Thursday, September 21, 2017

In newspapers after Antietam, a 'last sad tribute of respect'

Gravestone in Simsbury, Conn., for 8th Connecticut Private Oliver Case, killed at Antietam.
His father recovered his body near Sharpsburg, Md. His burial on the battlefield was reported
in the Hartford Daily Courant on Sept. 30, 1862. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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In the weeks after the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, obituaries and funeral notices peppered newspapers in the North and South – stark evidence of brutal fighting that probably claimed well over 6,000 lives.

“The bodies of our deceased fellow townsmen, who fell in battle, continue to arrive,” the Philadelphia Inquirer bluntly noted on Oct. 8, 1862, “and their internments take place daily.” Under the headline “Military Funerals,” that short story in the newspaper included information about services for five soldiers who had been killed at Antietam.

A teen-aged lieutenant in the 48th Virginia, Connally T. Lyon
was "instantly killed by a shot through the body," according to
this account in the Abingdon (Va.) Virginian on Dec. 5, 1862.
He was buried in Shepherdstown, Va. (now W. Va.)

In late September, the father of 125th Pennsylvania Private John A. Kelly returned to Altoona, Pa., with his son’s remains. He was wounded early in the fighting in the West Woods. “It is said by companions,” the local newspaper reported, “that he was bayoneted, before he died, by a rebel who came up with him on the field.” His funeral on Sept. 28, 1862, was attended by four companies of militia, a local fire company and “a very large concourse of citizens.”

In a “tribute of respect” published in the Altoona Tribune on Oct. 23, 1862, and signed by 125th Pennsylvania officers, the deaths of four soldiers were noted. “… we feel proud to record that they met their fate nobly and manfully,” a resolution in the newspaper read, “while confronting the enemies of our now unhappy country.”

Captain Hugh Jones Gaston of the 48th North Carolina -- described by a newspaper as a “young gentleman of fine education, modest, intelligent and brave” – was mortally wounded at Antietam, probably near the West Woods. “His death adds another to the long catalogue of our bravest and best young men,” the Semi-Weekly Standard of Raleigh, N.C. reported on Nov 28, 1862, “ who have been cut off by this war.”

More than 11 weeks after the battle, a Virginia newspaper reported the death of a local son, teenager Connolly R. Lyon, a lieutenant in the 48th Virginia. “He fell in a foreign land,” The Abingdon Virginian noted, “but his friends as a testimonial of the esteem in which they held him, removed his body within the limits of his native State, where it was decently buried.”

Concluded the story by “C,” perhaps another soldier in Lyon’s regiment: “He gave his young life to the cause of his country, in one of the fiercest battles of the war, and as he lived beloved, so he died lamented by his Regiment.”

Through obituaries and funeral notices in newspapers in the fall and winter of 1862, here’s a look at the awful human toll of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history:


On Oct. 11, 1862, the Hartford Daily Courant published a report of the funerals of Williams Nichols 
and Thomas McCarty of the 16th Connecitcut and John Simons of the 8th Connecticut. Undertaker
William Roberts returned to Connecticut with the bodies of more Antietam dead. 


Captains James Rickards and Evan S. Watson of the 1st Delaware were killed in action. Business
was suspended for their funerals in Wilmington, Del., according to this account in the 
Philadelphia Inquirer on Oct. 2, 1862.


Lieutenant Benjamin H. Davidson of the 7th North Carolina and Captain Houston B. Lowrie
were praised in death notices in the Charlotte (N.C.) Democrat on Sept. 30, 1862.
"He never flinched from duty," the newspaper wrote about Davidson.


John H. Henninger, a private in the 88th Pennsylvania, was only 19. Mortally wounded at Antietam, 
he  died in a hospital in Frederick, Md., according to the obituary in the Reading (Pa.) Times
on Oct. 11, 1862. He was buried in Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading.


Captain Hugh Jones Gaston, adjutant for the 48th North Carolina, died in a farmhouse near
 Sharpsburg, Md., according to his obituary in the Semi-Weekly Standard of Raleigh, N.C.,
on Nov. 28, 1862. His brother had been killed by Indians years earlier.


This obituary of Sergeant William Eben of the 128th Pennsylvania appeared in the
Reading (Pa.) Times on Sept. 30, 1862. "His disposition was truly amiable," the account noted.
 Only 23, he was buried in Saint John's Cemetery in Reading.


 William G. Barger was a private in Baxter's Fire Zouaves, the 72nd Pennsylvania. His funeral
 was "very largely attended"  by his regiment,  members of his fire company and others, 
according to  the Philadelphia Inquirer on Nov. 17, 1862. He was buried in Rockledge, Pa.


Evans Watson was a 23-year-old private in the 1st Delaware.  The Latin phrase in his death notice
 means, "It is sweet and proper to die for the fatherland." Lieutenant John Rudhall White of the 
118th Pennsylvania was killed at Shepherdstown, the final battle of the Maryland Campaign.
Samuel Hill and Augustus Munch were privates in the 4th Pennsylvania Reserves, both killed
 at Antietam.  This obituary appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sept. 29, 1862.


