|Teenagers John and Wells Bingham served in Company H of the 16th Connecticut.|
John was killed at Antietam. Wells survived and broke the news of his brother's death
to his father back in East Haddam, Conn. (Photos: Military and Historical Image Bank)
(Photo courtesy Tad Sattler)
Below is a transcript of Wells' seven-page letter to his father, including misspellings, punctuation mistakes and grammatical errors. The Herbert and Waldo mentioned in the letter are probably relatives of the brothers, although that relationship is unclear and merits further research. Context is provided by me in italics.
X X X
Sharpsburg, Md Sep 20th/62
Having the opportunity, I thought I would write you. It is a sad tale which I am about to tell you. John, poor, poor John, is no more. We have had a serious time of it, the sixteenth. We arrived up with our Brigade that night. We marched (after dark) to within about a mile of the enemy, and slept on our arms. In the morning some of the soldiers went up on a hill, and exposed our position. We soon had shells from the rebbel battery in great plenty. We are briggadded with the 8th and 11th Conn and the 4th R.I. regiments. the shells killed 3 or 4 and wounded a number in the briggade. We were marched into a piece of woods and formed a line of battle, from there we were marched up onto a high hill. all this time the battle was going on only a short distance from us. we had a chance to witness some of the most splendid firing with artillery. we could see the shells and shot strike around the rebbel battery. It took but a short time for our battery to silence theirs.
|"While we were sitting on the hill our forces took the bridge over the small river,"|
Wells Bingham wrote of the capture of Burnside Bridge.
(Alexander Gardner photo/Library of Congress Civil War collection)
|Wells Bingham witnessed the death of 16th Connecticut captain|
Newton Manross. (left). When Captain Frederick Barber of
Bingham's Company H was shot, Wells heard him cry out:
"Oh, my God. I'm killed. Good bye, boys."
(Manross photo courtesy Bristol Historical Society)
The captain Wells Bingham referred to was 32-year-old Frederick Barber of Manchester. Wounded in the right hip, Barber had his leg amputated in a field hospital set up in a barn. He did well after the operation at first, but died three days after the battle. Barber is buried in Green Cemetery in Glastonbury. Manross, the beloved captain of Company K, had his left arm blown off by cannon fire, a scene seared into the memory of a private in Company H. "I could look down inside of him and see his heart beat, his left shoulder all shot off," Lester Taylor recalled 39 years after the war. An acting professor at Amherst (Mass.) College when he enlisted, Manross is buried in Forestville Cemetery in Bristol.
X X X
|This hollow is probably where the 16th regiment lay before going into battle at Antietam. |
Here, "the shells from both batteries were playing over us," Wells Bingham wrote to his father.
|John Bingham and many others in his regiment didn't make it out of John Otto's 40-acre |
cornfield alive. The 16th Connecticut monument, dedicated Oct. 11, 1894, is in the distance.
|16th Connecticut adjutant|
John Burnham supervised the
burial of those killed in his
regiment at Antietam. John Bingham
was among the dead.
I stuck to my blankets & tent through the fight but yesterday morning, some one stole it from me. I am without anything but what I have got on my back. A great many of them threw away every thing before & in the fight. Good by.
Remember me in your prayers, from your Son WAB.
X X X
One of the unsung heroes of Antietam, 16th Connecticut adjustant John Burnham of Hartford supervised the collection of the dead in his regiment and their burial in well-marked temporary battlefield graves. John Bingham, of course, was among them. "The friends of the killed cannot be but deeply grateful to Adjutant Burnham for his thoughtful labors," the Hartford Courant reported nearly two weeks after the battle.
A 27-year-old private in Company H of the 16th Connecticut, William Wallace Porter of Glastonbury suffered a severe wound in his left leg, which was amputated. Twenty-three days after the Battle of Antietam, Porter died at the German Reform Church in Sharpsburg. William's father traveled from Connecticut to Maryland to retrieve his son's remains. William is buried near Company H captain Frederick Barber in Green Cemetery in Glastonbury. John Porter, who later served in the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, was killed in battle near Petersburg on Nov. 25, 1864. He's buried next to his brother.
John Bingham is buried next to his brother, Eliphalet, in First Church Cemetery in East Haddam. (Watch my video.) Wells Bingham survived the Civil War, and 14 years after Antietam, he received a unique gift from friends in honor of his dead brother, John. Apparently upset over business dealings, Wells committed suicide on Aug. 16, 1904. He was 58.