Friday, October 07, 2011

'Sad work': Connecticut dead at Antietam

Alvin Flint, 18, a private from East Hartford in the 11th Connecticut, was among those listed in the
 Hartford Courant as killed in action at Antietam.
On Sept. 27, 1862, the Hartford Courant printed on its front page the "official" list of dead, wounded and missing from the 8th, 11th and 16th Connecticut regiments at the battle of Antietam 10 days earlier.

Cemetery markers for Connecticut men killed
at Antietam: Alvin Flint (Center Cemetery,
East Hartford), Joseph Mansfield (Indian
Hills Cemetery, Middletown), Henry
Evans (West Avon Cemetery, Avon).
The list took up 25 inches of newsprint.

25 inches.

It included Alvin Flint, an 18-year-old private from East Hartford who died in the 11th Connecticut's attack at Burnside Bridge. (Less than four months later, his father and 13-year-old brother both died of disease while serving in the Union army.)

It also listed Corporal Solomon Allen of  East Windsor. Killed.

Sergeant Cyprian Rust of New Hartford. Killed.

Lieutenant-colonel Hiram Appleman of Groton. Badly wounded in the leg.

Private Austin Fuller of Farmington. Missing. (He later became a prisoner of war.)

Corporal Leonidas Barber of Stonington. "Dangerously" wounded in the head.

Private George S. Wilcox of Wallingford. Three fingers amputated.

Private Hiram Blakeslee of Southington. Wounded in both feet.

For families of soldiers back in Connecticut, the fate of their loved ones may have been known less than 10 days after the battle 360 miles away in Sharpsburg, Md. Still, the publication of this list must have been an incredibly painful jolt for many readers of the Hartford Courant.

For families of the dead, a trip to bring home the bodies of their sons, husbands or brothers must have been even more agonizing. Fortunately, some members of the Union army tried to ease their burden.

In a letter to the Hartford Courant published Sept. 30, 1862, First Lieutenant John Burnham of the 16th Connecticut provided a detailed description of where those killed in his regiment were buried so "friends at home shall have authentic information as soon as possible."

Burnham described how the bodies were arranged for burial, key landmarks near the gravesites and the placing of small headboards marked with the names and companies of the dead men.

Top, crude headboards mark graves of Union soldiers killed near Burnside Bridge, which appears
 in the background. Bottom., that's me at approximately the same spot as the Civil War soldier. The
tree in the background at extreme left was there during the battle. (Top photo: Library of Congress)

John Burnham
(Mollus Collection)
"I have been particular to mention the precise locality of each," Burnham wrote in the letter dated two days after the battle, "so that in the event of the signs being displaced by the elements or otherwise, they may be found; and I trust that anyone who comes to the spot will be very particular and disturb none but those of whom they are in search."

Added Burnham: "The collection of the bodies was conducted under my own personal supervision, and after the men had reported them all picked up I examined the whole field myself, so that I am confident none were left on the ground."

For Burnham, a Hartford resident, the memory of this onerous work must have remained with him the rest of his life.

"If any mortal was ever rejoiced at the completion of any task," he wrote in the letter to the newspaper, "it was myself when this sad work was over."
A list of Connecticut casualties at Antietam published on the front page of the
Hartford Courant on Sept. 27, 1862. The list continued elsewhere on the front page
and did not include casualties from the 14th Connecticut.

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