John A. Kelly, a corporal in the 125th Pennsylvania, was bayoneted by a Confederate, according
to this report in the Altoona (Pa.) Tribune on Sept. 28, 1862.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

A Sunday walk through Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas

For more than four decades, a statue of  Robert E. Lee stood on this pedestal. Now, it's gone.
An empty pedestal in Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas.
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On a beautiful, deep-blue sky Sunday at Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, a police officer warily eyes a visitor, who inspects the massive, granite pedestal where a Lee statue had stood for more than four decades.  To help prevent mischief (or perhaps worse), a Dallas P.D. surveillance camera stands watch across the busy boulevard from the general's longtime home. Three days after the 6-ton bronze sculpture of Lee and an unknown Confederate soldier on horseback was hauled away, the controversial, city council-approved move still stings many.

Guard dog in Robert E. Lee Park? Not quite.
On this morning, the throaty roar of planes taking off from nearby Love Field fails to distract dog walkers and the curious.

A man from Australia, now a resident of this diverse area, shoots photos of the empty pedestal with his iPhone. A Michigan State football fan walks his terrier, glances at Lee's name in granite, and hustles away. Another man, also walking a dog, eagerly discusses Lee's departure from Lee Park.

Well aware of the white-hot Civil War monument controversy, the police officer wonders why he's here to watch over an empty pedestal for the MIA general.

And an early-70ish woman grieves.

In Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas, a 2/3-size replica of
 Arlington House, Lee's home in Arlington, Va.
Asked her thoughts about the removal of Lee's monument, she leaves no doubt where she stands. "It's horrible," says the member of the Dallas Southern Memorial Association, who used to call rural Texas home. "The statue wasn't about slavery. It was about relatives honoring their soldiers." Its removal, she insists, was a "back-door" move by politicians who don't know what they are doing. She wonders if Lee's name, as well as the old plaques on the pedestal, will soon be removed from the park, too.

"Roll Tide!" she says, glancing at a visitor's ballcap, before walking a short distance up the hill toward the 2/3-size replica of Lee's home in Arlington, Va.

All that remains atop the pedestal are fragments of concrete and the steel bolts and posts that had anchored the 14-foot Lee monument since 1936. On the rim of the pedestal, two flower arrangements catch the eyes of onlookers. Perhaps they're a suitable, albeit temporary, replacement for a general now in storage at an old airport.

President Franklin Roosevelt attended the dedication of the Lee statue here in 1936.
The Lee statue had stood in Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas since 1936.
One of the two flower arrangements on the massive, granite pedestal.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Rare 1920s photographs of Fox's Gap, Jesse Reno monument

Union veteran Uberto Burnham in Daniel Wise's field. Jesse Reno monument appears in background.
(Fred Wilder Cross | William Christen collection)
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As these rare, early 1920s images show, Fox's Gap on the South Mountain battlefield once was much more open landscape than it is today. In the view above, taken by Fred Wilder Cross during a 1924 visit to the battlefield, Union veteran Uberto Burnham stands in what once was farmer Daniel Wise's field. As a private in the 76th New York, Burnham fought at the Battle of South Mountain on Sept. 14, 1862, a prelude to much bloodier fighting at Sharpsburg, Md., three days later. (Here is Burnham's account of the battle published in The National Tribune in 1928.)

Of course, the most notable Union casualty at Fox's Gap was Union General Jesse Reno, mortally wounded on the Wise farm. In the background of the photo above, we see the Reno monument, dedicated in the general's memory in 1889. A photograph taken from this vantage point today would be obscured by trees. Below, view early 1920s black-and-white images of the tall oak under which Reno purportedly died.

Cross, a Civil War expert from Massachusetts, often traveled to the Boonsboro/Sharpsburg, Md., area to shoot images of the South Mountain and Antietam battlefields and to gather stories about the fighting. Black-and-white photos in this post courtesy of William Christen IV. (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Early 1920s image of Reno Oak at Fox Gap on the South Mountain battlefield.
According to accounts, a mortally wounded Union General Jesse Reno died under this tree.
Another early 1920s image of the Reno Oak, which no longer stands.
A portion of Reno Oak in the collection of the excellent Boonsborough (Md.) Museum of History.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

'Great cause for thankfulness': Antietam soldiers to remember

An image of  Raphael Ward Benton, mortally wounded at Antietam, in an unusual
mourning display that includes human hair. (Pat Lovelace | The Guilford Keeping Society)

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On the small village green in rural Northfield, Conn., one of the oldest Civil War monuments in the country honors soldiers from the area who gave the last full measure. Almost impossible to miss, the word "Lincoln" is spelled out in large raised letters on the south side of the brownstone memorial, dedicated in 1866. But it's a much smaller inscription, above the name of 16th U.S. president, that always catches my eye: "That The Generations To Come Might Know Them." In that spirit, let's remember these soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.


After Benton suffered a bullet wound in the neck during fighting on William Roulette's farm, he was carried from the field and placed on a blanket. Apparently receiving little care, he later walked about a mile in search of medical aid before his strength gave out.  Still, he felt more fortunate than most. Two of his comrades in Company I -- privates Richard Hull and Edmund Field of Guilford  -- had died from their wounds.

Close-up of the intricately woven hair in the
mourning display for Raphael Ward Benton.
(Pat Lovelace | The Guilford Keeping Society)
The sights Benton witnessed on the battlefield were chilling.

