Saturday, June 25, 2016

A father's loss at Antietam: 'The cloud never fully passed away'

Killed at Antietam, 18-year-old Orlando Bacheler was buried in South Sutton Cemetery
 in Sutton, Mass. His first name is misspelled "Olando" on his gravestone.
Decades after Orlando was killed at Antietam, Jonas and Mary Bacheler were buried next to
their son at South Sutton Cemetery.  
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This post is a snapshot of the short life of Private Orlando Bacheler of the 15th Massachusetts. Do you have information that could shed more light on his life, perhaps a newspaper account, letter or photographs? If so, please e-mail me at

Described as "one of the kindest of men," Jonas Bacheler  married late in life, fathering four children with his wife in Sutton, Mass., a small town known for its bountiful orchards.

When the Federal census-taker visited the Bacheler household on July 26, 1860, he listed Jonas as a 56-year-old farmer. The rest of the family consisted of  wife Mary, a 46-year-old daughter of a ship captain, and three children: Emma, 11; Harriet, 8; and Orlando, 16, whose occupation was listed as machinist. Tragedy rocked the Bachelers * in 1848, when toddler Emily died before her second birthday.

Orlando Bacheler, 18, was killed in the
West Woods at Antietam.
(Photo courtesy Susan Harnwell/

15th Massachusetts web site)
Like many young men from south-central Massachusetts, Orlando enlisted in the Union army in 1861, mustering into Company H of the 15th Massachusetts as private on July 12, 1861. Perhaps while the regiment trained in Camp Scott in Worcester, Mass., the Bachelers' eldest child plunked down a couple bucks to have a keepsake image taken as a memento for his parents or a sweetheart. Wearing a new uniform, the slightly-built soldier with the hint of a mustache posed for the image in front of a large U.S. flag backdrop, a superb, patriotic touch by the photographic artist.

A little more than a year later, the teenager was ripped from the Bachelers' lives when he was killed during the 15th Massachusetts' disastrous attack in the West Woods at Antietam. Of the 606 soldiers in the regiment engaged in the battle, 320 were killed or wounded and 24 were missing, a 57 percent loss. " company had 62 when we went into battle and when I ordered them back only 9 were left standing," Lieutenant Samuel Fletcher of Orlando's Company H recalled.

Jonas was so crushed by the death of his oldest child on Sept. 17, 1862, that he never  recovered. "The father went south for the body and returned home with it," a family history noted. "After this he was not quite the same man as before. He was a man of very sympathetic nature and the cloud never fully passed away."

On Jan. 23, 1863, perhaps soon after Jonas returned home with the body of his son, the Southbridge (Mass.) Journal published a poem about Orlando's death. The author is unknown.

Composed on the Death of Orlando M. Batcheler *
A Member of the Mass. 15th Regiment who
Fell at the Battle of Antietam.

He has gone! the young soldier has gone to his rest,
Disturb not his last quit sleep;
Tread lightly where rests the cold turf o’er his breast,
Where fond hearts in Anguish oft weep.

Not long did he rest where the Southern pines wave,
Where flowers in rich beauty are dressed,
For near his home they have hallowed a grave,
And have laid his loved form down to rest.

No deep booming cannon can startle him there,
No battle scene fills him with gloom,
No bursting shell harm him as it goes through the air,
For he peacefully sleeps near his home.

Most nobly this soldier boy acted his part,
Not fearing to face the stern foe,
Where the danger grew thick he engaged hand and heart,
Not fearing his courage to show.

But alas when the din of the battle was o’er,
While the forms of the slain were yet warm,
Among those that fell, who fought brave to the last,
They found Orlando’s proud form.

And then, far away the sad message sped,
Til it reached those dear ones in his home,
And there the sad words were in faltering tones read,
Which enshrouded fond hearts in deep gloom.

A father’s proud joy, a mother’s deep love ,
Dear sisters affection so warm,
Were alike chilled at once, while their dear one above
Was freed from the battles fierce storm.

O, happy the thought, although low in the grave,
His loved form does in quiet repose,
Yet we trust his young spirit, our savior could save,
And redeem it from earths chilling woes.

Fond Parents, bereft of your dear only son,
May your hearts know the depth of God’s love;
And sister bereaved, when your life’s work is done,
May you meet your dear brother above.

In death, Jonas and Mary Bacheler were reunited with their son. They are buried next to Orlando, near a massive, old oak in South Sutton Cemetery in Sutton, Mass.


-- Pearce, Frederick Clifton, Batchelder, Batcheller Geneaology, Press of W.B. Conkey Co., Chicago, 1908.
-- Poem about Bacheler's death accessed from the excellent 15th Massachusetts site by Susan Harnwell.
--Samuel Fletcher quote from Chapin Ancestors and Descendants (online), maintained by Deanne Driscoll, via Walking The West Woods blog.

NOTE: Other spellings of Bacheler appear elsewhere, including Batchelor and Batcheler. I chose the spelling that appears on the gravestones in South Sutton Cemetery.

A close-up of Bacheler's gravestone.

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

1 comment:

  1. So young. So sad...his poor father and mother. I often think of the families of all those Unknown Union and Confederate Soldiers buried in graves (with markers and without). These are the real tradegy of the war. The wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who have no idea where their loved one's remains are located...or if they are alive and just so distraught from PTSD that they refuse to return to their family. At least this poor family found their child and brought him home and buried him properly. How many of thos lost Soldiers like the one found a few years ago on the Franklin Battlefield in Tennessee? I live near the Wilderness and walk through that battlefield nearly every week. What do I think about when I look in the thick woods and underbrush? How many are still out there? Great post Mr. Banks. Thank you for sharing.
    Lieutenant Colonel Daniel C. Williamson U.S. Army