|The Gettysburg grave of Corporal John Van Alstyne, killed at Culp's Hill on July 3, 1863.|
(Photo: Laura Rowland)
For this year's Memorial Day weekend post, I sought aid of my Civil War blog Facebook page readers, who submitted their own stories of soldiers who died during the war to go with some of mine.
CORPORAL JOHN VAN ALSTYNE, 150TH NEW YORK: When Lawrence Van Alstyne read the report in his hometown newspaper of his older brother's death at Gettysburg, his thoughts quickly turned to his parents. "Dear me," the 128th New York private wrote in his diary on July 22, 1863, "what will father and mother do now?"
Another newspaper Lawrence received in the mail while stationed in Louisiana did not include John Van Alstyne's name among those killed, giving him hope his brother was still alive: "On this peg," he wrote, "I hang my hopes of a contradiction of this sad piece of news, and shall feel very anxious until I learn the truth.”
|Post-war image of Lawrence Van Alstyne.|
"Poor John!" he wrote in 1863 regarding
his brother's death at Gettysburg.
Described as one of "best men" in Company A by his commanding officer, Van Alstyne was standing next to Lieutenant Henry Gridley behind breastworks when he was hit by a bullet just below the corner of his eye. "John Van Alstyne has got it!" another soldier told 108th New York Captain Joseph Cogswell, who recalled seeing "the stalwart form of that big, good soldier sink slowly to the ground." Van Alstyne's "life-blood," the captain recalled, "gushed out in a torrent."
"Poor John!" Lawrence wrote of his 34-year-old brother, "I'll bet he was in the front ranks, for he always was in anything he undertook. He was instantly killed. To know he did not suffer, as some have to, is a great relief. I had hoped the Pine Plains Herald report was not true, but I can hope no longer. I feel so for father and mother. I must write them oftener now, for they will feel more than ever anxious to hear from me."
His sister reported their parents in Amenia, N.Y., held up well when they received the news, "but I know that sort of bravery cuts like a knife," Lawrence wrote. John's colonel wrote the Van Alstynes a "nice letter," telling them what a good soldier their son had been.
"I suppose his body can sometime be brought home," Lawrence wrote, "that is, if it can be identified. If many were killed they were probably tumbled into a long ditch together, for that is the way it is usually done."
Initially buried on George Spangler's farm, John's remains were later disinterred and re-buried in the national cemetery in Gettysburg.
-- Information submitted by Van Alstyne descendant Laura Rowland
-- Van Alstyne, Lawrence, Diary of an Enlisted Man, The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., New Haven, Conn., 1901.
-- The Dutchess County Regiment in the Civil War, Based on writings of Rev. Edward O. Bartlett, D.D., Danbury, Conn., The Danbury Medical Printing Co., Inc., 1907, Page 35
GEORGE BATTLE, 4TH NORTH CAROLINA: Only 16 when he enlisted, Battle joined the Wilson Light Infantry, which would become Company F of the 4th North Carolina. Before the state seceded on May 20, 1861, he cheered the bombardment of Fort Sumter and hoped very much to become a soldier.
|Teenager George Battle was|
mortally wounded at
Seven Pines on May 31, 1862.
During the winter, George's father -- a prominent Baptist minister and founder of Wake Forest College -- tried to get his son out of the army, citing his age. George, however, did not want to leave, and his captain, Jesse S. Barnes, supported him, saying the teenager was big for his age, a good soldier and everyone liked him. He also promised the worried father he would look out for him.
The 4th North Carolina saw its first real action at the Battle of Seven Pines, near Richmond, on May 31, 1862. It was there that George was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the head. He lingered in a Richmond hospital for a few days before succumbing to his injuries, never fully regaining consciousness.
The teenager's death was a hard blow for his older brother Walter, who served in the same company. The captain who had promised to look out for him was killed outright in the same battle. George's final resting place is unknown.
