Monday, August 08, 2016

Wounded at Cedar Mountain, officer 'sleeps on the enemy's soil'

A ruby ambrotype of  5th Connecticut officer Henry Stone,  who was wounded and captured
 at the Battle of Cedar Mountain on Aug. 9, 1862.  (Peter Pipke collection)

Adapted from my latest book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. E-mail me here for information on how to purchase an autographed copy.

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Lying nearly immobilized on his back in a Rebel hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia, Henry Stone was in almost constant pain from a bullet that had shattered his right thigh bone. “I shall have to lay here in this position about 4 weeks longer, when they will take it out of the splint and allow me to move about more in bed,” the 5th Connecticut lieutenant colonel wrote to his wife on September 16, 1862. “I hope in two or three months to be able to hobble about on crutches if no other disease takes hold of me.”

Eager to hear news from home, Stone received none during his long hospitalization in Virginia. Letters from the North didn’t make it through Confederate lines. Equally eager to be paroled, Stone tried to be patient, “and so should you,” he urged his wife, who had four young children to raise back home in Danbury, Connecticut. “My kind regards to all my friends,” the thirty-four-year-old concluded in the letter to Sarah Stone. “Tell them I am gaining slowly.”

More than five weeks earlier -- a day so hot that some Union soldiers "lay by the roadside in almost dying condition" suffering from sunstroke – Stone’s 5th Connecticut was among four regiments of Yankee infantry that nearly punched through the center of the Rebel line at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. After Union infantry closed on the Confederates, savage hand-to-hand fighting broke out for 15 minutes.

"There were few loaded guns on either side," a 5th Connecticut soldier recalled of that period during the battle near Culpeper, Virginia, on August 9. "Clubbed muskets and bayonets were the rule." Afterward, Lt. William Rockwell claimed that he shot six Confederates in the melee, and Sgt. Harlan Rugg's Company I "fought like demons, strewing the ground with dead, so that one could scarcely step but upon a dead rebel."

At least two 5th Connecticut national color bearers were killed and three were wounded during a charge across a wheat field. Color Sgt. James Hewison of Company D was so intent on avoiding capture and preventing the state colors from being snatched by the enemy that he wrapped the flag under his uniform and crawled off the battlefield after he was wounded. The 5th Connecticut suffered 179 casualties during the Yankees’ defeat at Cedar Mountain, including 48 killed or mortally wounded -- the worst day, by far, for the regiment during the war.

                        The 5th Connecticut advanced from left to right at  Cedar Mountain.
                              (CLICK AT UPPER RIGHT FOR FULL-SCREEN PANORAMA)

A Mexican War veteran, Stone was wounded slightly in a charge across the wheat field and severely in the thigh as the 5th Connecticut fought into a stretch of woods. Last seen by his comrades leaning against a tree, he was captured and taken to Gordonsville, Virginia, and finally to Charlottesville, where a makeshift military hospital was housed in buildings throughout town.

The soldier who on his 34th birthday on December 2 wrote that he was “willing to sacrifice my life for humanity’s sake” was not expected to live.

A quick riser through the military, Stone was no stranger to hard fighting -- or battlefield injury. In 1847, he enlisted as a private in Company B of the 9th Infantry, U.S. Regulars in the war against Mexico. At the Battle of Chapultepec, near Mexico City, on September 13, 1847, his colonel saw Stone a moment after he was stunned by a ball in the left temple, reclined against a rock and “a stream of crimson stealing down his pale cheeks.” Afterward, he was recommended for promotion to sergeant for his “gallant and meritorious conduct.”

In the 5th Connecticut during the Civil War, Stone was chosen captain after he enlisted in June 21, 1861, and quickly promoted to major and finally lieutenant colonel in late spring 1862. In the Shenandoah Valley during the Union army’s retreat in May 1862, Stone had a horse shot out from under him by an artillery shell, forcing him to march with the enlisted men.

John S. Davis, the Confederate surgeon who treated
wounded 5th Connecticut officer Henry Stone.
(Special Collections, University of Virginia Library)
Heartened by Stone’s kindly treatment of Southern citizens before the battle at Cedar Mountain, a Confederate surgeon insisted he was treated well. “His conduct to them had been in honorable contrast with that of other Federal officers,” John S. Davis wrote, and “had stimulated our attention to his comfort & our efforts to save him.” Soon after he came into their care and the swelling in his wound subsided, the Rebels put Stone’s leg in a wire splint in an effort to reunite his fragmented thigh bone. After fellow POW James Savage of the 2nd Massachusetts died of his leg wound in Charlottesville on October 22, 1862, Stone was given the major’s woolen garments to replenish his skimpy wardrobe.

During his confinement, his family in Danbury received snippets of news of his condition – a period in which, the local newspaper later wrote, “hope and fear alternated in our hearts.” As Stone’s health waned that winter, the Southerners made “strenuous efforts,” according to Surgeon Davis, to stimulate his failing appetite. But during the winter, Henry knew the end was near.

On January 17, 1862, Stone asked Davis to take dictation for a letter to a friend back home in Connecticut. “… I am running down very fast & probably will not last many days,” said Stone, who asked that his friend, William Montgomery, break the news of his death to his wife as gently as possible. He wanted Montgomery to settle his business affairs and obtain his army pay for his wife and family. And he expressed sadness that not one letter from home had slipped through Rebel lines during his 161 days in captivity.

“I had hope to return home & bring up my family, the children being at that age now when they need a father’s care & attention,” Stone dictated to Davis. “But there is a merciful Father in Heaven who has always watched over us, & in Him I now put my trust, knowing that He can do far better by them than I can. I have been well treated by everyone since I have been here.”

Henry Stone's grave marker in Culpeper (Va.)
National Cemetery.
(Find A Grave)

Forty-eight hours later, Stone died, probably from an infection. An examination after his death revealed that small fragments of lead prevented the bones from reuniting. Stone left behind $45.10 in Confederate money, which was deposited in a local bank, and a plain, gold ring engraved with the initials “FW” that was removed from his finger before he was placed in his coffin. His grave was marked, Davis recalled, so his “remains can be removed at the close of the war.”

A little more than a month later, hundreds braved a blizzard to attend a memorial service for Stone in the Danbury Baptist Church. “It is true his burial was doubtless unhonored,” his obituary read, “for he sleeps on the enemy’s soil, and there is thus given a new argument for the widow and the fatherless to plead that God would be pleased to give success to our arms, that the dust of our kindred may be given to us.”

After the war, Stone’s body was recovered in Charlottesville and re-buried in a national cemetery in Culpeper, seven miles from where he was mortally wounded in the summer of 1862.

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--Henry Stone letter to his wife, September 16, 1862,
--Marvin, Edwin, The Fifth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, A History, Hartford, Conn.: Press of Wiley, Waterman and Eaton, 1889.
--Danbury Times, February 26, 1863.
--Confederate surgeon James Davis’ letters to Stone’s friends in Danbury, Connecticut, January 20, 1863 and February 21, 1863, Peter Pipke collection.

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