Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Death of Maine teenager: 'I think everything was done for him'

A Union camp at Belle Plain, Va., where Lorrain Daniels died of disease in March 1863.
(Library of Congress)
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Nearly two months after he survived brutal fighting in the killing fields of Fredericksburg, Lorrain A. Daniels faced another deadly foe: disease. In early March 1863, the 17-year-old private in the 16th Maine lay in an army hospital in Belle Plain, Va., battling a severe case of typhoid fever.

Daniels may have become ill in late February while away from the regiment on unspecified "especial duty," from which he had to be relieved because he had become so sick. He was taken to the regimental hospital, where the "most energetic measures" were made to care for the teenager, who was "severely threatened with fever," according to the regimental chaplain.

Transferred to a "good bed" in the 2nd Division, I Army Corps hospital, Daniels received "good medical attention & the care of good nurses." But he was wracked with chronic diarrhea in addition to the fever, and there was little that could be done for him. The young soldier from North Newport, Maine, died at 4 a.m. on March 6. The next evening, he was buried in a quiet spot under a stand of  "large spreading pine trees."

Marker for Lorrain Daniels and his brother, George, in
North Newport Cemetery in Maine. Lorrain's final resting place
is unknown. (Find A Grave)
"I know this blow will fall very heavily upon you and your family, parents, brothers and sisters," Chaplain George Bullen wrote to Joshua Daniels the day of his son's funeral. "I fear this letter will not find you in the least prepared for it ..."

For Joshua and Lydia Daniels, Lorrain's death was indeed another cruel blow. A little more than a year earlier, their teen-aged son Preston had died, followed in July 1864 by the death of a daughter, Ann. (Another son, George, served as a private in the 4th Maine and survived the war. The Daniels' eldest daughter, Mary, lived until she was 94.)

Before Lorrain enlisted in the Union army in summer of 1862, he lived with his parents on their "small, rocky ledge farm" in North Newport, about 50 miles from the state capital in Augusta. The Daniels were poor, according to friends, one of whom noted "their whole life has been a constant struggle to raise their family and obtain means of sustinence."

In addition to their 25-acre farm worth about $1,000, Joshua and Lydia owned a horse, a half-dozen sheep and two cows worth about $15. In the years leading up to the war and afterward, Joshua suffered from asthma, preventing him doing anything more than "tinker around at some light employment." Lorrain helped his father on the farm and earned money for his family working for neighbors.

In 1869, six years after Lorrain's death, Lydia filed for a dependent's pension. But providing proof of her son's death, a key requirement, proved challenging. "I have written to the officers of his Co., receiving letters from friends of some of them that they were dead, while from the others I get no reply," she wrote to the U.S. Pension Office. "I have been to the homes of the privates of his Co. who resided in this vicinity and find that part of them are dead and the rest have removed to parts unknown to me, excepting one who does not remember particulars concerning [Lorrain's] death as he was detailed at that time for special duty."

At some point, the condolence letter from Chaplain Bullen (see below) was produced, and Lydia's pension claim was finally approved. Troubled by heart disease, she died in 1898, outliving her husband and four of her five children. Lydia was buried in a family plot in North Newport Cemetery, a few feet from a dual marker for her sons, Lorrain and George. Whether Lorrain's remains were ever recovered from under a stand of pines in Virginia is unknown.

Can you help decipher parts of the chaplain's letter below? E-mail me here.

National Archives via 

Head Quarters, 16th Regt. Me. Vols
Camp near Belle Plains, Va.
March 7, 1863

Mr. Daniels
Dear sir:

It is my painful duty to communicate the saddest intelligence to you, viz, of the death of your son Lorrain A. Daniels of Co. "E' of our Regt. The event occurred yesterday morning at about four o'clock.

A long time ago your son was detailed to perform especial duty away from his company. He was so sick as to be relieved from duty about ten days ago. Last Sabbath word came to one of the surgeons of the Regt that he was sick. The surgeon and I went immediately to see him. We found him severely threatened with fever. Had him taken at once to the Regt hospital where the most energetic measures were employed to thwart the fever, but without effect. Wednesday he was ordered to be transferred to the Division hospital which is only a few steps from our hospital. There he had a good bed & I doubt not good care. But his fever continued unabated taking on the typhoid type.

I saw him the evening before he died, when tho not apparently in much distress, his fever was very high but I was not prepared for his death to occur so soon. From the first I feared he would not recover, for ...

National Archives via 
... not only was the attack very violent, but his system had neem somewhat impaired in vigor to resist (indecipherable) disease by diarrhea which had perhaps become chronic. I think everything was done for him that could be here. He had good medical attention & the care of good nurses. I had to administer such religious counsel and consolation as I felt his case required.

I know this blow will fall very heavily upon you and your family, parents, brothers and sisters. I fear this letter will not find you in the least prepared for it by the previous knowledge of your son's illness. But I would hope that our Heavenly Father by his grace and influence of his special sway may be preparing you to bear with a truly submissive spirit this sad bereavement of his providence.

I know nothing of your individual experience, but you will allow me to remind you of this, that you may go to our Father for strength. He is a refuge & strength in time of need as such so go to him. And the Savior is ever near us to offer his sympathy. And this is unlike human sympathy, it is all supporting. And (indecipherable) that our Father doeth all things well, even for our good is suited to console afflicted hearts.

And may our father in Heaven comfort and bless you all in this time of bereavement.

In sympathy yours,

G. Bullen, Chaplain
16th Reg. Me. Vols

P.S. The burial services will be attended this P.M., the spot chosen being a quiet one beneath large, spreading pine trees.

I may add that your son left few effects which are in the possession of his Co. commander, whose business it is to account to you for the same. G.B.

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


-- Lorrain Daniels pension file, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C., via
-- Find A Grave.


  1. Sometimes we today forget how sad the War really was...

  2. I never forget. My family has never forgotten. My great great grandfather was wounded at Chapaquiddick and died from the wounds. His younger brother (19) was killed at Gettysburg and probably buried in a mass grave of Confederate soldiers. Greatx2 grandpa left behind a wife and 3 young children. His brother never had the opportunity to marry or have a family.