Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Antietam: Connecticut's Civil War sacrifice

Each number on map corresponds to a story below of a soldier who was killed or
mortally wounded at Antietam. All but two soldiers below have known markers in
cemeteries in Connecticut. 4. Robert Hubbard: New Farm Hill Cemetery, Middletown;
6. John Doolittle, Miner Cemetery, Middletown; 13: Marvin Wait, Yantic Cemetery, Norwich.
As the Army of the Potomac approached Sharpsburg, Md., two days before the Battle of Antietam, Samuel Willard, a captain in Company G of the 14th Connecticut, added an entry in his journal. The 39-year-old from Madison, near Long Island Sound, had embraced religion less than a decade before the great battle.

Civil War memorial in West Cemetery in Madison.
Captain Samuel Willard's marker is nearby.
"These may be my last words; if so, they are these: I have full faith in Jesus Christ my Saviour," he wrote. "I do not regret that I have fallen in defence of my country; I have loved you truly and know that you have loved me, and in leaving this world of sin I go to another and better one, where I am confident I shall meet you. I freely forgive all my enemies, and ask them for Christ's sake to forgive me. If my body should ever reach home, let there be no ceremony; I ask no higher honor than to die for my country -- lay me silently in the grave, imitate my virtues, and forgive all my errors.

"I prefer death in the cause of my country, to life in sympathy with its enemies." (1)

Willard's words were indeed prophetic: On that awful Wednesday nearly 150 years ago, he was one of two captains in the 14th Connecticut killed at Antietam. His remains were returned to Madison, where he is buried near a large, white memorial marker in West Cemetery. Etched in the left side of the marker is an excerpt from his moving journal entry.

Willard's final resting place is just one of scores of gravesites of Connecticut soldiers who died or were mortally wounded at Antietam within easy driving distance from my home in suburban Hartford. From Chaplin in the west to Bristol in the east, men from the 8th, 11th, 14th and 16th Connecticut regiments gave their lives to the cause.

Below are short vignettes of 20 of those men; 18 of them have markers that I have visited over the past three months. Before the war, one was a professor. Several were farmers. Another was a ropemaker, and one was a businessman/adventurer who quickly returned from Hawaii to enlist in the Union army in 1861. Another was a student at a Connecticut university. One young man hoped to practice law, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Four were only teen-agers.

Tragically, their world and the world of their families changed dramatically on Sept. 17, 1862.

"It is seldom that we are called upon to bury so many braves in so short a space of time," the Hartford Courant reported nearly a month after Antietam. Here are the ugly, final results.

The marker for Captain Samuel Willard of the 14th Connecticut in West Cemetery in 
Madison, Conn. A stirring excerpt (right) from one of Willard's final journal entries is
 etched on the side of the marker.
1. Private Alvin Flint, 11th Connecticut (Center Cemetery, East Hartford): Only 17 years old, Alvin joined the 11th Connecticut as a private on Oct. 1, 1861. Less than a year later, he was dead, killed in the attack near Burnside Bridge.

The loss was no doubt excruciating for 53-year-old Alvin Flint Sr., who had enlisted in the 21st Connecticut along with his 13-year-old son, George, in August 1862. In the winter of 1861-62, Alvin Flint Sr.'s wife and daughter died of consumption in East Hartford.

"Hardly had the sadness of the death of a dear daughter, that I had lost last January, worn off when this sad, sad calamity should come upon me," he lamented in a letter published in the Hartford Courant on Oct. 29, 1862. Tragedy again visited the Flint family. Check out my video below to find out.

2. Captain Jarvis Blinn, 14th Connecticut (Center Cemetery, Rocky Hill):  Barely a month after he enlisted in the Union army, Blinn -- a man who had an "expression of quiet but earnest resolve tinged with a dash of sadness in his air" -- was one of 38 men killed and mortally wounded in the 14th Connecticut at Antietam. Moments after he was shot through the heart, the 26-year-old captain shouted: "I am a dead man!"

A Hartford undertaker named W.W. Roberts brought Blinn and the bodies of seven other soldiers killed at Antietam back to Connecticut in the second week of  October 1862. His funeral was held at Center Church in New Britain on Oct. 14, 1862. Afterward, his body was escorted to Rocky Hill, about 10 miles away, in "one of the largest processions ever seen" in New Britain. He is buried near the back of Center Cemetery.

A decorative wrought-iron angel on the fence 
around the gravesite of Sergeant 
Wadsworth Washburn
at Denison Cemetery in Berlin, Conn.
3. Sergeant Wadsworth Washburn, 16th Connecticut (Denison Cemetery, Berlin): Washburn's father traveled to the battlefield to retrieve the body of his son, an orderly sergeant who was probably killed in farmer John Otto's field. After a funeral service at Berlin's Congregational Church, Washburn was buried in Denison Cemetery, now located in a residential area. His gravesite is surrounded by a beautiful ornamental wrought-iron fence.

