Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The executions of privates Henry Stark and Henry Schumaker

An illustration in Harper's Weekly shows the execution by firing squad of a Union deserter in 1861.

Adapted from my book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. E-mail me here for information on how to purchase an autographed copy.

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About 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 17, 1864, all the troops in the 6th Connecticut and three other regiments assembled in a field by a causeway near their camp in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a gruesome spectacle: the execution of two of their own. The condemned men were 6th Connecticut Privates Henry Stark of Danbury and Henry Schumaker of Norwalk -- deserters whose “skill and perseverance might have won them honor if rightly applied.” Draftees and immigrants from Germany, the men had joined the regiment six months earlier.

Although some conscripts and draftees “manifested a disposition to do their duty, and did make very good soldiers,” according to an officer in the regiment, most of the 200 who swelled the ranks of the three-year regiment were not trusted by the volunteers. “Their advent was not hailed with much pleasure or satisfaction by the old regiment, as they claimed that ‘forced men’ would not fight and could not be trusted in case of emergency,” wrote Charles Cadwell, a sergeant in Company K from New Haven.

Along with another German immigrant and draftee, Private Gustave Hoofan of Danbury, Stark and Schumaker deserted while on picket duty sometime in February. Recaptured, they were placed in close confinement but escaped twice more. After the second escape, the three men were captured in Ossanabaw Sound, near Savannah, Georgia, about 40 miles from Hilton Head, and placed in the provost guard house. On March 4, 1864, they were court-martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad.

But before the sentences could be carried out, the three “very bold, ingenious” Germans, who had been chained hand and foot to a post inside of the provost quarters, somehow escaped again, using a boat near a pier to make their way to freedom. After their vessel ran aground near Warsaw Sound in Georgia, they were recaptured by soldiers aboard a picket boat from the gunboat Patapsco and placed under tight guard upon their return to Hilton Head.

6th Connecticut Colonel Redfield Duryee
For Schumaker and Stark, the end was near. An exceptionally lucky Hoofan, however, made another great escape thanks to a most fortuitous circumstance: a clerical error. The judge advocate misspelled his last name “Hoffman” on the death warrant, leading a by-the-book Colonel Redfield Duryee of the 6th Connecticut to protest the sentence of the private, who was then ordered to be released and returned to duty in his regiment.

“The man was more than pleased at this announcement,” recalled Cadwell about Hoofan, “but the Judge Advocate, a lieutenant of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania regiment, was severely censured in general orders for his inexcusable carelessness and fatal error.”

The day before the sentence was carried out, Duryee ordered that all fatigue work be suspended on the day of execution and that every officer and man not on the sick list or other duty be present for the macabre event. “Every soldier who could walk was ordered to go,” 6th Connecticut Pvt. Hugh Ives of Hoofan’s Company B wrote to his mother on the afternoon of the executions.

Advised of their fate by the provost marshal, Schumaker and Stark “seemed stolid and indifferent at first, but upon reflection they gave way to their feelings and desired to have a priest sent to them” because each was Roman Catholic, Cadwell wrote. “… It was for a long time difficult to convince them that their case was hopeless, but [the priest’s] arguments finally forced conviction, and, after hearing their confession twice, he performed all the rites of the Church that were practicable.”

Taken from their cells about 2 p.m., the men rode in army wagons upon the coffins in which they were to be buried. As funeral music played, two ranks of drum corps, the regimental chaplain, two surgeons, a reverend from the U.S. Christian Commission and a 24-man firing squad of soldiers from the 6th Connecticut slowly made their way to the execution site. The condemned were driven around their comrades, who formed in a three-sided square, so all the assembled soldiers could get a good look at what happens to men who desert the Union army.

“They maintained a calm demeanor to all,” Cadwell noted, “except as they passed our regiment they took off their caps several times to their old comrades.”

After they reached the end of the square, the soldiers were assisted from the wagons and their coffins were placed on the ground. The provost marshal read the charges and the sentence for the condemned. A priest then delivered a short prayer before he heard their confessions, forgave and pardoned them, sprinkled holy water on the soldiers and bade them goodbye.

After they were blindfolded and their hands were tied behind them, the Germans were made to kneel upon their coffins, facing their regiment. Commanded by 6th Connecticut Captain John King of Hartford, the executioners went into position five or six paces from the men, and when Captain Edwin Babcock of the U.S. Colored Troops gave the signal with his sword, they fired into Schumaker and Stark, riddling them with bullets and killing them.

"When this letter reaches you, I shall not be longer living"

-- 6th Connecticut Private Henry Schumaker

“Both culprits met their death with indifference,” the Hartford Daily Courant reported on April 28, 11 days after the executions, “and were killed by the first volley.”

“One fell forward the other backward,” wrote Ives, who along with the rest of the regiment marched passed the dead men en route back to camp before each was buried. “There is another one to be shot tomorrow. He belongs to our regiment.”

On April 30, a heart-rending letter Schumaker had written to his father in Germany the morning of his death was published in the Hartford Daily Courant. Translated from German, it read:
Dear Father 
When this letter reaches you, I shall not be longer living. I did very wrong years ago to leave you. Farewell, my dear parents, and you, dear sisters, whom I shall meet again in Heaven. Do not grieve me much; and you too, dear mother, my fate is just, I have deserved it, and sacrificed my life in this land. A thousand times farewell and hold me close in memory.
Your Unlucky Son
After the war, the remains of deserters Schumaker and Stark were disinterred and re-buried side-by-side in the national cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina, among the remains of more than 9,000 other Yankee soldiers.

Gustave Hoofan deserted again on November 11, 1864. His fate is unknown.

Deserters Henry Schumaker and Henry Stark are buried side-by-side in
Beaufort (S.C.) National Cemetery.  (Photo: Judy Birchenough)

-- There are several variations of Gustave Hoofan’s name, including Hoffan and Hofen.
-- Cadwell, Charles K., The Old Sixth Regiment, Its War Record, New Haven, Conn.: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1875
-- 6th Connecticut Pvt. Hugh Ives letter to his sister, April 17, 1864, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Conn.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Can you identify these 20th Connecticut veterans?

Reunion photo of 20th Connecticut veterans in Cheshire, Conn.,
on Aug. 24, 1911.  (Blogger's collection)
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Robert Usher
Tilt your head to the right. There you go -- that's not so hard. Or better yet, just turn your monitor/tablet/phone 45 degrees to check out this image of the reunion of 20th Connecticut veterans in Cheshire, Conn., on Aug. 24, 1911. Purchased Saturday afternoon from a dealer in Bristol, Conn., it was once part of the collection of Robert Cleveland Usher, an officer in the 20th Connecticut and, after the war, a prominent citizen of Plainville, Conn.

Most of these old soldiers probably defended Culp's Hill at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and fought with Sherman during his March to the Sea in 1864. Could the old veteran standing behind the woman in the middle of the image be George Warner, who lost his arms to friendly fire at Gettysburg (see enlargement below)? Does Jesse Rice, who lost his arm at the Battle of Bentonville (N.C.) in 1865, appear in the image? When he died in 1915 at 71, Rice, a farmer from Cheshire, was on government rolls for a $55-a-month war pension.

