Monday, October 05, 2015

Antietam: 8th Connecticut monument at sunrise

8th Connecticut monument at Antietam.  (Photo: Tad Sattler)
This terrific image of the 8th Connecticut monument at Antietam will appear on the back cover of my soon-to-be-released book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. It was taken by Tad Sattler, whose image of the 14th Connecticut monument appears on the cover of my other book, Connecticut Yankees at Antietam. (You can pre-order a copy of Hidden History on or shoot me an e-mail at for info on how to get an autographed copy.) Much thanks to Tad, who explains how he shot the photo:

Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers is scheduled
to be released Oct. 26, 2015.
"I arrived at Antietam on Tuesday afternoon, April 14. I went to the 8th's monument that afternoon because you had requested a photo at sunset. Unfortunately the sun was setting and shining on the front of the monument, which would not allow me to capture the sunset. On Wednesday morning, I arrived with my teenage son David just after sunrise, but the sun was already in the sky and the colors were okay but nothing spectacular. The two of us worked on different angles to capture the monument and the sunrise without showing any of the modern home and garage in the right background. The pictures were okay, but I wasn't satisfied with them. I tried on Thursday morning with both my kids and my wife, but that was a total failure because they took too long eating breakfast, so we completely missed the sunrise. Our last day was Friday, so I decided to go by myself and arrived before dawn. I noticed that the fog was around the fence in the background but wasn't visible taking the photo from eye level. I decided to mount my camera on my tripod and with the legs fully extended and with the shutter set on a timer, I was able to hold the camera six feet above my head and capture this unique angle. I saved the best for last!"

Saturday, October 03, 2015

A haunting final entry in 16th Connecticut soldier's diary

In 1864, 16th Connecticut Private Henry Adams recorded entries in this small pocket diary. 
(Connecticut Historical Society collection)
The battles in which the 16th Connecticut participated are noted in the diary. The regiment played only a
small role at Fredericksburg. At Antietam, its first battle of the war, the 16th Connecticut was routed.
At a small, out-of-the-way cemetery in rural Eastford, Conn., in early September, I found a memorial stone for a 16th Connecticut soldier among the gravestones. An old, cast-iron Grand Army of the Republic marker and a fresh U.S. flag also were placed near the marker to honor 20-year-old Henry H. Adams, who died of disease in a Rebel prison camp in Florence, S.C., on Oct. 20, 1864. "Thy memory will be cherished," read the words at the bottom of the slate-gray memorial.

Like the remains of thousands of other soldiers during the Civil War, including these Connecticut men from AvonBristol and West Suffield, Henry's body was not recovered and returned to his family for burial on his native soil. His remains are likely buried with other unknown Union POWs in a burial trench in Florence (S.C.) National Cemetery.

A memorial honors  16th Connecticut Private Henry H. Adams
 in General Lyon Cemetery in Eastford, Conn.
Adams joined the Union army in the summer of 1862, mustering in at Camp Williams in Hartford as a private in Company G on Aug. 24, 1862. Less than a month later, on Sept. 17, he was among the 204 casualties in the 16th Connecticut, which was routed at Antietam, a battle that haunted the regiment for the rest of the war. (For more on the 16th Connecticut, read Lesley Gordon's excellent book, A Broken Regiment.) Henry recovered from his wound, but was captured with most of the rest of the 16th Connecticut at Plymouth, N.C. on April 20, 1864. "Taken prisoner in the morning," Adams wrote matter-of-factly in his diary that day.

Like others in his regiment, including this soldier, Henry also recorded his experiences as a POW. In short entries in a 4 1/2 x 3 1/2-inch, leather-covered pocket diary, the young soldier noted his arrival at the notorious Andersonville prison camp in southwestern Georgia in early May  ("15,000 prisoners inside"), deaths among his comrades ("two men died in Co. K") and his own health, which gradually deteriorated while in captivity. In many entries, he also noted the weather.

In mid-September 1864 at Andersonville, Adams reported that he was "getting very weak," and nearly two weeks later, he was so incapacitated that he couldn't walk. As Sherman's army marched through Georgia, the Rebels transferred Andersonville prisoners to other camps throughout the South. On Oct. 8, Adams was sent to Florence, S.C., where initially he did well. But he soon was overcome by disease, which crippled or killed thousands of Union prisoners of war at Andersonville, Florence and elsewhere.

At the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford this morning, I had the privilege of reading Henry's diary. Nearly 151 years since Adams penciled in his final words, most of the entries remain legible. Opposite the title page of the journal, someone -- probably Henry himself -- recorded the battles in which the 16th Connecticut participated. But the most compelling, and haunting, entry in the fragile diary are the 10 words written in someone else's hand on Oct. 20, 1864.