"I can assure you," Benton wrote his wife, Hannah, the day of the battle, "I have seen all of the horrors of war that I ever wish to and I sincerely hope that it will soon be over." Although his wound bled profusely for awhile, he didn't think the injury was serious.

"I hope you will not be discouraged about me," the 41-year-old private wrote. "I am so much better off than hundreds of others. I feel great cause for thankfulness."

Added Benton: "Oh you don’t know the dreadful scenes we have passed through. The dead, the dying, and wounded are lying all around me, and I think may amount to thousands. Pray the Lord that this war may soon end."

Like hundreds of other Union wounded, Benton ended up in Frederick, Md., where he was cared for at General Hospital No. 1 -- the largest Federal hospital in town. Unless the neck wound bled again, Benton's condition did not seem "immediately dangerous," recalled 14th Connecticut Private Dudley of Guilford, who came to his comrade's aid in Frederick. Advised by a doctor to monitor his friend, Dudley rubbed linament on Benton and spent considerable time talking with him.

"Oh, Henry," Dudley recalled Benton saying, "you can't think how much better I feel. If you can stay with me I shall get along first rate." But early in the evening of Sept. 25, Benton's condition worsened, and as he faded, he grasped Dudley's hand. "I would speak to him," the 14th Connecticut soldier remembered, "and he would answer by a slight pressure of the hand." At 6 p.m., the farmer from Guilford died "without a struggle."

Raphael Ward Benton's grave in Alderbrook Cemetery
in Guilford, Conn. (Find A Grave)
"The Doctor says his death was probably caused by not being taken care of," Dudley wrote. "He was allowed to walk here from the Battlefield. The day he arrived here he had walked 8 miles and had lost so much blood that he was very weak …"

When Hannah's brother, a private in the 27th Connecticut, received word of his brother-in-law's death, he was so overcome that he couldn't continue a letter to his "afflicted sister." Three days later, he finished what he had started.

"I had never in imagination pictured you ... Sister Hannah with children demanding your constant care but 'Man's destiny is not under his own control,' " Alvin Rose wrote.

Relatives recovered Benton's body and took him back to Guilford, where he was buried in Alderbrook Cemetery.  In addition to his second wife Hannah, Benton was survived by three children: Arthur, 16; Wallace, 6, and Webster, 1.


-- Typed transcripts of Raphael Ward Benton letter to his wife (Sept. 17, 1862), 14th Connecticut Private Henry Dudley letter on news of Benton's death (Sept. 26, 1862) and 27th Connecticut Private Alvin Rose's condolence letter to his sister (Sept. 28, 1862), Guilford (Conn.) Free Public Library, accessed online Sept. 10, 2017.


"There was no music -- no ostentatious displays" at the funeral of Captain David C. Myers,
the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on Oct. 1, 1862.


In the thick of the fight for the Sunken Road, the 5th New Hampshire found inspiration from its colonel, Edward Cross, who, with a red silk handkerchief wrapped around his head, screamed, "Put on the war paint!"

"Taking the cue somehow," a soldier in the regiment recalled, "we rubbed the torn ends of cartridges over our faces, streaking them with powder like a pack of Indians and the Colonel, to complete the similarity, cried out, 'Give 'em the war whoop,'  and all of us joined him in the Indian war whoop until it must have rung out amid the thunder of the ordinance."

20-year-old Charles Bean's weather-beaten gravestone 
in Northwood, N.H. (Photo courtesy Sue Fetzer.)
Sometime during the savage fighting, Bean, who had been promoted to sergeant only a week earlier, fell wounded when a bullet smashed into his right thigh. The 20-year-old soldier from Northwood, N.H., was transported to a field hospital, then to Academy Hospital in Chambersburg, Pa. He lingered there until "the messenger of death bore him away from earth to that land where wars and fighting are unknown," according to a newspaper report. His died on Oct. 10 or Oct. 19, 1862.

In the account in The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper published in Boston, a friend, known only by the initials J.M.M, offered a touching tribute to Bean:

"He was a firm friend and school-chum of mine, at a seminary in a neighboring State, and I cannot refrain from paying his name and memory a passing notice. His life was a model one, and his character pure, without a stain. A firm friend of the slave, he saw in this grand uprising a hope for the 'victim race'; and if his life was to be offered up in their behalf, and to sustain a free government, then he was ready to make that sacrifice. 

"He was a true soldier, loved, honored and trusted, and when he fell, it was on a hard-contested field, with the glad shout of victory almost ringing in his ears. His comrades mourn that they shall hear no more that voice ..."
Bean's remains were transported back to New Hampshire, where he was buried in Northwood Ridge Cemetery.

"A life so willingly given as a sacrifice for the liberties of his beloved land should be remembered by the nation's historian," J.M.M poignantly wrote. "May God comfort the beareaved parents, brothers and sister of the deceased, in this the hour of their affliction!"


-- Livermore, Thomas L., Days and Events 1860-1866, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1920.
-- The Liberator, Boston, Mass. Nov. 21, 1862.