Usher, who survived the war unscathed physically, enlisted in the 20th Connecticut as a musician on Aug. 27, 1862, rose to sergeant major and, shortly before the end of the war, was promoted to lieutenant. The veteran, who died of pneumonia at 81 in his home in Plainville on April 20, 1922, undoubtedly appears in the photograph. If you can find him and identify others in this image, e-mail me at

Enlargement of  reunion image and a circa-1910 image of armless veteran George Warner 
with his wife. (Right image: Courtesy Bob O'Brien)
Does 20th Connecticut vet Jesse Rice, shown in an image taken shortly after the war,
 appear in the reunion photo? This photograph of  Rice was found in his pension file 

in the National Archives in Washington.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Antietam Then & Now: Pennsylvania veterans return

               (Hover over image for "Now" scene; does not work on phones or tablets.)

In the years following the Battle of Antietam, veterans returned to the battlefield, many to attend the dedication of their monuments there. On Sept. 17, 1904, old soldiers in the 124th Pennsylvania were photographed at their monument at the intersection of Starke Avenue and Hagerstown Pike on the day of its dedication. During their visit, many of them scoured the fields for war relics and pointed out to their families where they were on that bloody day.

Some simply wondered how they survived.

Veteran Joseph Hawley near the Hagerstown Pike, where he was wounded in 1862.
(Images above from History of the 124th Pennsylvania Volunteers 1862-63)
In 1900, 124th Pennsylvania veteran Joseph Hawley returned to Antietam and stood on the spot near the Hagerstown Pike where he was wounded in the neck on Sept. 17, 1862. After he was shot, the colonel was carried to the nearby farmhouse of David R. Miller and was later taken to Hagerstown, Md., to recover. Hawley, who was 78 when he died in 1915, carried the bullet in his neck for the rest of his life.

Twelve years before Hawley's visit, men in the 125th Pennsylvania had their photo taken by the battle-scarred Dunker Church, near the West Woods, where they were routed on the morning of Sept. 17, 1862. Upon his return to Antietam in 1904, Morris Davis, a private in the 125th Pennsylvania, read aloud his poem about the battle to a group of veterans gathered there. It began:
Antietam : Gentle peaceful stream.
Upon thy banks so fair,
What memories, to the mind will turn
Of one who lingers there.
And it ended:
May the great God, who rules above.
And guides the affairs of men.

Forbid, in his infinite love
Such fratricide again.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Is this 'New Market Angel,' a Union soldier rocked by tragedy?

A post-war image of John Adams, who served as a corporal in the 34th Massachusetts.
 (Photo courtesy Susan Harnwell, 15th Massachusetts web site)
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By late spring 1864, the brutal reality of the Civil War had tragically struck home in West Brookfield, Mass., for Benjamin and Frances Adams, parents of three sons in the Union army.

On Sept. 17, 1862, Private William Levi Adams was severely wounded in the left lung at Antietam during horrendous fighting in the West Woods. Only 22, he died weeks later of his wounds at Smoketown Hospital near the battlefield. **  Earlier in the war, William had been captured at the Battle of Ball's Bluff, a disastrous Union defeat along the Potomac River, near Leesburg, Va., and was briefly confined in Richmond before he was paroled.

Top: Private William L. Adams of the
15th Massachusetts and brother George,
a private in the 34th Massachusetts.

Both died during the Civil  War.
(Photos courtesy Mark Lawyer)
On May 15, 1864, a rainy Sunday, John W. Adams and his brother, George, went into action with comrades in the 34th Massachusetts near New Market, Va. -- a battle made famous by the participation of more than 250 young Confederate cadets from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. When the fighting began for the regiment about 1 p.m., the 34th Massachusetts was in a ravine near the Jacob Bushong farmhouse, Adams recalled. Much to the chagrin of 34th Massachusetts soldiers, he remembered, many in the 18th Connecticut skedaddled as the fighting opened.

“There was for a number of years after the War a very biter [sic] feeling in our regt the 34 Mass against the 18 Conn. for their running away from us at New Market,” Adams wrote decades after the battle.

A 20-year-old private in Company I, George E. Adams was "struck by a musket or rifle ball in the head and died instantly," according to his captain, Alexis Soley. Sometime early in the fighting, John was knocked unconscious by a shell fragment, then crawled toward the Valley Pike, where he was shot in the right thigh when he stood near a tree stump.

"The bullet was what they called there a plug bullet about an inch long and smooth with a hollow in the rear end," Adams recalled years later. "I have it still after going through my thigh or thigh bone. I lied on the ground across a root of that stump until dark the night of the 16th when I was picked up by two men, and carried into the Bushong Barn where I staid [sic] 2 days, I think, until a Comrade and myself was taken in a dead Ox Wagon up to the town hall at Harrisonburgh and then to a building just outside of the town and the next day was put into a brick house belonging to Col. Asa Gray."

Captured by the Rebels, Adams was sent to Andersonville. Remarkably, the 25-year-old corporal in Company I survived five months in captivity before he was paroled and finally discharged on April 19, 1865. But before the eldest son of Benjamin and Frances Adams was taken to the notorious POW camp in southwestern Georgia, he may have "forgot his own pain" to perform a remarkable act of kindness for a Southern family. After the rag-tag Confederate army defeated the Federals at New Market, Adams was among the wounded left behind in the town of about 800 people.

