Saturday, November 28, 2015

Antietam Then & Now: View of Union battery from Pry farm

As William Frassanito explained in his ground-breaking 1978 book, Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America's Bloodiest Day, this wartime image by Alexander Gardner does not show actual fighting, as many have believed. Taken from near the Philip Pry house on Sept. 17 or 18, 1862, it shows inactive Union reserves behind the lines on the eastern side of Antietam Creek.

"The smoke in the right distance, previously thought to indicate rifle fire, turned out to be smoke from campfires; upon closer inspection, the artillery battery in the left distance stands inactive, its guns still attached to their limber chests," Frassanito wrote. "The man in the foreground, probably posed, is gazing through his binoculars toward the front-line positions near Bloody Lane, a mile distance and on the opposite side of Antietam Creek."

During an Antietam visit in September 2015, I shot the "now" image from a spot near where Gardner took his photograph. I used the fabulous, free and easy-to-use Juxtapose to create the slider. What was a largely open ground in 1862 is now blanketed with trees.

One man's quest to discover story of Confederate Colonel Samuel Lumpkin, who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg

44th Georgia Colonel Samuel Lumpkin suffered a severe leg wound at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.
Richard Clem, a longtime Civil War relic hunter from Hagerstown, Md., is a gifted historian and researcher. And he's also no stranger to this blog, having written pieces posted here, here and here. In this post, Clem recounts his quest to document the life of 44th Georgia Colonel Samuel Lumpkin, who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Sources and notes for this post may be found here.

By Richard Clem

Four years following the War Between the States, Maryland Governor Oden Bowie (1869 – 1872) appropriated $5,000 for a decent burial of incalculable number of  Rebel bodies still barely covered throughout Washington County. The governor’s compassionate act eventually led to the establishment of the Washington Confederate Cemetery. The three-acre site is located within the 110- acre interior of Rose Hill Cemetery in Hagerstown – a “cemetery within a cemetery.” Resting off duty for eternity in the hallowed ground are the remains of 2,138 unknown and 346 known Southern soldiers from the Maryland Campaign of 1862. These honored dead are mostly from the battles of South Mountain and Antietam -- or “Sharpsburg,” as folks in the South still call it. (1).

Marker in Washington Cemetery
 in Hagerstown, Md.
(Photo: Richard Clem)
A large cast-bronze plaque at the head of the Rebel burial grounds lists names and gives approximate location of the known dead. However, only two Confederate officers have individual ground-level gravestones: Colonel. Isaac E. Avery of North Carolina and Colonel. Samuel P. Lumpkin from Georgia. Colonel Avery’s stone was dedicated on Nov. 3, 2007. (2)

The legacy of Sam Lumpkin’s began in the spring 1984, when the author spoke to a trustee of Rose Hill Cemetery. Knowing my interest in the Civil War, he pointed to the Confederate area and asked, “Do you know that one of those soldiers in there has his own marker?” The only problem was he couldn’t remember where the stone was located or anything engraved on it. He went on to explain, “I haven’t seen it in years and it's probably growed over by now with grass.” (3)

So, on a hot July morning in 1984, equipped only with curiosity, I started searching the recently-mowed Washington Cemetery, determined to find the long-lost Rebel’s grave. Close to a half-hour passed when walking slowly up a slight grade, the morning sun reflected off something in the still dew-covered grass. Wiping perspiration from my blurred vision, the square corner of a flat stone came into view. This was it! Immediately, the work of ripping sod from the rectangular marker with bare hands began. In a matter of seconds, letters appeared: “COL. S. E. LUMKINS [sic], 44TH GEORGIE [sic] VOLS., DIED SEPT. 18TH 1863, AGED 29 YEARS” (4)

The first thing that caught my attention was the date -- “Sept 18th, 1863.” The battles at South Mountain and Antietam were fought in September 1862, one year earlier. Could the colonel from Georgia have been killed at Gettysburg, some 40 miles north of Hagerstown? Did his relatives know where he was buried? Who furnished or paid for the granite stone? Before Colonel Avery’s tombstone was installed, Lumpkin’s was the only one in Washington Confederate Cemetery. After decades of research to bring to life the Southern officer, the following account was written: (5)

Colonel Samuel Lumpkin's gravestone in Washington Cemetery in Hagerstown, Md.
His last name and regiment are misspelled on the marker.

(Photo: Ricard Clem)
Samuel Pittman Lumpkin was born Dec. 5, 1833, son of William and Susannah Edwards Lumpkin. William’s first marriage to Patsy Mickelborough produced five children. Patsy died from an unknown cause in 1814. William’s second wife, (married June 6, 1815), Susannah Edwards, gave birth to 16 children -- next to youngest being Samuel P. Lumpkin. Bill Lumpkin had four sons who gave their lives fighting for the Confederate’s noble cause. (6)

Sam’s father served in the Georgia House of Representatives and as trustee of Mercer University. The soldier from Georgia also had two cousins who were prominent in state politics and law in the 19th century. First, was Joseph Henry Lumpkin, the first Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, serving from 1845-1867. Joseph was also a founder of the Lumpkin Law School, a forerunner of the University of Georgia. Another cousin, a brother to Joseph, Wilson Lumpkin, served as Governor of Georgia between 1831-1835. Wilson’s daughter, Martha Lumpkin Compton, (1827-1917), had a small town in the Peach State named in her honor; however, the name “Marthasville” didn’t stick. Three years later, in 1843,  the little-known community was renamed “Atlanta.” Yes, the Confederate buried in Hagerstown came from a respected, prestigious family that helped shape early history of the Old South. But questions still remained: Was Colonel. Lumpkin killed during the War Between the States and why were his remains interred in Hagerstown instead of being returned to Georgia? (7)

Little is known of Samuel Lumpkin’s formative years or education, but around the age of 20, with an ambition of becoming a doctor, he enrolled in Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. After graduating in 1855, he returned to Georgia, setting up a medical practice in Watkinsville. Although Sam was born in Oglethorpe County, an 1860 census shows him living in Clarke County with John Calvin Johnson, wife Matilda, and two sons, James and John. The young physician inherited part of his father’s estate, but it's believed the Johnsons financially helped with his college education and provided him a home. Perhaps Sam’s relocation became necessary due to the number of brothers and sisters at home and there simply wasn’t enough room at the supper table. (8)

Doctor Sam must have thought the world of Matilda Johnson. On March 1, 1862, he appointed John Calvin Johnson, Clerk of Court for Clarke County, as executor of his last will and testament, leaving Matilda his entire estate. The registered will contained words of great praise and fondness for the 52-year-old woman, “For she has been to me a mother for several years past, both in affection and in every kindness that I could ask or she could anticipate, and because I believe if I were to die or be reduced to helpless suffering, she of all others would mostly deeply deplore my loss or be most willing to relieve my necessities.” Three days after signing the will on March 4, 1862, and with a War of Yankee Aggression rapidly expanding, the Clarke County physician enlisted to defend his beloved South from Northern invaders. (9)

Entering the service at Watkinsville, Lumpkin became captain of Company C, 44th Regiment, Georgia Volunteers. Company C consisted mostly of a militia unit “Johnson Guards,” named in honor of Lumpkin’s good friend, John Calvin Johnson. On April 4, the 44th Georgia was ordered to Goldsboro, N.C. Two months later, on May 27, 1862, the newly formed regiment headed north to defend the Confederate capital in Richmond, Sam left behind forever a lucrative medical practice, the Johnsons and a girl he was engaged to marry. It seems the doctor from Georgia was as committed to duty as a professor Thomas J. Jackson from Virginia, who wrote, “Through life let your principal object be the discharge of duty.” (10)

In spring 1862, Gen. George B. McClellan launched his Peninsula Campaign with intentions of bringing the war to a quick end by capturing Richmond. In the “Seven Day’s Fighting,” while taking a defensive stand against Union infantry at Mechanicsville, (June 26th) the 44th Georgia suffered tremendously. Total loss of Federal forces engaged was 361 while the 44th alone reported 335 casualties. Sam Lumpkin was promoted to lieutenant-colonel June 28, 1862. On July 1, 1862, only three days after moving up in rank, he was wounded at Malvern Hill. The injury wasn’t serious, resulting in a full recovery. Ironically, exactly one year to the very day -- July 1, 1863 -- Lumpkin would receive another wound. The only difference – this wound would prove to be fatal. The 44th Gerogia Infantry fought in every major engagement of the Army of Northern Virginia for the remainder of 1862, including Second Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg. (11)

               Approximate area where Lumpkin's 44th Georgia attacked at Malvern Hill.