Private Lewis Briner of the 128th Pennsylvania and Captain Florentine H. Straub of 
the 3rd Pennsylvania Reserves were killed in action. Sergeant William C. Eben of the 128th Pennsylvania 
was  mortally wounded, dying on Sept. 20. Only 17, Private Henry Haberacker of the 128th Pennsylvania
 was  also killed in action. Obituary from Reading Times on Sept. 27, 1862. 


While defending the Sunken Road, every officer in the 4th Regiment North Carolina State Troops was either killed or wounded. Among the casualties was regimental commander William T. Marsh, a wealthy farmer and lawyer, who, in 1861, strongly advocated that his state remain in the Union. Shot in the chest, the 32-year-old captain was taken to the house of a man named McQuilton, near Shepherdstown, Va., where “…he was kindly nursed and cared for.”

William T. Marsh's ornate memorial in
the Marsh family cemetery in Bath, N.C.

 He was re-buried here in 1867. 
(Photo courtesy Ray Gurganus)
Marsh died there on Sept. 24.

By early October, news of his death had reached North Carolina, where Marsh – the “heroic captain,” according to Major General D.H. Hill’s Antietam after-action report -- had served in the state legislature.

“We saw his servant on Saturday last, who showed us Capt. M's watch, which was struck by the bullet that caused his death,” a Raleigh, N.C., newspaper reported. “The watch is a small gold one, and was in his over-shirt pocket on his left breast. The ball struck the lower part of the watch, crushed and bent it, and passed into his body.”

Marsh’s roots in the North were nearly as strong as his ties to the South. His grandfather was a native of Rhode Island, and after his mother died in 1843, Marsh was sent to the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Conn. He went on to attend Yale, earning a law degree in 1851. After graduation, he returned to Washington, N.C., where he practiced law, and he eventually expanded his business into neighboring counties.

Hoping to keep North Carolina in the Union, Marsh made speeches in the state legislature and “by skillfully using other parliamentary tactics delayed the passage of any secession resolution,” according to his Yale obituary.

“He was deeply interested,” the obituary also noted, “in the political questions of the time.” After President Lincoln called for North Carolina to furnish soldiers for the Union army, Marsh cast his lot with the Confederacy, raising a company of 80 soldiers.

In 1867, Marsh’s remains were disinterred near Shepherdstown and re-buried in the family cemetery in Bath, N.C. A lengthy inscription on his tall, marble memorial there recaps his life.  “He breathed his last eight days … in the home of strangers,” it ends, “who yet soothed his final hours with their sympathy and kindness.”


-- Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University, Yale University, 1910.
-- Semi-Weekly Standard, Raleigh, N.C., Oct. 7, 1862.
-- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 19, Part 1, U.S. War Department, 1889.


Mortally wounded near the Sunken Road, Private Jones was eulogized by "J.M.B." in the 
Natchez (Miss.) Daily Courier on Nov. 4, 1862. Jones is buried in 
Charles Town, W.Va. (formerly Virginia.)


155th Pennsylvania Private Erred Fowles and his wife, Martha. (

As the 155th Pennsylvania neared Sharpsburg with the rest of the V Corps, Erred Fowles' mind may have drifted to his pregnant wife Martha and 1-year-old son William in tiny Callensburg, Pa.  While the battle raged, Fowles' regiment and the rest of the V Corps were held in reserve. But danger still lurked for the 29-year-old private in Company G.

Sometime the next evening,  as nervous pickets manned front lines in both armies, Fowles was shot accidentally through the back by another Pennsylvania soldier. The bullet passed through Fowles' lungs, lodging somewhere in his body and causing him immense pain for several days. Eight days after he was wounded, Fowles wrote Martha from a hospital near Boonsboro, Md.

Erred Fowles' gravestone in Antietam National Cemetery.
(Photo: Laura Van Alstyne Rowland)
"Dear Wife," the letter began, "thinking perhaps that you would like to hear from me." Fowles assured Martha his pain had subsided and that his brother, also a private in the 155th Pennsylvania, was aiding his recovery. He also told of the hard-fought battle at Antietam, one in which the Rebels suffered "double our loss."

"I hope that you will not grow uneasy about me," Fowles continued, "for I am doing as well as can be and have good care for brother William is with me taking care of me and as soon as I get well enough I am coming home and to be with you again. I do not want you to write until you hear from me again for a letter would not come through.

"I am now 10 miles from Middletown Md," he continued, "and as soon as we get moved I will write to you to let you know where we are moved to. As I do not think of any thing more that will interest you I will bring this letter to a close and write to you again in a few days."

In early October, Fowles took a turn for the worse -- an infection probably set in -- and he died on or about Oct. 6.  "The wound was of such serious character," his commanding officer wrote later that month, "that ... a severe illness caused his death."

Four days after Erred's death, Martha gave birth to a girl she named Ida. Fowles' body was disinterred after the war and re-buried in Antietam National Cemetery under Grave No. 3724.

Martha Fowles never re-married.


-- Erred Fowles widow's pension file, National Archives and Records Administration via
-- Fowles' letter to his wife, Sept. 25, 1862, copy transcribed by Antietam National Battlefield staff.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Then & Now: Philadelphia Brigade Park (hover on image)

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(Hover effect does not work on phones, tablets.)