In 1889, a Lynchburg, Va., woman named Orra Langhorne wrote in the Boston Transcript newspaper about a Union soldier whose selfless act after the Battle of New Market apparently led to the discovery by a Southern family of the grave of their loved one. Langhorne, an early leader in the suffragette movement, was a correspondent for the Richmond Times as well as the Transcript and other publications. Despite living in heart of the Confederacy in New Market, her physician father was an ardent Union man. Langhorne was in her early 20s in 1864. Published under the headline "Made His Foe's Tombstone," her account of events in New Market during the Civil War appeared in several U.S. newspapers in  the winter of 1889:
“A number of Massachusetts soldiers, wounded in the battle of New Market, were left in my native village in the Shenandoah valley. A few days before, the Confederate authorities, moving their stores to prevent capture by the approaching Federals, had requested the citizens to take into private houses a few Confederate soldiers too ill for removal from the town. Lieut. [Alfred] Woodly, a West Virginian, was carried to my father’s house, and, though every effort was made to save him, he died in a few days. At my father’s request Dr. [Charles] Allen, the surgeon of the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts regiment, left in charge of the wounded Federals, visited Mr. Woodly at our house and paid him every possible attention.
Surgeon Charles Allen treated seriously
wounded Confederate officer
Alfred Day Woodley at New Market.
"In my daily visits to the Federal hospital, which was near us, many kindly inquiries were always made for the wounded ‘stranger within our gates.’ One morning I told the Federal soldiers that our guest was dead, and many regrets and much sympathy for his family were expressed.
"A soldier, named Adams I believe, who sat on the floor nursing his wounded foot, said to me gently: 'I am a marble cutter by trade, and if you will give me a slab of hard wood I will carve Lieut. Woodly’s name on it so that his family can find his grave after the war is over.’ One of the walnut boards used to mark the soldiers’ graves was sent to the hospital and the wounded Federal forgot his own pain in carving in clear typo the dead Confederate’s name and regiment, with the words, ‘He giveth His beloved sleep.'  
"In the spring of '65, after Gen. Grant had received Gen. Lee’s surrender and ordered that the ‘boys should keep the horses they would need to make a crop,’ a young widow, with her two lovely boys, the eldest about 6 years old, visited the soldiers' cemetery in our village and, parting the tangled grass, found the name of her husband carved by the foe who had been actuated by love, not hate, though he, too, had suffered. There was no pension for the widow or her babes; a cruel struggle with poverty lay before them, but as she knelt and kissed the sod above her lover-husband, she blessed the man whose care had enabled her to find the grave.
"In conclusion Mrs. Langhorne says: 'Cannot the noble women of Boston, who did so much to aid our beloved country in her hour of need, find some pity in their hearts for those who have suffered so severely for the cause which they were taught to believe was right? Massachusetts men forgave their enemies when the fighting ceased.' "
Documentation indicates it was possible Adams was indeed the soldier described by Langhorne in the account published nearly 24 years after the Civil War ended. Of the soldiers with the surname Adams in the 34th Massachusetts -- the only regiment from the state to fight at New Market -- only John W. Adams was wounded. The soldier Langhorne described was wounded in the leg, where Adams suffered his wound. But there's also reason to believe he may not be Langhorne's soldier.

John Adams' grave in Pine Grove Cemetery
in West Brookfield, Mass.
(Find A Grave)
A bootmaker before the war, John Adams' occupation was listed as "mechanic" when he enlisted in the Union army on July 9, 1862, opening the possibility his craft could have included "marble cutter." The only soldier in the 34th Massachusetts whose occupation was listed as a marble worker was Private John A. Pratt, who also was wounded at New Market. The location of his wound, however, is not known. Did the initial "A" for Pratt's middle name stand for "Adams," perhaps explaining Langhorne's reference to a soldier named Adams? Further research or aid from a reader could confirm whether Adams, Pratt or another soldier from Massachusetts was the "New Market Angel."

What's not in dispute is the tragedy suffered by the Adams family during the Civil War. Nearly five years after George's death, his mother filed for a government pension, an effort to supplement the family income limited by her husband's inability to work consistently since the summer of 1859. According to physicans' affidavits in the George Adams pension file, Benjamin Adams suffered an accidental blow to the head in August 1859, which produced "faintness and giddiness" and led to complaints of liver and stomach ailments. Eventually, a pension of $8 a month was approved for Mrs. Adams, whose family income had been supplemented during the war by George.

Married three times, John Adams was active in veterans' organizations after the war, including an association of New Englanders who survived Confederate prisons. He helped raise $60 for a Civil War monument on the town green in West Brookfield. The old soldier died at 74 of heart disease on Feb.13, 1913, and was buried in the town's Pine Grove Cemetery near his brother, George. William Adams' remains lie in Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md., a short distance from where he died in the fall of 1862.

The remains of Alfred Day Woodley, the officer in the 62nd Virginia whose name was carved into a headboard by a Massachusetts soldier in the spring of 1864, lie in a cemetery in Harrisonburg, Va.

Do you have more information on this story? E-mail me here.

A zinc memorial for brothers George and William Adams in Pine Grove Cemetery
in West Brookfield, Mass.

** Sources give two dates -- Oct. 10 and Nov. 7, 1862 -- for William Adams' death at Smoketown Hospital near the Antietam battlefield.

-- 1860 U.S. Federal census
-- Alanson Hamilton Grand Army of the Republic Personal Sketches, Adams' brothers biographies, accessed online Nov. 27, 2016.
--American Civil War Research Database, accessed online Nov. 27, 2016.
-- Brookfield (Mass.) Times, Feb. 14, 1913.
-- George Adams' pension file via, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
-- John Adams’ letters to B.A. Colonna, Dec. 3, 1910 and Feb. 23, 1911, Virginia Military Institute Archives
-- Nelson, John H, As Grain Falls Before The Reaper, The Federal Hospital Sites And Identified Federal Casualties at Antietam, Privately published CD, Hagerstown, Md., 2004. (Nelson's excellent work is source for William Adams' wound at Antietam. He cites Maryland Hospital Record 352, Record Group 94 Entry 544, National Archives, Washington D.C., as source for that information.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grand Review of Union army 'positively beggars description'

(Mathew Brady | Library of Congress)
A cropped version of a lithograph showing presidential viewing stand in front of White House.
(Library of Congress collection)
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A deep dive into digitized versions of glass-plate Civil War photographs on the Library of Congress site often reveals fascinating details. Check out the reclining man reading a paper, snoozing Yankees and soldiers' names etched onto wooden markers in graveyards in South Carolina, Florida and VirginiaIn this poignant photo of the burial of Union soldiers in war-torn Fredericksburg, Va., I discovered a name scrawled into a wooden headboard. Detective work led to soldier's identity: 6th Michigan Cavalry Sgt. Harvey Tucker, who was mortally wounded in the Wilderness.

Although the photograph above of the presidential reviewing stand at the Grand Review of the Union army has been dissected many times, it remains tantalizing. On May 23, 1865, an estimated 80,000 soldiers in General George Meade's Army of the Potomac marched through the streets of Washington before thousands of spectators. The next day, nearly 65,000 soldiers in General William Sherman's Army of Georgia and Army of Tennessee repeated the feat -- a fitting exclamation point after four years of a brutal civil war. Each day, the armies marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and past the White House, where reviewing stands were set up nearby for dignitaries and others to watch the historic event. Not surprisingly, the presidential reviewing stand in front of the mansion was a popular photographic subject.

Of the images of the presidential stand on the excellent LOC site, the photograph attributed to Mathew Brady at the top of this post includes the greatest detail. In the uncropped original, the blurred forms of soldiers and horses appear at right on the dirt road while a huge U.S. flag hangs limp above a packed reviewing stand. Behind the blurred figures, a detachment of soldiers stands guard in front of a massive U.S. banner. Enlargements of the image, taken May 23, 1865, reveal the leadership of the U.S. government and military and much more:

Easily recognized in the front row of the presidential reviewing stand are Union generals Ulysses Grant and George Meade and President Andrew Johnson, elevated to the highest office in the land 39 days earlier by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, only blocks from the White House. Less obvious is Edwin Stanton, the blurred figure with the long beard sitting next to Grant. A review of other images taken that day confirms this man is Johnnson's Secretary of War. Stanton, a key figure in the role of Secretary of War in Lincoln's administration, reportedly said after the president's assassination, "Now he belongs to the ages." Seated near President Johnson, Major General Wesley Merritt, a cavalry commander, appears to be conversing with Meade. The ghostly figure at the far right is Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, a Connecticut native and a major Lincoln supporter.

