Saturday, March 03, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: Perkins Bartholomew

Born in New London, Conn., Lieutenant Perkins S. Bartholomew was killed at the
Battle of Boydton Plank Road in Virginia  in 1864. His body was never returned
to Connecticut. (Mansfield Historical Society via Tad Sattler)

In late November 1864, Maro S. Chapman returned to Connecticut with a ghastly cargo: the remains of 12 soldiers who died in Virginia months earlier.

Among the dead were Horatio D. Eaton, a captain in the 6th Connecticut from Hartford killed at Drewry's Bluff in May; George Walbridge, a private in the 10th Connecticut from Manchester who died of disease in late July; George Shaw, a private in the 10th Connecticut from Baltic killed at Deep Bottom Run in August; and Amandor Keeney, a private in the 10th Connecticut from Manchester killed at New Market Road in September.

Chapman, a businessman and former Union soldier, was experienced in this grim duty. He and undertaker William W. Roberts frequently advertised in the Hartford Courant for their services to retrieve bodies of soldiers buried in the South. "... have it done in a thoroughly reliable manner, by one who has had much experience, and is well-acquainted with the different localities in the South" one advertisement noted. (Roberts was especially busy after Antietam, retrieving the body of 14th Connecticut captain Jarvis Blinn and seven other soldiers buried on the Maryland battlefield.)

In these 1865 advertisements in the Hartford Courant, businessman Maro S. Chapman and 
undertaker William Roberts
 offered their services to retrieve remains of soldiers buried in the South.

Despite "unusual exertions," Chapman failed during his November 1864 trip south to recover the remains of a young soldier named Perkins S. Bartholomew, a lieutenant in the 14th Connecticut who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Boydton Plank Road. "He was anxious to go in search of it, but could not obtain a flag of truce," the Hartford Courant reported Nov. 28, 1864.

The circumstances of Bartholomew's death, described in detail on my blog in December, are especially sad.

A bullet tore through the 23-year-old soldier's haversack and ripped through his side on Oct. 27, 1864. Suffering in a muddy rifle pit deep in rebel-held territory, Bartholomew gave his equipment to a comrade, urging him to keep it unless the regiment had a battle the next day. If it did, he told the soldier, he should throw the equipment away so it wouldn't be a burden.

"This touching thoughtfullness for others in his own distress marks the true unselfishness of an heroic life," an 1872 book on 14th Connecticut officers who died during the war noted, "and makes us realize how much the war cost humanity." (1)
Published in 1872,  A Memorial of Deceased
Officers  of the Fourteenth Regiment, Connecticut
  includes a short account of
Bartholomew's war service.
  This is an original copy.

Alone for a period of time that rainy day, Bartholomew asked his friend, Private Horace Brown, to stay with him after other soldiers were compelled to flee.

"I saw the sergeant and asked what he thought of his wound and he told me he couldn't live but not to tell him for it would make him worce so I tryed cheer him all that I could ..." Brown wrote Bartholomew's sister weeks later.

Noting Bartholomew "vomited occasionally" after he was shot, 14th Connecticut adjutant William B. Hincks spared few details of the soldier's death in a letter to his mother.

"He had his senses perfectly and remained conscious of his condition," Hincks wrote to Caroline Bartholomew. "We had but two or three officers but one of them detailed a number of men to carry him away. The ambulances had all gone back with wounded men before. The lieutenant of the ambulance train agreed to send back an ambulance for him and did so. But it was an uncommonly dark night and rainy and the ambulance got lost in the woods and never found him."

Hincks wrote of how a soldier retrieved Bartholomew's shoulder straps and memo book and noted the lieutenant's last words. ("Tell my mother I die like a man fighting for my country.") The officer explained that Bartholomew's son had "the love and respect of us all," and "we sympathize with you in your grief."

And he also made a vow.

"...I think I can promise you in the name of the few officers who are left in the 14th," Hincks wrote, "that if it ever lies in our power we will have his remains sent home to Connecticut."

Buried by a plank road by the rebels, Perkins Bartholomew's body was never found.

William Hincks, the 14th Connecticut adjutant, promised Perkins Bartholomew's mother
"that if it  ever lies in our power we will have his remains sent home to Connecticut."

(1) Memorial of Deceased Officers of the 14th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Henry P. Goddard, 1872, Page 25

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