Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Antietam: If only we could be a fly on the wall ...

Veterans of the 16th Connecticut gathered for this photo on Sept. 17, 1921 -- 
the 59th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. It was published in the
 Hartford Courant on Oct. 2, 1921. 
(Photo: Connecticut State Library archives; CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)  

With large pictures of  Civil War generals Grant and Sherman looming in the background, 18 veterans of the 16th Connecticut gathered for this photograph in the Grand Army Hall in Hartford on Sept. 17, 1921 -- the 59th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.  Nearly all these men fought at Antietam, where their regiment was routed in farmer John Otto's 40-acre cornfield. Just imagine the stories these old men, in their late 70s or early 80s, swapped as they smoked cigars, sipped a little whiskey and kicked back in leather-bound chairs.
Robert Kellogg (right) , a private in the 16th Connecticut, 
 described the horrors of Andersonville in a book published  
in 1865.
(Photo courtesy
Connecticut History Online/
Connecticut State Library.)

Henry Adams, seated and clutching a cane in his right hand in the center, suffered gunshot wounds in his legs and then lay on the battlefield for at least 17 hours before he was discovered by comrades. His mother traveled south from Connecticut to help nurse him back to health, but he was not released from a Maryland hospital until April 1, 1863, nearly seven months after the battle.  "Was no April Fool day to me, when my mother and her cripple boy on crutches started 'Homeward Bound.' " he bitterly noted about that day. "I received my discharge papers at Hagerstown (Md.) and my full pay for doing ... nothing -- except to be maimed for life and to draw a U.S. pension." (1)

Four other veterans in this photograph also were wounded at Antietam: George Whitney (seated at far left); Maranthon Keendey (seated at far right); Walter Smith (standing behind Adams); and Jasper Harris (standing, third from right). Harris became a prisoner of war at Antietam and was not paroled until Oct. 6, 1862.

After Antietam, at least 13 of these men suffered further trauma. On April 20, 1864, nearly the entire 16th Connecticut was captured at Plymouth, N.C., and sent to rebel prisons. Many men in the regiment died in Andersonville, the most notorious prison camp of the Civil War. Robert Kellogg, seated third from the right in the front row, was a private in Company A when he captured. After the war, he wrote a book about his experience at Andersonville.

"I ... wished that the President, under whose banner we had fought, could look in upon our sufferings, for surely the sight would move him to help us, if anything could be done," Kellogg wrote. "Live worms crawled upon the bacon that was given us to eat. 'It is all right,' we said; 'we are nothing but Yankee prisoners, or, as the rebels usually speak of us, 'damned Yankees.' " (2)
Some of the 16th Connecticut soldiers released from rebel prisons never recovered, including Wallace Woodford of Avon and Austin Fuller of Farmington, both of whom died at home. I often wonder what terrible war memories some of the ex-POWs in this photograph carried with them for the rest of their lives.

(1) George Q. Whitney Collection, Connecticut State Library
 (2) "Life And Death In Rebel Prisons," Robert H. Kellogg, 1865, Page 166


  1. Tom Hart7:59 AM

    Another excellent post filled with detail and emotion. One note. "Harris became a prisoner of war at Antietam and was not paroled until Oct. 6, 1862." Is the year incorrect in this sentence?

  2. year is correct, tom

  3. Tom Hart6:46 PM

    Just seemed like a very short stint as a POW -- 9/17/1862 to 10/6/1862.

  4. Most interesting and well done blog. I glad to have come across it. Incidentally I saw Spielberg's film and though it was terrific. But then I like Goodwins Team of Rivals to begin with....:)