Monday, September 26, 2016

Antietam: A little-known tragedy at David Reel's barn

      Top above: Interactive panorama of old Reel farm, barn. Above: Google Earth view.

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Of  the thousands of tragedies that played out during the Battle of Antietam, one that gets little attention occurred on David Reel's farm on a ridge behind Confederate lines. The Rebels used Reel's property as a staging area, and as wounded came streaming from the West Woods and elsewhere, the farmer's bank barn became a makeshift field hospital. One scene in particular stood out for a Sharpsburg man named John Philemon Smith:
"While staying at Mr. Reels I saw a number of wounded and dead Confederates brought into the yard; some were having their limbs amputated, others horribly mangled were dying. One man in particular I shall never forget. His entire abdomen had been torn and mangled with a piece of exploded shell. He uttered piercing and heart rendering cries and besought those who stood by for God's sake to kill him and thus end his sufferings. Death came to his relief in a short time and he was hastily buried in a shallow grave dug in the orchard nearby." 
But sometime during the battle, an even greater horror occurred. Federal artillery struck the barn, setting it afire and burning to death some of the wounded. When local boys went through the ruins of the barn, they found lumps of lead ... and bones of human beings in the ashes. It's not known how many Confederate soldiers died in the barn fire.

"The fire of the Federal Batteries on this point was terrific," H.W. Addison, a captain in the 7th South Carolina of Kershaw's Brigade recalled decades after the battle. "I finallly got off some hundred of yards toward the Town," added Addison, "I looked back, and saw that the Barn or building had been fired, and suppose some of our wounded were burned to death."

During a visit to the farm on the 154th anniversary of the battle, the scene was quite different. Chickens clucked in the barn, and cows nervously stirred in a nearby field. I stepped through muck to find the spot where Alexander Gardner set up his camera to record an image of the burned-out shell of the barn on Sept. 21 or 22, 1862.

There wasn't another soul in sight.

      Visit my Civil War Then & Now blog for a larger presentation of the above images.

An image of the Reel barn taken from a similar vantage point as Alexander Gardner's 1862 image.
Two outer stone walls appear to be all that remains of the war-time barn.
A close-up of an outer stone wall.
Lower level of the barn. Was this hell on Sept. 17, 1862?
A view of the length of the barn. The old Reel farm property is owned by the Civil War Trust.

-- Buchanan, Jim, Walking the West Woods blog. (Buchanan cites H.W. Addison's 1898 letter to Ezra Carman, who wrote a detailed study of the battle, as source for the description of the shelling of the Reel farm and barn. Accessed Sept. 25, 2016.)

-- --Nelson, John H, As Grain Falls Before The Reaper, The Federal Hospital Sites And Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Privately published CDHagerstown, Md., 2004. (Nelson's terrific work is the source for the quote from John Philemon Smith. He cites the source as the Smith file in the Antietam National Battlefield Visitor's Center Library.)

--Reilly, Oliver T., The Battlefield of Antietam, Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing Co., Hagerstown, Md., 1906.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Antietam: Is this house where General Joseph Mansfield died?

2000: During a renovation of the house,  the current owner discovered log construction underneath.
(Images showing log construction courtesy Marvin Diller)
TODAY: The old Daniel Bovey house. The log portion of the house is behind 
the brick and to the right of the front porch.
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Three Union generals were mortally wounded at Antietam, and for students of the battle, the houses where two of them died are well known.

Struck in the chest by a piece of artillery shell during the attack at the Sunken Road on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862, Israel Richardson was taken to the Philip Pry farm, where a makeshift hospital had been set up in the barn and house. President Lincoln visited him in Pry's house in early October, and the general's wife, Fannie, and sister traveled from Michigan to help care for him there. But the 46-year-old officer -- "Fighting Dick," he was called because of his prowess on the battlefield -- died of complications from his wound on the second floor on Nov. 3, 1862. The beautiful, brick house is now home for excellent displays by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Wounded in the chest during the IX Corps' afternoon attack, Isaac Rodman died on Sept. 30 in Henry Rohrbach's farm house, near Burnside Bridge. His wife, Sally, who had traveled from Rhode Island, was by his side. Before his death, the smell of the 40-year-old brigadier general's wound became so offensive, according to a witness, that the dinner table was moved outside to the porch for meals. In private hands today, the Rohrbach house is inaccessible to the public.

Antietam proved to be the first and last Civil War field command for Joseph Mansfield, who had served far from major action until he was given the reins of the XII Corps only two days before the great battle.

General Joseph Mansfield of Middletown, Conn., died 
 of  his Antietam wound on Sept. 18, 1862.
(Middlesex County History Society)
After he was struck by a minie ball in the right chest in the East Woods, Mansfield was carried about a quarter-mile to the rear by soldiers, who used their muskets to form a stretcher, and then taken by ambulance another quarter-mile or so to to a log house owned by farmer George Line. On his way there, Mansfield, his wound tightly bandaged to stop the bleeding, repeatedly said, "Oh my God, am I to die thus!" and "Oh my poor family!"

Line's two-story house, which measured about 26 feet by 22 feet, became known as the "White House Hospital," undoubtedly because the logs were painted white. A thousand wounded soldiers, including more than 100 Confederates, received care in his house and in the outbuildings on his farm.