In this circa-1935 photo, we see Philadelphia Brigade Park in the West Woods at Antietam. The massive monument honors the Philadelphia Brigade (69th, 71st, 72nd, 106th Pennsylvania). In the old photo, the small signs in the foreground read "Battlefield Visitors May Lunch Here 9 AM Till Dusk, No Entrance After Dusk" (left) and "Keep Motor Cars Off The Grass, Park 45 (degrees) on Driveway" (right). The park once was bordered by a fence. Look carefully when you are there and you'll see remnants of it. This is one of my favorite spots on the battlefield.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Antietam Then & Now: Jacob Grove house in Sharpsburg, Md.

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In the early-20th century image at left, we see the Jacob Grove house, site of Robert E. Lee's council of war the night of Sept. 17, 1862, on Main Street in Sharpsburg, Md. Note the dirt road. The Grove house and two other buildings in the old image remain standing today. For those unfamiliar with Sharpsburg, the excellent Nutter's Ice Cream store, established in 1996, is out of view just around the corner at left. Large scoops for little money!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

'His whole face was shot away': The trials of Private Oliver Dart

14th Connecticut Oliver Dart was grievously wounded at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862.
(Image courtesy Alan Crane)
A tattered CDV of Oliver Dart was found among papers in his pension file at the National Archives.
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Within a year of his regiment's ill-fated charge at Fredericksburg, Oliver Dart Jr. faced another great trial: a sitting for a photograph at a studio on Main Street in Hartford, Conn.

The resulting carte-de-visite, found in the 14th Connecticut veteran's pension file in the National Archives, is difficult to view. Bundled in a heavy coat, the blue-eyed veteran with black hair and thick eyebrows stared at the Kellogg Brothers' photographer. A mangled lower jaw, mouth and nose -- the awful effects of a shrapnel wound suffered during the attack on Marye's Heights -- are obvious. How Dart summoned the fortitude to sit for the CDV, undoubtedly evidence for his pension claim, is remarkable.
The CDV of Dart was taken by the Kellogg Brothers in Hartford.

As he waited for his turn to be photographed that day, Dart's mind may have drifted off to Dec. 13, 1862, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Marching onto the battlefield via Princess Anne Street, the 14th Connecticut came under "a most galling fire" after crossing a causeway over a canal near the railroad depot.

Suddenly, an artillery shell fired from high ground on the 14th Connecticut's right burst among prone soldiers in Company D. A 3 x 2-inch fragment smashed into the ground, firing sand into the eyes of 14th Connecticut Corporal John Symonds and blinding Private Dart's brother-in-law. Then the deadly chunk of metal crashed into the arm and face of  the 23-year-old Dart, before striking a four-inch square, wooden post. Corporal Charles Lyman, lying next to Dart, recalled years later that the fragment surely would have ripped through his head and killed him had it not struck that obstacle. (In the charge on the well-defended stone wall at the foot of Marye's Heights, Oliver's cousin Charles, the 14th Connecticut's regimental color bearer, was mortally wounded.)

When another soldier in his regiment saw Dart's wounds, he was aghast. "Poor Oliver Dart," he said. "As he rolled over he looked as though his whole face was shot away."

In this enlargement of a war-time photo of Fredericksburg, Va., the Rowe House is shown.
 14th Connecticut wounded,  including Oliver Dart, were among Union soldiers cared  for 
at the divisional hospital there. (Library of Congress).
A circa-1940s image of the Rowe House at 607 Sophia Street in Fredericksburg.
 The house no longer stands. (Library of Congress)
Frank Niederwerfer, descendant of Oliver Dart, holds an image of the 14th Connecticiut private at the
 site of the old Rowe house in Fredericksburg, Va. Dart was cared for at the divisoional hospital there.
May 1865 image of Stanton General Hospital in Washington, where Dart recovered from his wounds.
(Library of Congress)
Dart was carried to a divisional hospital at the Rowe House on Sophia Street, where the 14th Connecticut regimental chaplain was horrified by the carnage. "On the northern porch lay, among others, our Dart, his face torn off as though slashed away with a cleaver," Henry Stevens recalled, "and by his side lay Symonds, his eyes swollen with inflammation to the size of eggs, the sand grains showing through the tightly stretched and shining lids."

On the day after Christmas, Dart was admitted to Stanton General Hospital in Washington, one of scores of military hospitals in the capital. His chances of recovery were considered slim -- "wounded in battle," a doctor there wrote, "probably mortally." When his older brother George, a farmer, visited Oliver at the hospital, he found conditions there deplorable.

A circa-1866 image of Oliver Dart with a
bushy beard and mustache. (Image courtesy of
Dart descendant Frank Niederwerfer)
After five weeks in the Washington hospital, Dart was mercifully discharged from the Union army and sent home to South Windsor, Conn. Miraculously recovering, he underwent an operation on his face at the home of his older brother, James. Oliver, the youngest of the six children of Amanda and Oliver Dart Sr., underwent a second procedure on his face at the home of his father in South Windsor.

"George Dart and his wife were almost constantly with their injured brother," a post-war account noted, "and gave him every care and attention."
For three months in the summer of 1863, Oliver also spent time at a soldier's home in Hartford, where he received sustenance from a special cup because of his terrible face wound.

