Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Faces of the Civil War: Asa Sawyer

Asa Sawyer, a private in the 15th Maine, died of disease in Texas. He was 21 years old.

Asa Sawyer, a private in the 15th Maine Volunteer Infantry, served his country a long way from his home in Atkinson, Maine. He fought in the Battle of Pleasant Hill in the backcountry of Louisiana and served in Texas in such places as Brownsville and Rio Grande. A farmer, Sawyer never returned to Atkinson after enlisting in 1863. Like many Civil War soldiers, he died of disease -- in this case typhoid fever in Brazos De Santiago, Texas on Nov. 13, 1863. He was 21 years old.

Asa's family owned a small farm in Atkinson, but by 1863, it "was worn out and brought in little income. Personal property consisted one ordinary horse, two small cows. Sheep 10 to 12 at most and from two or three head of young stock." (1) At the time of his son's enlistment in 1863, John Sawyer was in ill health. "He could not perform more than one-third the work of an able-bodied man," according to a post-war document in Asa's file at the National Archives.

After Asa's death, his parents struggled. "[Betsy Sawyer] has had a hard time to support herself since the death of said son as her husband had been sick and feeble many years with scrofula, the disease which finally caused his death," according to Betsy's 1876 application for Asa's army pension. "The said son sent his money home to his parents for their support while in the Army..."

Inside the case of the 1/9-plate ambrotype of Asa in my collection, he wrote:

"With much love to mother, January 20, 1863."

(1) Information from pension application submitted by Asa Sawyer's parents found in in National Archives.

Inside the case that held his photo, Asa Sawyer wrote a note about
11 months before his death: "With much to love mother." 

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