Patrick Henry Flood, the 107th New York surgeon who came to Mansfield's aid after he was shot, feared the general would die before he even arrived at Line's farm. The bullet penetrated about "two inches from the nipple ... passing out at the back, near the shoulder blade," Flood wrote to Mansfield's wife, Louisa, in April 1863. (Read the complete letter here.) "The lung was much torn," the surgeon added, "and I saw at a glance the wound must prove fatal."

At 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 18, 1862, about 24 hours after Mansfield was shot, the 58-year-old officer from Middletown, Conn., died in a bedroom in Line's small house. As Mansfield's life was extinguished, another one began. A girl was born to George's son, Martin, who lived on the property, on Sept. 17, 1862. She was named Clellie in honor of Army of the Potomac commander George McClellan.

Just off the gravel, war-time portion of Smoketown Road, a short distance from the site of Line's house, a small, black-and-white metal marker points to where Mansfield's life ended.

That sign is wrong.

Mansfield didn't die at noon on Sept. 17, and although he indeed died in the house on George Line's farm, the 1862 log house was long ago moved and forgotten.

Until now.

A sign just off Smoketown Road incorrectly notes the date and time of Mansfield's death. The
 log house in which the general died was purchased by Daniel Bovey, who moved it
sometime during the 19th century and reassembled it on his nearby farm.
This house on the site of George Line's log house was probably built after the Civil War. 
This is private property. Do not trespass.
             Google Earth view of the old Line farm. The house shown in the image above 
                        is in the grove of trees to the right of the long, thin outbuilding.

Last Saturday morning in Captain Bender's Tavern on Main Street in Sharpsburg Md., my friend John Rogers and I marveled at tales told by Richard Clem, who has a longtime passion for hunting for Civil War relics in area fields. Clem pulled from a small case pieces of art made from lead by Civil War soldiers -- a VI Corps badge, a cannon tube and even a small, intricately carved walnut.  A lifetime Washington County, Md., resident, Clem also has a remarkable knowledge of local history. The 76-year-old retired woodworker still fondly remembers his grandmother recounting visits with Civil War veterans, proving the war isn't as long ago as some of us might think.

An 1877 Washington County atlas shows the location of 
the old Daniel Bovey farm near Hooker Bridge.
During our visit, Clem casually mentioned he knew the location of General Mansfield's death house.
And so we three history geeks hopped into Rogers' car to find out more about a footnote in history.

After a quick stop at the site of the old O.J. Smith farm/Civil War hospital on Mansfield Road near the battlefield, we drove a short distance before we made a right turn up a long, gravel lane. At the top of the hill, we saw a two-story brick house with a modern addition and a friendly dog. (See Google Earth view below.) In the far distance, we could barely make out the old Hooker Bridge, named for the general whose I Corps marched across it on the way to battle. Richard knew the owner of the farm, Marvin Diller, who sported a farmer's tan and had an interesting story to tell. During renovation work on the house in 2000, he discovered a log structure beneath the brick exterior. He even had pictures to prove it. Each log was marked with Roman numerals, Diller said, which seemed odd a first.

A little local history lesson made sense of it all.

In 1906, O.T. Reilly authored The Battlefield of Antietam, a 32-page booklet of  photos, stories and remembrances about the battle. Reilly, who claimed he witnessed the battle as a 5-year-old, was the first Antietam guide, serving as a battlefield expert for decades. In his booklet, the longtime area resident wrote this brief passage:
O.T. Reilly 
(Image courtesy Stephen Recker)
The brick house that stands near the Hooker Bridge, on the southwest side, is the old log house that formerly belonged to George Line and was purchased by Mr. Bovey, removed, rebuilt and brick-cased, and was the house in which General Mansfield died. Mr. George Line built a new house on the site of the old one. The road to the left (southwest) of the Hooker Bridge was. during war times, only a private farm road, but now is a county road. The road to the right is the old road running through Bakersville to Williamsport ; a portion of the army took this road before the battle to get on the right. All the buildings as you pass along were, for a short while, filled with wounded soldiers until they could be placed in the regular hospitals.
A similar account, perhaps borrowed from Reilly, appeared in the regimental history of the 124th Pennsylvania, which bivouacked on Line's farm the night before the battle. Further evidence that Line's log house was moved comes from this 1996 survey by the Maryland Historical Trust, which noted the brick house on the property today "shows characteristics of later 19th century construction."

Bovey was Daniel Bovey, a local minister, farmer and longtime Keedysville, Md., resident. The exact date of his purchase of the house from Line is unknown, although it must have been before 1892, the year Bovey died. When Bovey reassembled the house on the hill near the Hooker Bridge, the Roman numerals on the logs evidently made reassembling it easier. The date the house was brick-cased, apparently a fairly common practice in Washington County, merits more research. Diller's property encompasses what was the old Bovey farm, which is shown in the 1877 Washington County atlas.

The available evidence seems to add up -- the house Mansfield died in has indeed survived the ravages of time.

Whether Mansfield died in his house or on Mars, it doesn't really make a difference to Diller. When I asked him how he felt living where a Civil War general died, he looked me in the eye and smiled.

"We don't even think about it," he said.

Another view of the log construction of what once was George Line's house...
... and the same view today. The current owner of the house, 
Marvin Diller (blue pants), appears at right.
View from the front of the house. The Hooker Bridge crosses Antietam Creek in the middle distance.
A brick on the house designates the year it was renovated.
Google Earth view of the old Daniel Bovey farm. The brick-cased log house
is next to the Creekview Dairy designation.