In June 1863, Oliver filed for divorce from his second wife, Maria, claiming "a total neglect of all duties of marriage" Nearly three years later, the divorce was granted. (Maria was the sister of John Symonds, the soldier who was wounded next to Oliver at Fredericksburg.)

In December 1863, Dart filed for a government pension; the application was approved, and he initially received $8 a month. In 1869, Oliver married his third wife, Aurelia Barber, with whom he had his only three children. In an attempt to cover up his grievous war wounds, he grew a bushy beard and mustache.

"In time he recovered," the post-war account noted, "though the wound was always visible and in later years his mind was somewhat affected, undoubtedly due to the shock and the suffering that ensued from the injury."

Life remained an almost constant struggle for the Civil War veteran. In the summer of 1879, Dart was struck down with a case of consumption. Only 40 years old, he died on Aug. 11. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Vernon, Conn., next to first wife Emily, who died in 1860, and Aurelia.

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-- Dart family history.
-- Oliver Dart pension file, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
-- Page, Charles Davis, History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Meriden, Conn.: The Horton Printing Co., 1906.
-- Stevens, H.S. Souvenir of Excursion to Battlefields by the Society of the Fourteenth Connecticut Regiment and Reunion at Antietam, September 1891, With History and Reminiscences of Battles and Campaigns of the Regiment on the Fields Revisited, Washington, D.C.: Gibson Brothers Printers, 1893.
-- The Boys from Rockville, Civil War Narratives of Sgt. Benjamin Hirst, Co. D, 14th Connecticut Volunteers, edited, with commentary, by Robert L, Bee, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn., 1998.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

'No, Sarah!' Did someone else write Sullivan Ballou letter?

A lithograph of Sullivan Ballou, mortally wounded at the First Battle of Bull Run.
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Rob Grandchamp was 12 or 13 when he first watched Ken Burns' Civil War documentary mini-series on PBS in 1990 and heard the reading of 2nd Rhode Island Major Sullivan Ballou's now-famous letter to his wife. Like millions, he was captivated by the beautifully written, and deeply moving, prose.

"My very dear Sarah," began the letter, purportedly written from Camp Clark in Washington on July 14. 1861. "The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days — perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more …"

Rob Grandchamp
As Paul Roebling read the words of "Ballou" and the tremendous Ashokan Farewell played in the background, tears welled in eyes across America. (See video below.)

"But, O Sarah," the letter continued, "if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you in the garish day, and the darkest night amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours always, always, and, if the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air cools your throbbing temples, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dear; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again."

"Sullivan Ballou was killed at week later at the First Battle of Bull Run," historian David McCullough intoned at the end of the letter reading.

Like many, Grandchamp gave the TV series high marks. "I think that Burns did a marvelous job with the documentary,"  he said, "and it serves as a great introduction to the war for many people."  And at the time, Grandchamp assumed, like most of the public, that Ballou was the actual author of the letter to Sarah. 

Years after Burns' documentary, however, Grandchamp, dug deeper. His doubts about the authenticity of the letter grew. In the fall 2017 issue of America's Civil War Magazine, Grandchamp -- a native Rhode Islander who now lives in Vermont -- lays out the case that Ballou did not write the letter, among the most famous of the Civil War. Another man, Horatio Rogers, was its author, he asserts.

In this Q&A, Grandchamp, a prolific Civil War author, answers questions about his research on the Ballou letter, whether he has heard Burns' take on the mini-controversy and more: 

What motivated you to research the story of the letter?

Grandchamp: I like a good mystery. Years ago, I was volunteering at the Providence Public Library and actually discovered a piece of Ballou’s shirt collar that was used to identify his body parts after his remains were desecrated after Bull Run. In my day job, I work for the Federal government as an analyst, figuring out complex problems. As the years went on I, as I did more research on Rhode Island’s role in the Civil War, could not help but notice that Ballou was not really a major player in the conflict; his death was all but forgotten by the local papers. Rather they focused heavily on Colonel John Stanton Slocum of the Second Rhode Island, whose last words were “Now show them what Rhode Island can do.” I discovered Ballou’s letters at the Rhode Island Historical Society and spent a good amount of time reading each one of them. After reading the letters documented to be Ballou’s and comparing his style of writing to the others, I was convinced he did not write the famous July 14 letter.

Tell us more about your research on the letter.

Grandchamp: I analyzed the Ballou letters and compared the known originals in his hand to the famous letter. What it came down to for me was that the Ballou family had carefully preserved all of Sullivan’s letters sent to Sarah during his short time in the army. The original of the famous letter has never been seen by anyone alive today. The prevailing theory is that Sarah was buried with the letter in 1917 when she died; I could find no record of that in her obituary. I pondered and thought, "Why would the family not have kept the famous letter with the rest of his papers." It is strange to think she was buried with it.

A post-war image of Horatio Rogers, the man who
Rob Grandchamp believes really wrote the
famous letter attributed to Sullivan Ballou.
Rogers became a prominent jurist and lawyer
after the Civil War.
Numerous manuscript copies abound, but it was not seen in public until 1868. The letter, if it existed in 1861, would have been a great recruiting tool by the State of Rhode Island to motivate young men to enlist. There is another letter documented to Ballou dated July 14, 1861, in the collection of the Rhode Island Historical Society, but the tone and style of the letter is so radically different from the famous letter that there is no way, as supported by my research and the analysis of others, that he wrote the famous July 14, 1861, letter.