Leading the regiment at Chancellorsville – May 3, 1863 – Lumpkin was “mentioned for gallantry.” For this courageous conduct, he received the rank of full colonel in command of the 44th Georgia Infantry. Although many historians consider Chancellorsville the South’s greatest victory, it resulted in the Confederacy’s greatest personal loss of the war when Gen. Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men. (12)

Confident from the recent, brilliant victory at Chancellorsville, the Confederacy decided to become the aggressor, sidestepping the Union army defending Washington and once more carrying the war into Northern territory. In Pennsylvania – July 1, 1863 – General Robert E. Lee’s invading Army of Northern Virginia by chance encountered the newly appointed Major General George G. Meade’s numerically superior Army of the Potomac at a little town called Gettysburg. (13)

At the start of the Gettysburg Campaign, the 44th Georgia was attached to Dole’s Brigade (4th Georgia, 12th Georgia, 21st Georgia), Rodes’ Division, Ewell’s Corps. A brigade member recalled, “Continuing the march on the 25th we reached Carlisle on the 27th, and our brigade bivouacked on the campus of Dickinson College. We were within twenty miles of Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.” Ewell’s Corps received orders on June 30th to march immediately southward toward Cashtown to link up with Longstreet’s Corps. A major, imminent engagement at Gettysburg was about to make the printed pages of American history. (14)

Ewell’s forces quick-marched toward the sound of the guns and pending battlefield. A soldier in the gray columns remembered the morning of July 1, “Resuming the march the next morning we arrived at Middletown, when the head of the column was turned towards Gettysburg. When the brigade was in about seven miles of the place, the roar of cannon in front revealed to us the presence of the enemy.” Doles’ Brigade approached the smoking battlefield from the north along the Carlisle Pike (east of Oak Hill), just west of present Barlow’s Knoll. (15)

Colonel Samuel Lumpkin may have had his leg amputated at David Schriver's farm at Gettysburg.
(Photo: Richard Clem)

In his official Gettysburg report, Brigadier General George P. Doles noted, “The enemy’s cavalry appearing in force in front and on our left flank, skirmishers from the command were ordered to dislodge them.” Around 3:30 P.M., Southern infantry had driven Federal cavalry from the field, but found strong opposition between them and Gettysburg. Before Early’s Division arrived, Doles’ Brigade of 1,300 faced two enemy divisions (Howard’s Union XI Corps) of 5,500. With renewed hope, Doles wrote, “The brigade of Gen. Gordon of Maj.-Gen. Early’s Division, having made junction with our left, we moved forward to the attack.” With the combination of Doles and John B. Gordon’s Brigade (all Georgia) forcing the assault, the entire Federal defenses north of Gettysburg gave way. (16)

At Gettysburg, Colonel Lumpkin served in
the brigade of General George Doles.
Major William H. Peebles of the 44th Georgia described the action on the northern edge of town: “Had not our men been so nearly exhausted, we should doubtless have captured the greatest portion of the artillery and men; but only a few could not flee so rapidly as the main body fell into our hands. We then reformed and marching into the town of Gettysburg, the routed and fleeing enemy betaking himself to the hills south of the town.” Pressing on heels of the adversary, a retreat became a rout. The 44th Georgia was the first Confederate unit to enter Gettysburg – unfortunately, its courageous colonel was missing. Sam Lumpkin had fallen and was lying somewhere on the field among bloody humanity and battle debris. An officer in Doles’ Brigade wrote after the war, “While pursuing the routed Eleventh Corps on July 1 the brigade had the unpleasant experience of being mistaken for Union troops and were fired upon by our own artillery of which killed and wounded several men.” So, it's not impossible that Lumpkin may have been struck down by his own artillery. General Doles also reported the same incident of “friendly fire.” (17)

An official casualty list of Gettysburg wounded included: “Lumpkin, Samuel P. – Colonel 44th Regiment, Georgia Infantry – Wounded in leg – necessitating amputation and captured at Gettysburg, Pa. – July 1, 1863. Remarks: S.P. Lumpkin – Col. 44th Ga., Wounded 6 P.M., lost left leg.” (18)

Although Lumpkin’s leg may have been amputated on the field of battle, it's plausible to think Dr. Abner E. McGarity, surgeon of the 44th, performed the brutal operation at the Schriver farm. The wounded of Doles’ Brigade were hospitalized at David Schriver’s 150-acre farm located 2 ½ miles northwest of Gettysburg along the Mummasburg Pike. (19)

Doles held the Georgia officer in high esteem. “In the action of July 1st, Colonel Lumpkin fell, severely wounded (leg since amputated) while gallantly leading his regiment in a charge against the enemy,” he wrote. A veteran of the 44th receiving the news of his respected leader lamented, “There was no better, braver or cooler officer in the army than Colonel Lumpkin. Always at the front and always ready for duty, he had the confidence of his superior officers and the men he commanded.” The battle at Gettysburg continued two more days as a Confederate private observed, “There was an awful fight for three days. I don’t think we gained anything there.” (20)

On Independence Day – July 4, 1863 – the cannon finally fell silent at the crossroads community of 2,000 residents in Pennsylvania; the Confederate invasion of the North had been stopped. Now, in the path of the retreating Rebel army, Washington County, Md. waited in anxiety . . . and fear. After several days under record-setting rain, Lee’s embattled forces began filtering through Hagerstown and surrounding areas. By the thousands they come – some walking, some on horseback, some in wagons . . . all spattered with mud and blood. (21)

Standing on a high elevation at the eastern edge of Hagerstown was the Kee-Mar College. Established in 1851, the seminary for young ladies was converted into an improvised hospital. Other buildings in town were used as both Union and Confederate hospitals while the seminary was strictly Confederate. It was in this ladies seminary the incapacitated colonel would end his earthly trials.  (22)

Hagerstown Female Seminary,  circa 1860s.
Colonel Samuel Lumpkin died here as

 a  POW in September 1863.
(Image: Washington County Historical Society)
Some historians believe Colonel Lumpkin was transported from Gettysburg to Williamsport by Gen. John Imboden’s 17-mile long wagon train of  Confederate wounded. However, the wounded of Doles’ Brigade did not travel to Williamsport by Imboden’s “train of misery” – but by a shorter route. The greatest part of Lee’s army left Gettysburg to the east passing through Fairfield, Monterey Pass, and after crossing into Maryland, moved slowly down the Leitersburg Pike into Hagerstown. Ewell’s Corps, acting as rear guard for the Army of Northern Virginia, camped north and east of Hagerstown. At this time, the mangled, battle-torn colonel was carried inside the seminary hospital. Leaving town, Ewell’s legions trudged on to Williamsport, where on the night of July 14, they crossed the swollen Potomac River to the safety of Virginia soil. (23)

A letter dated “December 5, 1863,” mailed from 44th Georgia headquarters camped at Morton’s Ford, Va., gives solid evidence the wounded Lumpkin was left at Hagerstown – not Williamsport. The correspondence was sent to John Calvin Johnson, the executor of Sam Lumpkin’s estate, “Sir, I was sent from Gettysburg, Pa. in charge of the wounded of Doles’ Brig. and when we reached Hagerstown, I thought it advisable to leave Col. S.P. Lumpkin & Capt. Haygood. I then loaned Col. L. Fifty Dollars in the presence of Pvt. Montgomery whom I left as a nurse for him. Owing to the hurry of the occasion I took no showing for it.”

It is apparent the writer, Dr. Abner McGarity, is attempting to collect $50 he had loaned Colonel Lumpkin in Hagerstown – almost six months earlier. The communiqué continued, “Capt. Neary of our Regt. informs me that you are settling the Col’s business and that you have authorized him to sell his horse. The Capt. will have a surplus of the Col’s funds on hand and proposes to settle the fifty-dollars with me in the event that you will authorize him to do so. You will please do so by letter and I will give him my receipt.”