--Find a Grave

--Hagerstown Daily Mail, Feb. 16, 1934. Description of Rodman's offensive wounds comes from Fred Cross, a military archivist at the Massachusetts Archives, who was told the story by area resident Jacob McGraw. McGraw helped Rohrbach clean up his property after the battle.

--Maryland Historical Trust, Inventory of Historic Properties, accessed online Sept. 25, 2016.

--Nelson, John H, As Grain Falls Before The Reaper, The Federal Hospital Sites And Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Privately published CDHagerstown, Md., 2004. (Nelson's excellent work is source for description of Line's farm as the "White House Hospital" and dimensions of Line's log house. He cites The Medical Department of the United States Army in the Civil War by Louis Duncan, published early in the 20th century, as source for number of wounded treated at the Line Farm. He cites Dr. Elisha Hunt's "Report on Field Hospitals Indicated on Map of Battlefield of Antietam" for note on Confederate wounded treated at Line farm. Harris was was in charge of distribution of supplies by the United States Sanitary Commission.)

--Dr. Patrick Henry Flood letter to Louisa Mansfield, April 28, 1863, Middlesex County Historical Society, Middletown, Conn.

--Reilly, Oliver T., The Battlefield of Antietam, Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing Co., Hagerstown, Md., 1906

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Antietam: Dawn at 100th Pennsylvania monument

Antietam video: A visit to David R. Miller farmhouse

Below are Then & Nows of the old Miller farmhouse. (Drag the arrow to use the cool slider.) The "Then" image was taken by Alexander Gardner about Sept. 20, 1862, days after the Battle of Antietam. The second Then & Now is a cropped enlargement of the first image. Check out my Civil War Then & Now photo blog here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

10 Antietam stories of courage, perseverance and death

Sunrise at Antietam from Branch Avenue.
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The stories of many of those who served during the Civil War have been lost to history. Here are 10 stories brought to light on this blog -- stories of courage, perseverance and death at the Battle of Antietam, fought Sept. 17, 1862, in the farm fields and woodlots near the village of Sharpsburg, Md.:

George Marsh
"TRUSTY SOLDIER WITH A SPOTLESS REPUTATION" -- Shortly after the sun peeked above the horizon on Sept. 17, 1862, “some curious fools” in the 8th Connecticut climbed atop a knoll on Henry Rohrbach’s farm to sneak a look at their enemy, alerting Rebels on the far side of Antietam Creek. Suddenly, a 12-pound solid shot burst from a cannon and crashed into the regiment’s ranks in a field near Rohrbach's farmhouse, killing Sergeant George Marsh and two other soldiers, wounding four and splattering 19-year-old Lieutenant Marvin Wait with blood and dirt. At least one report speculated that railroad iron fired by the Rebels killed Marsh, but the real cause was the massive concussion of the solid shot that plowed into the ground in front of the prone officer. Read more.

Philo Pearce
"I  WAS LAYING ON ARMS AND LEGS" -- In a 1925 memoir of his Civil War experiences, Philo Pearce, a private in the 11th Connecticut, wrote vividly about the battle. Of the fighting at Burnside Bridge, Pearce recalled, "I fired so fast that my rifle got hot and I had to pour water on it to cool it." Detailed to aid surgeons, he recalled getting dizzy from the fumes of chloroform used to anesthetize the wounded, staggering outside and briefly falling asleep. When he awoke, he lay upon a pile of amputated arms and legs. Pearce's account, believed to have never been published, also includes details of the mortal wounding of highly regarded 11th Connecticut Captain John Griswold. Read more.

John W. Hilldrup
SET ASIDE TO DIE -- When the regimental surgeon saw John Wesley Hilldrup's grievous bullet wound in his right side, he decided the 22-year-old private in the 30th Virginia was a lost cause and had him put aside to die. Wounded during an attack near Dunker Church, Hilldrup was left in the hands of Union surgeons after the Rebels retreated across the Potomac River two days later. But like this 11th Connecticut soldier who was terribly wounded at Burnside Bridge at Antietam, Hilldrup miraculously survived, was paroled and eventually made his way back home to Spotsylvania County, Va. He later re-joined his regiment. Read more.

Samuel Gould
"SHRANK FROM EVERYTHING ... SELFISH" -- On the morning of the bloodiest day of the Civil War, in a battle in which more than 130 soldiers in his 13th Massachusetts would become casualties, Samuel Shelton Gould was woefully unprepared to fight. It wasn't his fault. A new recruit -- he had just joined the regiment days earlier straight from Harvard, where he was a member of the senior class -- the private wasn't supplied a musket. Assigned to be a stretcher-bearer, he picked up a weapon from another soldier in his regiment who fell wounded in the awful chaos during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. His war that morning was brief. Shot through the heart, Gould apparently lingered a short time before he died. Read more.

Francis Mobley
"SAVED FROM INSTANT DEATH" -- Francis Mobley, a lieutenant in the 50th Georgia, couldn't believe he initially survived a bullet wound to the chest. " was God's mercy that saved me from instant death," he wrote to his wife, Rhoda, in rural Nashville, Ga., "as there is not one in a thousand that could live after receiving such a wound." In the months leading up to Antietam, frequent correspondence from Mobley to his wife of nearly six years revealed a range of his emotions -- anxiety, fear, love, agony, hope. When he left Georgia for a camp in North Carolina in the spring of 1862, he begged his 25-year-old wife -- "Rodey" was his nickname for her -- for her understanding. Read more.