I also traced the history of the letter and tracked down numerous copies of it at repositories around the country. Research at Stanford University provided the Burns connection to it. Dr. Don Fehrenbacher found a copy in Illinois and sent it to Ric Burns. In his letter to Ric Burns [Ken's brother], the professor told him to only use material for the project that could be documented as being historically accurate. It is unknown if the film company did any research on Ballou. My research indicates it was written by his very good friend, Horatio Rogers, who had the talent and skill to write it as a memorial to his friend.

What can you tell us about Rogers?

Grandchamp: Horatio Rogers was one of Ballou’s closest friends. They attended Brown, served in the state legislature, and practiced law together. Rogers even witnessed Ballou’s will. Rogers wanted to go to war early on, but his friend Ballou persuaded him to stay home. After Ballou’s death, Rogers became an officer in the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery in August 1861. He worked his way up through the ranks and, in 1863, became colonel of the 2nd Rhode Island, Ballou’s regiment. He led the regiment at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

Resigning in 1864, he became attorney general of Rhode Island and later an associate justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Rogers was a very talented man who owned one of the largest private libraries in Rhode Island at the time. He was also an author who published several books and wrote a biographical sketch of Ballou that was published in 1868, the first time the letter was seen in public. Rogers had the talent and the motivation to write the letter.

What has been the reaction to the piece, and have you heard from Ken Burns?

Ken Burns
Grandchamp: So far reaction has been positive among the people I know in the Rhode Island historical community who I shared my early research with. They know I did not just go off on a tangent on this, but did a lot of in-depth research to prove my hypothesis. Regarding Ken Burns and Florentine Films, when I was doing research for the article, I called, wrote, e-mailed, and even sent a carrier pigeon! Despite this, no one from his company ever got back in touch with me. I would really like to see what Mr. Burns reaction would be.

What message do you have for those who believe Ballou absolutely wrote the letter?

Grandchamp: The evidence is clear he did not write it. My credentials include an M.A. in American history, service as a National Park ranger, work in the museum field, and I am the author of 11 books and dozens of articles. I also have nearly 20 years of experience researching Rhode Island’s role in the Civil War. My aim in writing this piece was not to discredit Ballou’s service and sacrifice. He was a brave man in combat, but as one 2nd Rhode Island officer wrote, he had no business being there; he had no training and obtained the position of major through political connections. Ballou was trying to leverage his military service into political gain after the war. Unfortunately, he fell in his first battle. History is not always black and white, as my research has shown.

If you could visit with Ballou today, what would you ask him?

Grandchamp: I would ask him point blank if he wrote the letter. Knowing his answer would be no, I would ask him what his opinion of it was.

What are your future plans?

Grandchamp:  I got married about a month ago to a lovely school teacher named Elizabeth, and a family is planned down the road. She thinks my Civil War studies are interesting, and is still getting used to living in an old farmhouse in the mountains of Vermont that looks like a mini-version of the New England Civil War Museum. For now, I am working on two projects. One is a complete roster of the soldiers of the 7th Rhode Island Infantry, the regiment that my ggg-uncle Alfred Sheldon Knight served in. I have been tracking down burial locations for members of the regiment and have found the final resting places for nearly two-thirds of the men. My winter project -- winter is nearly half the year in Vermont -- is quite ambitious, I am going to write an annotated bibliography of Rhode Island in the Civil War era.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.

Read Grandchamp's article in America's Civil War Magazine.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Check out fabulous artifacts in Pennsylvania 'time capsule'

Mounted on a board, this Confederate bullet wounded Union cavalryman John Boyce in the leg.
                PANORAMA:  Captain Thomas Espy G.A.R. Post No. 153, Carnegie, Pa.
                                     (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)

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Spend an hour at the Captain Thomas Espy Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 153 room in Carnegie, Pa., and you can easily imagine cigar smoke wafting in the air as white-haired men with huge mustaches swap war stories while clinking glasses of whiskey. Beginning in 1906, the second-floor space in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library served as a meeting area for Espy Post members as well as a repository for artifacts the old soldiers had gathered during and after the Civil War.

The last Espy Post member died in 1937, the room eventually was shuttered and the collection inside it forgotten and neglected. Some of the post's Civil War artifacts apparently were stolen. Thanks to a fund-raising effort spearheaded by the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in the 2000s, the memorial hall and artifacts were restored, and the room was officially re-opened in 2010. Today, it's billed as the best preserved and most intact G.A.R. post in the United States. Some call it a time capsule.

Daniel Rice of the 102nd Pennsylvania claimed he
plunged this bayonet into a Confederate 
at Flint Hill, Va.
Decorated in rich, brown decor, the room includes an organ used to entertain veterans, a massive illustration of the Andersonsville prisoner of war camp, a case filled with a complete, original set of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies as well as G.A.R paraphernalia.