Here are selections from Henry Adams' 1864 pocket diary:

April 18, 1864: Battle of Plymouth

"Fort Wessels captured. Heavy fireing in the morning between fort Gray and Reb batteries. Tuscany & Gunboat Bombshell sank. The Rebs charged on the works but were repulsed.

April 19, 1864

"Heavy fireing in the morning. The Rebel ram came down and sank the gunboat Smithfield. Pleasant. 

April 20, 1864: Captured

"Taken prisoner in the morning. Lines out on the Washington Road all night." 

May 4, 1864: Arrives at Andersonville

"Went inside of the stockade. Our company in the 44th Mass, 30th (?) Mass. Drawed 1 days rations. There is 15,000 prisoners inside. Pleasant." 

August 16, 1864: Deaths

"Drew (?) cooked beans and beef.  Cool and pleasant. Had a small shower just at night. Another man died from our company." 

August 17, 1864

"Had our roll call. Cool and pleasant. Had to help draw rations from our team. Two men died from Co. K." 

October 13, 1864: Florence, S.C.

"We are in a very pleasant place but have no shelter. The women are very kind and bring in some nice things but the sickest get more."

October 16, 1864: Florence, S.C.

"Another cool and pleasant day. We are getting along very well only we do not get enough to eat.

October 19, 1864: Exchange?

"Cool and pleasant. We heard a sermon preached in our ward. There is talk of an exchange of the sick but can't tell."

October 20, 1864: The end

"The writer of the foregoing died at 9 o'clock pm."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Antietam: A photographic retrospective

Images from my visit in late September to Antietam. Click on photos to enlarge.
SUNRISE: 132nd Pennsylvania monument and observation tower at Bloody Lane.
SUNRISE: Cannon on Branch Avenue with fog hovering over Antietam Creek in distance.
EARLY MORNING: William Roulette farm near crest of hill overlooking Bloody Lane.
SUNRISE: Branch Avenue, near John Otto farm
SUNRISE: Durrell's Independent Battery D Pennsylvania Artillery on Branch Avenue.
EARLY MORNING: John Otto's 40-acre cornfield, where the 16th Connecticut was routed.
SUNRISE: 45th Pennsylvania monument near the Sherrick house.
SUNSET: 124th Pennsylvania monument near old Hagerstown Pike.
SUNSET: 125th Pennsylvania monument near the West Woods.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Off the beaten path: Site of makeshift Confederate hospital

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Brownsville, Md., near the South Mountain battlefield.
The inside of the church, which was burned by the Union army and re-built in 1869.

Skeletal remains were found near the church during
road construction and re-buried in the church cemetery.

On my way from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Boonsboro, Md., last Sunday, I stopped at this beautiful, little church. It was a perfect day: deep blue skies, temperature in the low 70s, low humidity.

Like most old buildings in the area, this one has a rich history. St. Luke's Episcopal Church in tiny Brownsville, Md., was used as a makeshift hospital by the Rebels after they retreated from fighting nearby at Crampton's Gap and elsewhere in mid-September 1862. Even more brutal fighting in Sharpsburg, Md., just 10 miles from here, was still days away.

Unshaven for several days and wearing a ragged pair of shorts, I wasn't exactly dressed for church when I walked up the steep steps to the entrance shortly before the service began. But a parishioner kindly answered my questions. He told me about a man from Georgia who visited once with his ancestor's Civil War diary, which noted that amputated arms and limbs of Rebel wounded were piled high outside the church.

The Union army burned the church in September 1862 and it remained a shell until it was rebuilt in 1869. A burned beam from the original building is in the  church hall. In the 1970s, skeletal remains were found during road contruction near the church, perhaps the remains of slaves or Civil War soldiers. They were re-buried in the church cemetery and marked with a stone.

Take the back roads the next time you are in the area. You never know what you might discover.

A deep blue sky provided a nice backdrop for this image of St. Luke's and the church cemetery.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Off the beaten path: Terrific museum in Boonsboro, Maryland

Top: A mummified human arm embedded with a minie ball to simulate a Civil War wound. 
Bottom, from left, a relic pyramid and an ambrotype of Confederate officer Henry Kyd Douglas, who
served under Stonewall Jackson. The arm is not believed to have come from a Civil War soldier. 

A decade or so ago, when we still lived in Texas, I took my annual Civil War trip to Antietam. My "Power Tour" routine: Up at 5:30 a.m., drive the battlefield for several hours, lunch in nearby Shepherdstown, W.Va., walk the battlefield for hours in the afternoon, dinner and a cold beer or two at Captain Benders Tavern after dark in Sharpsburg and head back to my room at the excellent Jacob Rohrbach Inn, a short walk up Main Street.