The note of request is signed, “Very Respectfully, A.E. McGarity, Surgeon 44th Ga.” This is the same Abner E. McGarity who was thought to have amputated Lumpkin’s leg at Gettysburg and nowhere does he mention “Williamsport” as to where the wounded colonel was taken. Dr. McGarity ended his message to Johnson with a post-script: “Capt. N. requested me to say to you that he had not sold Col. L’s horse yet but thought he would soon. A.E.M.” (24)

During the Gettysburg Campaign, Abner Embry McGarity served as assistant surgeon for the 44th Ga. According to comrades in the 44th, Dr. McGarity was, “… a good man, treated the sick and wounded under his charge humanely and kindly.” In the fall 1864, McGarity was transferred to the 61st Alabama Infantry. Capt. William J. Neary mentions that McGarity was quartermaster for the 44th Ga. and “…had the respect of all the officers and men of the Forty-fourth Georgia Regiment.” Also noted in the correspondence, Pvt. Montgomery was captured at Hagerstown, and exchanged later in 1863. He surrendered at Appomattox and was reported living after the war “somewhere in the West.” (25)

The Captain Haygood in McGarity’s writing was Capt. William B. Haygood, a member of Company C, 44th Georgia Regiment. Haygood lost an arm at Gettysburg and was captured at Hagerstown along with Colonel Lumpkin. He remained in prison for the duration of the war and died at an unknown date in DeKalb County, Ga. (26).

Colonel Samuel Pittman Lumpkin fought his final battle in September 1863 at the seminary hospital in Hagerstown and then slowly “crossed over the river.” The amputation, extreme loss of blood and typhoid fever all took their toll on the 29-year-old Rebel warrior. (27)

The mutilated, battle-scarred body was placed in the old Presbyterian Church graveyard on South Potomac Street in Hagerstown. Standing a few doors south of Washington County Free Library, the Presbyterian Church is known today as the Fundamental Baptist Church.

       Lumpkin's remains were originally buried at the Presbyterian Church cemetery on
     South Potomac Street in Hagerstown, Md. It's now the Fundamental Baptist Church.

In postwar years, a niece of Lumpkin’s wrote, “My father told me about my Uncle Samuel Lumpkin, and I have met one or two of his old comrades in arms. All bore testimony to his personal charm. He was a physician but choose rather to go into the regular army than as a surgeon. He was engaged to be married at the time of his death, and the family sent his personal belongings to the girl, with the exception of a small keepsake apiece. Grandfather had an embroidered vest of his with a small gold pin shaped like a sword and I remembered seeing the pin. It was stolen we thought.” (29)

In 1913, 48 years after the war, the Presbyterians planned to expand their church building. The new construction required removal of the graveyard adjacent to the sanctuary. More than likely, Lumpkin’s grave in the church cemetery had a marker of some sort, but unfortunately all stones were discarded or destroyed during the building project. Some marble tombstones were even laid face-down and used as a walk. In May 1913, the colonel’s skeletal remains were removed from the Presbyterian graveyard and appropriately re-interred in the Washington Confederate Cemetery several blocks below the church on South Potomac Street. As fate would have it, 1913 was the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and thousands of veterans returned for a reunion and to camp on the old battlefield – the same year Colonel Lumpkin would find his final bivouac. Other remains were removed at this time from the church graveyard and re-interred in Rose Hill and other cemeteries in the Hagerstown area. (30)

Official dedication of the Washington Cemetery was held June 12, 1877. Guest speaker for the solemn occasion was Confederate Maj-Gen. Fitzhugh Lee – nephew of Gen. Robert E. Lee. On Sept. 3, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower, general and former President of the United States, re-dedicated the hallowed Confederate burial ground. Eisenhower traveled from his farm at Gettysburg to Hagerstown in an army helicopter. Undoubtedly, when “Ike” gave his re-dedication speech in 1961, Lumpkin’s gravestone was covered by a layer of sod and drew no attention. (31)

Former president Dwight Eisenhower attended the re-dedication ceremony at
 Washington Cemetery in Hagerstown, Md., on Sept. 3, 1961.

An early Board of Trustees for the Confederate cemetery paid by check – June 20, 1913 -- $3.25 to Rose Hill Cemetery for “reinterring body of Col. Lumpkins.” The following year -- Oct. 21, 1914 -- the manufacturing firm of C.E. Darner was paid $12 for providing and engraving the marble gravestone. A final cancelled check for $5 drawn on the Hagerstown Bank – Jan. 16, 1915 – shows the purchase of “flowers” for the grave to local florist, Henry A. Bester & Sons. (32)

A distant nephew of the colonel wrote an article titled “An Old Time Georgia Christmas.” The true account published in 1906 in Columbia, S.C., is based on the childhood plantation home of Samuel Lumpkin and how Christmas was celebrated at the time of the War Between the States. The writer remembered and mentions Colonel Lumpkin in the narrative, “Uncle Sam was as gentle as a woman, and as I know now, the sweetest one of the family. Uncle Sam died at Gettysburg.” (33)

Neither the Johnson nor Lumpkin families down in Georgia had any way of knowing the colonel was buried in Hagerstown. The only word they had received was he had “lost a leg at Gettysburg” and assumed he was dead. But far more than Colonel. Sam’s shattered leg was left behind in Pennsylvania. Buried deep in the blood-soaked fields of Gettysburg rested the Southern States last hope of becoming an independent nation. The seemingly endless struggle of civil war would continue two more costly years as dark days of despair and defeat increased for the Sons of the South. The time was drawing near when their ragged yet sacred banners of Stars & Bars would be folded with reluctance and patriotic pride . . . forever. (34).

(For notes and sources for this post, go here.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cemetery secrets: Identities of seven Rebel soldiers revealed?

 In this enlargement of John Reekie's 1865 photograph of Confederate graves in Oakwood Cemetery 
in Richmond, friend of the blog  Dale Nichols discovered the names of  seven soldiers on
 crude, wooden headboards. The full, original image by Reekie is at the bottom of this post.
(Library of Congress collection)
Well, that didn't take long.

Less than 24 hours after I posted my thoughts on Confederates buried in graves shown in this 1865 John Reekie photograph of Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, a Virginia man offered his own take. Using the same high-resolution image that I used from the Library of Congress web site, Dale Nichols identified the graves of seven soldiers with the aid of a copy of the cemetery burial records,.During a trip from his home in Newport News, Va., to Richmond in July 2011, he made a complete digital copy of the cemetery's 180-plus page record of more than 7,000 soldier burials. Nichols cautions, however, that the cemetery records are "poor at best," so the IDs aren't rock-solid.

According to the eagle-eyed Nichols, the soldiers are: (*)

William H. Ambrose, 35th North Carolina private : A 21-year-old farmer from Onslow County, North Carolina, he enlisted on Sept. 6, 1861. Wounded at Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862, Ambrose was transported that day to Richmond, where he died 11 days later.

J.S. Harvey, 1st South Carolina 

J.W. Champion, 14th South Carolina

Boldin or Bowlen M. Ferrell, 35th Georgia private: A musician, he was from Campbell County, Ga., and enlisted on Oct. 31, 1861. He died of disease in a Richmond hospital on July 18, 1862.

E.W. Martin, 19th Mississippi: Possibly Enoch W. Martin, a private in Company I, who enlisted on May 1, 1861.

W. Kelley, 1st Louisiana: Possibly Sergeant William Kelley, who enlisted on May 15, 1861.

N.F. James, 35th Georgia private  

(*) Additional info on soldiers added by me.

Nichols' ancestors served in 12th South Carolina -- they may have battled the 16th Connecticut in John Otto's cornfield at Antietam -- and 38th Georgia, so he has a huge interest in the Confederacy. He even has a web site and Facebook page dedicated to the 38th Georgia.

"Over 1,500 men served in the 38th Georgia during the war," Nichols wrote me in an e-mail, "and I've spent at least two years alone trying to track down the burial location of each soldier. I probably have the grave sites of about 800 of these men, but hundreds will remain unknowns, their burial places lost to history."

Is another mini-Civil War mystery solved? Let me know what you think.

ENLARGEMENT 1: A blow-up of the left portion of the image at top of this post.
ENLARGEMENT 2: A blow-up of the right portion of the image at the top of this post.
In April 1865, John Reekie shot this image of Rebels buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond.
 (Library of Congress collection)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Cemetery secrets: Are my IDs for these Rebel graves correct?