Jarvis Blinn
"I AM A DEAD MAN!" -- Pierced through the heart by a bullet, Jarvis E. Blinn knew it was time to meet his maker. "I am a dead man!" the 26-year-old captain in the 14th Connecticut Infantry said moments after he was shot. Barely a month after he enlisted in the Union army, Blinn -- a man who had an "expression of quiet but earnest resolve tinged with a dash of sadness in his air" -- was one of 38 men killed or mortally wounded in the 14th Connecticut. A mechanic from New Britain, Conn.  before the war, Blinn left behind a wife, Alice, and two young children.  A Hartford undertaker named W.W. Roberts brought Blinn and the bodies of seven other soldiers killed at Antietam back to Connecticut in the second week of  October 1862. Read more.

Bela Burr
"FOR GOD'S SAKE A DRINK OF WATER!" -- After the major fighting stopped late in the afternoon, the misery was only beginning for 16th Connecticut wounded who lay in John Otto's cornfield, no-man's land between the Rebel and Yankee armies at Antietam. Collapsing with gunshot wounds just 15 feet from the body of Company I captain John Drake, Private Bela Burr of Farmington, Conn., was unable to leave the field. His brother, Francis, who served with Bela in Company G, was severely wounded in the groin. Wounded six times, 18-year-old Private James Brooks, the son of a farmer from Stafford, Conn., stunningly clinged to life. Private John Loveland, a 23-year-old barber from Hartford, drifted in and out of consciousness as he lay wounded among the cornstalks. His fractured femur protruded two or three inches from his left leg. Read more.

Maria Hall
"FORGET NOT, MY FRIEND" -- After his right leg was torn apart by a cannon ball, 12th Massachusetts Corporal Frederick Swarman spent six months at Smoketown Hospital, where he was cared for by a nurse named Maria Hall. On April 24, 1863, three weeks after he was released from the hospital, Hall included this line in a four-page letter to the soldier: "Forget not, my friend, to whose gracious protection and care you owe your life and its blessings." Apparently eager to re-join the army, Swarman re-enlisted again on Aug. 17, 1863, in the Veterans Reserve Corps, but his Antietam wounds wouldn't allow him to serve for long. In January 1864, he was discharged for good. Read more.

G. Chamberlain
A SLOW, AGONIZING DEATH --  After he sliced open George F. Chamberlain’s shot-up right knee on Oct. 17, 1862, Surgeon Edward McDonnell drained more than a pint of pus from the 18-year-old soldier’s wound. His patient was “very nervous,” the surgeon noticed, undoubtedly because the Rebel bullet in his leg still had not been removed a month after the battle. A private in Company G of the 16th Connecticut, Chamberlain at least could count on the comfort of his mother, who traveled from Middletown, Conn., and remained by her son’s side in Maryland hospitals for six months while he recuperated. Read more.

Henry Adams
"GOD, HOW THOSE FELLOWS COULD FIGHT" -- On Sept. 17, 1915, the 53rd anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, The Hartford Daily Times published an ambitious project: short profiles and recollections of more than two dozen veterans who fought on the bloodiest day in American history. Images of many of the old soldiers, their mustaches or beards bathed in gray, accompanied a full-page story that spilled onto another page. "We did not know what to do," two of them remembered, while another recalled being "thrown into confusion" as his comrades were routed. Another veteran lamented, "We were but a lot of green boys." Read more.

Click here for all Battle of Antietam posts on my blog | Antietam interactive panoramas

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Harvard senior's death at Antietam: 'Known but to be loved'

An enlargement of an image of Samuel Shelton Gould, a 13th Massachusetts private. 
(Blogger's collection)
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On the morning of the bloodiest day of the Civil War, in a battle in which more than 130 soldiers in his 13th Massachusetts would become casualties, Samuel Shelton Gould was woefully unprepared to fight.

It wasn't his fault.

A new recruit  -- he had just joined the regiment days earlier straight from Harvard, where he was a member of the senior class -- the private wasn't supplied a musket. Assigned to be a stretcher-bearer, he picked up a weapon from another soldier in his regiment who fell wounded in the awful chaos during the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. His war that morning was brief. Shot through the heart, Gould apparently lingered a short time before he died.

“Samuel S. Gould stood within five feet of me when he was mortally wounded," Warren H. Freeman of Gould's Company A wrote to his father. "He had been in the company but four or five days. He was fresh from Harvard College, and I got quite well acquainted with him; he was a wide-awake, noble fellow, about as tall as I am.

"He has relatives in West Cambridge. We had forty-one men in our company, twenty-one of whom were killed or wounded. My rifle was so hot that I could hardly touch the barrel with my hand, but it worked well; that was the reason I was able to fire so many rounds. Some of the boys only fired thirty times; their rifles got foul, and it took a long time to load. After I had fired forty rounds I went to Gould and got some of his cartridges; he was living, but not able to speak; he died before the battle was over. " (Hat tip: Brad Forbush's excellent 13th Massachusetts web site.)

Only 19, Gould had already led a remarkable life before he was shot near the East Woods, once an unremarkable woodlot but now etched into Civil War history. Well-educated, he came from a prominent Boston-area family. His father, Samuel Sr., was once the headmaster at the Winthrop School in Boston, and young Samuel attended prep school at  Roxbury Latin School, founded in 1645. Its distinguished roll-call of alumni included a founder of Yale, a Revolutionary War general, the founder of Harvard's Medical School and a clergyman credited with the stirring, revolutionary phrase "no taxation without representation."

