Thursday, March 17, 2016

What 14th Connecticut Lt. Perkins Bartholomew left behind

Three images of  the revolver of 14th Connecticut Lieutenant Perkins Bartholomew, whose
name is inscribed on the weapon (top).  (Photos courtesy of current owner)

14th Connecticut Lieutenant Perkins Bartholomew
was mortally wounded at the Battle of Boydton Plank Road.
(Image courtesy Tad Sattler)
Abandoned by his comrades deep in enemy territory, the body of 14th Connecticut Lieutenant Perkins Bartholomew was left for the Rebels to bury by the side of a road. A bullet had ripped through his haversack and exited the front of his body during the Battle of Boydton Plank Road, near Petersburg, Va., mortally wounding the officer fondly called "Perk" by those who knew him well.

Although he wasn't present during the battle on Oct. 27, 1864, regiment adjutant William Hincks wrote a detailed account of Bartholomew's death to his mother, apparently with information gleaned from soldiers in the regiment. The officer from Bridgeport, Conn., had plenty of experience with the grim duty of informing relatives of the deaths of their loved ones.

"I know that it ... is very hard that he was not brought in and that we had to leave his burial to the enemy," he wrote on Nov. 13, 1864, "but remember that we were in the enemy's country miles away from our own lines, the enemy upon almost every side of us in greatly superior numbers." Trying to soften the blow of her son’s death, Hincks took pains to explain to Caroline Bartholomew that her son did not suffer, the regiment did all it could for Perkins and that one soldier indeed remained with him when he died.

Efforts to recover Perkins Bartholomew's body
were fruitless, according to this report
in the Hartford Daily Courant on Nov. 28, 1864.
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
"He vomited occasionally," he wrote. "He had his senses perfectly and remained conscious of his condition. We had but two or three officers but one of them detailed a number of men to carry him away. The ambulances had all gone back with wounded men before. The lieutenant of the ambulance train agreed to send back an ambulance for him and did so. But it was an uncommonly dark night and rainy and the ambulance got lost in the woods and never found him."

Hincks noted that a comrade heard Bartholomew's dying words --  “Tell my mother I die like a man fighting for my country" -- and retrieved the dead officer's shoulder straps and memo book. Both items may have been forwarded to Mrs. Bartholomew.

Perhaps another memento made its way back to the 23-year-old officer's family: Bartholomew's Manhattan Navy revolver. The weapon, inscribed with Perkins' name, rank and regiment, was purchased in the 1980s at a Civil War show by a longtime collector, who recently shared with me images of the prized collectible. The revolver shows considerable wear, according to the self-proclaimed  "octogenerian" collector, an indication it was used during the war and may have been with Bartholomew the morning he died.

Despite efforts by Perkins' friend, a doctor named Frank Dudley, and others, the lieutenant's body was never found. He “died in a cause that has called thousands before him," Dudley wrote to Bartholomew's sister on Feb. 2, 1865, "and thousands still must be sacrificed before this wicked war will end.”

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SOURCES:

--14th Connecticut adjutant William B. Hincks to Caroline Bartholomew, Nov. 13, 1864, MS Civil War Box II, Folder 3, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, Conn.
-- Dr. Frank A. Dudley letter to Carrie O’Neal, Feb.2, 1865, MS Civil War Box II, Folder 3, Connecticut Historical Society.

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