(Library of Congress collection)
In April 1865, John Reekie, best known for this ghastly image of African-Americans unearthing and collecting remains of  Federal dead at Cold Harbor, made this haunting photograph of Confederate graves at Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond. At least 100 mostly crude, wooden headboards filled this section of the cemetery, where Rebel dead were buried starting in the summer of 1861. Freshly turned dirt isn't apparent, probably evidence that none of these graves were recent, and the grounds are weed-choked, likely an indication the cemetery was poorly maintained. ...

... an enlargement of the original image reveals a small building in the background, perhaps a barn or farm outbuilding. But my aim was to identify soldiers who were buried in the marked graves, as I have done by viewing enlargements of the largest TIF versions of other Civil War images available on the excellent Library of Congress web site. For example, see this post on the burial of Union dead in Fredericksburg Va., in May 1864 and this post on Federal sailors who were buried in a cemetery in Charleston, S.C. In the enlargement above, writing on several of the wooden markers is apparent. ...

... but the inscription on this headboard and on several other markers in enlargements of the original image are not clear enough to identify the soldiers who were buried in the graves. An identification of the name on the headboard above seems tantalizingly close, and perhaps an examination of the original image at the Library of Congress in Washington would result in a rock-solid ID. ...

Is this the headboard for N.F. James?
This grave appears at the far right of

 the enlargement above. Nathaniel James,
a private in the 3rd Virginia,
was killed at Antietam, but it's
unlikely his remains were
buried in Richmond.
... this enlargement reveals other names on headboards. The writing on the slender marker next to the large grave marker at the far left appears to be B.M. Ferrell. According to the American Civil War Research Database, a Bowlen or Bolding M. Ferrell, a private in the 35th Georgia, died of disease in a Richmond hospital on July 18, 1862. A musician, he was from Campbell County, Ga., and enlisted on Oct. 31, 1861. Database records are incomplete, so while this ID is likely, it's not proof-positive.

Although the last two letters of the last name are not visible, we can surmise that a soldier with the last name Morton was buried next to Ferrell. His first two initials appear to be E.W. or F.W. According to the database,  Ezekiel R. Morton, a private in the 28th North Carolina, died in a Richmond hospital of typhoid fever on Aug. 23, 1862. Morton was 22 years old when he enlisted in Stanly County, N.C., on March 20, 1862. No Confederate soldier named Morton with a first initial "F" is in the database, perhaps an indication that this is indeed the grave for Ezekiel, although the second initial "R" in the database leaves that ID open to question.

The grave in the middle of the enlargement appears to be for a W. Kelly. Of the 20 Kellys listed in the database, at least four died in Richmond: Private William H. Kelly of the 6th North Carolina, Private William Kelly of the 45th North Carolina, Private William H. Kelly of the 35th Georgia and Private William N. Kelly of the 37th Virginia.

The Kelly of the 45th North Carolina had an especially interesting war record. He was 37 when he enlisted in Rockingham County, N.C., on March 19, 1863. Less than four months later, Kelly was captured at Gettysburg and confined at Point Lookout, Md. Exchanged at City Point, Va., on March 16, 1864, he apparently became a POW again near the end of the war. He died of chronic diarrhea on April 11, 1865, two days after the war officially ended. It seems unlikely, however, that he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. The grave in the image, which was taken in April 1865, does not appear to be fresh, making it more likely that one of the three other Kellys, each of whom died in Richmond in 1862, was buried here. ...

H.L. Harwood enlisted in the
 Rebel army on April 7, 1862,
according to this document
found on
... upon first viewing an enlargement of the original image, the chances seemed promising for a positive identification of the soldier buried under the large headboard. The name H.L. Harwood at the top of the marker is easily read, the death date appears to be July 1862 or 1863 and the soldier's company apparently is "K."

Seven Confederate soldiers with the last name Harwood are in the database; Horatio Harwood, a private in the 27th Virginia, died of disease in Savannah, Ga., on Nov. 15, 1864, making it highly unlikely he's the soldier whose grave appears in the image. Of the six other Harwoods in the database, only one had the initials H.L.: a private in the 5th Virginia Cavalry who enlisted when he was 28 in Petersburg, Va., on April 7, 1862. The database does not indicate that H.L. Harwood died during the war, but many Civil War records, especially Confederate, are inaccurate or incomplete.

Under command of Captain Charles Pannill, Company K of the 5th Virginia Cavalry was comprised mostly of men from Petersburg. In July 1862, the 5th Virginia saw action during the Peninsula Campaign near Richmond, and in July 1863, it fought at Gettysburg. If the soldier identification is correct and he died in July 1862 or 1863, as I surmise was written on the headboard, perhaps H.L. Harwood was sent to Richmond to recover from a battlefield wound. He may have died in one of the many army hospitals in the capital of the Confederacy.

Further research surely will reveal much more about the graves John Reekie photographed more than 150 years ago. The remains of more than 16,000 Confederates are buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Most, the Restore Oakwood web site notes, were casualties at Cold Harbor, Gaines' Mill, Malvern Hill and other battles near Richmond.

Notice anything else in the original image or enlargements? E-mail me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Antietam: Emotional dedication of 16th Connecticut monument

The 16th Connecticut monument at Antietam before it was dedicated on Oct. 11, 1894. 
The photographer of these rare images is unknown.
(Image from Gil Barrett collection via Stephen Recker, Rare Images Of Antietam)
Former 16th Connecticut officer Frank Cheney, who gave a dedication speech
 at Antietam on Oct. 11, 1894,  may be second from the right of the monument. 
 (Image from Gil Barrett collection via Stephen Recker/Rare Images Of Antietam.)
(Adapted from my book, Connecticut Yankees At Antietam.)

On Sept. 17, 1891, Frank Cheney, clutching the deed of ownership, drew a huge reaction when he told more than 100 16th Connecticut comrades of the purchase of 10 acres of land at Antietam on which the regiment shed so much blood. Cheney, a lieutenant colonel in the 16th who was severely wounded in the left arm at the battle, contributed a large sum to buy the property, with the intention of placing a monument there in the regiment’s honor.

Post-war image of  Frank Cheney
"The effect was magnetic. The men arose and cheered for the colonel again, and again, and again,” the Hartford Daily Times reported about the speech. “And many were touched almost to tears by this generous manifestation of his interest, and by the consciousness that the regiment held the sacred ground which drank the blood of their brothers, in ownership for all time to come.” Cheney, who had resigned from the army on Christmas Eve 1862 because of his wound, was among the more beloved men in the regiment.

A little more than three years later, on Oct. 11, 1894, monuments to the 16th, 14th, 11th and 8th Connecticut regiments that fought at Antietam were dedicated. The lead-up to the event and dedication day were covered extensively in the Hartford Courant and Hartford Daily Times. On Oct. 12, 1894, the Courant featured a lengthy, six-column article with an illustration of each monument and partial transcripts of speeches veterans of each regiment gave at the dedications. (The monuments had been paid for by the state.)

"Antietam battlefield memories were refreshed on that memorable field yesterday by many Connecticut Union Veterans who lived again the days of the initiation into the realm of shot and shell and the carnage of battle," the Courant reported.

During his monument dedication speech in the field where the 16th Connecticut was routed on Sept. 17, 1862, Cheney spoke of "vain regrets wasted over what was left undone" on the battlefield and dead comrades. "Our work is nearly done," the 62-year-old veteran said. "Our children must carry it on. Let us bring them up so that they will hold on to the faith in all the Old Flag represents, and will believe that brave men fought and died for it, down here in Maryland." (Click here to see present-day photo of the monument.)

 Dedication day ribbon
that may have belonged
to Frank Cheney.
(CHS collection)
Perhaps the most poignant moment that Thursday afternoon came during a reading of an original poem by Nathan Mayer of Hartford. An assistant regimental surgeon in the 11th Connecticut at Antietam who was known to dole out morphine by having soldiers lick his hand, Mayer later served as chief surgeon for the 16th Connecticut.

