Saturday, December 03, 2011

Antietam death: Private John Bingham's grave

The Bingham brothers: Wells and John
served in Company H in the 16th Connecticut.
John, only 18 when he was killed at Antietam,
 is probably the one on the right. (Photos courtesy
 of Military and Historical Image Bank)

A farmer from East Haddam, Conn., Elisha Bingham undoubtedly had high hopes for his nine sons. Perhaps he planned to turn over running the family farm to one of them after he and his second wife, Martha, were incapable of handling those arduous duties.

Like most parents, the Binghams surely didn't want to outlive their children, who ranged in age from 1 to 22 when the Civil War erupted on April 12, 1861. (1) But the plans of many Connecticut families were altered by the war. Six of the Bingham's sons -- Alonzo, Charles, William, Eliphalet, John and Wells -- eventually joined the Union army. Tragically, two of them died during the conflict: 17-year-old John at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862 and 21-year-old Eliphalet in Virginia on May 1, 1864.

John and Eliphalet are buried side-by-side in East Haddam's Little Church Cemetery, a short distance from the beautiful First Church of Christ. Perhaps that's where both of the Bingham brothers' funeral services were held nearly 150 years ago. (This morning I visited the church and cemetery, where I shot the video above.)

Close-up of a flag on John Bingham's
well-worn gravestone.
Last Saturday, I told the story of John and his brother, Wells, who was barely 16 years old when he enlisted. The brothers were mustered into Company H of the 16th Connecticut on Aug. 24 1862. Less than a month later, they found themselves in farmer John Otto's 40-acre cornfield at Antietam, undoubtedly scared out of their minds. Company H was employed as videttes to look out for the enemy. (2) But John, Wells and the rest of their rookie regiment were overwhelmed by A.P. Hill's veteran soldiers, who smacked into their left flank unobserved that afternoon after marching 17 miles from Harper's Ferry. John was killed sometime during the fight.

Two days after the battle, soldiers of the 16th Connecticut were assigned to gather and bury the dead. John Bingham's broken body might have been among them. "This was a very unpleasant duty, making many of the men sick," according to a post-war history of the 16th Connecticut. (3) "Forty of the men were buried that afternoon side by side, under a large tree, near the stonewall, where the hardest of the battle was fought."

Because John was only a private, the Binghams probably had to arrange for the return of their son's remains to East Haddam, a small town about 30 miles south of Hartford. Twenty-one months later, the Binghams probably went through that awful duty again after Eliphalet died in Virginia from a cause I have not been able to establish.

Outliving John and Eliphalet by nearly 20 years, Elisha Bingham died on June 19, 1882 at age 67. He's buried to the left of his sons in Little Church Cemetery.

(1) Some Account Of The Cone Family in America: Principally Of The Descendants, William Whitney Cone, 1903, Page 111
(2) History of the Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers, B.F. Blakeslee, 1875
(3) Ibid.
The grave of Private John Bingham of the 16th Connecticut (center)  in First Church
Cemetery in East Haddam, Conn. 
John's brother, Eliphalet, is buried at right. The
grave of his mother, Martha, is at left. Eliphalet served in the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery.
Another view of John Bingham's gravestone. The beautiful First Church of Christ, perhaps
the site of the funeral services for John and brother Eliphalet, is in the background.
The names of John and Eliphalet Bingham appear on this Civil War memorial on the Moodus Green
in East Haddam, about three miles from the graves of the brothers.

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