NEW YORK TIMES (May 24, 1865): "The President arrives in his carriage. Directly after, however, almost at the same moment, Gen. Grant and Staff walk briskly from their headquarters and assume their designated positions. Gen. Meade and Staff having passed, they now return dismounted, and soon the sharply-defined head of the Commander of the Army of the Potomac adds another to the group of distinguished persons, on whom the eyes, the opera-glasses, and even the photographers' lenses are resting."
Ely Parker, who's seated next to a large, potted plant, appears only steps away from his boss. A Native American who served as Grant's adjutant during the war, Parker helped draft the surrender documents signed by Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., 45 days earlier.

PITTSBURGH DAILY POST (May 24, 1865): "Pennsylvania Avenue presents a scene which probably has never been paralleled in the country. Certainly not south of New York. Its whole vast extent and breadth is compactly lined with people from pavement to housetops. Innumerable flags and banners are displayed all along the Avenue, and the whole scene is one of the most brilliant and imposing ever witnessed, making the heart fill with emotion and the eyes fill with tears of joy. The whole affair positively beggars description."

General Sherman, wearing a white glove, visits with William Dennison, the U.S. Postmaster General. Is the young woman in the background listening in to the conversation? Perhaps they all had just witnessed flamboyant General George Custer's feat, described in one of the local newspapers later that day:

WASHINGTON EVENING STAR (May 23, 1865): "Suddenly a thrill ran through the vast assemblage as a magnificent stallion dashed madly past the President and his associates, the rider, General Custar [sic], with a large wreath hanging upon his arm, his scabbard empty, and his long hair waving in the wind, vainly striving to check him. On swept the horse, the throng rising from their seats in breathless suspense that changed to murmur or applause at the horsemanship of the rider, and finally giving place to a long loud cheer as the General checked his frightened steed, and gracefully rode back to the head of his column, the third cavalry division."

Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, among the most able men in the Union army, also sits in the front row, apparently staring straight ahead. "... without the services of this eminent soldier," Secretary of State William Seward reportedly said of Meigs' Civil War service, "the national cause must have been lost or deeply imperiled." Seward, whose face was severely disfigured in a knife attack by John Wilkes Booth co-conspirator Lewis Powell the night Lincoln was assassinated, watched Day 2 of the Grand Review from the nearby Blair House. Do you recognize anyone else in the image?

SYRACUSE DAILY COURIER AND UNION (MAY 24, 1865): "In front of the President's house an immense stand has been erected on the south side of the street, for the President and Cabinet, and for the gallant soldiers, Grant and Sherman, who are to review the troops. Another stand on the north side is for the accommodation of Congress, the foreign ministers, and others. A stand is also erected on the square for wounded soldiers. The houses in the vicinity of the President's house are tastefully adorned with flags and evergreens. The route of the march is packed with people, all eager to give the gallant heroes of the war a hearty welcome on their march home."

Sewn into the massive patriotic banner above the reviewing stand are the names of the Union army's greatest triumphs, including Petersburg, Richmond and ....

... and, of course, Gettysburg.

PITTSBURGH DAILY POST (May 24, 1865) "Never has Washington witnessed a more august occasion or presented a more beautiful or animated spectacle. The whole population of the city is in the streets, swollen by many thousands of strangers which have been pouring in here for days past from all points of the compass, and by every imaginable mode of conveyance. Those from abroad are estimated at fully fifty or sixty thousand, a large proportion of whom are ladies. Where they all found shelter and accommodations is a mystery."

We can't help but wonder if this guard detachment of the Veteran Reserve Corps, apparently led by the aged officer at left, was extra-vigilant given the recent, tragic event in the capital. President Johnson, members of his cabinet and some of the most important generals in the Union army are just behind these soldiers. The day, one of the grandest in Washington's history, went off without a major incident. Most of the soldiers who marched during the historic, two-day event were soon mustered out of the army.

NEW YORK TIMES (May 24, 1865): "Though the city is so crowded, it is yet gay and jovial with the good feeling that prevails, for the occasion is one of such grand import and true rejoicing, that small vexations sink out of sight. With many it is the greatest epoch of their lives; with the soldier it is the last act in the drama; with the nation it is the triumphant exhibition of the resources and valor which have saved it from disruption and placed it first upon earth.

"So the scene of to-day (and that of to-morrow) will never be forgotten, and he who is privileged to be a witness will mark it as a white day in the calendar, from which to gather hope and courage for the future."

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gettysburg Then & Now: Where New York colonel hid his sword

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When Union lines collapsed on Seminary Ridge at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, some Yankees sought refuge in the Sheads House (above), a girls school on the Chambersburg Pike. With Rebels in hot pursuit, Charles Wheelock, a 50-year-old colonel in the 97th New York, was among them.

When a Confederate officer caught up with Wheelock in the house, he demanded the Yankee officer's sword, threatening to shoot him if he refused to surrender it. Rather than relinquish his weapon, Wheelock attempted to break it in two. "This sword was given me by my friends for meritorious conduct," he reportedly said, "and I promised to guard it sacredly and never surrender or disgrace it; and I never will while I live."

Charles Wheelock
While the Rebel was temporarily distracted, the exhausted officer gave the prized possession to Carrie Sheads, who hid the sword in the folds of her dress. Not surprisingly, the Confederate officer returned to Wheelock and again demanded the sword, but the colonel said he had given it to another Rebel.

Days later, Wheelock escaped from Rebel confinement and eventually recovered his sword. "It was a sad sight to see them take that grey-headed veteran," Carrie Sheads recalled, "but it was a joyful sight to see him return to reclaim his sword ... "

Initial reports in a New York newspaper indicated Wheelock had "met a heroes death on the battlefield" at Gettysburg. But "we are happy to state that this is a mistake," the newspaper later reported. "Capt. [Gustavus] Palmer, of the same Regiment, in a letter to Daniel Cady, Esq., says that Col. Wheelock was wounded and taken prisoner. As the rebels cannot just now take care of themselves, we presume the gallant Colonel is sheltered in some house near the battle-field, and we hope soon to hear that is likely to recover."

Noted a 1912 history of Oneida (N.Y.) County: "Colonel Wheelock was in command of the regiment continuously and was in the front rank wherever danger called; was taken prisoner at Gettysburg, but escaped from Lee's army at night in the mountains of Pennsylvania during Lee's retreat, and, after being without food for two or three days, he gained the Union lines, where he was welcomed with great enthusiasm by the regiment."

A married father of five children, Wheelock died of typhoid fever in Washington on Jan. 21, 1865, only months before the end of the war.

"Charles Wheelock was somewhat advanced in life," a document in his widow's pension file noted, "and his constitution was much impaired by arduous duty in the service of his country and consequently was not in a condition to resist the materies morbi which enervated his body, particularly as he was deformed in a great measure of a diet that would have enabled him to resist the depressing effects of his disease ..."