-- Katharina Schlichtherle
PRIVATE DAVID SCHRACK, 51ST PENNSYLVANIA: In the summer of 1862, Schrack was sick three or four days with erysipelas, an acute infection that typically results in a skin rash. His health quickly took an ugly turn for the worse.
|David Schrack's grave in New Bern (N.C.)|
National Cemetery. "Daniel" was
incorrectly carved on the marker.
Schrack, who had the "best of care," according to Weed, died on July 12, 1862, six days before his 29th birthday. "Twas willed that he should die another martyr to his country's liberty," the ward master wrote to the soldier's sister, Annie.
Unmarried, Schrack was buried in the hospital cemetery, his grave marked by a wooden headboard upon which his name, regiment and company were carved. His death was recorded in the hospital records, Weed wrote, "so he can be found at any time even years after the war, for the records will be sent to Washington and there kept.
"I would say for your comfort in the great trial that he had a good, decent Christian burial," Weed assured Annie, "and that he bore the name of a good, faithful soldier."
Perhaps Schrack's well-marked grave ensured his remains were recovered after the war. At an unknown date, his body was disinterred and re-buried in New Bern (N.C.) National Cemetery.
SOURCE: Schrack's pension file, National Archives in Washington D.C., via fold3.com.
SOURCE: Fuller's widow's pension file in National Archives in Washington D.C., via fold3.com.
PRIVATE ROBERT TYLER, 38TH VIRGINIA LIGHT ARTILLERY -- Under cause of Tyler's death on an application for a widow's pension in 1914, 73-year-old Emily Tyler wrote: "Mashed and cut into pieces by the cars." Apparently returning to his regiment from a furlough, Tyler was struck and killed by a train near Fredericksburg, Va., in 1863. According to records, Private Tyler was AWOL in August 1862, and was listed as a deserter later in the war. His final resting place is unknown. Emily Tyler never re-married.
-- Submitted by descendant Lorraine Kish
SOURCE: National Archives, Washington D.C., via fold3.com.
PRIVATE PETER MONNEY (Or MOONEY), 57TH MASSACHUSETTS: Of the 15,243 Civil War soldiers buried in Fredericksburg (Va.) National Cemetery, only 2,474, about 16 percent, are identified. Count Pierre "Peter" Monney among the "fortunate" few.
|Marker in Fredericksburg (Va.) National Cemetery|
for Peter Mooney, a Swiss-born private
in the 57th Massachusetts.
Monney, who stood 5-10 and had a dark complexion, blue eyes and brown hair, was mustered into the 57th Massachusetts in February 1864. His service in the Union army was brief. During the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 12, 1864, he was shot in his right breast while the 57th Massachusetts supported the assault on the eastern side of the Mule Shoe salient, the regiment's first major fighting of the war. He died in a field hospital a day or two later.
Originally buried at Widow Alsop's farm, he was reinterred in Fredericksburg after the war.
-- Information submitted by descendant Sherrie Westmoreland.
SOURCE: American Civil War Research Database
|Found in Richard Morrell's widow's pension file, a record from the family Bible with the birthdates|
of his 10 children with his wife, Margaret. (National Archives via fold3.com)
Despite his family obligations, Morrell enlisted in the 108th New York as a private in July 1862 -- he was promoted to corporal later that month. Less than two months later, he marched through a farmer William Roulette's field with rest of the 108th New York en route to an assault on the Rebels' position in a sunken farm lane.
Sometime during the attack on Bloody Lane, a bullet or piece or artillery shell tore into Morrell's arm, which required two operations. He was taken to General William French's division hospital at Otho J. Smith's farm, less than a mile from the battlefield.
While Morrell recuperated there, a man from Rochester visited with the grievously injured soldier, whom he noted was in dire condition. "[He] is well cared for, but the Doct is much concerned about him," S.D. Porrter wrote Sept. 28 in the one-page note, presumably to Margaret. "He may recover, but you must be prepared for bad news."