Gould was only 15 when he enrolled at Harvard in 1858, but he remained there only a year before he sought a new adventure. Eager to prove himself, he became a common sailor -- his parents stunningly gave their approval -- and sailed aboard the Peabody, a ship involved in trade with Australia. After becoming dissatisfied with that experience, he finagled a position aboard the Commonwealth, a vessel destined for Peru.

             Panorama: 13th Massachusetts attacked from left  here, near the East Woods.

East Woods at Antietam, near where Samuel Gould was mortally wounded.
13th Massachusetts attacked toward the camera on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862.
Although he was given more opportunity to learn the intricacies of being a sailor aboard the Commonwealth, the experience was unpleasant at best and repugnant at its worst. "...he found the work harder and the fare worse," an 1866 Harvard biography of Gould noted. A Peru voyage was particularly noteworthy for its violent end.

When the Commonwealth arrived in Callao, the South American country's chief seaport, the headstrong Gould discovered its eventual destination was the Chincha Islands, a dismal cluster of small islands off  Peru's southwest coast. The mission: hauling a load of guano -- excrement of bats and birds that were used in the production of fertilizer. The islands, Gould's biography noted, were "a place to which sailors will never go if it can be avoided, as the work is of the most repulsive kind."

Highly perturbed, Gould met with the Commonwealth captain, seeking a discharge. The captain refused, forcing the young sailor to seek out the American consul in Callao. Eventually, the disagreement was settled with fisticuffs. The captain and his second mate pummeled the teenager, who wisely decided that night to leave the ship "at all hazards."

In Callao, Gould was offered a position on the Rival, a Boston-based ship that sailed to Ireland, making an extremely rough passage around Cape Horn. The 45-day voyage was unpleasant, and the work for Gould was "incessant and severe," but at least he got along with his commanding officers.

After a stay in Cork, Ireland, Gould sailed to New Orleans and finally to Boston, narrowly escaping death when the Rival was battered in a terrible storm off the coast of North Carolina.

Somehow while he sailed the globe for two years, Gould, an excellent student, found time to hit the books. "He carried with him from Boston several Latin and Greek text-books, and other books for reading and study, intending to use them in his spare hours, so as to re-enter College on his return with as little delay as possible," the Harvard biography noted.

"...the force of his example and fire of his words were inspiring."

When he got home, Gould indeed re-enrolled at Harvard, studying diligently. When the Union army's fortunes took a turn for the worse in late spring 1862, he joined a company of Harvard men in the 4th Massachusetts Battalion, but their services were declined. By the summer of 1862, Gould could wait no longer. He enlisted in the 13th Massachusetts on Aug. 14, 1862, but not before speaking at a series of war meetings in Cambridge and Boston at which he strongly urged his fellow students to support the Union cause.

"He addressed himself particularly to the more respectable young men," the Boston Gazette reported 11 days after Gould's death, "who were holding back from enlistment, he feared, on the ground of not wanting to mingle with the common classes, saying, that if such were their motives, 'they were not fit to have their names borne on that immortal roll of honor, the list of killed and wounded.' "

 "... the force of his example and fire of his words" at the war meetings, his Harvard biography noted, "were inspiring."

Days after Antietam, Gould's remains were returned to Cambridge, Mass., where a service was held in his father's house. The president of Harvard excused the entire senior class on the day of his funeral -- and all those classmates "walked in mournful procession behind his remains." Gould was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, near Harvard's campus.

A little more than a week after Gould's death, the senior class left no doubt how it felt about its classmate, adopting four resolutions. One of them read:
"...although he had been but a year among us, yet during his short stay we had learned to love and honor him; for he was known but to be loved. Noble and generous-hearted, he shrank from everything that was selfish; and the instances are not few which remain of his disinterested generosity and quiet benevolence -- that his life, though short, was yet long enough to afford us a pattern of virtue, of patriotism, of duty, and of high resolve."
A salt print of Gould from the 1863 Harvard yearbook. (Blogger's collection)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Author Carol Reardon's hidden gems at Antietam

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Here's what must be in Civil War battlefield guidebook for me to call it great:

Outstanding soldier vignettes: Provide details, details, details, but don't overwhelm me. Humanize the men and boys who fought. Tell me something I don't know. Give me a few goosebumps when I take the book with me to a battlefield to walk in a private's footsteps.

Photos: I'm a visual guy, so I want lots of images. Don't crush me with text. I want a book I can take into the field to compare the photos to the actual battlefield scene.

Directions, directions, directions: Make it easy for me to get from Point A to Point B to Point C. I graduated from West Virginia University and sometimes can be easily confused. Be explicit.
A Field Guide to Antietam (2016) was published by
The University of North Carolina Press.

Finally, I want big, accurate maps, preferably in color and with lots of detail, If the maps are postage stamp-sized and the text requires a magnifying glass to read, you've lost me.

A Field Gude to Antietam (The University of North Carolina Press) by Carol Reardon and Tom Vossler, a retired U.S. Army officer, easily meets all my criteria. I'm not surprised. During a visit in January to my favorite bookstore, Half Price Books in Dallas, I bought their 2013 battlefield guidebook, A Field Guide to Gettysburg. After a quick perusal of the slick, 454-page book in our hotel room, I wondered what took me so long to part with my cash.

