|Private George Holt of Harwinton, Conn. (Blogger's collection.)|
Disease took a heavy toll on the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery while the regiment was based in the defenses of Washington in the winter of 1863. Burritt H. Tolles, a 19-year-old private from Plymouth, died of fever on Jan. 12 at the regimental hospital in Alexandria, Va. Eighteen days later, Private Charles Cleveland of Terryville and Corporal William W. Johnson of Plymouth also died of fever at the regimental hospital. And on Feb. 26, George H. Holt, a 19-year-old private, succumbed to diphtheria in Alexandria, one of more than 2,500 soldiers from Connecticut to die of disease during the war. (Nearly 2,000 from Connecticut died from wounds received in battle.)
Rare today, diphtheria was a common illness during the 19th century. In 1872, former Confederate president Jefferson Davis' 10-year-old son William died of the disease, which especially afflicted children. While he lay in the regimental hospital in the winter of 1863, Holt probably suffered from common symptoms of diphtheria: sore throat, fever, swollen glands, weakness and a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of his throat, blocking his airway. Doctors of the time sometimes resorted to a tracheotomy -- the insertion of a tube in the throat -- in an attempt to prevent a patient from suffocating, but the strategy usually was unsuccessful. There was probably little that could be done to save Holt, an unmarried farmer from Harwinton.
According to a regimental history, the remains of Holt and his three comrades who died during the winter of 1863 were returned to Connecticut for burial. Holt's name may be found on a marker and a memorial in Hillside Cemetery in Terryville, Conn. The carte-de-visites of the teenager are recent additions to my collection.
|A civilian image of Holt, probably before he joined the Union army.|
|A marker for George Holt in Hillside Cemetery in Terryville, Conn.|
|The names of teenagers George Holt and Burritt Tolles appear on a memorial in a cemetery in Terryville, Conn.|