Sunday, August 21, 2011

Civil War under my nose: Mansfield's grave

Joseph Mansfield died Sept. 18, 1862, a day after being wounded at Antietam. He
is buried in Middletown, Conn.

Gen. Joseph Mansfield's demise is one of the incredible hard-luck stories of the Civil War.

Mansfield was 58 when he died.
A longtime professional soldier -- he was wounded in the leg in 1846 during the Mexican War -- Mansfield saw little serious fighting during the first 17 months of the Civil War. Itching to lead troops in the field, the 58-year-old soldier from Middletown, Conn. was given command of the XII Corps of the Army of the Potomac on Sept. 15, 1862. Three days later, he was dead, succumbing to a bullet wound in the chest suffered Sept. 17 during fighting near the East Woods at Antietam.

I visited Mansfield's grave this morning at Indian Hills Cemetery in Middletown, Conn., about 30 minutes from my home in Avon. He's buried near a majestic, old oak near the crest of the hill at the cemetery off Washington Street. Mansfield's large brownstone marker is topped with an ornamental sword, the top portion of which is missing. His wife, Louisa, who died in 1870, and a son, Joseph, who died as an infant in 1844, are buried nearby.

Mansfield was one of six generals killed at Antietam -- three Union and three Confederate. Amazingly, 12 generals were wounded during the bloodiest day of the war -- six from each side. General John Sedgwick, a Connecticut native who commanded a division in the II Corps at Antietam, was wounded three times during the battle. He was killed by a sharpshooter's bullet at Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 9, 1864 and is buried in tiny Cornwall Hollow, also about 30 minutes from my house.

The date of Mansfield's death is incorrect on his memorial.  The general died at the
George Line farm on Sept. 18, 1862, a day after Antietam.

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