Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: The dead of Middletown

Private John K. Doolittle was mortally wounded at Antietam. He was only 22 years old
when he died. 
(Middlesex County Historical Society collection)
Mostly young men in their 20s, they stare back from the pages of a fragile, leather-bound memorial album compiled more than a century ago.

Some of the men appear in civilian attire; others proudly pose in military uniform, perhaps shortly before they were sent south to help extinguish the rebellion. Under nearly every image, the soldier's name, regiment and place of death appear in neat, cursive writing.

"Mortally wounded at Fredericksburg."

This fragile, old album includes images of 70 soldiers with ties to
Middletown, Conn. who died during the Civil War.
"Died in service April 2, 1862 in Falmouth, Va."

"Died at Andersonville prison."

Nearly 1,000 men from Middletown, Conn., a small, historic town along the Connecticut River, served during the Civil War; 110 of them died, perishing of battle wounds and disease (and at least one of suicide) far from home in such places as Alexandria, La., Chattanooga, Tenn. and Hilton Head, S.C. Some died in the major battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. Although many were returned to Connecticut for burial, some of the soldiers remains were never returned and today lie in unknown graves in the South.

General Joseph Mansfield's image is on the
first page of the memorial album.

(Middlesex County Historical Society)
In 1867, two years after Appomattox, a local Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) organization began collecting photographs and sketches of Middletown men who died during the war. Copies were made, and sometime shortly before the turn of the century, an album of  those who paid the ultimate price was compiled. Seventy images appear in the album, which today is in the collection of the Middlesex County Historical Society that is housed in the former home of  Union Gen. Joseph K. Mansfield on Main Street in Middletown. Mortally wounded at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, Mansfield appears on the first page of the memorial album.

The images of four other soldiers with Middletown ties who were killed or mortally wounded at Antietam also appear in the album:

George Chamberlain, a private from nearby Berlin, was wounded on John Otto's farm when the 16th Connecticut was smashed in the left flank by A.P. Hill veteran troops. Discharged for disability on April 1, 1863, he died from his wound on May 11, 1865, nearly a month after war had ended. Born in Middletown, Chamberlain was just 18 when he enlisted -- after he received permission from his mother, Mary Ann.

Wearing his Sunday best and a Mona Lisa-like smile, John K. Doolittle posed for a photograph, perhaps  shortly before he was mustered into the 3rd Connecticut as a private on May 14, 1861.  After a three-month stint with the 3rd Connecticut, Doolittle was mustered into Company K of the 8th Connecticut as a private on May 1, 1862.
John Doolittle is buried in Miner Cemetery
in Middletown, Conn.

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 the German Reformed Church in Sharpsburg, 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.

Robert Hubbard, a 31-year-old private in Company B of the 14th Connecticut, was killed by friendly fire on the William Roulette farm. Nearly a month before his death, he wrote a impassioned, patriotic 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." (1)
Private Robert Hubbard was
killed at Antietam. He was 31.

(Middlesex County Historical
Society collection

George Crosby, a 2nd lieutenant in the 14th Connecticut, attended Wesleyan University in Middletown before the war. An excellent student, one of his former teachers wrote of the "enthusiasm and spririt of perserverance with which he pursued his studies. He was ever anxious to improve." (2)

Standing proudly in his officer's uniform in the photograph in the memorial album, Crosby served as an army recruiter before enlisting with the 14th Connecticut in August 1862. "I feel it is my duty to go," he wrote his mother.

As he encouraged his men in Company K at Antietam, Crosby was struck in the side by a bullet that passed through his lungs and close by his spine. Only 19 years old, Crosby died on Oct. 22, 1862. "He was a great but very patient sufferer," wrote the Middle Haddam, Conn., physician who attended to him. (3)

Crosby's funeral in Middle Haddam was attended by his Wesleyan classmates, the university president and many townsmen.

"He talked much of his country during his illness," a post-war account noted, "but little of himself." (4)

(1) Middletown Penny Press, April 13, 1898
(2) Memorial of Deceased Officers of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, Henry P.Goddard, 1872, Pages 9-10
(3) Ibid
(4) Ibid
Left, George Chamberlain, a private in the 16th Connecticut, was wounded at Antietam.
George Crosby, a 2nd lieutenant in the 14th Connecticut, was mortally wounded at Antietam.
A student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., before the war, he died on Oct. 22, 1862.
(Middlesex County Historical Society collection)

1 comment:

  1. John. These photos remind us that this was a citizen's war. For some, like Crosby, only a couple of months separated their two lives. It is easy to forget when recounting the battle in terms of the 8th or 16th Connecticut Infantry Regiments, or the 72nd Pennsylvania, or 10th Georgia that these infantry were not long before tailors, teachers, carpenters, joiners, fitters, tinsmiths, and hundreds of other pursuits. They were also husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, neighbors and friends. Let us not forget them.