The bad news came in a short note to Morrell's wife dated Oct. 14, 1862, from Bolivar Heights, Va., and signed by two 108th New York officers:
"Dear Madam, I take this opportunity to inform you of the death of your husband. He died on or about the 4th day of this month after having his arm amputated twice. Once at the elbow and again at the shoulder. He seemed to be getting along well when lockjaw set in and after intense suffering [of] three days died. His remains were neatly draped and he was buried at Sharpsburg, Maryland. His personal effects I will forward to you by Express tomorrow. Anything further in regard to him will be cheerfully furnished by your obdt. svt. and sympathy in affliction."Although Morrell's final resting place is unknown, he may be buried among the thousands of other Union soldiers at Antietam National Cemetery.
may lie today. (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)
|Guttermuth's grave at|
Antietam National Cemetery.
His name is spelled Gutemuth
on the marker.
(Find A Grave)
A married father of 2-year-old son named Hermann and a 1-year-old son named Frederick, Guttermuth was buried beside his comrades, wrote 20th Massachusetts Captain George Macy, who added: "I am pained to lose so good a man -- he fought well always and did nobly in defense of his country." In 1870, Guttermuth's wife, Mary Mathilda, re-married.
SOURCE: Guttermuth's widow's pension file, National Archives, Washington, D.C. via fold3.com
COLONEL HUGH MCNEIL, 13TH PENNSYLVANIA RESERVES (BUCKTAILS) -- Nearly two months after the highly respected officer's death in the East Woods at Antietam on Sept. 16, 1862, a Pittsburgh newspaper published an unnamed soldier's account of the colonel's supposed feat of marksmanship at South Mountain:
|Colonel Hugh McNeil was killed|
in the East Woods at Antietam
on Sept. 16, 1862, the day
before major fighting there.
During the battle of South Mountain [Sept. 14, 1862] the rebels held a very strong position. They were posted in the mountain pass, and had infantry on the heights on every side. Our men were compelled to carry the place by story. The position seemed impregnable; large craggy rocks protected the enemy on every side, while our men were exposed to a galling fire.
A band of rebels occupied a ledge on the extreme right. As the Colonel approached with a few of his men, the unseen force poured upon them a volley. McNeil, on the instant, gave the command:
"Pour your fire upon those rocks!"
The Bucktails hesitated; it was not an order they had been accustomed to receive; they had always picked their men.
“Fire!” thundered the Colonel, “I tell you to fire at those rocks!”
The men obeyed. For some time an irregular fire was kept up, the Bucktails sheltering themselves as best they could behind trees and rocks. On a sudden McNeil caught sight of two rebels peering through an opening in the works to get an aim. The eyes of the men followed the commander and half-a-dozen rifles were leveled in that direction.
|Hugh McNeil's shattered gravestone|
in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y.
(Doug Nightingale Jr. | Find A Grave)
“Wait a minute,” said the Colonel, “I will try my hand. There is nothing like killing two birds with one stone.”
The two rebels were not in line, but one stood a little distance back of the other, while just in front of the foremost was a slanting rock. Col. McNeil seized a rifle, raised it, glanced a moment along the polished barrel; a report followed, and both the rebels disappeared. At that moment a loud cheer a little distance beyond rent the air.
“All is right now,” cried the Colonel; “Charge the rascals.”
The men sprang up among the rocks in an instant. The affrighted rebels turned to run, but encountered another body of Bucktails, and were obliged to surrender. Not a man of them escaped. Everyone saw the object of the Colonel’s order to fire at random among the rocks. He had sent the party around to their rear, and meant this to attract their attention. It was a perfect success.
The two rebels by the opening in the ledge were found there lying stiff and cold. Col. McNeil’s bullet had struck the slanting rock, and passed through both their heads. Their it lay beside them, flattened. The Colonel picked it up and put it in his pocket.The body of the 32-year-old commander of the famed Bucktails was transported to New York for burial in Auburn, where he lived before the war.
SOURCE: The Daily Pittsburgh Gazette, Dec. 8, 1862.
|A tintype of Henry Pearson atop his gravestone in Fredericksburg, Va.|