Saturday, January 21, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: Robert Hubbard

"I feel I never could forgive myself if this government should be overthrown,"
Robert Hubbard, a private in the 14th Connecticut,  wrote his brother on Aug. 13, 1862.
Hubbard was killed at Antietam about a month later.  (Photo: Middlesex Historical Society)

Sifting through donated documents originally thought to be worthless, curators at the Middletown (Conn.) library more than a century ago discovered a letter from a young Civil War soldier to his brother.

On April 13, 1898, the Middletown (Conn.) Penny Press
reported the discovery of a moving letter
from a Civil War soldier to his brother.  The
current whereabouts of the letter are unknown.
The letter, a reporter for the Middletown Penny Press wrote on April 13, 1898, "should fire the hearts of the younger generation of today with patriotic fire."

Convinced that the cause of  his nation was just, the soldier in Company B of the 14th Connecticut Infantry explained why he enlisted in the Union army a week earlier.

"My mind was made up to take this step," the private wrote on Aug. 13, 1862, "after hearing the President's order for a draft of 300,000 soldiers. A company was nearly full in Middletown at the time and there were several of my acquaintances in it, and everyone says that it is the best, or one of the best, companies that has been raised."

"I don't know if I feel quite as belligerent as I did when the war first broke out, but the time seems to have arrived when everyone who can must leave the plow in the furrow as old Putnum did and go to the battlefield. The prospect is not a very pleasant one, all things considered. The swamps of the Chickahominy and the guerillas of Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, not to mention the great Rebel army in the field, are ugly things to look at, and the hardships of a soldier's life I can imagine better than many.

"But necessity is laid upon the young men of the nation, and woe is them if they preserve not the inheritance of their fathers. I am becoming convinced that the secession leaders mean to conquer this nation if the nation does not conquer them, and Oh! Freedom, how can we give that up?"

Close-up of Private Robert Hubbard's marker at
New Farm Hill Cemetery in
Middletown, Conn.
The man concluded his letter to his brother Josiah with these words:

"I feel as if I could not forgive myself if this government should be overthrown and I had no weapon in its defense."

A little more than a month later, letter writer Robert Hubbard, an adventurous spirit from Middletown, was killed at Antietam, one of many soldiers from the state who died on the bloodiest day in American history. Hubbard, who sought his fortune in California during the gold rush of the 1850s, died on William Roulette's farm, "shot by the careless handling of a rifle by a member of his own company" during the chaos of battle. (1)

Afterward, Hubbard apparently was buried near the corn crib by Roulette's barn, one of at least 700 soldiers from both sides buried on the farmer's property.

Weeks after his death, Hubbard's family back in Middletown contacted Roulette about arranging for the return of their loved one's body to Connecticut for re-burial. Roulette, whose property was ruined during the battle, suffered his own tragedy in the weeks after Antietam. His 20-month-old daughter Carrie May, who was just learning how to talk, died of typhoid fever, perhaps spread by the many wounded soldiers cared for in the Sharpsburg, Md., area.

Robert Hubbard, a private in the 14th Connecticut who was killed at Antietam, may
have been buried near the corn crib of the barn on  William Roulette's farm.
Longtime Civil War relic hunter Richard Clem of Hagerstown, Md. discovered a letter Roulette wrote the Hubbards on New Year's Eve 1862:

Dear Friends
I have received your draft of $70.00 and have forwarded the remains of your brother by express as you expressed by the dispatch. I did not buy the coffin from the undertaker as I wrote to you. I bought it from the cabinet maker at first cost which saved $15.00 for practically the same kind of coffin. The freight by express was $30.00, the dispatch was $1.15 for disinterring the body and delivering it to the depot at Hagerstown the distance of 13-miles making all the expense $55.00 and I enclose your $15.00 makes in all.

Hubbard, killed by friendly fire at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, was
re-buried in this cemetery in Middletown, Conn., on Jan. 6, 1863.
Added Roulette:

"Allow me to introduce to you my family, wife and 5 children, 2 girls and 3 boys of which the oldest Ann Elizabeth 13-years-old. Our youngest died since the battle -- a charming little girl 20-months-old Carrie May just beginning to talk. The battle caused considerable destruction of property here. My nearest neighbor [Samuel Mumma] lost his house and barn to fire. I lost valuable horses, some sheep and hogs. Please write as soon as you receive this and inform me whether all is right."

On Jan. 2, 1863, Hubbard's body arrived in Middletown and four days later, a funeral service was held at North Church at 10 a.m. After a scripture was read and "a beautiful piece was sung by the choir, Reverend Taylor spoke of "war as often a necessity." (2)

"The deceased left the peaceful avocations in which he had been engaged for the life of a soldier," the Middletown Constitution reported. "He went because he believed he ought to go, and he met his death as a brave man only can."

At 11:30 a.m., Hubbard's coffin was placed into a hearse and escorted by the Mansfield Guard, a local militia group, the short distance down Main Street to New Farm Hill Cemetery. The son of the late Josiah M. Hubbard was laid to rest in a family plot.

On the 12-foot brownstone marker below Hubbard's name are these still-legible words:

"For whoever will save his life shall lose it and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall save it."

Robert Hubbard was 31 years, 5 months old when he died.

(1) History of the 14th Regiment, Connecticut Vol. Infantry, Charles D. Page, 1906 , Page 44

(2) Middletown Constitution, Jan. 6, 1863

Robert Hubbard is buried in a family plot that includes his brother, Josiah,
who served in the 11th Kansas Cavalry. Josiah survived the war.

Crossed swords and a shield adorn Robert Hubbard's marker.


  1. John, another great story. I have an albumen of this same image in my collection!

    1. Sometime after the war, the GAR post in Middletown went to all the homes of soldiers who died during the Civil War seeking images ... copies were made and the result of that collection is an old album with 39 photos. It's now at Middlesex Historical Society. I was looking at it Wednesday...and I snapped the shot of the image of Hubbar above. I 'll post something on that book down the road. It's a very neat deal.