Wheelock's remains were returned to Boonville, N.Y., where he was buried on Jan. 26 with military honors during a heavy snowstorm.

        Google Maps: S&S Sutler of Gettysburg is now housed in the old Sheads house.

Click here to see a larger version of the "Then & Now"  at the top of this post

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gettysburg Then & Now: Confederate dead in Slaughter Pen

The location where Alexander Gardner shot the image of these two fallen Confederates in early July 1863 is just yards from where battlefield visitors park their cars today near Devil's Den. The boulder-strewn Little Round Top appears in the background of the "Now" image.

Click here to see a larger version of this "Then & Now." 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hidden Gettysburg: Q&A with Coster Avenue mural co-creator

                     INTERACTIVE PANORAMA: At 3/4 of an acre, the Coster Avenue site 
                               is the smallest slice of the Gettysburg National Military Park.

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My favorite Gettysburg sites are mostly off-the-beaten path and visited largely by battlefield diehards:

1. The field behind the old George Rose farm, scene of bitter fighting on July 2, 1863, is almost a spiritual place. Days after the battle, Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan took horrifying photographs of Confederate dead there, a fraction of the soldiers killed on Rose's farm.

2. You really need to know what to look for to find the site of the temporary grave of 140th Pennsylvania Captain David Acheson. Killed during fighting in The Wheatfield, his body was recovered by comrades and buried by a large boulder on John Weikert's farm. Acheson's initials ("D.A.") and regiment ("140 P.V.")  may still be found on the boulder on which another soldier carved them to mark the burial spot.

Mark H. Dunkelman, co-creator of the 
Coster Avenue mural,  has written six
books on the 154th New York.
3. Walk into the woods beyond the old Union breastworks on Culp's Hill, close your eyes and try to imagine what happened there more than 153 years ago. You don't have to imagine the massive boulders in those woods -- the Confederates used them as natural defenses from the fire of the Yankees on the crest.

Add to my exclusive list the former site of John Kuhn's Brickyard, scene of the futile stand by the brigade of Union Colonel Charles Coster on the first day of the battle. Modern Gettysburg long ago encroached on the small slice of battlefield land, now located in a neighborhood three blocks off busy Carlisle Street.

When Mark H. Dunkelman came upon the scene in the spring of 1970, he discovered a large wall under construction behind the 154th New York monument, one of three Union regiments honored with monuments on the grounds for their sacrifices on July 1, 1863. An artist with an avid interest in the 154th New York, Dunkelman asked the owners of the business building the wall if he could create a mural on it to depict the 1863 fighting there. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dunkelman, the author of six books on the 154th New York and creator of an excellent site on the regiment, recently took time out to answer my questions about his mural, one of Gettysburg's hidden gems:

Why so passionate about this project?

Dunkelman: The mural combines two of three lifelong passions: making artwork and Civil War history (the third is playing music). My Civil War study centers on the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, so I’ve visited Coster Avenue, site of the regiment’s Gettysburg monument, many times since my childhood. During a visit in April 1970, I saw a concrete block wall under construction 10 feet behind the monument. At first it saddened me that the monument would have such an ugly backdrop. But then an idea came to me. By using my training as an artist (BFA, Rhode Island School of Design, 1969) to create a mural, I could make the wall disappear and bring back the scene that occurred in John Kuhn’s brickyard on that very site on the afternoon of July 1, 1863. I figured the mural would be a valuable device to interpret what happened on a section of the battlefield that has been drastically altered in the decades since the Civil War.

Close-up shows detail on the massive Coster Avenue mural.

The mural is quite an achievement. Do you ever go to Coster Avenue, look at it and wonder, "What the heck was I thinking"?

Dunkelman: My first of six books on the 154th New York, The Hardtack Regiment, was published in 1981, when the mural project was still in its research and development stages. My author’s bio on the dust jacket included this line: “Mr. Dunkelman is planning a mural in Gettysburg adjacent to Coster Avenue, site of the 154th New York’s monument, depicting the fighting that occurred there.” I’ve occasionally referred to that sentence in cautioning people with grandiose plans to keep them under their hat -- otherwise they will feel obligated to follow through with them!

How many hours would you estimate you and your artistic partner, Johan Bjurman, put into creating the massive mural?

Dunkelman: I put in uncounted hours over a period of years developing a one inch to one foot scale pencil sketch and a larger oil sketch that satisfied me and the experts who kindly critiqued my work: my late partner Mike Winey of the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Kathy Georg Harrison at the Gettysburg National Military Park, photographic historian extraordinaire Bill Frassanito, and the late Col. J. Met Sheads, who lived on North Stratton Street and knew the neighborhood as well as the battle.

Johan and I painted the original 80-feet-long mural in five weeks in 1988, which still amazes me considering most of it was painted with one-inch brushes because of all the detail. We did the 2001 restoration, which included scraping off the old varnish and repainting every square inch, in two weeks. Production of the current glass version took quite a while. Johan put in about 100 hours, if I remember correctly, painting over an enlarged print of the mural to create the image that was photographed to create the files that were used to print the glass panels.

Incidentally, Johan and I have been together in Gettysburg three times to work on the mural, in 1988 to install the original, in 2001 to restore it, and in 2015 to take it down for replacement by the glass version. During the first visit, I tripped and banged up my knee and wound up in Gettysburg Hospital. During our last visit, Johan tripped in almost the exact same spot and wound up in Gettysburg Hospital with three broken ribs. So we’ve both been Gettysburg casualties on Coster Avenue. (For much more on the restoration of the mural, see Dunkelman's post on the Emerging Civil War blog here.)

A  photo of the Coster Avenue site in  1970,  the year Dunkelman conceived of the idea to put 
a mural here. The 154th New York monument is at left.  (Photo: Mark H. Dunkelman)
Your mural is smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood. When you first saw the area, what was your reaction?

Dunkelman: I’ve always seen Coster Avenue -- which at three-quarters of an acre is the smallest portion of the Gettysburg National Military Park -- as an isolated little grassy island tucked away and hidden in the town, distant from the rest of the battlefield, most of which is contiguous. In all the visits I made to Coster Avenue before the mural was installed, I never saw another person there. Since the mural went up, every time I’ve returned to Gettysburg I’ve encountered visitors at Coster Avenue. Civil War historian Ed Bearss told me that he never took tours to Coster Avenue until the mural went up; since then he makes it a regular stop. It’s been extremely gratifying, since my goal was to draw attention to what had been an overlooked part of the battle.

When I visit Fredericksburg, I often am tempted to visit with those who live in the neighborhood of the Sunken Road to ask them what it's like to live where so much carnage took place. Ever tempted to do the same near the site of your mural?