After Cheney spoke, Mayer, a brilliant man, recited a long poem that eloquently summed up the veterans’ experience at Antietam. In part, it read:

This brought us here — a thousand men
With hearts on fire — but bare in ken
Of warlike methods and of arms.
Such as they came from shops and farms,
From busy mart, from college halls.
From life 'tween close-set office walls,
They stood in line, undrilled, untrained.
Though shrapnel burst and bullets rained
Beyond the broad brook's verdant banks,
Among the green corn's waving ranks,
They fill the gap ! -- Forward ! -- Advance ! -
They send their lead down in the dance
Of Death, who sweeps with crimson hand
O'er the blue hills of Maryland.
And forward still I Stern duty placed
Their brave and untried ranks. -- Square faced
Against the picked men of the South,
Against their batteries' belching mouth.
Against the fire-lined gray stone wall --
A living line to stand or fall --
They met their fate, this martyr band.
For Union and their Native Land !

As Mayer read his poem, many in attendance wept.

                                                                          X X X

During a visit to Hartford last weekend, I had the file pulled on Cheney in the research room of the Connecticut Historical Society, which has the former 16th Connecticut officer's army frock coat, trousers, shirt and kepi in its museum. The file included a dedication day ribbon and a program from the 1894 dedication of the 16th Connecticut monument at Antietam. Perhaps Cheney was clutching the program during his address there more than 121 years ago.

(My thanks to Stephen Recker, author of Rare Images Of Antietam: And The Photographers Who Took Them, for permission to post the 1894 images of the 16th Connecticut monument dedication. Click here for my Q&A with Recker. Both of the rare images appear in his book.)

16th Connecticut monument dedication program from Frank Cheney file at
Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. Cheney  was severely wounded at Antietam.

Monday, November 09, 2015

My new Civil War photography blog has launched

Crampton's Gap, near Burkittsville, Md.
Bloody Lane at Antietam
Fort Morgan on Alabama's Gulf Coast.
On Saturday, I launched a new Civil War blog that focuses on photography, specifically 180-degree images of battlefields. Each post includes a short backstory about the battlefield scene. I have so many photos that don't work well in the format on the mother blog -- that's the blog you're on now -- that I decided to add this one. I call it John Banks' Civil War 180. E-mail me at to let me know what you think or post thoughts in the comments section.
The mother blog got a fresh, new look over the weekend. About time.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Meet "Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers" author

I will speak at the Avon (Conn.) Free Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. about my newly released book, "Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers." Stop by and say hello. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. (Even Mrs. Banks will attend!)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Ohio firefighter has burning passion for Civil War images

A sergeant in the 129th Indiana, Addison Harley, seated next to his wife Rachel, died of disease 
during the war. A note found behind the image reads, "To Miss Rachel. For our son when we
 have one." (Matthew Fleming collection)

If you collect soldier images, you may have spent a fair amount of time at estate sales or auctions, Civil War shows and surfing the web. The Civil War soldier photographs in my modest collection come from a variety of sources. I got this CDV of a 16th Connecticut private in a trade, this ruby ambrotype of  a 15th Massachusetts private on eBay and purchased this tintype of a 61st New York private from this website.

Firefighter Matthew Fleming, 41, began selling Civil War images
 to help finance his own collection. 
For Civil War photography, I frequently visit three online sites: The Horse Soldier, a Gettysburg institution; Medhurst & Company Fine Images and Documents and the Civil War Image Shop, owned by a 41-year-old firefighter-turned-image dealer named Matthew Fleming of Milan, Ohio.

Although I have yet to make a purchase from Fleming, no weekend passes without at least several clicks at Many of the images on Fleming's frequently updated site include much more than barebones details of the soldier's service, a great addition, and Fleming's gallery of sold images is a virtual museum with free admission. It's a very cool site.

A firefighter for the past 16 years, Fleming has had a longtime interest in history, but Ken Burns' 1990 Civil War documentary planted the seed for his passion for the War Between The States. He has collected Civil War images for about 20 years, actively working as a dealer in photographs for about five.

"I began selling images more or less as hobby to help finance my collection," said Fleming, "but it quickly ballooned into a full-fledged business." Most of the images he obtains come from other collectors, but he also purchases images on eBay as well as at estate sales, antique stores and from other sources. Many of the images for sale on his site are on consignment.

I recently posed these questions to Fleming, who answered them via e-mail:

What's the favorite image in your collection?

Fleming: Probably an image (see above) of a young soldier named Addison Harley, who is seated with his wife. Behind the image he wrote a note to her: "To Miss Rachel. For our son when we have one." Sometime thereafter, Harley, who was a sergeant in the 129th Indiana, contracted typhoid and died during the summer of 1864. A listing of his personal effects taken at the time of his death lists this very photograph as being on his person at the time. The photo was later returned to his wife along with the rest of his effects. Whether she ever became aware of the inscription written behind the image by her late husband is unknown, but the son of which he wrote was never to be as he died before they were ever able to conceive. (Here's Harley's grave on

Found in the widow's pension file for Addison Harley,  this note from a Union surgeon states
 that the 129th Indiana sergeant died of typhoid fever on Aug. 5, 1864, at Totten General Hospital
 in Louisville, Ky. (

Is there an image that you have sold that you later regretted parting with?

Fleming: There are a couple images that I have sold over the years that I later regretted selling but very few. An image either speaks to you or it doesn't the moment it lands in your hand. Early on, I picked up an outstanding image of a Trans-Mississippi Rebel armed with his musket and wearing a beautiful battleshirt all richly tinted in wonderful colors. I paid next to nothing for it, but I was just starting out, and I knew I could gain substantially from its sale, so I sold it. I've seen it a few times since, but where it is currently I don't know. That is one I would definitely like to get back.

Is there a great story you can share about purchasing an item for a relative pittance that turned out to be a rare or important find?

Fleming: I have on a few occasions picked up an image knowing nothing of its history only to learn later of some great historical provenance -- although rarely for a pittance. I just recently obtained an image on eBay of a simple Confederate infantry officer. Unidentified at the time I purchased it, it sat on my desk with the idea that he would most likely remain anonymous, like so many before him. It would not be the case. The once-unknown soldier turned out to be Confederate Captain Samuel Jackson of the 44th Tennessee Infantry (see below). He was grandson to President Andrew Jackson and had lived and worked at the president's estate at The Hermitage in Nashville, Tenn.

A second photo of Jackson in a different uniform was on display there alongside an old photocopy of the image that I now have. It was known the photograph existed, but it's actual location was not known. I stumbled upon it unknowingly and, after learning of its identity, I contacted The Hermitage. An updated full-color scan is now on display there next to the image that was already in their possession. Samuel was mortally wounded at Chickamauga on Sept. 19, 1863. I have had several such discoveries over the years.

44th Tennessee Captain Samuel Jackson, who was mortally wounded at Chickamauga, was a
 grandson of  President Andrew Jackson. The image was purchased by Matthew Fleming on eBay.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Antietam panorama: A Union soldier's view of Bloody Lane

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

                  Click at upper right for full-screen interactive panorama of Bloody Lane.

Beginning at about 9:30 a.m., bitter fighting took place here, near the Sunken Road, during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. Nearly 2,500 Rebels defended the old country lane seen in the distance in this interactive panorama I shot near the crest of the hill in a field on the old William Roulette farm. At about this spot, men in Union General William French's division were mowed down by a murderous fire from Rebels, who were in the now-infamous Bloody Lane. Fighting here raged until about 1 p.m., when Yankees finally forced the Confederates from a defensive position that had become a death trap for many Rebels. On a crisp, late-summer September morning, I was the only person walking this ground -- the best way to truly appreciate what happened at Antietam more than 153 years ago.

Here's a terrific description by a Confederate officer of the scene as Yankees neared the Rebels' position:

"Slowly they approach up the hill, and slowly our skirmishers retire before theirs, firing as they come. Our skirmishers are ordered to come into the line. Here they are, right before us, scarcely 50 yards off, but as if with one feeling, our whole line pour a deadly volley into their ranks – they drop, reel; stagger, and back their first line go beyond the crest of the hill. Our men reload, and await for them to again approach, while the first column of the enemy meet the second, rally and move forward again. They meet with the same reception, and back again they go, to come back when met by their third line. Here they all come. You can see their mounted riders cheering them on, and with a sickly 'huzza!' they all again approach us at a charge, but another volley sends their whole line reeling back."
Lt. John C. Gorman, 2nd North Carolina Infantry, D. H. Hill’s Division
Letter to wife and mother, September 21, 1862, North Carolina State Archives
 (Research by Scott Hartwig)

When they reached the crest of this hill, Union soldiers were mowed down by Alabama and
 North Carolina troops in the Sunken Road. The Yankees forced Rebels from the lane at about 1 p.m.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Antietam: Fresh battle account by 11th Connecticut private reveals details of mortal wounding of Captain John Griswold

11th Connecticut Captain John Griswold , 25, was mortally wounded in Antietam Creek.
At about 10 in the morning during the Battle of Antietam, 11th Connecticut Private Philo Stevens Pearce was in the thick of the fight to take Burnside Bridge. A skirmisher in Company A, the 18-year old soldier narrowly escaped being wounded or killed, falling into a ditch while his regiment was under terrific fire from Rebels on the bluff above the bridge. "This surely saved my scalp," he wrote decades later in a memoir.