On a wall near four large windows, a huge image of the post's namesake, resplendent in his militia uniform, overlooks his domain. Wounded and captured at Gaines' Mills on June 27, 1862, Espy died behind Confederate lines on July 6, 1862; the body of the 62nd Pennsylvania officer was never found. A large image of President Lincoln, G.A.R hero, commands a prominent spot on the wall above and to the right of Espy,

But it's the war-time relics, many of which crowd the shelves of cases, that are stars of Post No. 153. And that's just as the veterans intended.

"When every veteran of the Espy Post has answered his last roll call," they decreed early in the 20th century, "we leave for our children and their children, this room full of relics hoping they may be as proud of them as we are, and that they may see that they are protected and cared for – for all time.”

In 1911, a pamphlet of artifacts owned by the post was written by William H. H. Lea, who had served in 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery.  Entries, such as these for a bayonet and a bullet, are quite detailed:

"Carried by Daniel H. Rice, Company I, bayonet 102d Regiment, Pa. Vol. Infantry, from July 11, 1862, to June 28, 1865. Was brought home by him and was in his possession over 44 years. Mr. Rice says that at the battle of Flint Hill, Va., in a charge, it came to a hand to hand conflict. He killed a rebel by plunging this bayonet into his body. Secured from Mr. Rice January, 1906, for Memorial Hall."

"This is a Confederate bullet that wounded Corporal John M. Boyce, Co. K, 1st Pa. Cavalry, at the battle of New Hope Church, Va., November 27, 1863. When taken to the hospital and his boot removed, the ball fell on the floor, his pants being inside his boot. The ball, after passing through his leg, had not force left to go through the pants and fell into the boot. Has been in his possession over 47 years. Presented by him to G.A.R. Memorial Hall, March 3, 1911."

On Saturday afternoon, Espy Post curator Diane Klinefetter and docent Martin Neaman gave me a guided tour of the fabulous collection at the Carnegie Library, about six miles southwest of Pittsburgh. I photographed artifacts from the post collection, each numbered to correspond with a description in Lea's 1911 pamphlet. (Click on images to enlarge.)

(Espy Post hours: Ongoing tours on Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.. Admission is free. Call 412-276-3456 for weekday appointments.)

"CANTEEN: Was picked up by Wm. P. Mansfield, then a boy eight years old, canteen on the battlefield of Chancellorsville, Va., some time after the battle while in company with his father and grandfather, their home being only 10 miles from the battlefield. The canteen was painted some years ago by his sister, to keep it from rusting. Was procured from Wm. P. Mansfield of Washington, D.C., January, 1906, in his possession over 40 years."

"SHELLS: Three pieces of shell were found by Matthew Quay Corbett on the battlefield of Gettysburg in August, 1906, in the field over which General Pickett charged, July 3, 1863. Secured from him for Memorial Hall, March 16, 1909. Shell fragments; 1 triangular with part of band on it; one circular piece; one with fuse threads inside."

Secured at hand grenade government sale of army supplies in Pittsburgh, Pa., January, 1906, by W. H. H. Lea. The shell was patented August 20, 1861. Was used to defend forts and breast work by throwing them by hand among the charging columns when near the fort or breast works. Placed in Memorial Hall January, 1906."

"COTTON: Was picked from the cotton bushes in 1881 by W. H. H. Lea, late Lieutenant of Co. I, 112th Reg., Pa. Vols., while on a visit to the Virginia battlefield, from the narrow strip of ground between the Union and rebel lines and directly in front of the rebel fort at Petersburg, Va., blown up July 30, 1864. Over this ground the charging columns passed. Almost every foot of this ground was covered with Union dead or stained by as brave blood as ever flowed from the veins of American soldiers. Has been in possession of W. H. H. Lea for 25 years. Secured from him January, 1906, for Memorial Hall."

"SIX BULLETS: Were secured by W. H. H. Lea, Co. I, 112th Regt., Pa. Vet. Vols., while visiting the battlefield of Fredericksburg, Va., October 23, 1909. Had laid on the field for over 40 years. The bullets were collected from different parts of the field. Placed in Memorial Hall January, 1911. One .69 caliber; four .58 caliber;
one .54 caliber."

"PINE WOOD AND BULLET: Wood was cut from the battlefield of Cold Harbor, Va., in 1889. Bullet was found while working into flooring boards at the planing mill of Thomas Stagg, Cary Street, below 14th Street, Richmond, Va., in 1890. Was worked by a Confederate soldier, and by him turned over to D. E. McLean of Wilcox Street, Carnegie, who was working in the mill at the time. Has been in D. E. McLean’s possession 16 years. Secured from him for Memorial Hall, May 10, 1906. Tongue-in-groove molding, approximately 2″ x 4″."

"MISCELLANEOUS COLLECTION OF U.S & AND C.S. RELICS: From the battlefield of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania and Travillians, Va. Found by Wm. P. Mansfield, a resident of Spottsylvania Co., Va., now of Washington, D.C. Secured from him January, 1906, and were in his possession over 40 years."

"PINE KNOT WITH GRAPE SHOT: Pine knot with grape shot embedded was found on the battlefield of Chickamauga, Tenn., in 1900, by A. B. Pitkens of Providence, R.I. Was by him presented to James J. Brown on March 26, 1900. Several years later, when Mr. Brown [was] removing south, he presented it to Dr. R. L. Walker, Sr. Secured from Dr. Walker for Memorial Hall, May, 1906."

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.