But on this trip I was eager to see something different. I had read about a small, private museum in nearby Boonboro, Md., and its outstanding Civil War collection. So one afternoon, I made the 6 1/2-mile drive from Sharpsburg up the old Boonsboro Pike (Route 34), past such familiar landmarks as the historic Philip Pry House, Bonnie's At The Red Byrd restaurant (eye-opening coffee!), the Crystal Grotto Caverns and Potomac Street Creamery. At Boonsboro, the quaint town at the foot of South Mountain, I made a left, drove several hundred yards down Main Street and parked in the tiny gravel lot between two buildings.

Boonsborough Museum of History owner/director Doug Bast with
  his assistants, Susan Fair and Jeff Brown.
A small sign out front of one of them noted I had arrived at my destination -- the Boonsborough Museum of History. The two-story museum building was unremarkable: white siding, shades drawn on the windows and a small porch with a deck painted gray. A large cannon tube, perhaps Revolutionary War vintage, lay on a wooden base on the porch, near the blue front door.

The museum was supposed to be open this day, but I was warned the owner's hours were "irregular."

I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. Again, no answer.  After a pause of about 20 more seconds, I knocked one more time and a wiry, shirtless man wearing long pants and sporting a scruffy beard finally answered. The conversation went something like this:

Man: What do you want?

Me: I was hoping to see your Civil War museum. I've heard a lot about it.

Man: I'm not open today. Can't help you.

Me (pleading/whining): But I came all the way from Texas ...

Long, uncomfortable pause.

Man: Come on in, but I can only give you a quick tour.

                          A room of Civil War artifacts in the Boonsborough Museum of History.
                                    (Click at upper right for full-screen interactive panorama.)

For the next two hours, museum owner/director Doug Bast (pronounced BOST) was an enthusiastic host, bounding from room to room showing off a remarkable, and often odd, collection that includes Ming Dynasty vases, Egyptian animal mummies, children's caskets, a gauntlet sword inlaid with pure gold, an African witch doctor’s knives and a beheading ax. Most of the rooms were filled floor to ceiling with artifacts ... and stuff.

But it was Bast's Civil War collection that I had come to see, and it was indeed fabulous -- a mixture of the macabre (a skull, perhaps of a Rebel) to the magnificent (an ambrotype of Henry Kyd Douglas, who served on Stonewall Jackson's staff) to the ultra-rare (slave collars). In a case in the front room on the first floor, there was a display of bullets carved by soldiers. One was of Lincoln in a stovepipe hat. In another case, there was a Confederate sniper rifle, a Gettysburg battlefield pickup.

A massive Confederate mortar shell.
A lifelong Boonsboro resident and passionate historian, Bast, 80, has been collecting historical items almost all his life. His family has deep roots in the area: Until it closed in 2011, a furniture store on Main Street in Boonsboro was run by the Bast family for more than 100 years.

The area is also rich in Civil War history. The Battle of South Mountain, fought three days before Antietam, took place near Boonsboro and the Old National Pike. Five days after Gettysburg, on July 8, 1863, Confederate cavalry clashed with Union cavalry and infantry in and near Boonsboro. During the Civil War, the town's churches and public buildings were used as makeshift hospitals for wounded soldiers. The remains of 16th Connecticut Captain Frederick Barber, who was mortally wounded at Antietam, were transported to Boonsboro en route back home to Connecticut.

On Sunday afternoon, I made my first stop at the museum since my long-ago visit. Because I had a long drive back to Connecticut, my stay lasted only about an hour, but it was well worth it. With Bast's eager assistant Jeff Brown as a guide, I checked out a framed letter by famed Civil War nurse Clara Barton, a rare image of Stonewall Jackson, a relic pyramid, a pike from John Brown's ill-fated raid at Harpers Ferry and a war log embedded with an artillery shell, among many other historical treasures and oddities.

On my way out the door, Bast handed me a gift. "Here," he said with a cackle, "is a Boonsboro bullet." I'll keep the minie ball prominently displayed, a nice reminder that I must make another side trip to this off-the-beaten path gem of a museum when I return to Antietam.

After taking the oath of allegiance to the Union in 1864, 10,000 Rebels are said to have kissed this Bible.
A human skull that, according to the card below it, was "found near Fort Fisher many years ago."
Fort Fisher, a massive Rebel fortress near Wilmington, N.C., was captured by Union forces on Jan. 15, 1865.
A rare image of Stonewall Jackson, minus his famous beard. The photo at right shows Jackson's horse, 
"Little Sorrell," at the residence of Henry Kyd Douglas in Hagerstown, Md., in 1884.
A Confederate sniper rifle picked up after the Battle of Gettysburg.
An artillery shell embedded in a war log.
A rare Civil War-era slave collar.
According to the tag, this is a section of the oak tree under which Union General Jesse Reno died at Fox Gap 
after he was shot at the Battle of South Mountain on Sept. 14, 1862.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Young historian reveals story of war-torn Shepherdstown

Civil War-era view of Shepherdstown, Va., from the Maryland side of the Potomac River. 
The town became part of West Virginia when it joined the Union in June 1863. (Library of Congress)

Kevin Pawlak, a 23-year-old Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident,
already has begun research for another Civil War book.
Like Frederick, Md., to the north, Shepherdstown, Va., was inundated with casualties after the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. While much is known about Frederick and its role as a mostly Union army hospital town, little has been published about what citizens and the Confederate medical corps endured when Shepherdstown was overwhelmed by thousands of tired, wounded and dying Rebels after the bloodiest day of the war.