After the war, Pearce, from New Fairfield, Conn., lived in New York before he settled in Catawba Island, Ohio, where he married a woman named Ora Barnum, with whom he had five children.  A prosperous farmer, he became one of the county's leading citizens. "His orchards are among the best cultivated and most productive," an account published in 1896 noted, "and by his sterling ability and amiable disposition he has won himself a host of friends."
Captain John Griswold's beautiful gravestone in the
Griswold family cemetery in Old Lyme, Conn.

Before he died in 1926, Pearce wrote a memoir of his four-year service with the 11th Connecticut, which also fought at Fredericksburg, Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. In a vivid account of his experience at Antietam, Pearce wrote of Union soldiers meeting with Rebels the night before the battle, dodging his colonel's horse after it was struck by an artillery shell and the terrible fight for Burnside Bridge. "I fired so fast," he remembered, "that my rifle got hot and I had to pour water on it to cool it."

Detailed to aid surgeons, Pearce recalled getting dizzy from the fumes of chloroform used to anesthetize the wounded, staggering outside and briefly falling asleep. When he awoke, he lay upon a pile of amputated arms and legs. "This was enough for me around there," he wrote of that experience.

But it's Pearce's account of the death of one the regiment's most beloved officers, Captain John Griswold, that I found most compelling. As he boldly (or perhaps foolishly) led a charge across Antietam Creek on Sept. 17, 1862, Griswold, the grandson of a Connecticut governor, was shot in the middle of the creek and then staggered to the far bank. After the bridge was taken, Pearce claimed he and two comrades rescued the 25-year-old officer and carried him to safety.

"[Griswold] gave his watch to the first one over who was Ira Taylor," Pearce wrote. "The other one was Joe Mallory and myself. We carried him back to the hospital on the hill..." About an hour later, the former private wrote, Griswold died at the "hospital on the hill" -- probably at the Henry Rohrbach farm. Other accounts note the captain died the next day. (Mallory was killed at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. Taylor, wounded at Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864, survived the war.)

"As requested by many of my old friends," Pearce wrote the 36-page memoir in 1925, when he was 80 or 81. Of course, memories fade as we age, so keep that in mind as you read Pearce's account below of his experience at Antietam. A typescript copy of the memoir, believed to have never been published, was donated sometime in the 1980s to the Harris-Elmore Library in Elmore, Ohio. Huge hat tip to Dan Masters of Perrysburg, Ohio, who e-mailed the account to me this week.

Burnside Bridge image taken by Alexander Gardner in 1862.  In his 1925 memoir, 11th Connecticut 
Private Philo Pearce claims he was one of three soldiers to carry Captain John Griswold from the
 far bank after he was mortally wounded. (Library of Congress)

Account of Private Philo Stevens Pearce, Co. A, 11th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry of the Battle of Antietam: 

The battle of Antietam was fought September 17, 1862. On the day before, our army was marched into a large field probably one half mile in the rear from where the Rebel line was waiting for us across the creek. We all lay down on our arms that night. Some of the boys were detailed to fill canteens with water. They went to a house on a ridge beyond us to get water from a well. This house was between the two lines. The boys found the Rebels were after water, too. No one was armed. They agreed not to hurt each other. They got into quite a chat and the Rebels said, “We’uns won’t fight you now, but wait until morning and then we’uns will clean you’ns out!”

The boys returned back to us and reported it to the officers, who were fools to go with a squad of men and arrest a few of their men. Of course the Rebels reported this to their men. In a short time, a battery of Rebels opened fire on us, but being dark they couldn’t quite tell where we were. They had range so their shells caused some excitement. We were close together, but our side did not reply. Soon they quit firing but we well knew what would come in the morning. When we received our arms after being mustered into U.S. service in Hartford, Conn., our Co. A and B were presented by the people with Sharps’ breech loading rifles, while other companies had red Springfield rifles. Companies A and B most always were put on the head skirmish line.

On the morning of September 17th, we ate our hardtack without any coffee and were soon called to order. We were on the move, getting the lines formed for an advance, on the ridge above the creek. The Rebel battery got a range on us. Soon our batteries were swung into position and the artillery duel commenced. While our colonel was getting us into line and was on his horse, a shell from the Rebels broke and a piece struck his horse. As the horse fell, I had to dodge to keep it from falling on me. The colonel was not hurt and was soon on his feet, calling us to keep cool. I can say it took some nerve to keep cool as shells were bursting all around us.

         Union soldier's view from Burnside Bridge of  Rebel positions on bluff (pan left).
       The 11th Connecticut attacked from right to left across this field on Sept. 17, 1862.

We were soon ordered forward. Cos. A and B as usual were put on the skirmish line ahead of the battle line.  We deployed in line, being about a rod apart and down the ridge toward the creek. Before we got to the creek, we came into a cornfield. This was quite a protection, but [it did] not last long. In this cornfield, we came upon a Rebel brass band who had run and left their horns and instruments laying on the ground. We came to the edge of the field where there was a rail fence along the road. The Rebel line was just across the creek from us. Now the ‘fun’ commenced.

I don’t think we were over 20 rods apart. Our Capt. John Griswold was a brave man and jumped over the fence saying ‘come on boys!’ I, with some others, did jump. As we did, we got a volley of shots from the Rebel line. I had a ball cut through the top of my left side but did not cut the flesh. I fell into the road ditch where it had been plowed and scraped. This surely saved my scalp. Now it was time to do our duty. Capt. Griswold was hit and he rushed into the creek and kept plunging ahead until he got across. He shouted for us to come and get him but we had our hands full. To say we worked well is putting it mildly. I fired every shot I had and Sgt. [Irving] Stevens, the man next to me, was hit through his left hand and couldn’t fire anymore. He shoved his cartridge box to me and said ‘I can’t fire anymore.’ I fired so fast that my rifle got hot and I had to pour water on it to cool it.

“I fired so fast that my rifle got hot and I had to pour water on it to cool it."

I had a good view of their line across the creek on the ridge. Before our battle line got down, I had fired all my shells and what Sgt. Stevens had left. Each man had 60 rounds and all of our company who did not get over the fence fired all their shells. When the battle line came down, each one fell behind the fence. I lay in the ditch in the front as close as I could as the line was falling over me. This lasted until our men to the right charged the bridge with three charges. This forced the Rebel line back as our men kept crossing and driving the Rebels back. Our loss was heavy. Colonel [Henry] Kingsbury was killed, Lt. Col. [William] Moegling wounded and most all the staff officers killed or wounded.

Georgians fired upon the Union IX Corps from this position
on the 
 bluffs above Antietam Creek as the Yankees attempted
 to take Burnside Bridge. The foliage is much thicker today
 than it was in 1862.
After the bridge was taken, two men and myself waded the creek and brought Capt. Griswold back. He lived about an hour after we got him across. He gave his watch to the first one over who was Ira Taylor. The other one was Joe Mallory and myself. We carried him back to the hospital on the hill where he died.

The field was strewn with wounded. We had red stripes tied on our arms and were put to work taking care of the wounded. I carried water and helped the best I could. I was working on one of the worst wounded men who had one leg shattered and one arm broken. One of the surgeons ordered us to carry him to the hospital where they amputate. We laid him on the table where surgeons were working in great haste.  I held chloroform to his nose and mouth and soon they had one arm and one leg off, throwing the limbs out the window. As soon as this was done another man was laid on the table. I kept on holding chloroform for a few more. I began to get dizzy from the effect. I staggered outside and when I came to my senses, I was laying on arms and legs. This was enough for me around there.