4. Private Robert Hubbard, 14th Connecticut (New Farm Hill Cemetery, Middletown): A 31-year-old private in Company B of the 14th Connecticut, Hubbard was one of at least two soldiers in the regiment killed by friendly fire on William Roulette's farm. Nearly a month before his death, he wrote an impassioned letter to his brother.

"Must it be written that 360,000 slaveholders wielded such influence and power," he wrote Josiah Hubbard. "as to destroy a government which can place a million armed men in the field, and which has conferred greater blessing on its citizens than any other that has ever existed since the days when God was the direct ruler over His own peculiar people."

"I feel as if I could not forgive myself," Robert concluded in the letter, "if this government should be overthrown and I had no weapon in its defense."
5. Lieutenant George Crosby, 14th Connecticut (Union Hill Cemetery, East Hampton): A student at Wesleyan University in Middletown before the war, the 2nd lieutenant in the 14th Connecticut Infantry was mortally wounded at Antietam barely a month after he enlisted. Thirty-seven days later, Crosby, not quite 20 years old, died at home in Middle Haddam.

"From the beginning of the battle till he received his death wound, he fought nobly, encouraging his men and leading them on," the Middletown Constitution reported on Oct. 29, 1862. "And for a half hour after he was wounded, while he lay helpless on the ground, without regarding his own condition, he kept constantly exhorting his comrades to do their duty."

His funeral service at Middle Haddam's Episcopal Church was described at the time as "one of the largest funerals ever attended in that place."
My shadow eerily hovers near the markers
 for  George Crosby in Union Hill Cemetery
 in East Hampton, Conn.

6. Private John Doolittle, 8th Connecticut (Miner Cemetery, Middletown): As the 8th Connecticut made a futile push on the Union left flank at Antietam, it was struck on three sides near Harpers Ferry Road. Wounded in the knee, Doolittle was treated at a Sharpsburg-area field hospital but died on Oct. 10, 1862. The final resting place of the 22-year-old soldier is in Middletown's Miner Cemetery, near a large brownstone marker memorial for his other family members

7. Captain Samuel Willard, 14th Connecticut (West Cemetery, Madison): In the last entry in his journal, dated the morning of Sept. 17, Willard wrote: “I pray God we may be successful, and that you may see me again ...

After his death, Willard's body was taken to nearby Keedysville, and then sent to Madison, where a service was held in the Congregational Church.  He was buried in West Cemetery six days after the battle.  (2)

On the front of his well-designed white marker are these words:

"He fell asleep in Jesus on the battlefield of Antietam, Md." 

8. Captain John Griswold, 11th Connecticut (Griswold Cemetery, Old Lyme): Under fire from the bluffs above,  the 25-year-old captain from Lyme boldly led a group of skirmishers across the 4-foot deep creek Antietam Creek on Sept. 17, 1862.

"In the middle of the creek a ball penetrated his body," Griswold's friend, Dr. Nathan Mayer of the 11th Connecticut, wrote in a letter from Sharpsburg to his brother on Sept. 29, 1862. "He reached the opposite side and lay down to die." Griswold, who hurriedly returned to the mainland from Hawaii to enlist in the Union army in 1861, died the next day.

He is buried in a small private cemetery in Old Lyme (see video below) under a beautifully carved 8-foot gray marker. Near the bottom of the memorial are these words:

"Tell my mother I died at the head of my company."

9. Private John Bingham, 16th Connecticut (First Church Cemetery, East Haddam): Only 17,  Bingham was killed at Antietam a little more than a month after he enlisted. Younger brother Wells, also a private in Company H of the 16th Connecticut, apparently survived Antietam physically unscathed, but the memory of that terrible day was probably seared into the 16-year-old boy soldier's brain the rest of his life.

Three other Bingham brothers served during the Civil War, including Eliphalet, who died May 1, 1864 at Arlington Heights, Va. John and Eliphalet are buried at First Church Cemetery in East Haddam, about 50 miles southwest of Hartford. Apparently upset over a failing business, Wells committed suicide in 1904.

Close-up of weathered flag on the gravestone of
 S. Franklin Prior  of the 16th Connecticut at 
Town Street Cemetery in East Windsor.
10. Corporal S. Franklin Prior, 16th Connecticut (Town Street Cemetery, East Windsor):  The 16th Connecticut paid a terrible price at Antietam, its first battle of the war. Out of 779 men, the rookie regiment lost 161 wounded, 204 captured or missing and 43 killed, including Prior of Company B. Some of those killed never even fired a shot, and many of the survivors never got over the carnage at Antietam.