Dunkelman: I’ve met a number of people who live in the neighborhood surrounding the mural. Sometimes we discuss the battle, but most often the talk is about the mural and its effect in drawing visitors. I’ve been pleased to find that the neighbors like the mural and are protective of it; they keep an eye on it. And my relationship with Coldsmith Roofing, the firm that owns the building, has been great ever since they gave me permission back in the 1970s to attach the mural to their back wall. I became friends with a couple who lived around the corner on North Stratton Street, and for years they put me up during visits to Gettysburg (thanks, Paul and Carolyn!). And after they moved, their neighbor has let me stay in an apartment in her house (thanks, Sue!), which is great. Another neighbor has dug brickbats out of his garden -- quite likely remnants of Kuhn’s brickyard -- and he gave me a good-sized one, which is a nice souvenir. I consider the area around Coster Avenue my neighborhood in Gettysburg.

          The mural and site of fighting on July 1, 1863, is in a Gettysburg neighborhood.

The mural is off the beaten path for the typical Gettysburg visitor. For those who have never visited this part of the battlefield, what are three things they should know?

Dunkelman: First, that the clash between Coster’s Union brigade and Avery’s and Hays’s Confederate brigades was an important element of the First Day’s battle. The brickyard fight’s significance stems from the fact that it was among the last organized Union resistance on July 1, and Coster’s stand allowed the XI Corps divisions that had been driven from the plains north of the town to make their escape through the borough without major additional losses. Ewell’s failure to attack Cemetery Hill on the afternoon of July 1 is one of the major controversies of the battle. The brickyard fight has to be considered as a factor in that decision. Second, the brickyard fight was long overlooked by historians and students of the battle. For example, Edwin Coddington devoted only two sentences to it in his classic 1968 book, The Gettysburg Campaign. In contrast, the late Harry Pfanz included an entire chapter on the brickyard fight in his 2001 book, Gettysburg – The First Day. Third, but not least, about 770 New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, North Carolinians, and Louisianans became casualties in the brickyard fight, and they deserve to be remembered.

An image of 154th New York Sergeant
Amos Humiston's children was
 found near his body at Gettysburg.
What's your favorite individual soldier story of the fighting that took place in the vicinity of Kuhn's brickyard?

Dunkelman: That would be the story I told in detail in my second book, Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier: The Life, Death, and Celebrity of Amos Humiston (Praeger, 1999). I rate the tale of Sergeant Humiston and his famous “Children of the Battle Field” as one of the best known human-interest stories to emerge from the battle, right up there with those of John Burns and Jennie Wade. My connection with Humiston descendants, who provided me with a plethora of material, including Amos’s wartime letters, enabled me to write what has been described as the definitive account. That was gratifying -- as was the invitation to deliver the main address at the 1993 dedication of the monument to Amos a few blocks south of Coster Avenue. (Read more on Humiston here.)

Finally, besides Coster Avenue, what are your three favorite sites at Gettysburg?

Dunkelman: The Amos Humiston monument on the grounds of the Gettysburg Volunteer Fire Department at 35 North Stratton Street; East Cemetery Hill, including the monuments to regiments of Coster’s brigade on the GNMP side of Baltimore Street and the two former Homestead orphanage buildings on the other side of the street at numbers 777 and 785 (the founding of the orphanage was inspired by the Humiston story); and the 10 graves of 154th New York soldiers in the National Cemetery.

        INTERACTIVE PANORAMA: Colonel Coster's brigade made a futile stand here.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Culp's Hill at Gettysburg: An outdoor art gallery

When the rich fall light is right, Culp's Hill becomes an outdoor art gallery. Here are images I shot in Gettysburg recently of the monument to the 1st Regiment Eastern Shore Maryland Volunteer Infantry, a Union unit.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Gettysburg Then & Now: 15 Confederate dead on Rose farm

It's difficult to view, but the "Then" photo shows the ugly reality of war. Photographed by Timothy O'Sullivan, the bodies of 15 Confederates lay in a field on George Rose's farm at Gettysburg days after the soldiers were killed. O'Sullivan and Alexander Gardner shot images of at least 34 Confederate dead in this field.

Click here to see a larger version of this "Then & Now" and more images taken in July 1863 on the Rose farm.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Badges of excellence: Tiny 'artwork' carved by Union soldiers

Unknown soldier wearing a four-pointed star 19th Corps badge. See dug example below.
(Photo courtesy Richard Clem)
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During a visit to Antietam in September, my friend Richard Clem showed John Rogers and me rare Civil War artwork. This art wasn't painted on canvas; this handiwork of Civil War soldiers was carved in lead, undoubtedly from melted bullets.  A retired woodworker from Hagerstown, Md., Clem and his brother have hunted for Civil War relics in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia for more than 40 years. Here's Richard's story of that rare Civil War artwork that he and his brother discovered in old Union campsites in Virginia and West Virginia: 

Richard Clem
Richard Clem

Movie and television specials on the Civil War give a false impression that it was all about blood and guts. Those who have studied the War Between the States or any war soon realize the greatest percentage of a soldier’s time consisted of drilling, marching and mostly enduring countless hours and days battling boredom -- especially while in winter quarters.

The boys far from home passed time reading or writing letters, cleaning and repairing equipment and playing poker and other forms of gambling. Participating in baseball games and snowball battles (when the “white stuff” was available) were other favorite pastimes.

After more than 40 years metal detecting for Civil War relics in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, my brother Don and I discovered another unusual way soldiers “killed time” in the lonely hours: carving bullets and creating other small objects from lead. The endeavor here is to share with the reader examples of unique lead corps badges we have dug that were hand-carved more than 150 years ago by these unknown campfire craftsmen.

In July 1864, following a failed invasion into Maryland and threatening Washington, General Jubal A. Early escorted his Confederate forces back to the Shenandoah Valley. Visibly shaken, the Lincoln administration called up Federal units from the Gulf region to support General Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah. Orders for “Little Phil” were to deprive the Confederacy of food supplies and, if the opportunity surfaced, defeat if not destroy Early’s army.

In March 1986, with hope of finding Civil War relics left from Sheridan’s Valley Campaign, Don and I crossed the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, W. Va., and drove south. Referring to my dug relics journal, I had recorded: “May 14, 1988 – Hunted Dorsey’s orchard near Berryville, dug 12 bullets + 19th Corps badge – carved lead. Don dug 21 bullets + cannon shell (Hotchkiss) from fire pit. Very warm.” (Keeping a record of items found with a metal detector, including the date and other info, is a must for any serious Civil War relic hunter.)

From top:  badge with traces of red paint designating
  First Division; beginning of carving for a badge;
and an incomplete badge, fan-leaved design.
Richard Clem found the last two badges. Don, his 

brother and fellow relic hunter, found the first badge.
(Photos: Richard Clem)
Civil War corps badges were first introduced to the Federal armies in the early 1860s. Worn on uniform lapels or caps, these small medals were to distinguish troops from different corps and divisions. Made mostly from brass, they were essential, especially after a battle, to pull together soldiers of the same outfit.

