Monday, July 02, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: Hartford's Weld brothers

This memorial to the Weld brothers, Charles and Lewis, is in Hartford's Old North Cemetery.
Charles was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville; Lewis died of a severe cold. I used the

 daguerreotype-effect  on to give these photos a Mathew Brady-like feel.
Worn by the elements, this beautiful female figurine is carved on the front of the monument.
A dagger and shoulder scales adorn the right side of the Weld brothers' monument.
Charles Weld was a 1st lieutenant in the 17th U.S. Infantry. Lewis Weld was a lieutenant
colonel of the 41st U.S. Colored Troops, a branch of the service with the "least repute," 

according to an account in the Hartford Courant on July 15, 1865.
Surrounded by weeds, toppled headstones, construction and urban decay, the impressive pearl-white memorial made of Italian marble seems out of place in Hartford's 200-year-old Old North Cemetery. On the front of the 6 1/2-foot marker, a 30-inch female figurine, her left arm resting against a column, retains her beauty despite nearly 150 years' exposure to the elements. An ornately carved American flag drapes the memorial, while a carbine, dagger, sword and military shoulder scales are still distinct along the sides and the names of these two men etched long ago are plainly visible at the top:

Charles Theodore Weld
1st Lieut
17th U.S. Infantry
Died May 14, 1863
Aged 32 years
Lewis Ledyard Weld
Lieut. Col.
41st U.S. Colored Troops
Died Jan. 10, 1865
Aged 31 years

The Weld monument was commissioned
 by friends of the brothers.

Eager to honor the memory of the brothers from Hartford who died during the Civil War, "early friends" of the Welds commissioned the memorial, probably  before Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. Not long after the monument was placed near the brothers' gravestones in the summer of 1865, a reporter for the Hartford Courant wrote a glowing account.

"This beautiful monument, so full of sentiment, and telling so much, even to the stranger who attracted by its grace stops to examine it, is another of the chaste designs of our gifted fellow townsman, James G. Batterson, and was executed under his direction in Italy," the newspaper gushed on July 15, 1865.

Whether Batterson, a prominent Hartford citizen/monument maker who designed the famous soldier monument in Antietam National Cemetery, designed the Weld brothers' memorial or someone else did is unknown. There's no doubt, however, that the men the memorial honors were highly regarded in Hartford.

Charles Weld enlisted in the Union army as a private on April 18, 1861, only six days after the rebels began their bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. On April 22, he was mustered into the 1st Connecticut, a three-month regiment that was quickly sent to Washington to defend the capital against the expected Confederate invasion. A member of Captain Joseph Hawley's company, Weld once was accidentally wounded by the discharge of his own pistol, but that did not stop his rapid rise through the ranks. (1) He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army's 17th Infantry on May 14, 1861.
Charles Theodore Weld
(Photo courtesy Mary Falvey)

Nearly two years later, at the Union's disastrous defeat during the Chancellorsville Campaign, Weld was shot in the leg on May 1, 1863, resulting in amputation above the knee. An initial report about his condition from Lewis Weld, who was by his brother's side while he was treated, was optimistic, but the 32-year-old lieutenant colonel died at Potomac Creek Hospital , near Brooks Station, Va., on May 14, 1863. His last words were: "Peace, peace, all at peace." (2)

"He had many friends in this city who will feel his death deeply," the Hartford Courant reported shortly after his death. "To his relatives the blow is a crushing one. They were not prepared for such a result." Grief-stricken, Lewis accompanied his brother's body back home to Connecticut. (3)

Flags flew at half-mast in Hartford the day of  Charles' funeral on May 19, 1863. An 85-man detachment of the 5th Connecticut Infantry that arrived for his wake on the noon train from New York was received by the city council and Hartford's mayor. After a visitation at the home of Charles' mother at 42 High Street at 3 p.m., Weld's coffin, covered with flowers and draped with the national flag, was borne to Center Church for a service and then taken to the cemetery for burial with full military honors in the family plot. (4)

For Lewis Weld, the death of his older brother was only the second-greatest tragedy he faced during the Civil War.
In this letter to Lewis Weld, Nellie Browne's father broke
 the news  that his daughter was dead. Nellie and Weld 
were engaged  to be married.  Thanks to the excellent 
research library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced 
Study at  Harvard, the correspondence between Weld and
 the Browne family is online.

While he was stationed in Florida, Lewis met a young woman from Massachusetts named Nellie Browne, the daughter of an agent for the U.S. Treasury. The pair quickly fell in love and were engaged to be married. Before her return to the North, however, she contracted typhoid fever in Beaufort, S.C., perhaps while tending to sick soldiers, and died on June 2, 1864. Nellie's father broke the terrible news to Lewis.

"Our Nellie, your Nellie is with the angels in heaven," Albert Browne wrote from Beaufort on the day of his daughter's death. "She left us this morning at 7 o'clock and joined the immortals. God help you, God help us all to bear this mysterious dispensation. My dear wife and Mother, the loving devoted sister, dear little Eddie are overwhelmed with sorrow. I cannot shed a tear and am as stoical and calm as death.

"The dear child did not suffer much. She was wandering after a day or two and often repeated your name." (5)

Three days later, a shattered Lewis Weld wrote an eloquent, heart-rending letter to Albert Browne from Jacksonville, Fla..

