|Private Henry D. Sexton of Canton, Conn. died of disease in Annapolis, Md. on Jan. 7, 1862.|
This is the marker for the 25-year-old soldier in Canton Center Cemetery.
Just three weeks earlier, the private in the 8th Connecticut and two other comrades from Canton, Conn. had written a note home to Sophronia Barber thanking her for sending mittens and stockings to help them keep warm during a harsh winter.
|Thank-you note Henry Sexton, Martin Wadhams and Issac Tuller of |
Canton, Conn. sent to Sophronia Barber on Dec. 16, 1861. Barber
had sent them clothes. All three soldiers were dead nine months
later. (Connecticut Historical Society Civil War Manuscripts Project)
A teacher before the Civil War, Sexton was quite busy in the fall and winter of 1861. Ten days after he enlisted in the Union army on Sept. 9, Henry married Eliza Barbour, also a teacher from Canton, a small town about 20 miles northwest of Hartford. Six days later, he was mustered into Company A of the 8th Connecticut. And by mid-October, Sexton and the 8th Connecticut left the state for Annapolis, where the regiment prepared for a move to North Carolina as part of Burnside's Expeditionary Force in early January.
Sometime during late December and early January, Sexton became seriously ill. Nearly 72,000 cases of jaundice, often caused by the lack of hygiene in camps, were reported by the Union army during the Civil War. (1)
|Henry Sexton was listed as a teacher in the 1860 U.S. census.|
"I thought that his mind wandered a little," his friend, Private Oliver Case of the 8th Connecticut, wrote in early January to his sister back in Simsbury, Conn. " I left him about two. In the morning, he was not conscious and repaired nearly all day in the stupid state." (Huge hat tip to John Rogers, who discovered Case's letters at the Simsbury Historical Society and regularly writes about Case's short life on his excellent blog.)
By Jan. 6, Sexton clearly was on his last legs.
|Henry Sexton's marker in Canton Center Cemetery. |
The soldier may be buried in an unmarked grave
in Annapolis, Md.
A lack of medical care on the ship appalled Case, who noted: "I never saw anything so horrible in my life."
Upon receiving word that her husband was deathly ill, Eliza made the 350-mile journey to Annapolis. But it was a futile trip. Only 25 years old, Henry died on Jan. 7 and was hurriedly buried. His wife never found his grave. (2).
Twenty-eight years later, at age 57, Eliza died and was buried in Canton Center Cemetery, across the road from the beautiful white-washed First Congregational Church. A 7-foot white marble memorial marker for the woman with the "attractive personality" (3) and her husband stands surrounded by a low iron railing. At the top of the marker are these words:
Henry Sexton died a martyr to his country in Annapolis, Md.
Twenty paces away from that obelisk stands another marker, this one muddy brown, cracked and weathered by the elements for nearly 150 years. Sophronia Barber, the woman who sent mittens and stockings to Sexton and his two friends, died two years after the teacher-soldier. She was 58 when she passed away on April 1, 1865.
1) U.S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History
2) Reminiscences By Sylvester Barbour, A Native of Canton, Conn. and Fifty Years A Lawyer, Sylvester Barbour, 1908, Page 10
|Sophronia Barber, the woman who sent Henry Sexton and his friends mittens and stockings|
in December 1861, is buried 20 paces from the obelisk for the soldier and his wife.