Saturday, April 21, 2012

Antietam: 11th Connecticut photo/video journal

11th Connecticut monument at Antietam. Thirty-six soldiers in the regiment were killed
in the battle, including Colonel Henry Kingsbury.
Close-up of reverse of the 11th Connecticut monument.
Daniel Tarbox was mortally wounded at Antietam.
His first name is listed incorrectly on the 11th Connecticut monument at Antietam, surely not the first time a soldier's name has been screwed up by the government. So to properly honor Daniel Tarbox at Connecticut Day on Saturday, I plan to read aloud his final letter home, a short note to his father that mentioned an imminent battle. (UPDATE: I read the letter Sunday.)

"If we go in," the private in the 11th Connecticut  wrote on Sept. 6, 1862, "we can't think of coming out. If I do fall, you take what money I have sent home and appropriate it to yourself as a present."

Eleven days later, Tarbox was mortally wounded near Burnside Bridge at Antietam. Only 18 years old, he died the next day.

Early this morning, I walked the ground young Daniel and his fellow soldiers fought on and visited the off-the-beaten path 11th Connecticut monument, approximately 150 yards southeast of Burnside Bridge. Daniel's name is listed as David near the bottom left corner, but there's no hope of correcting that, according to a Tarbox descendant.

Captain John Griswold and Corporal John Holwell, whose stories are told on my blog, also died near Burnside Bridge. A natural-born leader and a Yale graduate, Griswold was wounded in the middle of Antietam Creek as he led a group of 11th Connecticut skirmishers. After staggering to the opposite bank, he was rescued by four privates and a surgeon and carried to a small barn nearby.

"My first station was in a little barn by Antietam Creek," Surgeon Nathan Mayer wrote in a post-war account, "but the Rebel sharpshooters from behind the trees, across the creek, soon drove me out. There, however, I dressed Captain Griswold, shot through the belt and body fording the stream." (1)

Griswold died the next day.  "Tell my mother," the 25-year-old soldier from Lyme, Conn., said, "I died at the head of my company."

Holwell, in Company H of the 11th Connecticut, frequently wrote his wife back in Norwich, often mentioning his children. His young son, Eddy, apparently was his father's favorite.

Surgeon Nathan Mayer treated wounded
 soldiers at the Henry Rohrbach Farm.
"Your dagerreotype and the children's look very natural and I was very glad to receive them. ..." he wrote Rebecca Holwell. "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 Mexican War veteran, John Holwell was 42 years old when he was killed at Antietam. His gravesite is unknown.

Not far from the bridge is the Henry Rohrbach Farm, where many of the 11th Connecticut wounded -- including the beloved Colonel Henry Kingsbury -- were treated. Shot through the stomach and liver as he stepped from behind a tree, Kingsbury died the next day.

"Every room was soon filled (with wounded)," Mayer wrote of the Rohrbach farmhouse. "The barnyard and garden were crowded with wounded. And (I) should not have known where to place more." (2)

After his gruesome work was done that day, Mayer took advantage of the bounty of riches on the Rohrbach farm. "There were some 300 chickens and some calves about the place which the rebels had been too hurried to capture," he wrote. "And flour, and meal and bread." (3)

Connecticut Day visitors to Antietam will stop at the national cemetery, attend a short service at the church where soldiers from the state were treated and tour the battlefield. But I think the highlight of the day will be when descendants read aloud letters of their ancestors near the Visitors' Center. I'll share the best stories and photos later today.

(1) Reminescences of the Civil War, Nathan Mayer, M.D., Connecticut Historical Society Civil War Manuscripts Project.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

Daniel Tarbox was mortally wounded approximately where the 'X' is in this photo I shot this morning.

Henry Rohrbach's barn was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Antietam.
Note the initials H.R. on the side of the brick barn wall.
Henry Rohrbach's farmhouse also was used as a field hospital.

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