Saturday, May 26, 2012

10 young Connecticut soldiers to remember

Marked by flags for Memorial Day, these headstones in West Avon (Conn.) Cemetery
 honor soldiers who died during the Civil War.  No soldiers are buried under these
 markers, known as effigy graves.

None older than 20, they were just kids when they left Connecticut to fight in the Civil War.

George Chamberlain of Middletown needed his mother's permission before he could enlist when he was 18 in August 1862.

Nineteen-year-old Marvin Wait of Norwich hoped to become a lawyer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Leaving his widowed mother behind, 20-year-old James Willard of Avon enlisted two months before his older brother, who set the stage for a double family tragedy.

A 19-year student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, George Crosby was praised by one of his former teachers for the "enthusiasm and spirit of perseverance with which he pursued his studies."

Although they came from different backgrounds, all 10 young men featured in this post have a common link:  Each died during the Civil War.

During his terrific Connecticut Day speech on April 21 honoring those who fought at Antietam, Rev. John Schildt mentioned Newton Manross, a 37-year-old captain of Company K of  the 16th Connecticut, who was killed in farmer John Otto's cornfield. A brilliant man from Bristol, Manross traveled the world before the Civil War and was acting professor of philosophy and chemistry at Amherst (Mass.) College when he enlisted in the Union army.

What great things, Schildt wondered, could Manross have achieved had he lived?

I often wonder what these 10 young soldiers could have achieved had they lived. Each is worth remembering this Memorial Day weekend.

Left: Daniel Tarbox Jr., probably shortly after he enlisted. Right top: Tarbox as a boy.
Bottom right: Tarbox (right), with his father, Daniel Sr., and brother, Louis.
Left photo: Courtesy Scott Hann. Family photos: Courtesy Tarbox family descendant.

Private Daniel Tarbox, 18 years old, 11th  Connecticut

In his many letters to his father back home in Brooklyn, Conn., Tarbox advised on how to take care of his favorite colt on the family farm, wrote of the poor state of his finances and, like most soldiers throughout history, complained about army life.

May 3, 1861: "Take care of the colt don’t put any load on her back, turn her out with Frank’s. Take good care of the horses.  The roll is beating, I must close."
Tarbox's gravestone in South Cemetery in Brooklyn, Conn.

Jan. 5, 1862: "I shall send 13 $ …to you & you can use it as you see fit, but if I should ever return I shall expect you to know an account of your stewardship for at the end of 3 years you will see a poor ragged  pitiful cripple with one eye & one leg and poor as a church mouse. A little money would come handy,  as well as my colt which I want taken the best of care taken until I return."

Jan. 21, 1862: "We left Annapolis Wednesday Jan 8th and Saturday night we cast anchor in Hampton Roads about a mile from Fortress Monroe and took on some water.  Sunday morning we set sail again, about 2 O Clock there was a false alarm of fire.  On Monday all hands sea sick which continued 3 days when we began to grow better. On Wednesday night a man in Co. D died & Thursday they buried him in the sea."

March 6, 1862: "Please excuse bad writing, for I have a very bad pen and I have been called out a dozen times or more while I have been writing and I am half mad, so good bye."

But in his letter to his father on Sept. 6, 1862, Daniel Jr. had a sense of impending doom.

"I expect we are going into it now for good," he wrote from Washington. "Right where grape & shrapnel and chain shot fly thick. And whole company’s and Reg’ts are mowed down at one volley. If we go in, we can’t think of coming out. If I do fall, you take what money I have sent home and get my bounty and appropriate it to yourself as a present. But I hope for the best."

Eleven days after he wrote that letter home, Daniel Tarbox Jr. was mortally wounded near Burnside Bridge during the Battle of Antietam. He died a day later.

Private Dwight Carey, 16,  8th Connecticut

Dwight Carey is buried with his parents, Mary and James, 
in Carey Cemetery in Canterbury, Conn.
The son of James and Mary Carey of Canterbury, Dwight was only 15 when he enlisted in the Union army,  apparently lying about his age. (Soldiers had to be 18 to enlist, a rule often overlooked.)

Nonetheless, Carey distinguished himself during his short military career in  battles at New Bern, Roanoke Island and Fort Macon in North Carolina.

"In these engagements he exhibited the qualities of a brave soldier in a manner worthy a veteran of riper years, never for one moment regretting his choice in the past, or shrinking from the future," the Wilimantic (Conn.) Journal reported on Oct. 24, 1862, more than a month after Carey was killed at Antietam.

"As a boy he was upright in principle, correct in habit," The Journal reported. " As a soldier he was bold and firm; as a comrade he was loved by all who knew him."

Lieutenant Marvin Wait, 19, 8th Connecticut

When word of Wait's death at Antietam reached Norwich, the town passed resolutions of regret and the Norwich Daily Bulletin printed a long, glowing article. "His death brings a peculiar and poignant sorrow," the newspaper wrote of the first commissioned officer from the town who was killed during the Civil War.

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1862,  the young man from a prominent Norwich family was finally laid to rest. A private service was held late that morning in the house of Wait's parents, and mourners later gathered at 2:30 p.m. at the white-washed First Congregational Church, just off the town green. Wait's sword and cap, as well as flowers, were placed atop his flag-draped coffin in the small church vestibule. After a reading of scripture by two local reverends and the singing of a hymn by the church choir, prominent local attorney George Pratt, who once worked in the law office of Wait's father, eulogized the young soldier.

