Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter to Mrs. Mansfield: 'Depths of Pandemonia'

 "It seemed as if the very depths of Pandemonia, had sent her furies, and such a tornado of deadly
missiles screaming through the air," a surgeon wrote to General Joseph Mansfield's wife about the
circumstances before her husband's death at Antietam.  Below, Mansfield's grave in Middletown, Conn.
In a neatly written five-page letter to Louisa Mansfield dated April 28, 1863, a surgeon in the 107th New York described in detail the circumstances before her husband's death and his last hours at a Union field hospital. General Joseph K Mansfield of Middletown, Conn. was mortally wounded by a shot to the chest near the East Woods during the Battle of Antietam.

General Joseph Mansfield lived in this house in
Middletown, Conn.,  during  the Civil War. 

It now houses the Middlesex County
 Historical Society.
"The wound was inflicted by a 'Minnie ball,' Dr. Patrick Flood wrote. "When I came up, some men were trying to carry him in a blanket, but the jolting motion, made him bleed so fast, they were afraid to move. I found the clothing around his chest saturated with blood, and upon opening them, found he was wounded in the right breast, the ball penetrating about two inches from the nipple, and passing out of the back, near the edge of the shoulder blade."  (Major hat tip to Randy Buchman's Enfilading Lines blog for first posting the contents of the letter.)

Mansfield died on Sept. 18, 1862, about 24 hours after he was wounded. He was 58 years old.

The original Flood letter to Mrs. Mansfield is now in the collection of the Middlesex County Historical Society at the general's Civil War home in Middletown. Middlesex County Historical Society director Deborah Shapiro kindly photocopied Flood's letter for me recently, and a good friend of the blog enhanced it to make it even more readable than the original. Not quite as exciting as, say, purchasing a bible of a soldier who served in the 8th Connecticut for $3 at a community yard sale, but it's close. Sort of. (CLICK HERE FOR .PDF OF ENTIRE LETTER. IT'S A LARGE FILE.)

General Mansfield was one of more than 100 soldiers from Middletown, about 18 miles south of Hartford, who died during the Civil War. The most impressive exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society is a wall of photos of some of those soldiers from the town who gave the last full measure, including Mansfield and Private Robert Hubbard of the 14th Connecticut. I'll write much more about some of these soldiers in the coming weeks.

A wall of Middletown's Civil War dead at the Middlesex County Historical Society
in the former home of General Joseph Mansfield, who was mortally wounded at Antietam.
(The gentleman  in the middle was not from Middletown, Conn.)


  1. Patricia Kitto7:13 AM

    Thank you for posting a copy of this amazing letter. One can only imagine how Dr. Flood felt writing it and how Mrs. Mansfield felt reading it. The language is hauntingly beautiful and certainly brings the reader back to "that sanguinary day".

    Another excellent post.

  2. Company G, 14th Connecticut reenactment group proudly replaced the State of CT seal on General Mansfield's Antietam monument restoring its glory. We are proud to honor one of CT's finest that gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

  3. That is great stuff. A little known fact is that the house Mansfield died in was later moved up by the North Bridge on Antietam Creek.

  4. Stephen: You need to add John Banks' Civil War blog to your blog roll!!! Here's my Antietam thread: http://john-banks.blogspot.com/search/label/Antietam. Lots of good stuff there. :))))

  5. Excellent information, John. I look forward to getting material from you as I make progress with my bio of Mansfield.

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