I made a break back to find where our company was located. I had to pass over the field where our dead lay. Such a valley of death was enough to turn a man’s heart to stone. I could hardly step without stepping over a corpse. The field was literally strung with our dead. Two others and myself were pretty well exhausted and hungry for something to eat. I saw one of our dead soldiers had a knapsack with some coffee and hardtack, more than I had. I thought it was no more use to him. I took my knife and cut the strap, then taking it with me. We went down on the creek bank and made a fire to make some coffee. After eating, we had some strength and satisfied our hunger. Then we went to find our company. I found one of our boys’ rifles which I needed because I left mine on the bank when we carried our captain.

When we found our company there were only 18 of the 75 going into action the morning before. The rest were killed, wounded, or missing. A sergeant took charge about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We formed in line with some fresh troops who had not been engaged in the morning. The fresh ones were placed in advance and we were held in reserve to support them. The Rebel line had fallen back upon a ridge and formed their line again, throwing rail piles and whatever they could get for protection. They waited for us to advance. The green troops in front of us old troops -- all were ready.

After he was wounded, 11th Connecticut Captain John Griswold was taken to "the hospital on 
the hill"  -- probably Henry Rohrbach's farm. Here are the Rohrbach farmhouse and barn.

Lieutenant [Morris] Kraszynski took charge and said "Now boys, no man falls out to carry back the wounded. Plenty of men to the rear to do this." His language was broken, but he was a brave little officer. Our line was moving forward and our batteries opened fire on the Rebel line with shells cracking all around. We moved ahead on a double quick charge and were close to their heels. As we neared the top of the bridge, bullets were singing thick and sharp. We spotted a four foot wide woodpile in front of us and we were making for it. The first man shot was our lieutenant, struck through the rear part of his pants and hips. The first thing we heard was, ‘Oh my God, I’m shot! Two free men carry me back!’ Just about 10 minutes before, he cautioned us to fall out to carry men back. Some of the boys sang out, ‘You go to hell. Plenty of men to the rear to carry you back!’ We ran forward and covered ourselves behind the woodpile from which we could fire at the enemy with good advantage.

We didn’t remain there long as our boys were going forward at a double quick charge and we were following to support them. The new troops in front made a fine charge but they got impulsive so we had to hold them on our line. When they came back on us, we had a time to hold them and make them fall into our line. I know we had made good work of our guns to keep them from rushing over us. I can say a stampede like this is hard to keep men from pushing through anything. We held and made them get into our line.

11th Connecticut monument at Anitetam.
The Rebels saw their chance and charged back on our line, thinking they could get our army routed and defeat us. Our batteries in position were waiting for the enemy. When we got in reach of our line, it was our time to make it hot for the Rebels. We broke their line, charged, and gained the rail piles from where they had started. We held them after they again formed but were repulsed and we gained our ground.

It was now getting towards evening and both sides were glad the bloody day was over. Such a sight as that field again where we fought in the forenoon. The field was filled with our men and Rebels. While we were behind the rail piles and the Rebels were making their last charge, in came our wild Irishman  Jim Conboy (of the shell incident). We were firing as fast as we could load and shoot and the bullets were coming over us like hail stones. Jim sang out, ‘Bejabers, hear those muskets sing!’ I can say they were singing but rather the bullets. This showed the grit of which Jim was made. This put us in, mad enough to give them our best licks.

Now evening closed on that bloody day of September 17, 1862. We laid down on our arms that night completely exhausted. Our loss was heavy and our regiment lost with about 250 killed, wounded, and missing.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In the footsteps of 8th Connecticut soldiers killed at Antietam

Corporal Robert Ferriss of New Milford, Conn., and Sergeant George Marsh of Hartford were killed
at the Battle of Antietam. Each soldier served in the 8th Connecticut.
John Rogers and I have explored the Antietam battlefield on our own or together perhaps a hundred times. We have peeked into the Dunker Church, examined the ruins of John Otto's barn, climbed the hill to the out-of-the-way 16th Connecticut monument and driven down the old, gravel Smoketown Road. 

But our six-hour trek over the hallowed ground last Saturday was especially meaningful. For one, we had a guest, first-time Antietam visitor Bob Anderson of Naugatuck, Conn. His 8th Connecticut ancestor, Corporal Robert Ferriss of Company I, was killed at Antietam late in the afternoon on Sept. 17, 1862. 

On this trip, I was especially eager to visit the ground where 8th Connecticut Sergeant George Marsh of Company A had been killed by the concussion of a solid shot about dawn on the morning of the battle. In the summer of 2014, I purchased from a Michigan antiques dealer two pre-war images of Marsh along with photos of his mother, father and sister. 

For Rogers, a Georgia native whose Confederate ancestors had fought at Antietam, this visit was special, too. The retired U.S. Army officer, who lives near the battlefield, brought with him a prized possession that once belonged to 8th Connecticut Private Oliver Case of Company A, who also had been killed at Antietam -- the bloodiest day of the Civil War.


The 8th Connecticut camped here the night before the Battle of Antietam. Sergeant George Marsh
 and  two other 8th Connecticut soldiers were killed here by Rebel artillery.
                                    Interactive panorama: 8th Connecticut camp site. 

When I fired off an e-mail to Ann Corcoran days before our Antietam visit, I had hoped she would give us a quick tour of the historic 300-acre farm she and her husband, Howard, have owned since 1986. On Sept. 16-17, 1862, the Union IX Corps camped on the Corcorans' property, which includes part of the old Henry Rohrbach farm, a key staging ground for Union troops. What we got was a terrific, two-hour deluxe tour from Ann, a quick-witted ball of fire. With the three of us packed into her old, green truck, she drove us around her family's farm, pointing out Union artillery positions, a magnificent 300-plus year-old chestnut oak, ruins of a slave cabin and more.

During a previous visit, I was unable to access the area where the 8th Connecticut had camped because the field was planted with corn. But we got lucky this time. The field wasn't planted, allowing us to easily find the spot where Marsh, a 29-year-old color-bearer in the 8th Connecticut from Hartford, had died more than 153 years ago. 

From my book, Connecticut Yankees at Antietam: Shortly after the sun peeked above the horizon on Sept. 17, 1862, “some curious fools” in the 8th Connecticut climbed atop a knoll on Henry Rohrbach’s farm to sneak a peek at their enemy, alerting Rebels on the far side of Antietam Creek.   Suddenly, a 12-pound solid shot burst from a cannon and crashed into the regiment’s ranks, killing Sgt. George Marsh of Hartford and two other soldiers, wounding four and splattering 19-year-old Lt. Marvin Wait with blood and dirt. The large mass of iron had plowed into the ground in front of the prone Marsh, missing him, but the massive concussion caused his death.

John Rogers inspects the remains of a slave cabin on what was the old Henry Rohrbach farm in 1862.
A massive, 300-plus year-old chestnut oak tree on the Henry Rohrbach farm.
The magnificent branches of the 60-foot tree. 
Perhaps Ferris, Case and their comrades rested under this tree the night before the battle. About 60 feet tall, the chestnut oak undoubtedly was a major presence even in 1862 -- soldiers probably passed it after they were ordered into battle. When Case and Ferriss moved out of their camp on Rohrbach's farm, they may have also passed a small cabin for slaves who were owned by Rohrbach. We examined the remains of  its stone foundation as well as the trace of an old Civil War lane, still visible in a stretch of woods. If only those stones and that massive tree could talk ...


Corporal Robert Ferriss forded Antietam Creek about 1 p.m. on Sept. 17, 1862. More than
 153 years later, Bob Anderson, his great-great-great nephew, stood near the spot.
A humble blogger and Anderson at Snavely Ford, where 8th Connecticut forded Antietam Creek.
After a short visit to the bluff above Burnside Bridge where the Rebels held off the Union IX Corps for about three hours, we walked along the park trail to Snavely Ford. The route the 8th Connecticut and the rest of Isaac Rodman's division took from Rohrbach's farm was on the opposite bank of Antietam Creek -- private property and inaccessible. But from our path we had a great view to our right of the steep, wooded bluffs along Antietam Creek. That high ground was thinly defended by the Rebels during the battle.