Each corps had a designated symbol or shape of badge. For an example, the 1st Corps was a plain circle, 2nd Corps was a clover leaf, 3rd Corps was a diamond, etc. However, the 19th Corps was the only one of Union army corps to claim two different corps badges. This unit “unofficially” adopted a “four-pointed star” badge at its headquarters, Department of the Gulf, New Orleans, Feb. 18, 1863. The second badge described as a “fan-leaved cross with an octagonal center” was “officially” adopted on Nov. 17, 1864. It is not reported why the second emblem was designed. Perhaps the four-pointed star was unpopular with the troops and it became necessary to produce the fan-leaved cross.

The hand-carved badge I dug in the apple orchard along the Charlestown-Berryville Pike was the fan-leaved cross variety. If a soldier lost or damaged his army-issued corps badge, with some degree of craftsmanship he could carve or cast one from bullet lead. But how do you produce one of these intricate medals (lead) in the field? It is the author’s opinion that first to manufacture the fan-leaved style of badge several bullets were melted over the campfire and poured into the shape of a circle about the size of a quarter. Next, the lead circle was cut with a pocket knife into a square. The “slots” were then cut out from the four corners, leaving the octagonal center.

As rare as my find was, three years later Don dug a far more interesting lead 19th Corps badge of the 1863 four-pointed star design. So, let’s return to the relic logbook: “November 25, 1991 – Searched land just west of Charlestown (Jefferson County, W. Va.) dug 16 bullets + 2 brass bayonet scabbard tips. Don dug 34 bullets + 19th Corps badge – hand-made with number “114.”

When my brother excitingly handed me the little gem about the size of a quarter, my first question was: “What is it?” Automatically we assumed the “114” was the number of a Union Civil War regiment. After some thought, the mystery began to unravel: the hand-carved piece of lead, shaped like a four-pointed star, was the first badge design of 19th Corps.

During the War Between the States, each corps badge was “color – coded” according to divisions to make individual soldier even more identifiable; red signified 1st division, white, 2nd division, blue, 3rd division. A closer examination of Don’s find in the field revealed traces of “red paint.” This indicated the person who carved this work-of-art was a member of the 1st division. A quick search of Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion indicated the 114 stood for the 114th New York Volunteers.

It appears the soldier who made this badge carved away the background, leaving the border and number 114 “raised.” Using this method left a sunken area for the red paint to be applied. To produce this delicate object in the field took skill, patience, good eyesight and a sharp pocket knife.

Recruited in New York, the 114th regiment mustered in Sept. 3, 1862, attached to 19th Corps, and was ordered to the Department of the Gulf. In July 1864, two divisions of this corps were sent (114th New York included) to General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In July 1864, attached to the Army of the Shenandoah, the 144th New York fought with gallantry at Winchester, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek. In official reports, the 114th New York was “bivouacked west of Charlestown, Va. (West Virginia today) September 4, 1864.” This is probably the exact campsite where Don dug his 19th Corps badge.

Don Clem's 19th Corps badge in my hand, next to my
wedding ring. Yup, these badges are tiny works of art.
Two days after brother made his discovery, I dug in the same area what resembled a round, lead disc (see photo above) with a four-pointed star cut into its face. After some head-scratching, it became obvious this was the beginning of another corps badge. It’s very possible it was made by the same soldier of 19th Corps who crafted Don’s little masterpiece.

The 114th New York Regiment was mustered out of service on June 8, 1865, at Bladensburgh, Md. Returning to the Empire State, some of the boys who wore “The Blue” left behind in an embattled valley in Virginia their handcrafted corps badges. More than 120 years later,  two brothers from Maryland would recover their campfire handiwork for future Civil War relic hunters to read about, admire and dream about the “Good Ole Days.”


--Yoseloff, Thomas, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War – Volume IX,  A. S. Barnes & Co., Inc., New York, 1956.
-- Crouch, Howard R., Civil War Artifacts – A Guide For The Historian,  SCS Publications, Fairfax, Va.,  1995.
-- Phillips, Stanley S., Civil War Corps Badges and Other Related Awards, Badges, Medals of the Period, Lanham, Md., 1982.
-- Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union, Time-Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1991.
-- Sylvia, Stephen W. and  O'Donnell, Michael J., The Illustrated History of American Civil War Relics,  Moss Publications, Orange, Va.,  1978.
-- Cowles, Capt. Calvin D., The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War, Arno Press, Crown Publishers Inc., 1978.
-- Phisterer, Frederick, New York in the War of the Rebellion, Albany, N.Y., J. B. Lyon Co., 1912.
-- New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center.

'No sweet dream': Remarkable life of a Gettysburg casualty

Armless vet George Warner (on rock) at 20th Connecticut monument dedication at Gettysburg.

 Adapted from my book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. E-mail me here for information on how to purchase an autographed copy.

In the months and years after George Washington Warner had both his arms nearly completely blown off by friendly fire at Gettysburg , a stark picture was presented of the former 20th Connecticut private. “This case calls for unusual sympathy,” a Hartford surgeon wrote after a medical visit by Warner in the winter of 1864. "He is entirely helpless -- so far as that he cannot dress himself nor eat his food without the aid of others,” Homer Buchanon and John Richardson, Warner’s neighbors in New Haven, Connecticut, noted ten years later. “… it is unsafe for him to walk out from his home alone and consequently [he] is always attended by a young man … he [is] entirely incapacitated from performing any act without the aid and assistance of one or more persons.”

And yet despite his handicaps, Warner led a remarkable, eventful life after the Civil War.

“… the former soldier radiates cheerfulness and optimism as he sits on the veranda of his cosy [sic] little home and nods to passers-by or chats with his neighbors,” Warner’s hometown newspaper reported five decades after he was grievously wounded. “Life has been no sweet dream for Mr. [Warner], but he has made the best of it, and intends to enjoy things to the utmost for a good many years to come.”

Married with five children before the war, Warner fathered three more children with wife Catherine after he was discharged from the army on October 17, 1863. A frequent attendee at Grand Army of the Republic veterans’ events, Warner was a familiar figure for years in New Haven at Memorial Day parades and monument dedications.

"Life has been no sweet dream" for 
George Warner, his hometown newspaper
wrote five decades after he was
severely wounded at Gettysburg.
(Bob O'Brien collection) 
At the dedication of the 20th Connecticut monument in Gettysburg on July 3, 1885, Warner was given the honor of raising a huge American flag from atop the monument near the crest of Culp’s Hill, about 300 yards from where he was terribly wounded 22 years earlier. A special pulley was constructed that allowed him to do the honors by simply moving backward with a rope tied around his waist. Afterward, Warner, wearing a regimental ribbon and a bowler hat and sitting atop a boulder near the monument, posed with his comrades for an image shot by renowned Gettysburg battlefield photographer William Tipton.

Nearly two years later, on June 17, 1887, Warner was called upon to unveil one of the four statues at the base of the 110-foot Soldiers and Sailors monument at the summit of East Rock Park in New Haven. In one of the grandest events in the city’s history, thousands marched on a hot, hazy day from the center of town to East Rock, 400 feet above New Haven and Long Island Sound. “The crowd surged where it pleased,” the New Haven Morning News reported. “Its very magnitude made it omnipotent.”