At 347 pages, their Antietam book is slimmer, but it follows the same excellent, easy-to-read format as the Gettysburg guide. There are sections titled "Who Fell Here?." "Who Commanded Here?" and "Who Fought Here?" that are packed with detail. And I absolutely love the soldier vignettes near the end of each battlefield stop section.

Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at Penn State, mined pension records, period newspapers, regimental histories and more for amazing gems on Antietam soldiers. One of my favorites is the one on the Hyatt boys, brothers in Company C of the 3rd Arkansas. Elijah died of his Antietam wound on Oct. 2, 1862. Robert was wounded in the thigh and had his leg amputated but survived. Another brother, Benjamin, was in a hospital in Winchester, Va., and missed the fighting at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. He wrote to inform his parents of his brothers' fate, noting about Robert, "[He] bears his calamity like a man [,] is very cheerful [,] he is not yet eighteen years old but with many others has sealed his devotion with his blood."

Speaking of gems, I asked Reardon for her favorite, out-of-the-way spots on the Antietam battlefield. Here's what she wrote:

Bas-relief images of William McKinley as soldier and U.S. president on memorial near Burnside Bridge.
McKinley memorial near Burnside Bridge: Dr. Jay Luvaas, then a history prof at Allegheny College, took me on my first visit to Antietam. He always gathered us around that monument and had one of us read the inscription. When we learned about his bringing hot coffee and warm food to his comrades and may have had to come under enemy fire, we snickered a bit -- it didn't seem to fit on the field of American military history's bloodiest day. But Jay used it to remind us about the importance of logistics, and, more to the point, McKinley's common bond with us as Allegheny students. I love it that part of the food court at Allegheny College even today is named McKinley's.

The imposing lion on the 15th Massachusetts monument.
Recumbent lion on the 15th Massachusetts monument:  I've always used that stop to read Private Roland Bowen's letter to the father of Private Ainsworth about the burial of his son's remains in a trench grave near the Alfred Poffenberger farm. One time, my audience was a group of enlisted Marines serving on the cadre of the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. They had been joking around, enjoying a day out of uniform and away from Quantico. But the mood turned somber after that stop. Over the course of the next few hours, several of these young men found a way to draw me aside to tell me their own version of Bowen's story, relating the death, burial, or memorial service of a comrade in arms. Their need to talk trumped my teaching points, and I never visit that monument without thinking about Private Ainsworth in 1862 and certain Marine lance corporal in 2006.

Gravestones for Werner von Bachelle and Peter Kop at Antietam National Cemetery. (Find A Grave)
Officers' row in Antietam National Cemetery: Every stone tells a story. Captain Werner von Bachelle of the 6th Wisconsin, who died near Mr Miller's Cornfield. Captain Peter Kop of the 27th Indiana, who also died in the Cornfield a few days after a few of his enlisted men brought him an interesting paper wrapped around a few cigars -- Lee's Lost Order. Lieutenant Max Wimpfheimer of the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, a veteran of only two months of service but already a company commander. Lieutenant Magnus Moltke of the 5th Maryland, who fell near the Sunken Road.  A Pennsylvania lieutenant who had served in Central America as a filibusterer in the 1850s. And the tragic list goes on....

Near crest of hill overlooking the infamous Bloody Lane.
Any random spot on the Union side of the Bloody Lane set back far enough to provide cover from the fire of  Confederate troops in the road. On one of my first visits there, about 1974, Jay Luvaas was taking a group of army officers on a staff ride in preparation for their stint as history faculty at West Point.  Most had seen combat in Vietnam.  Jay took us all down the lane toward the Roulette farm, put us in a battle line, and advanced us over the crest just before the sunken road as French's men would have done. He left a few folks in the road to show how much cover they had. The combat vets knew a hard place when they saw one, and as we crested the ridge and saw the heavily manned sunken road just ahead, many responded automatically in some physiological way. Some broke out into a sweat.  Some lost color.  Most swore.  I never have forgotten their spontaneous reactions.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Antietam soldier: 'God's mercy ... saved me from instant death'

Lieutenant Francis Mobley of the 50th Georgia.
 (Courtesy Berrien County Historical Photos Collection)
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Fifty-one soldiers in his regiment were killed at the Battle of South Mountain, but 50th Georgia Lieutenant Francis Lawton Mobley of Company I luckily escaped with only a slight wound to the side of his head. Fired on from their front, left and rear, the Georgians were caught in a "slaughter pen," Mobley wrote, as the Confederates were routed on Daniel Wise's hardscrabble farm on the Maryland mountain.

Three days later, on Sept. 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam, fate would not be so kind to the married father of an infant son.

Defending a ford on Antietam Creek nearly a mile downstream from the Rohrbach Bridge, the 50th Georgia, its ranks crippled by that recent fight at Fox's Gap, had "scarcely 100 muskets." After General Ambrose Burnside's IX Corps finally pushed a thinly held Confederate line from the bluffs above the stone-arch bridge at about 1 p.m., the 50th Georgia scrambled toward the village of Sharpsburg, Md., with the rest of General Robert Toombs' scrappy, vastly outnumbered brigade. Sometime late that afternoon, as 8,500 soldiers in the IX Corps pressed toward town, a bullet tore into Mobley's right breast, just below the nipple.

" was God's mercy that saved me from instant death," Mobley wrote to his wife, Rhoda, in rural Nashville, Ga., "as there is not one in a thousand that could live after receiving such a wound."

