Wednesday, March 26, 2014

History revealed: Yankee graves in St. Augustine, Florida

An unknown photographer shot this image of Union graves in St. Augustine, Fla.
in 1865. The burial ground became a national cemetery in 1881. (Library of Congress)
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Of the hundreds of thousands of Civil War deaths -- one demographic historian estimates there were 750,000 and perhaps as high as 850,000 -- the majority were caused by disease. For every three soldiers who died because of wounds caused by gunshot, artillery, bayonet or other means in combat, it is estimated that five soldiers died from typhoid fever, dysentery, malaria or other illnesses.

Among the nearly 3,300 soldiers from Connecticut who died of disease was Isaac Tuller, a private in the 8th Connecticut, who perished from typhus in New Bern, N.C., during an epidemic in the spring of 1862 that also claimed assistant regimental surgeon DeWitt Lathrop. Suffering from "congestion of the lungs" and measles, Private Henry Ford of the 11th Connecticut -- described by his captain as a "priceless treasure of liberty" -- died and was buried at sea off the North Carolina coast on Jan. 16, 1862. Private Oliver Case of the 8th Connecticut struggled to comprehend the death of his comrade, Private Henry Sexton, who frothed at the mouth as he battled jaundice aboard a hospital ship in Annapolis harbor. "I never saw anything so horrible in my life," Case wrote about his friend after Sexton's death on Jan. 7, 1862.

Memorial for John Adsit and other Civil War soldiers from
 New Hampshire in Church Street Cemetery in Hillsboro, N.H.  
"These soldiers of the Rebellion of 61 to 65 lie in unknown graves," the
 inscription at the top of the monument reads.
(Photo: Amy Levesque/
Three soldiers from the 7th New Hampshire -- a sister regiment of the 7th Connecticut --  suffered similar fates in the fall of 1862 and late winter of 1863. (The 7th New Hampshire and 7th Connecticut were often referred to as the 77th New England regiment.) In 1865, an unknown photographer shot an image of a cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla., that included the tombstones of privates John W. Adsit, James M. Hoyt and Ebenezer Chany, who each joined the regiment in Manchester, N.H., in the fall of 1861.

Digitized versions of that glass-plate photograph are available in .jpg and TIFF formats on the Library of Congress web site, but the names on the gravestones cannot be easily read on the original. Enlargements of the image, however, reveal the names of Adsit and Hoyt on markers in the foreground, and minor detective work uncovered Chany's name on a tombstone in the middle background. Blow-ups of the image are so sharp that even grain on the wood of some of the tombstones can be seen.

In 1862, the 7th New Hampshire battled disease more than the Rebels. After a four-week stay at the White Street Barracks in New York, the regiment headed for Florida aboard two transport ships -- a trip made more harrowing by an outbreak of smallpox that claimed the life of at least one soldier. In May, 120 men in the regiment suffered from illness and 25 were absent for duty because of sickness at Port Jefferson, Fla. Many of soldiers, the regimental historian noted, suffered from a "virulent form" of smallpox "from which the regiment suffered severely." In late spring, the 7th New Hampshire was ordered to Beaufort, S.C., where a typhoid fever epidemic so crippled the regiment that it was transferred to lighter duty at a post in the more palatable climate in St. Augustine, Fla.

7th New Hampshire Private John Adsit died of fever "followed by chronic diarrhea," according
to this document in his pension file. (
Even that change of scenery, however, proved to be fatal for Adsit, Hoyt and Chany. A 45-year-old married man from Hillsborough, N.H., Adsit succumbed from fever and chronic diarrhea in a hospital in St. Augustine on Oct. 5, 1862. Three days earlier, Hoyt, 45, from Newton, N.H., had also died from disease. The comrades were buried side-by-side in the garrison's burial ground, once part of a Franciscan monastery. Seven months later, on March 10, 1863, 22-year-old Private Ebenezer Chany also was felled by disease and buried in the same cemetery, just yards behind Adsit and Hoyt.

After the war, the remains of all three soldiers apparently were disinterred from St. Augustine Cemetery and perhaps returned to New Hampshire. Or perhaps they were removed by the Federal government and re-buried in a national cemetery during a massive post-war effort. The final resting place for each of the privates is unknown.

In this enlargement, the side-by-side graves of 7th New Hampshire privates John W. Adsit (left)
 and James M. Hoyt at the garrison cemetery in St. Augustine, Fla.
The gravestone of Private Ebenezer Chany of the 7th New Hampshire appears in this enlargement.
Detail in the background of the cemetery in another enlargement. The Dade pyramids, 
dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in the Indian Wars of the 1830s, appear prominently.
BELOW: A similar view of the cemetery today.
Photo: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs web site.

Have something to add (or correct) in this post? E-mail me here.


  1. Thanks for this enlightening post, John. On my blog at, I do for the other half of the 77th New England what you do for the 7th Connecticut. I'm in the middle of a series of related posts right now but will soon post a link to this story.

  2. I'm a genealogist who loves personal stories of the civil war and thoroughly enjoy your posts. A quick search of online records shows John Adsit & Ebenezer Chany (Cheney) were both moved from their resting places in FL to cemeteries in NH. I could find no record of James M. Hoyt.

    1. Jill: Thanks for kind words. Could you send me the documentation? ( I wrote the post three years ago, but would like to update. thanks JB