Tuesday, September 12, 2017

'Great cause for thankfulness': Antietam soldiers to remember

An image of  Raphael Ward Benton, mortally wounded at Antietam, in an unusual
mourning display that includes human hair. (Pat Lovelace | The Guilford Keeping Society)

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On the small village green in rural Northfield, Conn., one of the oldest Civil War monuments in the country honors soldiers from the area who gave the last full measure. Almost impossible to miss, the word "Lincoln" is spelled out in large raised letters on the south side of the brownstone memorial, dedicated in 1866. But it's a much smaller inscription, above the name of 16th U.S. president, that always catches my eye: "That The Generations To Come Might Know Them." In that spirit, let's remember these soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862.


After Benton suffered a bullet wound in the neck during fighting on William Roulette's farm, he was carried from the field and placed on a blanket. Apparently receiving little care, he later walked about a mile in search of medical aid before his strength gave out.  Still, he felt more fortunate than many. Two of his comrades in Company I -- privates Richard Hull and Edmund Field of Guilford  -- had died from their wounds.

Close-up of the intricately woven hair in the
mourning display for Raphael Ward Benton.
(Pat Lovelace | The Guilford Keeping Society)
The sights Benton witnessed on the battlefield were chilling.

"I can assure you," Benton wrote his wife, Hannah, the day of the battle, "I have seen all of the horrors of war that I ever wish to and I sincerely hope that it will soon be over." Although his wound bled profusely for awhile, he didn't think the injury was serious.

"I hope you will not be discouraged about me," the 41-year-old private wrote. "I am so much better off than hundreds of others. I feel great cause for thankfulness."

Added Benton: "Oh you don’t know the dreadful scenes we have passed through. The dead, the dying, and wounded are lying all around me, and I think may amount to thousands. Pray the Lord that this war may soon end."

Like hundreds of other Union wounded, Benton ended up in Frederick, Md., where he was cared for at General Hospital No. 1 -- the largest Federal hospital in town. Unless the neck wound bled again, Benton's condition did not seem "immediately dangerous," recalled 14th Connecticut Private Dudley of Guilford, who came to his comrade's aid in Frederick. Advised by a doctor to monitor his friend, Dudley rubbed linament on Benton and spent considerable time talking with him.

"Oh, Henry," Dudley recalled Benton saying, "you can't think how much better I feel. If you can stay with me I shall get along first rate." But early in the evening of Sept. 25, Benton's condition worsened, and as he faded, he grasped Dudley's hand. "I would speak to him," the 14th Connecticut soldier remembered, "and he would answer by a slight pressure of the hand." At 6 p.m., the farmer from Guilford died "without a struggle."

Raphael Ward Benton's grave in Alderbrook Cemetery
in Guilford, Conn. (Find A Grave)
"The Doctor says his death was probably caused by not being taken care of," Dudley wrote. "He was allowed to walk here from the Battlefield. The day he arrived here he had walked 8 miles and had lost so much blood that he was very weak …"

When Hannah's brother, a private in the 27th Connecticut, received word of his brother-in-law's death, he was so overcome that he couldn't continue a letter to his "afflicted sister." Three days later, he finished what he had started.

"I had never in imagination pictured you ... Sister Hannah with children demanding your constant care but 'Man's destiny is not under his own control,' " Alvin Rose wrote.

Relatives recovered Benton's body and took him back to Guilford, where he was buried in Alderbrook Cemetery.  In addition to his second wife Hannah, Benton was survived by three children: Arthur, 16; Wallace, 6, and Webster, 1.


-- Typed transcripts of Raphael Ward Benton letter to his wife (Sept. 17, 1862), 14th Connecticut Private Henry Dudley letter on news of Benton's death (Sept. 26, 1862) and 27th Connecticut Private Alvin Rose's condolence letter to his sister (Sept. 28, 1862), Guilford (Conn.) Free Public Library, accessed online Sept. 10, 2017.


"There was no music -- no ostentatious displays" at the funeral of Captain David C. Myers, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on Oct. 1, 1862.


In the thick of the fight for the Sunken Road, the 5th New Hampshire found inspiration from its colonel, Edward Cross, who, with a red silk handkerchief wrapped around his head, screamed, "Put on the war paint!"

"Taking the cue somehow," a soldier in the regiment recalled, "we rubbed the torn ends of cartridges over our faces, streaking them with powder like a pack of Indians and the Colonel, to complete the similarity, cried out, 'Give 'em the war whoop,'  and all of us joined him in the Indian war whoop until it must have rung out amid the thunder of the ordinance."

20-year-old Charles Bean's weather-beaten gravestone 
in Northwood, N.H. (Photo courtesy Sue Fetzer.)
Sometime during the savage fighting, Bean, who had been promoted to sergeant only a week earlier, fell wounded when a bullet smashed into his right thigh. The 20-year-old soldier from Northwood, N.H., was transported to a field hospital, then to Academy Hospital in Chambersburg, Pa. He lingered there until "the messenger of death bore him away from earth to that land where wars and fighting are unknown," according to a newspaper report. His died on Oct. 10 or Oct. 19, 1862.

In the account in The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper published in Boston, a friend, known only by the initials J.M.M, offered a touching tribute to Bean:

"He was a firm friend and school-chum of mine, at a seminary in a neighboring State, and I cannot refrain from paying his name and memory a passing notice. His life was a model one, and his character pure, without a stain. A firm friend of the slave, he saw in this grand uprising a hope for the 'victim race'; and if his life was to be offered up in their behalf, and to sustain a free government, then he was ready to make that sacrifice. 