On Sept. 17, 1862, Francis Mobley's 50th Georgia defended this ground near Snavely Ford,
about a mile from  Burnside Bridge, before it was forced to retreat toward Sharpsburg.
               The 50th Georgia  helped defend this ground near Sharpsburg. Mobley may
          have been wounded here.  (Click on image for full-screen interactive panorama.)

In the months leading up to Antietam, frequent correspondence from Mobley to his wife of nearly six years revealed a range of his emotions -- anxiety, fear, love, agony, hope. When he left Georgia for a camp in North Carolina in the spring of 1862, he begged his 25-year-old wife -- "Rodey" was his nickname for her -- for her understanding. He dreaded being away from his family. "We are compeled by the law to obey the order," wrote Mobley, a religious man, "and God I hope is with us in our cause and if God is for us, who can be against us?"

Francis worried about his son, Marcus, who suffered from a bout with the mumps. He urged Rhoda, who was barely literate, to reply to his letters and was mortified when he went to the post office and found no correspondence from her. He expected the war to soon end so he could return home to southern Georgia, where he owned a small farm. Showing a sense of humor, Mobley even mentioned his grooming.

"Through the purswasion of sum friends," wrote the 26-year-old officer, who also was spelling-challenged,  "I have had my hare shampooed and I know if you could see me you could not help admiring my beauty."

The letters were like thousands of other written by soldiers in both armies, who, like Francis Mobley, were hundreds of miles from family and home.

April 2, 1862, Camp Davis, near Guyton, Ga.: "May God in his Infinite murcy preserve our lives and restore me again to your busom. Do not think that I will not come home for I will if I live. If I am at the extreme of the Confederacy when I can get a chance I will send the last dollar of my wages or see you."

April 9, Camp Davis: "My body is a long way from you though my heart is always with you. I want to see you and Marcus very bad. I want you [to] kiss him for me and receive my heartiest wishes for your self. Be in good cheer and write to me lively."

April 18: “The best way for you to become satisfied is for you to consider that my being absent is a necessity and that I can not avoid it and there fore reconcile your self to your lot. Let it be what it may. Consider that if I am killed or die in the Sirvis and you never see me again that I died in a good cause and am worthy of my ancestors and consider that I have not disagreed your family nor decerted you in time of grate danger.”

Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

“Frances you don’t know how ... I hate for you to be so fur from me."

-- Rhoda Mobley to her husband, Francis, in a letter dated Sept. 15, 1862

May 6, Camp Brown, Savannah, Ga.: "I enjoy health though I do not enjoy the quietness of mind that I could wish for while my mind is pleasently engaged on the duties of the defense of my country. My peace is molested on the account of the neglect of my domestic business and more especially the neglect of my family. The most heart rendering case that I have to content with is leaving you alone. I can reflect on our parting and see tears that I left in your eyes and it is heart breaking to me ..."

May 20: Fort Brown, Savannah, Ga.: "You must recall that I am distant from you now and the probability is that I will be further before I am nearer and I want you to manage things the best you can. Rais your offspring in the way he should. Go teach him to do what is right and abstain from what is wrong. Teach him to love liberty and hate oppression. Teach him to ... appreciate the liberty that I in all probability may die to obtain for him..."

June 3:  "I think you would be the prettyest thing that I ever saw if I could see you. You must take good care of your self and do not think that I have been in them bad Houses for I would never do such a thing. I was officer of the day yeasterday and I had the pleasure of running two of them women off from the hospital."

In the last letter Mobley wrote before Antietam, he described the aftermath of the Second Battle of Manassas ("there was grate loss on the Yankee side) and again wrote of longing for Rhoda: "I am at the least ... 1,200 miles from home. You must not be uneasy about me for I will come as soon as I can and would if it was twelve hundred times twelve hundred. I would walk it to come."

He signed it: "Your loving husband until death."

Six days later, on Sept. 15, a letter finally arrived from "Rodey:"

"I would rit before but I did not no whear to direct a letter but I have wated so long that I thought I would reskhit. I am sorry to hear that you had to take that fifty milds march by your self  and git so lonsum. Frances you don’t know how ... I hate for you to be so fur from me."

Francis Mobley's wife, Rhoda, in a post-war image with her second husband, William Griner.
He served as a private in the 50th Georgia. (Courtesy Berrien County Historical Photos Collection)
After Antietam, the 50th Georgia crossed the Potomac River, retreating into Virginia with the rest of Lee's army. Some of the regiment's wounded, including Mobley, were sent on to Winchester, Va., 35 miles from Sharpsburg. While he lay in a makeshift hospital, a doctor dictated a letter on Sept. 25 to Rhoda from Francis, who was too injured to write it himself.

"...though I am feeble yet," he noted, "I feel like I am getting much better every day. I am in good comfortable quarters in Winchester and have Mr. Jno T. Weakly to nurse me. He gives me any thing I can ever desire. You must not be uneasy about me as I will have everything done for me that is necessary. I have no doubt I will get a furlough to go home as soon as I can travel ..."

The optimism was unfounded. Francis' condition worsened, probably not unexpected given few survived such a terrible wound.

Lieutenant Francis Mobley's marker in
the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery
in Winchester, Va. (Find A Grave)
On the morning of Oct. 9, a doctor told Mobley to prepare to die. Struggling to communicate, he seemed unaffected by the grim news. That night, his voice was "weak and faint," according to his friend, Daniel P. Luke, a 2nd lieutenant in the 50th Georgia. Mobley asked Luke to write three letters for him -- one to his father in law, another to his father and one to "Rodey." He expressed his hope that Marcus be "raised up in the right manner and to live and fear the Lord" and well-educated.

