|Gravestone for brothers Francis and Frederick Hollister, privates in the|
14th Connecticut who died on the same day in December 1862.
|The Hollister brothers died at Falmouth, Va., across the|
Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg.
|An old G.A.R. marker, apparently placed near the grave decades ago, and|
a faded flag next to the brothers' gravestone in Union Hill Cemetery
in East Hampton, Conn..
An old metal Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) marker, a telltale sign of a Civil War grave, and a faded American flag are embedded in the ground immediately in front of their white marker, splotched black by the elements over 15 decades.
A tiny, tattered piece of another flag, apparently placed near the grave months or perhaps even years before, rests in the grass in back of the gravestone.
|The brothers' gravestone is next to a weathered, |
white picket fence.
The brothers' marker offers meager, but tantalizing, clues:
Francis Hollister, Aged 20 Yrs.
and his brother Frederick
Aged 18 Yrs.
Soldiers of Co. K 14 Reg. C.V.
Died at Falmouth, Va.
Dec. 23, 1862
Questions bounced through my brain as I placed two pennies atop the marker in the brothers' memory.
Did they die together?
Did their parents arrange for the return of their bodies to Connecticut, as many families did for their dead loved ones during the Civil War?
Or are the brothers really buried near Falmouth, perhaps in unmarked graves, across the Rappahannock River from Civil War-ravaged Fredericksburg?
Who were Francis and Frederick Hollister and why did they die so young?
Cursory research provided stunning results.
|George Crosby, the well-regarded lieutenant of the Hollister |
brothers' Company K, was mortally wounded at Antietam. Crosby was
from Middle Haddam, a short distance from Chatham, where the
Hollisters lived before the war. (Left photo: Wesleyan University;
right photo: Middlesex County Historical Society.)
According to the 1860 U.S. census, a Francis Hollister lived in Portland, Conn., a short distance from Chatham, with the Payne family, Hannah and Alfred, a 72-year-old farmer. Francis' occupation was listed as laborer, perhaps an indication he was employed on Payne's farm. Frederick's name does not appear in the 1860 census.
The brothers enlisted as privates in the Union army in the summer of 1862, Frederick on July 21 and Francis five days later. Each young man was mustered into Company K of the 14th Connecticut on Aug. 20, 1862.
Soon after the 14th Connecticut was organized and trained at Camp Foote in Hartford, it was sent to Washington, where it remained until Sept. 7, when it was assigned to the Second Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Ten days later, the 14th Connecticut saw its first action of the Civil War, at Antietam -- the bloodiest day in American history.
|The 14th Connecticut monument at Antietam, near |
William Roulette's farmhouse. The Hollister brothers saw
action here on Sept. 17, 1862.
Although they may have survived Antietam unhurt physically, they undoubtedly lost any illusions that the war would be over soon. And they also lost something else in western Maryland, something mundane, yet critical, to their futures.
|A man walks through snow in January 1863 in this sketch by|
Civil War artist Edwin Forbes of a Union army winter camp
in Falmouth, Va. (Library of Congress collection)
"Every basement and floor is covered with blood," 14th Connecticut lieutenant Samuel Fiske of Company I wrote of the aftermath of Fredericksburg. "Limbs, in many houses, lie in heaps; and surgeons are exhausted with their trying labors." (1)
Often shivering in the cold, Francis and Frederick, both ill, huddled around a campfire to stay warm in late December in Falmouth, where disease was rampant in Union army.
The end came soon.
|Under the heading Military Items on Jan. 20, 1863, the|
Hartford Courant reported the cause of the Hollister
brothers' deaths. The newspaper reported the date of their
deaths as Dec. 24, 1862, but the date is a day earlier
on their gravestone.
"A sad incident during the encampment at Falmouth was the death of two brothers, Francis and Frederick J. Hoillister, of Chatham, Company K., who died within a half an hour of each other and were buried together," the history noted. "They lost their blankets at Antietam and for three months had to sleep out of doors or crouch scantily clad all night long over a smoky camp-fire, from which exposure they died." (2)
The cause of death was typhoid fever. Why the Hollisters could not obtain a blanket is baffling.
The brothers' bodies were returned to Connecticut, where the Hollisters were buried "with appropriate ceremonies" on Sunday, Jan. 11, 1863. (3)
(1) History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Charles Davis, The Horton Printing Company, 1906, Page 88
(2) Ibid, Page 110
(3) Hartford Courant, Jan. 20, 1863, Page 2
|Two pennies atop the gravestone for the Hollister brothers in Union Hill Cemetery|
in East Hampton, Conn., about 25 miles southeast of Hartford.