Friday, May 27, 2016

Paying respects to teenager William Hall, killed at Antietam

Lonnie Schorer cleans the marker of her ancestor, 11th Connecticut Private William Hall, 
in Chaplin, Conn. Hall, 17, was killed at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.
(Photos courtesy of Lonnie Schorer)
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The heaviest burden of war is usually placed on our young, often soldiers not even out of their teens. At the Battle of Antietam, scores of teenagers on both sides were listed on the extensive casualty lists.

Shot through the side during an attack near Bloody Lane, George Crosby, a lieutenant in the 14th Connecticut, was only 19 when he died of his wounds at his parents' house in Middle Haddam, Conn. He had been a student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Marvin Wait, also 19, and an officer in the 8th Connecticut, was riddled with bullets and killed during brutal fighting near Harpers Ferry Road. "His death brings a peculiar and poignant sorrow," noted his hometown newspaper, The Norwich (Conn.) Daily Bulletin.

Somehow Dwight Carey of Canterbury, Conn., persuaded his parents to allow him to join the Union army, which apparently overlooked that he was three years too young to legally serve his country. After his death at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, the Willimantic (Conn.) Journal, under the headline "The Youthful Hero," eulogized the teen-aged soldier:
"In September, 1861, while yet but fifteen years of age he entered the service of the United States, as a private, in the Eighth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers. This act originated in no rash, impulsive enthusiasm, impatient of restraint and headstrong for excitement and novelty, but was the result of calm discussion with his parents and friends, who unwillingly gave their assent on account of his extreme youth."

The 11th Connecticut suffered 139 casualties during
its attack at Burnsde Bridge on the
morning of Sept. 17, 1862.
(Library of Congress collection)
A private in the 11th Connecticut, Daniel Tarbox was shot through the abdomen during an attack at Burnside Bridge. The 18-year-old private died the next day and was temporarily buried in Middletown, Md. "We are very anxious that his remains be brought home," his father wrote that September, "but how to bring so desirable a thing about is the question."

William H. Hall, young Daniel's comrade in the 11th Connecticut, was also killed at Antietam, almost certainly in the attack at Burnside Bridge. It's unclear if his body, like the remains of Tarbox, was returned to his state's soil for burial or if  the 17-year-old soldier rests in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md., or elsewhere. Four years ago, I found a marker for Hall in Bedlam Road Cemetery in rural Chaplin, Conn. Under tree branches and among a patch of weeds and briars, his slate-gray, state-issued stone, covered with moss and grime, was separated from the gravestones and seemed out of place, almost lonely. The short visit stuck with me.

Late last month, Antietam guide William Sagle mentioned to me that he had given a battlefield tour to a descendant of a soldier from Connecticut and wondered if I knew the name. "Ever hear of William Hall?" he asked. "He was killed at Antietam. His descendant really wants to find his grave." In a minute or two, I called up on my iPhone this post and showed the Hall marker image to Sagle. "There," I said, "is your William Hall."

And so I started corresponding via e-mail and over the phone with Hall's descendant, former Connecticut resident Lonnie Schorer, who now lives in Virginia. She said it was a moving experience at Antietam to stand by the 11th Connecticut monument upon which Hall's name was etched among the names of 36 other soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded there. I explained to her that William may not actually be buried in Chaplin, told what little I knew of her ancestor and suggested how to find out more about him. No image of  the private or war-time correspondence from him are known to exist.

On a trip to Connecticut late last week, Schorer and her husband Dave stopped by Bedlam Road Cemetery to pay their respects to the young soldier. Using toothbrushes, water and determination, they cleaned off years' worth of dirt from Hall's out-of-the-way marker. Swarms of mosquitoes couldn't spoil the moment or the view of the old cemetery grounds dotted with beautiful wildflowers. This was special.

"We had our own Memorial Day service when we finished," Schorer told me, "thanking William for his courage and his life -- and letting him know that his family remembers."

A close-up of William Hall's marker in Bedlam Road Cemetery in Chaplin, Conn.

4 comments:

  1. A great story that is especially poignant on Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing it John.

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  2. Thank you John for contributing yet another fascinating story to the Antietam narrative. And for William Hall....once was lost and now is found.

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  3. I so appreciate an ancestor finally connecting with a "lost soldier" from the Civil War. I too have been searching for a family member for many years, only to come up empty handed. I have documentation right up to the few minutes after death at Annapolis Junction. The doctor's pronouncement of death and a list of personal items turned over to another family member. After that moment, nothing. It's almost as if the hospital staff opened the window and dumped the body.

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