A minister frequently visited Mobley, who kept a Bible by his side. "He suffered at times very much," noted a Winchester woman named Mary T. Magill, who tended to Francis every day, "but was at all times patient and gentle." She was with him that night when he died.

Eight days later, Magill wrote a condolence letter to Francis' dear "Rodey." Before he died, Mobley asked Magill to tell his wife about "his condition of mind and body." The bullet that killed him was sent to Rhoda, a dying request by Francis.

"Let it seem as a voice from the Dead when I tell you that he bade me to tell you that he was not only resigned to the will of his Heavenly Father but happy in the prospect of glorious immortality," Magill told Rhoda Mobley. "I have every reason to believe that he died trusting in his precious Savior and his greatest dearest wish was that his precious wife and child might meet him in Heaven."

Shortly after the Civil War ended, Rhoda married a 50th Georgia veteran, William Griner. She died in 1933 at age 98, outliving William and Marcus. Francis Mobley was buried in Winchester, probably near the makeshift hospital where he died. His remains lie in Winchester today in the Stonewall Confederate Cemetery among more than 3,000 other Southern soldiers.


Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
Camp near Bruceville
Oct. 14, 1862

Mrs. F.L. Mobley

Heighly Esteemed friend. It was with deep regret that I now enter on the painful duty of writing you this letter, though it is at the dying request of your brave and noble hearted husband. When I arrived to my company to my sorrow and grief I learned that he was mortally wounded lying at Winchester and wanted to see me and I got a short leave of absense and Walked Eight mile as feeble as I was and when I found him I saw that he was subject to die at any moment, though he was perfectly cool and resigned to his fate. The physician had informed him that morning that he must die but it did not seem to affect him. I set over him all night and talked with him as much as he could bare to talk for his voice ...

Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
... was very weak and faint. He told me how he wanted his business fixed. He requested me that when I knew he was dead that I would write three letters for him -- one to you and one to his father in law and one to his father and to say to you all that it was his dying request that his child should be raised up in the right manner and to live and fear the Lord and at all Hazards have it well educated and that his father in law and father should assist you in so doing. He requested me to send you the ball that killed him which I have done by Mr. Sutton. All his clothing and I now send you by F. Gaskins his sachel with his vests, Sash and some little paper in his vest pocket. He told me he threw away his sword on the battle ground. His pistol I sold to Lt. Gaskins and sent you the note by Mr. Sutton ...

Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
... which I hope will all arrive safe to you.

My Dear friend I can say to you that you have been bereaved of a noble hearted and as brave a Husband as ever steped on the soil of Maryland according to his age and practice. I wished to God that he could have lived to have fought many Battles unhurt and returned to you again.

So I will come to a close for want of time.

Your most humble 
and obt Svt
D.P. Luke

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Photo gallery: Where General George Meade died in 1872

Meade's name appears just above the entryway at 1836 Delancey Street.

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On Nov. 11, 1872, five days after he died of  pneumonia in his house at 1836 Delancey Street in Philadelphia, a massive funeral was held for George Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg. It was an "imposing affair," according to a contemporary newspaper account, attended by former Union army brass that included President Ulysses Grant, Phil Sheridan, Winfield Hancock and William Sherman.

George Meade was 56 when he died 
in 1872.  (Library of Congress)
The city had “never witnessed such a representation of the power and greatness and genius of the nation, as that which assembled within its limits today, to pay the last tribute of honor and respect to the memory of Major-Gen. George Gordon Meade," the New York Times reported the next day. "The solemn ceremonials, the impressive display, the gathering of thousands from all portions of the country, were well worthy the patriotism, the distinguished services, and the general excellence of character of the departed hero.”

"Business was almost entirely suspended today," the Pittsburgh Daily Post noted, "and the city wore a holiday appearance. Flags everywhere were draped in mourning, and even the buildings, out of respect to the memory of  General Meade."

Meade's body was taken from the house for a service at St. Mark's Church, and the route along the funeral procession was "filled with people" and "took nearly an hour to pass a given point," the Pittsburgh newspaper reported. Dressed as a civilian, Grant rode in an open carriage while Sherman and Sheridan appeared in full uniform. Even "Old Baldy," Meade's beloved horse, was part of the procession.

Meade's coffin, draped with an American flag and a wreath, was carried on a gun carriage pulled by six horses. The 56-year-old officer, still on active duty, was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, we maneuvered through mind-numbing Philadelphia traffic for a brief visit to Meade's former house, which has been altered since he lived there from 1866-72. Marked by a blue-and-yellow painted historical sign on the sidewalk, the residence includes Meade's name carved in stone just above the entryway. The building has been sub-divided, turned into apartments over the years. Asking price to rent a one-bedroom, one-bath piece of history in tony Center City Philly: $1,500 a month.

For more on this historic property, check out this, this, this and this, and here's a cool story on the demise of the witness tree at Meade's grave and more photos of the giant, old Norway maple here.

                    Click at upper right for full-screen panoramas (on desktop only).

Meade died at his residence on Nov. 6, 1872.
Units are for rent at 1836 Delancey Street.
Meade's former residence is in Center City Philadelphia.
Historical sign just outside Meade's former Philadelphia residence.