Hartford undertaker W.W. Roberts, who retrieved Captain Jarvis Blinn's remains from Maryland (see story above), also brought back Prior's body in early October, according to a report in the Hartford Courant on Oct. 11, 1862.

Prior left behind a wife, Emily, and two young children, Ella and Charles.

(Once probably surrounded by countryside, the cemetery where Prior is buried is now surrounded by suburbia, including a shopping center and a busy two-lane highway. There's no safe place to park at the cemetery, so I parked across the highway at a pizza joint.)

11. Privates Henry and Samuel Talcott, 14th Connecticut (Center Cemetery, Coventry): A private in Company D of the 14th Connecticut, 26-year-old Henry Talcott was wounded when an artillery shell burst near a wall in the lane leading up to William Roulette's farmhouse, wounding three other men and killing three in his company. Samuel, Henry's 20-year-old brother, also was severely wounded at Antietam; he lingered for several weeks before he died on Oct. 14, 1862.

 "After the services the congregation viewed the remains," the Hartford Courant reported on Oct. 27, 1862, "and the sad procession slowly wended its way to the cemetery. The flag draped in black was borne by the members of the Sunday School Class of Talcott, to whom he was strongly attached."

Like his brother, Henry also lingered for several weeks before he died on Nov. 10. He is buried to the right of his brother in the family plot in Center Cemetery in his hometown of Coventry, about 25 miles west of Hartford. (See video below for more about the Talcott brothers and George Corbit, another soldier from Company D of the 14th Connecticut, who also was mortally wounded at Antietam.)

12. Sergeant Charles E. Lewis, 8th Connecticut (Carey Cemetery, Canterbury): A sergeant in Company F, Charles Lewis -- described as a man who "had always fought in the front ranks" -- was killed  near Harpers Ferry Road as the 8th was struck on three sides. Lewis' fiancee, 21-year-old Sarah Hyde, died nearly a month later, on Oct. 16, 1862, and is buried next to Charles at Carey Cemetery in Canterbury.

 "They had been brought up together in life, in death they were not divided," the Hartford Courant reported on Oct. 24, 1862,  "and together they sleep the last sleep." 

Marvin Wait's marker in Yantic Cemetery in 
Norwich, Conn. Wait was only 19 years old when he
 was killed at Antietam.
13. Lieutenant Marvin Wait, 8th Connecticut: (Yantic Cemetery, Norwich): 
A "brave, noble-hearted man and highly esteemed by all who knew him," Wait was killed late in the afternoon as the Ninth Corps made an ill-fated push toward Sharpsburg. Like George Crosby of the 14th Connecticut, Wait was only 19 years old.

"If Lieutenant Wait had left the battle of his own accord when first hit in the arm, all would have been well," Captain Charles Coit, also of Norwich, wrote after the battle, "but he bravely stood to encourage his men still further by his own example."

From a prominent Norwich family, Wait had an large funeral that was attended by the governor and other dignataries. The young man who planned to become a lawyer is buried under a beautiful white marker that includes the word "Antietam" in raised letters on the front.

14. Corporal John Holwell, 11th Connecticut (Final resting place unknown; hometown: Norwich): In his letters home during the Civil War, this soldier in Company H often mentioned his children.

"Kiss Edward and Henry for me and I hope they will be good boys," Holwell wrote his wife, Rebecca, in one letter "... I will bring them a handsome present when I come home."

"Your dagerreotype and the children's look very natural and I was very glad to receive them. ..." he wrote in another. "I hope little Eddy will keep on going to school and be smart. The men down here all like his picture and praise it up highly."

A ropemaker before the war, Holwell was probably killed near Burnside Bridge. His final resting place is unknown.
Buried in his hometown of Simsbury, 
Private Oliver Case
was only 22 years old when he died.

15. Private Oliver Case, 8th Connecticut, (Simsbury Cemetery, Simsbury): A day after the battle, Alonzo Case discovered his brother's body on the field. It was a gruesome sight.

"He was no doubt killed instantly the bullet having passed through his head just about the top of his ears," wrote Alonzo, a first sergeant in the 16th Connecticut. "We wrapped him in my blanket and carried him to the spot where the 16th dead were to be buried having first got permission from the Colonel of the Eighth and the 16th to do so.

"The 16th men were buried side by side in a trench and they dug a grave about 6 [feet] from them and we deposited the remains of my brother and that having first pinned a paper with his name and age on the inside of the blanket. Then they put up boards to teach with name and Regiment on them. His body lay there until December when father went there and brought the body to Simsbury where it now lies to mingle with the sole of his native town."

Case's final resting place is high atop the hill in Simsbury Cemetery, near the grave of his parents.