"He was a true soldier, loved, honored and trusted, and when he fell, it was on a hard-contested field, with the glad shout of victory almost ringing in his ears. His comrades mourn that they shall hear no more that voice ..."
Bean's remains were transported back to New Hampshire, where he was buried in Northwood Ridge Cemetery.

"A life so willingly given as a sacrifice for the liberties of his beloved land should be remembered by the nation's historian," J.M.M poignantly wrote. "May God comfort the beareaved parents, brothers and sister of the deceased, in this the hour of their affliction!"


-- Livermore, Thomas L., Days and Events 1860-1866, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1920.
-- The Liberator, Boston, Mass. Nov. 21, 1862.


Private Lewis Briner of the 128th Pennsylvania and Captain Florentine H. Straub of the 3rd Pennsylvania Reserves were killed in action. Sergeant William C. Eben of the 128th Pennsylvania was mortally wounded, dying on Sept. 20. Only 17, Private Henry Haberacker of the 128th Pennsylvania was also killed in action. Obituary from Reading Times on Sept. 27, 1862. (Click on links for more on Find A Grave.)


While defending the Sunken Road, every officer in the 4th Regiment North Carolina State Troops was either killed or wounded. Among the casualties was regimental commander William T. Marsh, a wealthy farmer and lawyer, who, in 1861, strongly advocated that his state remain in the Union. Shot in the chest, the 32-year-old captain was taken to the house of a man named McQuilton, near Shepherdstown, Va., where “…he was kindly nursed and cared for.”

William T. Marsh's ornate memorial in
the Marsh family cemetery in Bath, N.C.

 He was re-buried here in 1867. 
(Photo courtesy Ray Gurganus)
Marsh died there on Sept. 24.

By early October, news of his death had reached North Carolina, where Marsh – the “heroic captain,” according to Major General D.H. Hill’s Antietam after-action report -- had served in the state legislature.

“We saw his servant on Saturday last, who showed us Capt. M's watch, which was struck by the bullet that caused his death,” a Raleigh, N.C., newspaper reported. “The watch is a small gold one, and was in his over-shirt pocket on his left breast. The ball struck the lower part of the watch, crushed and bent it, and passed into his body.”

Marsh’s roots in the North were nearly as strong as his ties to the South. His grandfather was a native of Rhode Island, and after his mother died in 1843, Marsh was sent to the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Conn. He went on to attend Yale, earning a law degree in 1851. After graduation, he returned to Washington, N.C., where he practiced law, and he eventually expanded his business into neighboring counties.

Hoping to keep North Carolina in the Union, Marsh made speeches in the state legislature and “by skillfully using other parliamentary tactics delayed the passage of any secession resolution,” according to his Yale obituary.

“He was deeply interested,” the obituary also noted, “in the political questions of the time.” After President Lincoln called for North Carolina to furnish soldiers for the Union army, Marsh cast his lot with the Confederacy, raising a company of 80 soldiers.

In 1867, Marsh’s remains were disinterred near Shepherdstown and re-buried in the family cemetery in Bath, N.C. A lengthy inscription on his tall, marble memorial there recaps his life.  “He breathed his last eight days … in the home of strangers,” it ends, “who yet soothed his final hours with their sympathy and kindness.”


-- Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University, Yale University, 1910.
-- Semi-Weekly Standard, Raleigh, N.C., Oct. 7, 1862.
-- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 19, Part 1, U.S. War Department, 1889.


Mortally wounded near the Sunken Road, Private Jones was eulogized by "J.M.B." in the Natchez (Miss.) Daily Courier on Nov. 4, 1862. Jones is buried in Charles Town, W.Va. (formerly Virginia.)


155th Pennsylvania Private Erred Fowles and his wife, Martha. (ancestry.com)

As the 155th Pennsylvania neared Sharpsburg with the rest of the V Corps, Erred Fowles' mind may have drifted to his pregnant wife Martha and 1-year-old son William in tiny Callensburg, Pa.  While the battle raged, Fowles' regiment and the rest of the V Corps were held in reserve. But danger still lurked for the 29-year-old private in Company G.

Sometime the next evening,  as nervous pickets manned front lines in both armies, Fowles was shot accidentally through the back by another Pennsylvania soldier. The bullet passed through Fowles' lungs, lodging somewhere in his body and causing him immense pain for several days. Eight days after he was wounded, Fowles wrote Martha from a hospital near Boonsboro, Md.

Erred Fowles' gravestone in Antietam National Cemetery.
(Photo: Laura Van Alstyne Rowland)
"Dear Wife," the letter began, "thinking perhaps that you would like to hear from me." Fowles assured Martha his pain had subsided and that his brother, also a private in the 155th Pennsylvania, was aiding his recovery. He also told of the hard-fought battle at Antietam, one in which the Rebels suffered "double our loss."

"I hope that you will not grow uneasy about me," Fowles continued, "for I am doing as well as can be and have good care for brother William is with me taking care of me and as soon as I get well enough I am coming home and to be with you again. I do not want you to write until you hear from me again for a letter would not come through.

"I am now 10 miles from Middletown Md," he continued, "and as soon as we get moved I will write to you to let you know where we are moved to. As I do not think of any thing more that will interest you I will bring this letter to a close and write to you again in a few days."

In early October, Fowles took a turn for the worse -- an infection probably set in -- and he died on or about Oct. 6.  "The wound was of such serious character," his commanding officer wrote later that month, "that ... a severe illness caused his death."

Four days after Erred's death, Martha gave birth to a girl she named Ida. Fowles' body was disinterred after the war and re-buried in Antietam National Cemetery under Grave No. 3724.

Martha Fowles never re-married.


-- Erred Fowles widow's pension file, National Archives and Records Administration via fold3.com.
-- Fowles' letter to his wife, Sept. 25, 1862, copy transcribed by Antietam National Battlefield staff.

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