A huge procession that included hundreds of veterans crossed a bridge and wound its way to the park, where merchants were “busy as bees” selling ice cream and beer. “The river of moving blue coats, brass buttons and the various uniforms of the civic societies presented a magnificent appearance …,” another local newspaper reported. While cannons of three warships offshore boomed in celebration, many in the crowd at East Rock, estimated by some at 100,000, sought shade in the woods. At about 2 p.m., former Union generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan were in attendance as Warner, again using a special pulley and a rope, remarkably removed the drapery on the statue with his teeth.

On June 16, 1905, at the dedication of a Civil War monument on New Haven's Broadway, near Yale University, Warner used another special contraption that also allowed him to use his teeth to remove a flag to unveil the 33-foot granite monument. Afterward, he presented in his clenched teeth a small American flag to Gen. Edwin Greeley, a former 10th Connecticut colonel.

In the decades after the war, Warner’s son, William, frequently accompanied him, helping him scratch out a living selling books and paying the trolley fare for his armless father. Warner also peddled carte de visites of himself -- in one he looks forlorn, empty sleeves of a coat dangling by his side, while in another George sits with his five children and his wife, who holds a cannon ball. A device attached to doors in Warner’s three-story house on Edgewood Street, near the Yale Bowl in New Haven, allowed the veteran to open them with his feet. In his later years, Warner sometimes rode the trolley alone (with the fare in his coat pocket for the conductor), played records on his phonograph and loved to play pinochle. Son Charles, a cabinet maker, built his father a box on which he could place his cards so he could easily point out which one he wanted to play with his stump.

JULY 3, 1885:: 20th Connecticut veterans at  dedication of their monument at Gettysburg.
Randy Bieler collection.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
Born May 9, 1832 in Glastonbury, Connecticut, George was one of 10 children of Andrew and Phoebe Warner, who squeaked out a living as farmers. When he was 12, Warner was employed as a laborer on a local man’s huge farm along the Connecticut River, earning $12 a month – enough to purchase a cow as a present for his mother. (The family apparently sold the animal for a profit two years later.) After Warner’s father died, George, several of his siblings and his mother found employment in a cotton mill.

On August 5, 1862, Warner enlisted in the 20th Connecticut in Derby, leaving behind his wife and children in nearby Beacon Falls, where George was employed as a mill worker. “It was a sacrifice,” the New Haven Register reported in 1922, “but it showed the stuff of which the men of those hectic days were made.”

At Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 2, 1863 -- the 20th Connecticut’s first battle of the war -- Warner and his comrades held a small trench at the foot of a hill. Union artillery was positioned to the rear of the regiment, near a patch of woods. When Rebels appeared at the top of a hill, the regiment was caught in a crossfire fire between the two armies, sending Warner and his comrades running for the lives into the woods “to keep from being cut to pieces.”

“I escaped unhurt,” Warner recalled years later, “but one piece of lead struck my knapsack and took it clear off my back. I lost all my little keepsakes, including a picture of my wife, but I couldn’t stop then.” Lt. Col.William Wooster, the 20th Connecticut’s commander, was among those who were captured.

Two months later at Gettysburg, Warner was terribly mangled when a fragment of an artillery shell fired from Federal batteries on Baltimore Pike or Powers Hill struck his right arm as the 20th Connecticut made its way up the south side of Culp’s Hill early on the morning of July 3, 1863. The regiment was attempting to re-capture earthworks it had constructed the previous day. The fragment severed the arm a few inches below Warner’s shoulder, shockingly carrying the limb several feet from him; another fragment, perhaps from the same round, struck the thirty-one-year-old private’s left arm and forearm, lacerating the soft parts badly and breaking bones. Warner also suffered severe flesh wounds on his scalp and left knee.

Post-war image of George and Catherine Warner and six of their children. 
Mrs. Warner holds a cannonball. (Bob O'Brien collection)

Incensed by the toll his army’s own artillery took on his men, Wooster, released by the Rebels after Chancellorsville, threatened to turn his regiment on the Union battery responsible. “He [Wooster] was not only required to keep the enemy in check, but encountered great difficulty, while resisting the enemy, in protecting himself against the fire of our own artillery, aimed partly over his command at the enemy in and near our intrenchments,” 1st Brigade commander Archibald L. McDougall of the 123rd New York recalled. “His greatest embarrassment was the farther he pushed the enemy the more directly he was placed under the fire of our own guns. Some of his men became severely wounded by our artillery fire.” Another officer threatened to personally shoot members of the battery responsible.

Circa-1910 image of Warner and his wife,
Catherine. (Courtesy Bob O'Brien)
An hour after he was wounded, Warner’s left arm was amputated by regimental surgeon J. Wadsworth Terry. Initially unaware that he had lost both arms, Warner soon came to a sober realization: "Why, surgeon, I've lost my right arm too," he told Terry. "I thought I had only lost my left!"

Nearly a month after his wounding, a Soldiers’ Aid Association volunteer observed Warner in a XII Corps hospital near Gettysburg, noting the private had “both arms off” and was also wounded in the legs, but was “apparently doing well.” On July 29, 1863, a doctor wrote that Warner’s condition was good and that he slept well and took long walks about the grounds of the hospital. His wounds, the doctor noted, were “quite open and discharging freely.” Three months later, at an army hospital in Philadelphia, a surgeon wrote the obvious: “He is unfit for Invalid Corps.” Catherine traveled from Connecticut to escort her crippled husband home.

Not surprisingly, shortly after Warner applied for a pension in 1863, it was quickly granted. He received $8 a month in October 1863, with an increase to $25 a month in 1864, $50 a month in 1878 and later another increase to $100 a month in 1889. In 1918, Warner sought another increase, noting in a letter to the Bureau of Pensions that he had “been told that all Civil War veterans are getting an increase in pension and [I] would like to know if I benefit by it.” Already receiving the maximum allowed by Congress, he was denied more government aid.

“In the hospital, they treated me fine, too. I couldn’t have asked for anything better."

-- George Warner, recalling his treatment during the Civil War

Despite what the war did to him, Warner said he didn’t regret his service. “I was treated good and had plenty to eat all the time… although there wasn’t much strawberry shortcake,” he said shortly after his 90th birthday. “In the hospital, they treated me fine, too. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Outliving his wife and five of his eight children, Warner died October 12, 1923. The 91-year-old veteran was laid to rest next to his wife in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, where he lived for fifty-eight years.


-- George Warner pension file, National Archives and Records Administratoion, Washhington D.C.
-- Hartford Daily Courant, July 30, 1863
-- Hartford Courant, June 17, 1905
-- New Haven Morning News, June 18, 1887
-- New Haven Journal-Courier, May 26, 1981
-- New Haven Register, May 21, 1922
-- “Program For The Dedication of a Soldiers Monument, First Light Battery and the Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Connecticut Volunteers Monument Association”, 1905
-- The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1901
-- Storrs, John W., The Twentieth Connecticut, A Regimental History, Ansonia, Conn., The Press of the Naugatuck Valley Sentinel, 1886

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