In Shepherdstown In The Civil War, One Vast Confederate Hospital, Kevin Pawlak, a 23-year-old, first-time author, tapped into many unpublished sources to help fill that void. "Writing a book about the Confederate medical corps and the Confederate hospitals in Shepherdstown during the [Maryland] campaign gave me an opportunity to look at the stories of the physically scarred Confederates who walked away from the horrors of the battlefields ...," Pawlak said.

Locals referred to Shepherdstown as "nine miles from everywhere," but war was omnipresent for its citizens as the armies swept back and forth through the Shenandoah Valley in the summer of 1862. After fighting at Solomon's Gap, South Mountain, Harpers Ferry and elsewhere in the area, wounded Rebels filled the town along the banks of the Potomac River. "Battles had come to mean to us, as they never had before, blood, wounds, and death," wrote a Shepherdstown resident about that period.

But the aftermath of Antietam proved to be the biggest nightmare for Shepherdstown, only four miles from Sharpsburg, Md. By the morning of Sept. 19, 1862, Pawlak writes, wounded Confederates jammed each of the town's six churches as well as private homes, warehouses, barns and other buildings. There were so many Rebels in town that its water supply nearly ran dry. Also on Sept. 19, the pursuing Union army began shelling Shepherdstown from the Maryland side of the Potomac, wreaking more havoc. Writes Pawlak:
Published by The History Press, Kevin Pawlak's
 book is available on and elsewhere.
"Randolph Shotwell of the 8th Virginia remembered well the first shells to land among Shepherdstown's streets on September 19. As he was sitting in a doorway, a Shepherdstown woman approached him with a slice of pie in one hand and a glass of buttermilk in the other. Suddenly, a gun boomed from across the river and the shell landed "near a church full of wounded." Startled, the matron dropped the plate of pie and fled to the cellar of her home."
Reared in the small western New York town of Albion, Pawlak got hooked on the Civil War as I did: He went to Gettysburg with his family when he was a youngster. Studying Civil War history and historic preservation, Pawlak graduated from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown in 2014, With so much Civil War history in his back yard while he was in college, Pawlak could easily dive into rich local resources and investigate in-person the area's many war-related sites.

Pawlak, who still lives in Shepherdstown, works as a licensed battlefield guide at Antietam and as an education specialist at the Mosby Heritage Area Association. He has already begun research for another Civil War book: an examination of the often-overlooked Battle of Shepherdstown on Sept.19-20, 1862.

Pawlak recently took time out to answer a few questions about Shepherdstown And The Civil War, published in August by The History Press. (E-mail him here for information on how to obtain an autographed copy of his book.)

                                                                             X X X

The Maryland Campaign and, of course, the Battle of Antietam have been written about extensively. Why did you write a book about Shepherdstown?

Many aspects of the Maryland Campaign and the Battle of Antietam have been covered in separate monographs. However, I felt that a work like mine filled in some of the holes that still remain within the historiography of the Maryland Campaign.

Firstly, when talking about the medical aspects of Antietam, this is overwhelmingly covered from the Federal aspect. Jonathan Letterman’s triage system, the Union hospitals throughout the western Maryland countryside, the photographs of those Union hospitals -- all of these compelling stories and unique sources have led to this uneven coverage. I wanted to flip things around and see what the Confederate medical corps was up to during this campaign and how their operations, successes and failures differed and compared with the Union medical corps during the campaign.

Next, the most famous Confederate casualties from the Maryland Campaign can be found in Alexander Gardner’s photographs as sun-bloated, grotesque, anonymous corpses. The photos are moving, to be sure, but we do not know those soldiers’ names or their personal stories. We likely know what part of the action they fell in and what state they came from, but nothing beyond that. Writing a book about the Confederate medical corps and the Confederate hospitals in Shepherdstown during the campaign gave me an opportunity to look at the stories of the physically scarred Confederates who walked away from the horrors of the battlefields of the Maryland Campaign.

Lastly, because the campaign is called the Maryland Campaign, the events that took place in Maryland and the horrors the civilians of Maryland experienced is all that had been looked at. The story of Shepherdstown --- then in Virginia -- and the horrors its civilians experienced had fallen by the wayside and had yet to be examined. I hope that my book rectified that.