"Oh my friend, my father. My heart is broken," Weld wrote. "I cannot realize it or believe it. And yet it weighs upon my heart burning its cruel way prostrating and stunning me. God give me strength to bear it. It is a mysterious terrible Providence.

"Oh my love, my darling, my wife!" he added. "Gone from me without a word. Gone without a message, without a touch of the lips or a farewell. Dead. ... But I thank Him for the one month of pure love He gave me a happiness I had never dreamed of. She lives though I can see her not." (6)

"My heart is broken," Lewis Weld wrote to his fiancee's father upon receiving news 
of her death. Thanks to the excellent research library at the Radcliffe Institute
 for Advanced Study at  Harvard,  the correspondence between Weld 
and the Browne family is online. 

A brilliant man, Lewis Weld graduated from Yale in 1854. After briefly serving as a tutor, he studied law in New York and then in Ohio before being admitted to the bar in 1858. He moved to Leavenworth, Kan., where he opened up a law office with two other partners. A staunch abolitionist, Weld was "an uncompromising advocate of freedom," and President Lincoln thought so highly of him that he appointed the young man secretary of Colorado Territory. When Weld resigned in April 1862, he was acting governor of the territory. (6)

Lewis Ledyard Weld
 (Photo courtesy Mary Falvey)
Returning East to fight for the Union, Weld enlisted on Oct. 16, 1863, and mustered in as captain in the 7th U.S. Colored Troops, "having from principle chosen the hardest and most dangerous branch of the service, and that in the least repute." (7) On Oct. 1, 1864, Weld was promoted to major of the 41st U.S. Colored Troops and two months later became lieutenant colonel of the regiment. "Promotion," of course, was in the eye of the beholder. Often poorly equipped, black troops also faced prejudice from white Union soldiers, and they were viewed with particular disdain by Confederates.

In late winter 1864-65, while the Army of the James was entrenched near Richmond, Lewis Weld caught a severe cold. On Jan. 6, 1865, he was taken to a Federal army hospital at Point of Rocks, on a bluff above the Appomattox River, near Petersburg, Va. Despite the care of surgeons, he died four days later, his lone surviving brother, Mason, an officer in the 25th Connecticut, by his side.

"Lewis retained to the last his sprightly humor and wit," a Yale biographical sketch noted. "Yet his whole character was more serious, and his religious feelings more decided during the last few months of his career." (8)

After his body was embalmed, Weld -- "enthusiastic, impulsive, eloquent, and admired and loved by all who knew him" -- was returned to Connecticut and laid to rest next to his brother in Old North Cemetery. (9)

(1) Hartford Courant, May 20, 1863
(2) Hartford Courant, May 18, 1863
(3) Hartford Courant, May 16, 1863
(4) Hartford Courant, May 20, 1863
(5) Brown Family Papers, 1802-1963; Lewis Ledyard Weld with Browne family, June-December 1864, 23 ALS; telegram. MC 298, folder 64. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
(6)  Ibid
(7) Hartford Courant, July 15, 1865
(8) "Record of the Class of 1854 --Yale," J. Munsell, 1867
(9) Hartford Courant, July 15, 1865

Lewis Weld was treated at a Federal hospital at Point of Rocks, on the bluffs of the
 Appomattox River,  near Petersburg, Va. Suffering from a severe cold, he died at the hospital
 on Jan. 10, 1865. The hospital can be seen in the left background. (Library of Congress collection)
Two days after his brother's death, Mason Weld sent this note to the military governor 
of Alexandria (Va.)  Mason accompanied Lewis Weld's embalmed remains to Hartford.


  1. Two Bills brothers from South Windsor were killed in the Civil War and a third was wounded.All were in Co. D, 11th Regt: George was killed at New Berne,NC 4- March 1863; Prosper B died 8 April 1862; and James was wounded at Antietam.

  2. Dear Mr. Banks, Thank you so much for this excellent and heart-breaking piece on my ancestors. I was familiar with most of the details here through my own research, but it is great to see it put together in such an attractive and engaging manner. Nellie (Sarah Ellen) Browne was my great-great aunt, the older sister of my great grandfather, Edward Cox Browne. His wife, my great grandmother, Charlotte Crowninshield Browne (1868-1967), who I knew as a child, wrote in her memoirs that the Browne family "never recovered" from Nellie's death, and her father, Albert Gallatin Browne's health was forever compromised by his war time service in the South. Both Albert Gallatin Browne, and his wife, Sarah Smith Browne, returned to Salem, Mass. after the war, where they died within 3 weeks of each other in 1885. Tragic story for sure. The lovely material Nellie had ordered for her wedding dress has, however, had a happier ending and has been made into wedding dresses for several Browne family women, including my second cousin, Lindsey Cook Roth. Thank you again.

  3. Hi, Katherine: thanks for kind words. I wrote this so long ago and have learned so much more since. In fact, a longer version is in my book, Hidden History of Connecticut Union Soldiers. Be well!

  4. Dear John, Oh that's wonderful news. I'll look for it right now on Amazon, then, back to wrapping presents! Thank you so much!
    Best, Katherine Greenough, Boston