Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gettysburg panorama: Where 14th Connecticut fought

Click here for battlefield panoramas from Antietam, Cedar Mountain, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Harris Farm, Manassas, Malvern Hill, Salem Church,  Spotsylvania Courthouse and more.

                                    A Rebel's view of the stone wall along Cemetery Ridge. 
            The 14th Connecticut monument is to the immediate left of the white monument.
     Samuel Huxham was killed about 200 yards beyond Emmitsburg Road in the distance.

                                                       
Wearing a large bow tie and the hint of a smile, 
Samuel Huxham probably posed for this photo
 before he went off to war.
(Photo: Middlesex County Historical Society)
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The memory of the death of his brother-in-law seven months earlier may have been on Samuel Huxham's mind as he crouched low behind a fence near Cemetery Ridge on the morning of July 3, 1863. A 25-year-old corporal in 14th Connecticut, Huxham and his Company B comrades were trading shots with pickets of the enemy, which held a portion of the Bliss farm 200 yards or so away. The regiment's main position was about 700 yards behind Huxham, along a loosely constructed low, stone wall on Cemetery Ridge (see interactive panoramas above). As Huxham rose from his position to squeeze off a shot, a sharpshooter's bullet tore through his head, killing the married father of a 1-year-old son instantly.

"(Huxham) had evidently become tired of lying flat upon the ground and firing through the lower rails," a 14th Connecticut regimental historian wrote, "and risen up to a kneeling position and was aiming through the middle rails of the fence, a risk the rebel sharp-shooters had quickly availed themselves of, and not unlikely the very one that had attracted Huxham's attention was the one that proved too quick for him and fired the fatal shot."

Recounted another veteran years after the battle: "Alone, far from all loved ones, fulfilling his oath of loyalty, the brave, faithful spirit passed from his body by the swift leaden messenger sped by a traitor's hand."

Carrie Huxham provided this birth certificate for
 her son as part of the documentation to secure a 
widow's pension after her husband's death. The
 registrar incorrectly noted
that the couple had a daughter.  (fold3.com)
CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.
Ground down by grueling fighting at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and unreplenished with fresh recruits since the regiment was organized in August 1862, the 14th Connecticut had only 160 men present for duty at Gettysburg. Fourteen of those men were killed or mortally wounded at Gettysburg, nearly all during Pickett's Charge on the afternoon of July 3. Among them was Company F Private Thomas Brainard, who was shot in the right shoulder and died in a II Corps Hospital later that day. Struck in the head by a shell fragment, Company D Private John Julian died in a regimental field hospital two days later. Sergeant George Baldwin of Company I took a bullet in the abdomen, lingered for more than a week and died in Jarvis Hospital in Baltimore on July 13.  (Download my Excel spreadsheet of Connecticut Gettysburg deaths here.)

Huxham was from Middletown, Conn., a town that rose up from the banks of the Connecticut River and was the home of Wesleyan University, which supplied many students for the Union army. (One of them, 19-year-old lieutenant George Crosby, was killed at Antietam.) George Washington visited Middletown in 1789, writing in his diary that "while dinner was getting ready, I took a walk around the Town, from the heights of which the prospect is beautiful." A joiner, Huxham married Carrie S. Gibbons in the late summer of 1861, and the couple soon started a family. A son, Samuel Jr., was born on May 27, 1862, so the English immigrant must have agonized over the decision to enlist in the Union army on Aug. 8, 1862. On Sept. 17, 1862, a day after his first wedding anniversary, Samuel survived the bloodbath at Antietam.

For 24-year-old Carrie Huxham, the death of her husband was yet another terrible blow. Her brother Elijah Gibbons, the captain of Company B of the 14th Connecticut,  was mortally wounded at Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862. Because the Gibbons family did not have the financial means, his friends arranged for the return of the officer's body to Middletown, where he was buried in Mortimer Cemetery. In late July 1863, the body of Carrie's husband also was returned to Middletown, where after a service at the Baptist church on Main Street, he was buried in the same plot as his brother-in-law.

SOURCES:

-- Samuel Huxham's pension file, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., via Fold3.com

Middletown Constitution, Aug. 5, 1863

Page, Charles Davis, History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry, Meriden, Conn., 1906

Stevens, H.S., Address Delivered at the Dedication, Monument of the 14th Conn. Vol., Gettysburg, Penn., July 3rd, 1884, Middletown, Conn., 1884

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