Confederate surgeon William Parran was killed at the Battle of Antietam. He's buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown, W. Va. (Parran photo: Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va.)

What's the most compelling story you discovered?

Pawlak: Every story that I discovered was compelling to me, but I think the most compelling was one that modern residents of Shepherdstown already know. Dr. William Parran was a surgeon in the Confederate Army and had family living in Shepherdstown during the war. His cousin’s husband was killed at First Bull Run. Before Antietam, Parran -- an enterprising man who attended West Point, VMI, and the University of Maryland at various points in his life -- had a chance to visit his relatives in Shepherdstown. At the time, William’s wife at home was pregnant with their second child. He urged her to come to Shepherdstown to be surrounded by his family, but she likely never made it. If she did, she would not have found her husband there. During the fight at Antietam, Parran volunteered to serve with a Virginia battery and was killed in action. His body was recovered and his remains laid to rest in Shepherdstown. He never met his son, but in his last letter home, Parran told his infant daughter Emma, “Daddy’s little Emma -- must be a good girl and know her daddy when he returns.” Of course, Emma never got the chance.

Going to school in Shepherdstown, I was familiar with this story. Upon further research, I found even more information about Parran than I had heard and even found a few facts contradicting the popular version of the story. No matter which story you believe, it is a touching story and combines all three themes of the book: the Confederate medical corps, Confederate casualties during the campaign, and Shepherdstown’s sufferings in September 1862.

More than 100 Confederates who died of wounds suffered in battle at Antietam or Shepherdstown are buried 
in the town's Elmwood Cemetery.  (Photo courtesy Kevin Pawlak)

Many buildings in Shepherdstown date to the Civil War era and even earlier. Was there any evidence left behind -- say, blood-stained floors, initials carved in window sills -- that can be traced to the Civil War?

Pawlak: Many of the buildings that I related stories to from September 1862 are still standing and easily recognizable today. Needless to say, I have yet to find blood stains from this particular stint of hospitals in Shepherdstown. However, one of the churches in town (no longer standing) used pews that for years after the war, blood stains were still visible. There are a couple of cases of graffiti from soldiers in some of the buildings in town, but none of them were probably created in September 1862.

The most tangible evidence of Shepherdstown’s stint as a hospital can be found in Elmwood cemetery outside of town, where stone markers denote the graves of over 100 Confederates who died in town from their wounds received in September 1862. Seeing these every day makes it hard for people of Shepherdstown to forget what their town endured.

Shepherdstown's Presbyterian Church was used as a hospital
 for Confederate wounded. (Historic Shepherdstown Museum)
Many casual visitors to Antietam have no idea that another battle was fought nearby at Shepherdstown on Sept. 19-20, 1862. What did you learn about that?

Pawlak: I actually anticipated that my first book would be solely about the Battle of Shepherdstown, but I was convinced otherwise from a variety of factors. However, keep your eyes peeled for that book, which is my current project.

Because this is my next work, I did not cover the battle extensively in my current book, but I did find a lot of useful stories coming from the smaller Battle of Shepherdstown. Indeed, most people have no idea that there was a battle fought after Antietam. It does not fit into the common and flawed interpretation of the campaign that states that George McClellan and the Union Army did not pursue the Confederates after they left Sharpsburg. In fact, this is not true at all. While the two-day battle was not a large pursuit, it was nonetheless a pursuit that altered Robert E. Lee’s plans for the rest of the campaign and ended the critical Maryland Campaign.

In my research for this current book, I did come across many unpublished and unused sources for the battle, which will be expanded on more fully for my next work. One of the best things I found related to the battle pertinent to this book was the notebook of a surgeon in the 14th South Carolina Infantry detailing the wounded men in that regiment. I found a lot of great stories (some of which I did not publish in this book) from that wonderful source.

 Confederates attacked through this field during the Battle of Shepherdstown on Sept. 20, 1862.

Finally, what do you hope the reader takes away from your book?

Pawlak: Many towns experienced their homes, churches and warehouses being inundated with wounded that vastly outnumbered the civilians during the Civil War. Indeed, the term “one vast hospital,” which a Union trooper applied to Shepherdstown four days before the famous words were attached to western Maryland, was applied to countless towns and cities from 1861-1865. Like those other towns, what happened to Shepherdstown beginning in September 1862 was a shared experience that soldiers, surgeons and civilians would never forget. Amidst war’s atrocities, friendships were forged among citizens and soldiers that lasted decades beyond 1862.

