Thursday, May 28, 2020

Grievously wounded at Fredericksburg, vet has face 'restored'

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On Dec. 13, 1862, Private Oliver Dart of the 14th Connecticut was grievously wounded in the face by a piece of artillery shell at the Battle of Fredericksburg. When another soldier in his regiment saw Dart's wounds, he was aghast. "Poor Oliver Dart," he said. "As he rolled over he looked as though his whole face was shot away."
A circa-1866 image of Oliver Dart with a
bushy beard and mustache. (Image courtesy of
Dart descendant Frank Niederwerfer)

Months later, Dart somehow had the fortitude to have his image shot in a studio in Hartford -- perhaps evidence for his pension claim. Dart, whom I wrote about in the February 2018 issue of Civil War Times, endured surgeries on his face, and he eventually grew a beard in an effort to cover up his grievous wounds.

"In time he recovered," a post-war account noted, "though the wound was always visible and in later years his mind was somewhat affected, undoubtedly due to the shock and the suffering that ensued from the injury." In the summer of 1879, Dart died of consumption at age 40.

Several years ago, Dart's Connecticut descendant, Frank Niederwerfer, was thrilled to receive a copy of an 1863 image of Oliver discovered by his friend Allen Crane in the National Archives. And recently, sketch artist Doug Fortin drew an image of what Oliver might have looked like without the wound.

"... my pard Dan Hayden came to my house with a huge surprise," Niederwerfer wrote on Facebook. "He had a friend reconstruct my great-great uncle Oliver's face using two other pictures of Oliver (1863 wound picture and post-war picture) and his older brother's picture. This picture helps complete Oliver's legacy. ... I have had a crazy connection to Oliver for 40+ years and to have this collection of pictures is very special."

Frank Niederwerfer, descendant of Oliver Dart, holds an image of the 14th Connecticiut private at the
 site of the old Rowe house in Fredericksburg, Va. Dart was cared for at the divisional hospital there.

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-- Dart family history.
-- Oliver Dart pension file, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
-- Page, Charles Davis, History of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, Meriden, Conn.: The Horton Printing Co., 1906.

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