoramas of AntietamGettysburg  and other Civil War battlefields on my blog. (Be warned: Staring intently at these four panos can make you woozy. Make them stop moving!) 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Three Lockwood brothers perished during war

28th Connecticut Private Sherman Lockwood's grave in Memphis (Tenn.) National Cemetery.
(Photo: Bruce and Wendy Linz)

When the 28th Connecticut left the brutally hot and pestilent conditions in Louisiana for home on Aug. 7, 1863, soldiers in the regiment were so sick that they could barely make it aboard the boat for the first leg of the journey on the Mississippi River. Some even died as they reached the deck of the steamer. Suffering from chronic diarrhea, two brothers in the regiment begged one of their comrades to help them.

“They were very anxious to get home,” Pvt. Louis Scofield recalled years later about Andrew and Sherman Lockwood. “As I was assisting the doctor, I tried to get them through. He said they were too weak and it would be impossible.” On Aug. 13, 1863, Sherman and Andrew were among the 25 to 30 soldiers in the regiment who were hospitalized in Memphis, Tenn., one of the stops along the Mississippi. But the brothers were indeed too ill to survive. Andrew, 30, died at Union Hospital on Aug. 27, 1863, two weeks before Sherman, 23, perished in the same hospital.

After he had re-enlisted in the 6th Connecticut on Christmas Eve 1863, James visited his financially-strapped parents in Stamford, Conn., while on furlough in 1864 and gave his mother a present of $20. It was the last time Lydia and Sherman Lockwood saw him. After he was captured at Bermuda Hundred, Va., on June 17, 1864, James, a 22-year-old private, spent nearly four months in prisoner-of -war camps in Andersonville, Ga., and Florence, S.C. Emaciated, he could barely walk when he left Andersonville, according to a 6th Connecticut comrade, and died from effects of starvation in Florence on Oct. 2, 1864.

Buried in Memphis (Tenn.) National Cemetery, Sherman is the only Lockwood brother with a marked grave.


Scofield, Loomis, History of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, (New Canaan, Conn., New Canaan Advertiser, 1915), Page 15

James Lockwood pension file, National Archives

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Furniture with Antietam tie purchased by Hartford museum

The "Antietam" secretary in Harold Gordon's living room.
The front of the secretary includes the word "Antietam" and the date of the battle.
John Bingham (left) was killed at Antietam. His brother, Wells, 
survived.  (Photos courtesy Military Historical Image Bank)

Three years ago, I visited a Massachusetts antiques dealer named Harold Gordon, who loved to talk about the Civil War and one of his recent purchases: a Victorian-era secretary with a direct tie to the Battle of Antietam. The unique piece of furniture was a gift from 16th Connecticut veterans to Wells Bingham in memory of his 17-year-old brother, John, a private in the regiment who was killed in the battle. Also a private in the 16th Connecticut, Wells survived Antietam unscathed physically.

In his cramped living room that day, Harold delighted in showing me details of the 8-foot antique secretary -- the beautiful clock atop it that includes the words "The Union Preserved" near the base; a small tin on the front that may have held a piece of the 16th Connecticut regimental flag that was at Antietam and a door that when opened played "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on a music box. Spelled out in cattle bone on the front of the one-of-a-kind gift are the words "Antietam" and "Sept. 17, 1862," as well as John F. Bingham's name.

Does this case on the front of the secretary
 hold a piece of the 16th Connecticut flag 
that was at Antietam? 

Only 16 at Antietam, Wells wrote of the news of his brother's death in a heart-rending, seven-page letter to his father that I discovered in the Antietam National Battlefield Library months after I visited with Harold. It was the first letter I saw in a stack of transcripts and other copies of letters from Connecticut soldiers about Antietam.  "John, poor, poor John, is no more," Wells wrote about his brother's death to Elisha Bingham in East Haddam, Conn. Added the teenager: "You can imagine my fealings [sic] better than I can describe them." I wrote about the Bingham brothers and the secretary in my book, Connecticut Yankees at Antietam.

Today, the story of the secretary came full circle for me when a reader of the blog pointed out that it had been purchased by Hartford's Wadsworth Atheneum Museum from a Woodbridge, Conn., antiques dealer, who had purchased it from Gordon. I have no idea what the museum, which plans to display the secretary this summer, paid for it, but the asking price at a winter antiques show in New York was $375,000. Not a bad chunk of change.  I've lost touch with Harold since we inspected the 16th Connecticut flag at the Hall of Flags at the State Capitol Building in Hartford nearly two years ago during our small-time investigative effort to solve the mystery of whether a piece of it really was in the tin on his secretary. (Don't descend into that deep rabbit hole.) I imagine that he's quite pleased that the amazing piece of folk art that once dominated his living room will soon be seen by a much wider audience in the state where the Bingham brothers' story began.

Harold Gordon (right) inspects the 16th Connecticut flag at the Hall of Flags at the State Capitol Building in Hartford.