Additionally, the story of the Confederate medical corps is a fascinating one. Even Robert E. Lee had to be treated by it during the course of the campaign! But it demonstrates, in a microcosm, the problems the Confederate armies experienced throughout the war -- straggling, lack of transportation and supplies, and a large disparity between the number of surgeons and the wounded they had to treat. The Confederate medical corps in the Maryland Campaign very much shows a medical corps in transition and one struggling to meet the needs that the times demanded of it.

Lastly, I hope that readers will take away the idea that each of those anonymous soldiers in Alexander Gardner’s haunting photographs has a story yearning to be told -- whether the task is impossible or not. We should strive to uncover as many of those stories as we can because those are the stories that bring us historians back down to earth. These regiments and companies were made of men who had aspirations, dreams, goals and families and their stories serve as a wonderful and inspirational reminder of why it is so important to tell their stories and preserve the land where they fought and died so that other stories could be written long after they were gone.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Uncovering Civil War stories in General Lyon Cemetery

A Civil War-era illustration of the cemetery in Eastford, Conn., where Nathaniel Lyon was buried.
(Life of General Nathaniel Lyon)
On Sept. 5, 1861, a crowd estimated at 15,000 gathered in a small cemetery in rural Eastford, Conn., for the funeral of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general to die during the Civil War. The sloping grounds formed a "perfect amphitheater" that Thursday, which one witness described as "singularly beautiful, even among the lovely autumnal days of New England."

Killed weeks earlier at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri, the 43-year-old native son of Connecticut was buried with great fanfare. Minute guns fired as Lyon's hearse, decorated with silver trappings" and an American flag and drawn by "four magnificent black horses," neared Phoenixville Cemetery. The governor of Connecticut and a former governor of the state served as pallbearers. After the general's remains were lowered into ground, near the graves of his parents, three volleys were fired by the City Guard of Hartford. A band played a dirge.

"There was not one of all the throng who did not leave the sacred place with a sadder, even if not a better and more patriotic heart," the Hartford Daily Courant reported the day after funeral.

On a humid, late-summer afternoon nearly 154 years later, the scene was quite different.

The throaty growl of motorcycles racing along a nearby road reverberated through the air. Only one visitor walked the grounds of the cemetery, long ago renamed for Lyon. Half open ground in the summer of 1861, the three-acre graveyard was filled with markers, including many for the general's Union army comrades. Just yards from Lyon's grave, a headstone memorializes his nephew, a soldier in a Connecticut cavalry unit, who was killed during the war. Old, metal Grand Army of the Republic markers and small American flags denoted veterans' graves.

And at almost every turn, a Civil War story was waiting to be told.

Mortally wounded at Port Hudson, 26th Connecticut Sergeant Edwin Keyes is honored with a memorial in 
old Phoenixville Cemetery in Eastford, Conn. (Keyes image courtesy of  his descendant)

The battlefield wound that eventually killed Edwin Ruthven Keyes, a 37-year-old sergeant in the 26th Connecticut, was especially gruesome. "... caused by a rifle ball, or is believed to be so caused," the regimental surgeon noted, "resulting in serious injury to the mouth, throat and parts adjacent."

Edwin Keyes lies buried in Baton Rouge (La.) National Cemetery in
Plot 20, Grave No. 1283.  The 37-year-old sergeant was mortally 

wounded in the jaw at the Siege of Port Hudson.
A well-regarded teacher and principal at Ashford Academy before the war, Keyes suffered the wound during the 26th Connecticut's ill-advised charge "through grape and canister" at Port Hudson, La.,  on May 27, 1863. The siege of the vast Rebel fortress along the steep banks of the Mississippi River claimed some of the regiment's best men. After orderly Sergeant Albert Smith was mortally wounded, he shook hands with his captain and said, "Good-by! Tell my friends I hope to meet them in Heaven." In the heat of battle, another officer tended to a mortally wounded Captain Jedediah Randall, who told the man, "I'm all right. Go and take care of the boys."

In an undated pension file document, Edwin Keyes' widow wrote,
"I shall be glad of an increase of  pension in my declining years."
A 2nd lieutenant in the 26th Connecticut, Hervey Jacobs was mortally wounded by the explosion of a 12-pound spherical case shot while leading a company during an assault at Port Hudson on June 14. The shell killed four and wounded 16 others. A 25-year-old bookkeeper, he died July 5 at the same hospital in Baton Rouge, La., in which  his brother, Wyman, a 21-year-old private in the 50th Massachusetts, died of disease two days later.

Suffering terribly, Keyes lingered at Convalescent Hospital in Baton Rouge until he died on June 12. Described as a "faithful, earnest, patriotic man," he left behind a 33-year-old wife named Louisa and four children: Ruthven, 8; Amy, 7; Ellen, 5; and a daughter he had never seen, Minnie, almost 3 months old. Nearly two months after his death, Rev. Walter Alexander eulogized Keyes during a sermon at the First Congregational Church in nearby Pomfret, Conn.