16. Private Martin Wadhams, 8th Connecticut: (Final resting place unknown; hometown: Canton): Wadhams' body was identified on the field two days after the battle, following the rebels' retreat into Virginia.

8th Connecticut monument at Antietam.
(Photo: Randy Buchman, Enfilading Lines blog)
In a letter excerpted on this excellent 8th Connecticut Infantry site, Wolcott P. Marsh described the horrific scene where the Federals suffered hundreds of casualties.

"About 9 o'clock A.M. Friday we were ordered across the bridge and on to the field where the battle of Wednesday was," the captain in the 8th Connecticut wrote nine days after the battle. "The rebels having skedadled the night before and our forces were then following them up capturing many of their rear guard. We stacked arms and details were sent from different to pick up the dead so that could be buried together. I went up where our regit. was engaged and there what a sight. 30 men from our regit. alone lay dead in a little field and near by was 42 Zouaves (9th N. Y.) and many more from other regit.

"The first man I came to of my company was Charles E. Louis my acting orderly. (editor's note: probably Charles E. Lewis.) Then Corp. Truck my color corporal and close by them lay Dwight Carry, Herbert Nee, Horace Rouse and Mr. Sweet all of my company then passing on to Co. A. were the body's of Oliver Case, Orton Lord, Martin Wadhams and Lucius Wheeler then to Co. K. saw Jack Simons body the only one whose name remember had all body's brought from hill down by several straw stacks."

The out-of-the-way marker of  Private William Hall of the 11th Connecticut in the interestingly
named Bedlam Road Cemetery in Chaplin, Conn., about 50 miles east of  Hartford.
17. Private William Hall, 11th Connecticut, (Bedlam Cemetery, Chaplin): Serving in Company H with John Holwell (see above), Hall probably was killed in the assault on Burnside Bridge. Hall's post-war marker, tucked off to the side near an overgrown bush in a tiny old cemetery, looks lonely. It's unclear whether Hall is actually buried at Bedlam Road Cemetery or elsewhere.

18. Captain Newton Manross, 16th Connecticut (Forestville Cemetery, Bristol):  A professor before the war, Manross was another of the unfortunate victims in this hard-luck regiment. A graduate of Yale, Manross was named acting professor of chemistry and botany at Amherst (Mass.) College shortly before entering the service.

"He was a man of great promise in science and rare nobility of character," an 1873 history of Amherst College noted. "A great favorite with officers and students, he stood up boldly for the Christian faith, and used all his influence for the highest good of the students and the prosperity of the Institution." (3)

After the war, surviving members of Company K of the 16th Connecticut placed a large brownstone memorial in Manross' memory near his grave in Bristol. Sadly, the marker is deterioriating and badly needs to be repaired.

A contemporary gravestone for Captain Newton Manross of the 16th Connecticut in
Forestville Cemetery
in Bristol. Badly in need of repair, a memorial obelisk placed by survivors of
Company K of  the 16th Connecticut is nearby. The brownstone monument (right) is separating.
19. Sergeant Orville Campbell, 16th Connecticut (Fairview Cemetery, New Britain): Like Alvin Flint, Marvin Wait, John Bingham and George Crosby (see above), Campbell was just a teenager when he was killed at Antietam. The orderly sergeant's tall brownstone obelisk reads:

Was Killed while Bravely Defending the National Flag in the battle of Antietam Sept 17 1862 at the age of 19."

Close-up of Orville Campbell's marker at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain.
20. General Joseph Mansfield (Indian Hill Cemetery, Middletown): Mortally wounded near the East Woods, Mansfield is one of 110 soldiers with ties to Middletown, Conn., who died during the Civil War. His death was a huge shock to Connecticut, and his funeral in Middletown was one of the largest of the war.

"Flags were displayed at half mast," the Middletown Constitution reported on Sept. 24, 1862. "Many of the stores, public buildings, and some private dwellings were appropriately draped for the occasion. The Young Ladies' Seminary in Broad Street, which was under the especial patronage of General Mansfield and was founded by his liberality, was dressed in a most beautiful and becoming manner. During the passage of the procession the bells were tolled, and minute guns were fired. The funeral services at the grave were concluded at sundown."

(1) Memorial of Deceased Officers of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, Henry P.Goddard, 1872, Pages 8-9

2) Ibid.

(3) History of Amherst College During Its First Half Century, 1821-1871, W. S. Tyler, 1873, Page 44


  1. Great post and hard research!

    I especially admire the courage of Capt. Willard..."I prefer death in the cause of my country, to life in sympathy with its enemies."

    Oh, to have more of that boldness today!

    Keep up the great work!

  2. There is no other place to go other than your site to discover the real toll the Civil War took on the lives of Connecticut families. This not mere statistics. You recreate the emotions of the times.