Wait's funeral in Norwich was attended by many dignitaries, including Gov. William Buckingham, "who spoke of the glory of dying for such a cause" during the graveside ceremony at Yantic Cemetery in Norwich.

Wait is buried under a beautiful white marker that includes the word "Antietam" in raised letters on the front.

Lieutenant George Crosby, 19, 14th Connecticut

Antietam was the first fight for the 14th Connecticut, but unlike the  16th Connecticut, the regiment fought well. As the 14th Connecticut closed in on the Sunken Road bordering the William Roulette farm, Crosby was struck by a bullet that sliced into his side, just missing his spine, and through his lungs.

The son of ship captain, Crosby died thirty-seven days later at his parent's 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 as "one of the largest funerals ever attended in that place."

Pvt. John Bingham, 18, 16th Connecticut

A farmer from East Haddam, Elisha Bingham undoubtedly had high hopes for his nine sons, including John, who was only 17 when he enlisted in the Union army in August 1862. Perhaps he planned to eventually turn over running the family farm to John.

He never got a chance.

John Bingham was killed at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. 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 35 miles southeast of Hartford. Apparently upset over a failing business, Wells committed suicide in 1904.

Private James Willard, 20, 7th Connecticut

Damaris Williard's husband, Julius, died in 1854, so it undoubtedly was unsettling when her youngest son enlisted in the Union army in August 1861.

James Willard's body was not recovered and returned
to Avon, Conn., where his family placed this 

marker to honor him in West Avon Cemetery.
In notes to his mother during the war, James, a private in Company A of the 7th Connecticut,  wrote about sending money home and thoughts of not surviving the conflict:

Jan. 14, 1862: "When we were at Hilton Island I sent fifteen dollars thinking you might need it."

June 10. 1862: "If I never get home, I wish you to have what property I have, and use what you need of that I send."

"I wish you to use what you want of the money that I send, and have sent, and if I never get home I wish you to have this, and what I have sent."

April 21, 1863: "I will send sixty dollars. Do what you think best with the money."

On July 11, 1863, the 7th Connecticut was part of a rare night attack against Fort Wagner, near Charleston.  Greatly outnumbered, the Connecticut regiment suffered 105 killed, including James Willard of Avon. James' body, perhaps thrown into a burial trench by the rebels afterward, was never recovered.

"He sleeps where he fell," the memorial marker in West Avon Cemetery notes.

Fifteen months later, John Williard, James' brother, died of yellow fever in New Bern, N.C. A teamster in the 11th Connecticut, he was 32 years old.

Private Alvin Flint, 18, 11th Connecticut

After Alvin Flint was killed at Antietam, near Burnside Bridge, his father futilely searched for the body of his teen-aged son. Fifty-three-year-old Alvin Flint Sr. was serving as a private in the 21st Connecticut at the time.

A little more than a month after Antietam, Flint's father wrote a letter to the Hartford Courant, lamenting the loss of his oldest boy.

"You doubtless are aware that I have come to the land of Dixie, to engage in this killing business," he wrote. "Three weeks ago last Sunday night, at 12 o'clock, we were called up by the beat of the drum, to receive orders. We were sent to Frederick City, where we remained two days and thence marched to Sharpsburg.. We arrived Saturday night, near what I call "Antie-Dam," where my boy was brutally murdered by a band of midnight assassins. Oh that I could revenge on them, as Sampson did upon the Philistines! I was leaning upon that dear boy, as a prop in my declining years; but if my life is spared, I shall knock out some of the props that hold up this uncalled for, and worse than hellish, wicked rebellion."

The loss was excruciating for Alvin Flint Sr., whose wife and daughter had died of consumption in the winter if 1861-62 in East Hartford.  Incredibly, tragedy struck the Flint family again when Alvin Flint Sr., 53, and his remaining son, 13-year-old George, died of typhoid fever in January 1863.

Private George Chamberlain, 19, 16th Connecticut

Wounded in the knee in Farmer Otto's cornfield during the Battle of Antietam, George Chamberlain was eventually taken to the German Reformed Church on Main Street in Sharpsburg for treatment. Like most churches in the area after the battle, it was used as a field hospital.

Chamberlain's mother, Mary Ann, traveled from Connecticut to Sharpsburg to help nurse her son back to health.

"Present condition: Wound from the entrance of a musket ball a little below the bend of the right knee," a surgeon noted about Chamberlain in his case book " ... he keeps the leg flexed at a right angle and is careful not to move the joint for reason of pain."

Chamberlain was discharged from the army because of disability on April 1, 1863, but the wound suffered at Antietam plagued him for the rest of his life. He died in Ohio on May 11, 1865.

Private Francis Hollister, 20, 14th Connecticut
Private Frederick Hollister, 18, 14th Connecticut

The Hollister brothers are buried in
 Union Hill Cemetery in
East Hampton, Conn.
One paragraph in the regimental history of the 14th Connecticut detailed the demise of the Hollister brothers.

"A sad incident during the encampment at Falmouth was the death of two brothers, Francis and Frederick J. Hoillister, of Chatham, Company K., who died within a half an hour of each other and were buried together," the history noted. "They lost their blankets at Antietam and for three months had to sleep out of doors or crouch scantily clad all night long over a smoky camp-fire, from which exposure they died." (2)

The cause of death was typhoid fever. Why the Hollisters could not obtain a blanket is baffling.

The brothers' bodies were returned to Connecticut, where the Hollisters were buried in Union Hill Cemetery on Jan. 11, 1863.

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