"The sacrifice he welcomed, in leaving a family to which he was devotedly attached to engage in our common defense, wins our admiration," Alexander said. "The Christian character he maintained till the last, against the pressure of iniquity, secures our grateful love. The death-scene so far away, unhallowed by the presence of wife and babes, calls not in vain for our warmest sympathy for the bereaved."

Shortly after her husband's death, Louisa Keyes filed for a widow's pension. Her claim was approved, and she initially received $8 a month from the government. By the time of her death in 1921, her monthly pension check was $20.  Louisa, who married Edwin on Nov. 26, 1851, never remarried. A weathered memorial 20 yards in front of  General Lyon's grave honors her husband, whose remains lie in Baton Rouge National Cemetery.
Keyes drew this image in 1855 while he attended the New Britain (Conn.) Normal School, a school for teachers.
(Connecticut Historical Society collection)
Edwin Lyon was killed on Sept. 8, 1861, three days after the funeral for his uncle, General Nathaniel Lyon.
Traveling at about 20 mph, a train packed with Union soldiers neared a curve about 19 miles from Baltimore. Suddenly, an axle snapped, sending cars crashing into one another and "smashing them almost literally to atoms."

At least three soldiers were killed and scores were injured. Among the dead were two soldiers from the 1st Connecticut Cavalry Squadron, part of the Harris Light Cavalry: William German, a private from Collinsville, and Edwin L. Lyon, a quartermaster sergeant from Eastford and nephew of General Nathaniel Lyon. Twenty-three-year-old Edwin's death on Sept. 8, 1861, came just three days after his uncle's funeral.

Soldiers thought the train wreck in Cockeysville, Md., was no accident. According to one contemporary account, the train's engineer was an "ardent rebel," who "made a desperate attempt to bring about a disaster by running the train at such a fearful rate of speed as to throw the rear cars from the track." Attempting to slow the train by manning the brakes of the rear car, German and Lyon were unable to keep their footing and were thrown from the train, killing them instantly.

Two days after the accident, the New York Times reported that the engineer, a man named Frank Gurbrick, had been reluctant to depart from Harrisburg, Pa., with the train full of soldiers. When Gurbrick began the journey south, the soldiers recalled that the engineer said "with considerable feeling" he would "run them to Baltimore or hell by 4 o'clock." A guard had been placed in the engine to keep an eye on him.

Gurbrick denied the soldiers' claims, and the railroad company stood by its man, claiming the engineer was "one of their most trusty and skillful men."

But the soldiers would have none it.

"Great indignation was expressed against the engineer by the soldiers, who charge him with being the assassin of those who were killed, and the attempted murderer of the entire regiment," the Times reported.

The remains of German and Lyon were returned to Connecticut, where they both were buried.

State-issued markers for George and Henry Phillips in Eastford, Conn. Their relationship is unclear.
Only 19, George W. Phillips didn't seem to mind being the youngest in his family. In fact, in at least two letters home to his widowed mother Harriet while he served in the Union army, he endearingly referred to himself as "your baby."

In a note dated April 12, 1862, 11th Connecticut Private George Phillips
 tells his mother he sent her $20. (
Mustered into Company F of the 11th Connecticut as a private in the fall of 1861, George experienced the trials of army life soon after the regiment arrived in Annapolis, Md., that winter. "I am well and enjoying myself first-rate," the soldier from Ashford, Conn., wrote on Jan. 5, 1862, "but there is a number in the regiment sick with the measels [sic]. There has three out of my tent gone to the hospital sick with them but I have not had them yet. I have forgot whether I have ever had them..."

Added George: "I like to forget to tell you that there had been one death in my company since we come here." Private Elisha Mowry Sr. of Pomfret, Conn., who "had been sick ever since he had enlisted," died of lung fever Dec. 9, 1861.

Eager to take care of his mother, who suffered from rheumatism, Phillips sent $15 of his army pay home via the Adams Express Co. "I want you to keep it and use if for what you want," he wrote in the letter on Jan. 5, 1862. "I had rather you would use it than to kill yourself washing for I may come home some time and when I come I shall want to see mother." In a short note to his mother, dated April 12, 1862, George told of sending her $20.

"...give my love to all & write soon. from your baby," Phillips concluded a letter to his mother on April 20, 1862.

Private George W. Phillips' grave in the national
cemetery in New Bern, N.C.
A cog in Burnside's Expedition, part of an effort to put a stranglehold on Southern ports, the 11th Connecticut sailed from Fortress Monroe in Virginia to North Carolina in early January 1862. On February 7-8, the regiment helped take Roanoke Island, near the Virginia border, and later joined forces that attacked and captured the strategic Rebel garrison at New Bern, N.C., on March 14, 1862. The Union army held the town for the remainder of the war.