When the 8th Connecticut forded Antietam Creek at Snavely Ford about 1 p.m., they came under harassing fire from the Rebels on the bluffs. Soon, the regiments in Rodman's division crossed the shallow creek and were realigned for their march through a ravine toward Sharpsburg.

During our walk, I carefully examined the ground, occasionally kicking the earth and wondering what Civil War relics remained buried there. We also wondered what Case and Ferris must have been thinking as they neared the battlefield. Did they hear the rumble of artillery and musket fire? Or was the sound of battle more like a thunderous clap?

Were they exhausted?

Was Ferris, a 25-year-old color-bearer, worried that he would be a prime Rebel target?

Were they scared?


Close-ups of  8th Connecticut Private Oliver Case's Bible. "If you die, die like a man," reads the
 inscription on an inside page. Case's name, company and regiment also are written on the page.
After a visit to the 16th Connecticut monument, we picked up the route of the 8th Connecticut. A veteran regiment, it soon came under Rebel artillery and musket fire as it made its way up a long slope toward Harpers Ferry Road, near the village of Sharpsburg, Md. As he climbed the slope with Ferriss and the rest of his comrades, Case carried with him much more than a musket and the uniform on his back.

8th Connecticut monument at Antietam.
Flash forward 131 years.

In 1993, John Rogers purchased a Bible for $3 at a community yard sale in Germantown, Md. When he opened it weeks later, he was startled to discover it belonged to Case, who probably had it tucked away in his pocket when he was killed. Shortly after we arrived at the 8th Connecticut monument -- probably the high-water mark of the Union army on the left flank at Antietam -- Rogers pulled the 800-page Bible from a plastic bag and carefully unwrapped it from a small, cloth blanket. Shielding it from the sun, he showed it to me and Anderson. It was the first time in more than 153 years that the Bible had been back to Antietam.

"If you die, die like man," reads the inscription on a page inside the scuffed 1854 King James Bible. In cursive writing, Case's name, company and regiment also appear on the page, below the words "Jennie Case." Rogers, who created a blog on Oliver, speculates that may have been the girlfriend of Case, who never married. 

Shot through the head during an attack near Harpers Ferry Road, Oliver, only 22, lay in the field for nearly two days before his body was found by his brothers, who served in the 16th Connecticut.

From Connecticut Yankees at Antietam: On the night after the Battle of Antietam, Alonzo and Ariel Case questioned soldiers in their brother’s regiment about Oliver’s whereabouts. The news was not encouraging. One of Oliver’s comrades recalled standing beside him in the thick of the fight, watching him fall and then calling his name.

There was no reply.

Fearing the worst, the brothers had to wait until the Rebels abandoned the field the night of Sept. 18 before they could resume their search the next morning. Each taking a canteen filled with water in hope of finding Oliver alive, they walked the ground strewn with dead as well as the wounded crying for help. “…everyone was looking for some comrade of their own Regiment,” Alonzo Case wrote. Many of the bodies were plundered, according to John Morris, the 8th Connecticut chaplain, the swollen fingers of some cut off to steal their rings. The Rebels were in such a hurry to collect war trophies, according to another Connecticut soldier, that they merely cut out the pockets of dead Yankees instead of rifling through them.

             8th Connecticut dead, wounded lay in this field. Click on image for panorama.

In the afternoon, the brothers’ agonizing search finally ended. They found Oliver shot through the top head, just above the ear. He probably died instantly.

“We wrapped him in my blanket and carried him to the spot where the 16th dead were to be buried having first got permission from the Colonel of the Eighth and the 16th to do so,” Alonzo wrote after the war. Pinned to the blanket was Oliver’s name and age. A board with his name and regiment were placed atop his temporary grave. Two months after his son was killed, Job Case traveled to Sharpsburg for the remains of his youngest son. Returned to Simsbury, Oliver Case was buried in a cemetery high atop a hill overlooking the town.

In a letter home on Sept. 21, 1862, 8th Connecticut Captain Wolcott Marsh described finding the bodies of Case and others from his regiment in the field near Harpers Ferry Road: 

"About 9 O'clock a.m.. Friday we were ordered across the bridge and on to the field where the battle of Wednesday was. The rebels having skedadled the night before and our forces were then following them up capturing many of their rear guard.. We stacked arms and details were sent from different to pick up the dead so that could be buried together. I went up where our regit. was engaged and there what a sight. 30 men from our regit. alone lay dead in a little field and near by was 42 Zouaves (9th N. Y.) and many more from other regt. The first man I came to of my company was Charles E. Louis my acting orderly. Then Corp. Truck my color corporal and close by them lay Dwight Carry, Herbert Nee, Horace Rouse and Mr. [William] Sweet all of my company then passing on to Co. A. were the body's of Oliver Case, Orton Lord, Martin Wadhams and Lucius Wheeler then to Co. K. saw Jack Simons body the only one whose name remember had all body's brought from hill down by several straw stacks."

Like Case, Ferriss was killed about 4 p.m., near the close of the battle. "He fell at his post on the right of his company when he was cheering his comrades and fighting with all his strength," Ferriss' captain, William Roberts, wrote in a condolence letter to the soldier's mother

For Anderson, the visit to the 8th Connecticut monument -- just yards from where his ancestor was shot through the left breast and killed -- completed a circle of sorts. In June, he and I visited Ferriss' grave in a cemetery in New Milford, Conn. Although he had lived in Connecticut for years, it was Anderson's first visit to his great-great-great uncle's final resting place.

"It was just such a powerful moment to see where he crossed [at Snavely Ford], where he fell and where he was temporarily buried out behind the [John] Otto farm," Anderson said of his visit to Antietam.

From my newly published book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers: Near the close of the fighting, Ferriss was shot, falling down near his captain and giving him a “very forlorn look.” Roberts asked Ferris if he needed anything, but the “blood rushing from his mouth prevented him from speaking & his head sinking upon the ground satisfied me that he was dying,” he wrote to Ferriss’ mother. “My attention being called to another part of the line,” the officer noted, “I saw no more of him as we were soon ordered away.”

Two days after the battle, Ferriss received a decent burial, laid to rest side by side with other men in the regiment who were killed at Antietam. “Of Robert at home I knew but little,” the officer wrote to Louisa, “but I know well that he was the same steady, honest man on the day of his death that he was the day he left New Milford for the purpose of fighting the battle of his country."


Bob Anderson stands near where his ancestor was temporarily buried on John Otto's farm.
A hundred yards or so behind the ruins of John Otto's Pennsylvania-style bank barn, Rogers pointed out the spot where 16th and 8th Connecticut dead -- including Case and Ferriss -- were temporarily buried after the battle. The remains of some of those soldiers were recovered by the families for re-burial in Connecticut. Among them were 16th Connecticut Sergeant Wadsworth Washburn, the son of a preacher from Berlin, Conn. Others, such as 16th Connecticut Private Henry Aldrich, were eventually re-buried at Antietam National Cemetery.

From Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers: After the battle, the bodies of the 8th Connecticut color-bearers, as well as those of their comrades and soldiers in the 16th Connecticut, were buried in a long trench on John Otto’s farm, a short distance from where they were killed. The names of the soldiers were carved on crude, wooden headboards so their loved ones could more easily recover their bodies should they be able. Some, including the graves of [Sergeant David] Lake and Ferriss, were also marked by long stakes that were driven firmly into the ground.

In a letter published in the Hartford Daily Courant on Sept. 30, 1862, 16th Connecticut adjutant John Burnham described the burial of men from his regiment on the Otto farm:

"The bodies lie near a large tree standing alone, and which I had blazed on all sides so it can be easily discovered. With the exception of Capt. (Newton) Manross, who was killed earlier in the fight and carried to the rear, they are all together ... I have been particular to mention the precise locality of each (body) so that in the event of the signs being displaced by the elements or otherwise, they may be found; and I trust that anyone who comes to the spot will be very particular and disturb none but those of whom they are in search. ... The collection of the bodies was conducted under my own personal supervision, and after the men had reported them all picked up I examined the whole field myself, so that I am confident none were left on the ground."

                FINAL RESTING PLACES

Clockwise from top, the remains of Oliver Case (Simsbury Cemetery, Simsbury), George Marsh 
(Old NorthCemetery, Hartford) and Robert Ferriss (Center Cemetery, New Milford) were re-buried in Connecticut.