Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Captain to mother: 'Corpse will be sent to you ... by express.'

4th Vermont soldiers in Camp Griffin, Va., where Private Benjamin Stafford "breathed his last."
(George Harper Houghton | Library of Congress)

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In the middle of a letter to widow Laura Stafford regarding the rapidly declining health of her youngest child, a 4th Vermont private, the soldier's commanding officer received breaking news.

Marker for Benjamin Stafford and his
mother and father in Tabor Cemetery
in Mount Tabor, Vt. (Find A Grave)
"While I have been writing the last few words of the previous sentence," Captain John E. Pratt of Company A wrote from Camp Griffin, Va., "one of my officers informed me that Benjamin  had breathed his last." The cause of death was typhoid fever, a "very severe case." The date and time: Feb. 2, 1862, at 2 p.m.

The next day, Pratt planned to send the 25-year-old soldier's body from Washington via express to Vermont for burial. On March 17, 1862, the Rutland (Vt.) Daily Herald, under the headline "Tribute to a Faithful Soldier," printed an excerpt from Pratt's condolence letter to Mrs. Stafford.

"While you have lost a true and faithful son," the officer's short note read, "I have lost a noble soldier. No man in his company was more beloved by the officers, no man more cheerful and ready to do his duty."

Deep into the winter of 1862, Benjamin's remains arrived in Vermont, where he was buried in Tabor Cemetery in Mount Tabor.

(National Archives via fold3.com.)

North Dorset

Camp Griffin, Va.
Feb. 2, 1862

Mrs. Stafford

It is with feelings of great sadness that I now find myself obliged to write you of the severe illness of your son Benjamin Stafford. I am informed by the surgeons that it is impossible for him to live but a very short time. The disease is typhoid fever, a very severe case. I visited him at the hospital last evening. I found him eating his supper ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... feeling better, but this morning I find him very much worse. He does not recognize anyone. He has not been considered dangerous before to-day. He will not in all probability live through the day. I shall not be able to send this letter before tomorrow morning and will not seal it before that time and then state his condition.

Dear madam I beg leave to join you in your affliction. While you have lost a true and faithful son, I have lost a noble soldier. No man in his company was more beloved by the officers, no man more cheerful and ready to do his duty ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
...I never had an occasion to reprove him. No better soldier ever left the green hills of Vermont to fight the battles of his country. He has also been noticed and excused from duty as a mark of merit for the neatness of his person and equipment by the commander of the regiment. His death will be deeply felt by his comrades who all respect and love him.

While I have been writing the last few words of the previous sentence one of my officers informed me that Benjamin had breathed his last. May God sustain you through this hour of affliction. The corpse will be sent to you at North Dorset by express. ...

(National Archives via fold3.com)
... I shall have it sent from Washington tomorrow. You will please write in regards to the disposition of his effects. He probably has more money by him and there will more due him from government. Any assistance that I can lend you, you will inform me and it shall be done.

Benjamin died Sunday 2 o'clock P.M. Feb 2nd.

I remain very truly Obt.

J.E. Pratt
Capt - Co. A. 4th Vt.Regt.

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-- Benjamin Stafford pension file (WC10792), National Archives & Records Service, Washington, D.C. via fold3.com.

1 comment:

  1. A letter which was, I'm sure, extremely difficult to write and even more difficult to receive... Thank you, Mr. Banks, for sharing this...