|Rufus Chamberlain, a 43-year-old sergeant in Company I of the 16th Connecticut, was |
mortally wounded at Antietam. He is buried in Hillside Cemetery in Stafford, Conn.
His name is more commonly spelled Chamberlain, not Chamberlin, in records.
(Photo courtesy of Matt Reardon, New England Civil War Museum executive director)
Shortly after Rufus Chamberlain died of a wound suffered at the Battle of Antietam, a family friend made the sad 450-mile journey from Connecticut to a Maryland hamlet to retrieve the 43-year-old soldier's remains. Not only did Ashley D. Studley return with the body of the 16th Connecticut sergeant, he also took back a macabre memento to give to Chamberlain's wife:
The mangled bullet that killed her husband.
"I went into the hospital at Smoketown where Mr. Chamberlain died and made some inquiries in reference to his wound and death," noted Studley, a mill worker from Chamberlain's hometown of Stafford, Conn. "I was informed by persons employed there that Mr. Chamberlain was wounded by a ball in the knee. The ball was given to me that was extracted from his limb and I brought it home and gave it to his widow." (1)
During the Civil War, families often wanted tangible reminders of the death of a loved one -- a bloody shirt, a piece of a uniform or even the bullet that ended a life. At the New England Civil War Museum in Rockville, Conn., the splattered sharpshooter's bullet that killed Thomas Burpee at Cold Harbor, handed down through the generations, is displayed along with a tintype and other effects of the colonel in the 21st Connecticut. The family of Union General Philip Kearny was given the bullet that killed that renowned soldier at the Battle of Chantilly, near Washington.
|In this widow's pension affidavit, Ashley Studley of Stafford, Conn., recalled obtaining the |
bullet that mortally wounded Rufus Chamberlain. He gave it to Rufus' widow.
(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
What Amanda Chamberlain did with the bullet that killed her husband, a mill worker before the war, is lost to history.
|16th Connecticut monument at Antietam.|
At Antietam, Chamberlain was shot in the right leg, probably in farmer John Otto's 40-acre cornfield, during the Ninth Corps' disastrous attack on the Confederates' right flank. Carried from the field, he was first taken to a hospital in Sharpsburg, perhaps the German Reformed Church on Main Street, where many soldiers in Chamberlain's regiment were treated. Later, he was taken to Smoketown, a non-descript speck on the map near Sharpsburg that was the site of a large Federal field hospital. Conditions there were terrible.
"This place is in a most miserable condition, the men complain very much,"a member of the Maine Soldiers Relief Agency reported in early November 1862. "The effluvia arising from the condition of these grounds is intolerable, quite enough to make a man in perfect health sick, and how men can recover in such a place is a mystery to me."
|Rufus Chamberlain Jr. in 1900.|
(Photo courtesy Tad Sattler via
Connecticut. State Library)
"I see him in a hospital near Sharpsburg the next Sunday after the battle," Moore noted. "He was afterwards removed to a place called Smoketown. I remained in the hospital where said Chamberlain was (for) seven days. I was in his room several times a day and frequently bathed his limb which was badly swollen and very painful." (3)
In mid-October, Chamberlain's leg was amputated above the knee joint at the Smoketown hospital. But on Oct. 21, about a week after the surgery, the "man of good habits and a true and faithful soldier," died. (3) His son, Rufus Jr., a private in Company I who served as his father's nurse, was likely by his side.
Thanks to Rufus Jr., Studley easily found Chamberlain's grave when he arrived at Smoketown.. "At the head of a grove a board was placed with his name plainly marked on it," he noted. "The son of Mr. Chamberlain, Rufus Chamberlain, showed me the place where his father was buried." (4)
|The site of Smoketown Hospital today. Rufus Chamberlain died here on Oct. 21, 1862. |
South Mountain can be seen in the distant background of the bottom photo.
(Photos courtesy Richard Clem)
Amanda buried her husband in Hillside Cemetery in Stafford, Conn., about 30 miles northeast of Hartford. After Rufus' death, she applied for a Civil War widow's pension from the U.S. government. Her claim approved in the fall of 1862, she received $8 a month and an additional $2 a month for each of her two children under the age of 16. She continued to receive a widow's pension until her death on Oct. 9, 1876. (5)
(1) Widow's pension document, Ashley D. Studley account, Nov. 10, 1862
(2) Widow's pension document, 16th Connecticut private Harvey Moore account, Nov. 22, 1862
(3) Widow's pension document, 16th Connecticut 2nd lieutenant John M. Fisk account, June 11, 1863
(4) Widow's pension document, Ashley D. Studley account, Nov. 10, 1862
(5) Amanda Chamberlain's widow's pension file
Do you have a photo of Rufus Chamberlain? If so, e-mail me.