|Saunders Field, where 140th New York charged on May 5, 1864. Below: An interactive panorama.|
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
To thousands of motorists who zoom past every day on busy Virginia Rt. 20, this scene, a mile or so from McDonald's, a Sheetz gas station, E&M Auto Sales and Divine Nails, may just be another rolling field and patch of woods. Perhaps some don't have time to notice as they drive to their homes nearby in the upscale Fawn Lake subdivision, where streets are named after Civil War generals and signs mark "preserved" trenches and earthworks.
|Augustus Meyer: 140th New York captain was|
mortally wounded during the charge at Saunders Field.
(Image courtesy 140th NYVI Living History Organization)
|Augustus Meyer's grave in Mount Hope Cemetery in|
Rochester, N.Y. (Photo Joel Shore/Find A Grave)
Meyer's death undoubtedly was a life-altering event for his wife, Augusta Eickemeyer Meyer, to whom he had been married for seven years. The officer's remains were returned by the Genesee Valley Railroad to Rochester, where the former clerk in a dry-goods company was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery -- a well-attended service that was described as "of a most imposing character."
"An uncomfortable rain storm prevailed during most of the afternoon," the Rochester Evening Express reported about Meyer's funeral service, "and so large a turn out, under the circumstances, was an expressive testimonial of the respect in which Capt. Meyers was held."
This is also where 140th New York 1st Sergeant Charles L. Taylor, a blue-eyed, 36-year-old salesman and produce dealer, was killed. Nearly a month after the battle, a comrade searching the battlefield discovered his remains, perhaps bringing some comfort to his wife Elizabeth back in Brockport, N.Y. The distinctive Zouave uniform and a brown beard were telltale signs the body was Taylor's, 140th New York veteran John B. Snyder noted shortly after the war. Devastated by Charles' death, Elizabeth left a light burning in a window in her house, according to an account, so her husband could find his way home. She died in 1918, having never re-married.
And this is where 24-year-old Sergeant Joseph Seiger was mortally wounded. After he mustered into Company E of the 140th New York in September 1862, he gave his widowed mother his $90 bounty and a major portion of his army pay. Before he enlisted, the unmarried laborer regularly handed over $1 of his weekly $4 salary at Cunningham's Carriage Factory in Rochester to Mary Seiger, who emigrated to the United States from Germany after her husband had died.
|George Austin's marker in Lakeside Cemetery in|
Hamlin, N.Y. (Find A Grave)
Shortly after the 140th New York attacked that morning, the married private was shot and killed. When the regiment was forced to retreat about a half-mile, it left its dead and wounded in the hands of the enemy, noted Austin's friend, Private Charles W. Starin. George had "disappeared," according to an August 1865 pension affidavit signed by Henry Allen, a commanding officer in Austin's Company A, who added "I have no personal knowledge of his fate." George's remains initially may have been buried by the Rebels, or, like many soldiers killed during this battle in the dense forests, his body simply may have rotted in the woods. The 27-year-old soldier has a marker in Lakeside Cemetery in Hamlin, N.Y., but it is unclear if he is actually buried there.
And near the end of my walk, I stopped, briefly closed my eyes ... and imagined what it was like in early May 1864.
Widow's pension file documents for Augustus Meyer, Charles L. Taylor, Joseph Seiger and George Austin, National Archives and Records Service, Washington D.C. via fold3.com.
|The remains of Union trenches deep in the woods near Saunders Field.|
|Confederate General Leroy A. Stafford was mortally wounded in woods near Saunders Field.|