"Once more I take my pen to drop you a few lines to let you know I am still alive," Phillips wrote to his mother from New Bern on April 20, 1862. In the letter, George recounted that one boy in his tent received in the mail a box full of delicacies, including a "whole cheese," a can of apple sauce, "a keg of pickels," butter and cakes. Phillips' tentmate graciously shared the bounty with his comrades. At the time, army life seemed good.

Later than month, however, sickness swept through New Bern. On April 30, George contracted typhoid fever and was sent "in very feeble condition," according to the regimental surgeon, to a hospital in town. He died there on May 13, 1862, and was buried nearby by a detail of men from his regiment.

After the war, Phillips' remains were disinterred and re-buried in Plot 2291 in the national cemetery in New Bern. In Lyon Cemetery, a plain, state-issued memorial honors George; next to his marker is a state-issued stone for another Phillips, a 14th Connecticut private named Henry, who suffered a severe wound in the right arm at the Battle of Deep Bottom Run (Va.) on Aug. 16, 1864. He died of his wounds in a hospital in Washington on Oct. 24, 1864, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Henry's relationship to George is unclear.

A memorial for Henry H. Adams, a 20-year-old private in the 16th Connecticut.

In his diary, prisoner of war Henry H. Adams recorded his experiences at Andersonville from his arrival there in early May 1864 through his confinement in another Rebel POW camp in Florence, S.C.. Adams, who survived without shelter at the camp in southwestern Georgia until the end his first month in captivity, wrote of the arrival of a steady stream of prisoners -- 100 on May 14, 700 on May 23, 900 on May 29 and 1,000 more on June 19.

Near the end of July, the 16th Connecticut private began to record deaths of his fellow prisoners at Andersonville. Harsh conditions at the most notorious POW camp of the war also took a toll on the 20-year-old soldier from Eastford, who had been wounded at the Battle of Antietam in 1862. On Aug. 18, Adams' leg "became lame" and five days later, he could not walk, so he made a cane to help him get around the squalid camp.

In mid-September, Adams reported that he was "getting very weak," and nearly two weeks later he was so incapacitated that he couldn't walk. On Oct. 8, the young soldier was transported to a camp in Florence, where he received medicine and, on Oct. 14, noted he was "getting along first-rate." Two days later, he wrote that he was "getting along very well but do not get enough to eat."

On Oct. 18, he recorded in his diary that "we have a Poor Hospital made of Bushes and out of sight of any houses." A day later, he wrote: "We heard a sermon preached in our ward. There is talk of an exchange of the sick but can't tell."

It was his final entry.

On Oct. 20 another man scrawled in the diary, "The writer of the foregoing Died at 9 o'clock pm." The cause of death was disease.

On his memorial in Lyon Cemetery, Adams' date of death is incorrectly inscribed Oct. 24. "Thy memory will be cherished," read the words at the bottom of the marker. His final resting place is likely in a burial trench in Florence National Cemetery along with the remains of other Union prisoners of war.

An unusual double-tombstone for 11th Connecticut Private Willard Botham and his wife. 

Levi Whitaker, Botham's comrade in the 11th Connecticut,
died in 1864 after he was released from Andersonville,
the notorious Rebel prisoner-of-war camp.
A private in the 11th Connecticut, Willard Botham survived battles at Roanoke Island, Beaufort, New Bern and, according to the inscription on his gravestone, "Antietam and Sharpsburg." An overzealous, or perhaps misinformed, stone carver included the Union and Confederate names for the bloodiest day in American history on the gray, weather-worn tombstone.

Botham was captured at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in Virginia on May 16, 1864, and spent six months in Rebel prisons. In his diary, one of Botham's 11th Connecticut comrades frequently mentioned his friend while they were imprisoned at Andersonville. "Botham is almost helpless & my legs & feet are both swelled," Private Levi Whitaker wrote on Oct. 13, 1864. "We are badly situated."

Botham survived the war, but Whitaker wasn't as fortunate. Also captured at Drewry's Bluff, he left Andersonville to be exchanged on Nov. 19, 1864. Emaciated, the 36-year-old private died almost a month later of chronic diarrhea at U.S. General Hospital in Annapolis, Md., leaving behind a wife named Susan and three young sons, George, Dwight and Clayton. Almost out of sight, Levi's gravestone is in the back corner of Lyon Cemetery. In ornate lettering, the word "Father" is inscribed at the top.

Botham outlived his wife by 18 months, dying in 1894. In a poignant touch, a carving of one hand touching another joins their unusual dual-tombstone. Together for eternity.

Hands join on the dual-tombstone for 11th Connecticut Private Willard Botham and his wife, Louisa.
General Nathaniel Lyon's tall, white memorial appears in the background.