Thursday, August 09, 2012

Antietam: 'Hurl leaden vengeance at the foe'

Edwin Main's gravestone in Center Brooklyn Cemetery in Brooklyn, Conn. A lieutenant
in the 8th Connecticut, Main was mortally wounded at Antietam. Below: A close-up of the 

gravestone,  which has been repaired. (Photo courtesy  Rob Grandchamp)

One of my favorite passages on the Battle of Antietam is from a book on Connecticut's Civil War service published in 1869, seven years after the bloodiest day in American history. Two descriptive paragraphs  capture the awfulness of what the 8th Connecticut faced. Fighting well ahead of most of the rest of the Ninth Corps, the regiment was eventually overwhelmed, suffering nearly 200 killed and wounded on Sept. 17, 1862.
"Twenty men are falling every minute. Col. (Hiram) Appelman is borne to the rear. John McCall falls bleeding. (Jacob) Eaton totters, wounded, down the hill. (Marvin) Wait, bullet-riddled, staggers a few rods, and sinks. (Eleazur) Ripley stands with a shattered arm. (James) Russell lies white and still. (Henry) Morgan and (Edwin) Maine have fallen. Whitney Wilcox is dead. 
"Men grow frantic. The wounded prop themselves behind the rude stone fence, and hurl leaden vengeance at the foe. Even the chaplain snatches the rifle and cartridge-box of a dead man, and fights for life." (1)
"Hurl leaden vengeance at the foe."

Ah, that's just great stuff.

For the past several months, I have been curious about what happened to the nine officers mentioned in that first paragraph.

Did they survive Antietam? Or, like so many other soldiers from Connecticut, were they killed? Where are they buried?

The puzzle slowly comes together.
John McCall, a captain in Company K in the
 8th Connecticut, was killed at Drewry's Bluff, 
near Richmond, on May 16, 1864.
 He is buried in Yantic Cemetery in Norwich, Conn.

Friend of the blog Ron Grandchamp recently e-mailed me a photo of the gravestone of Lieutenant Edwin Main, who's buried in Center Brooklyn (Conn.) Cemetery. As noted on his marker, Main was wounded at Antietam and died a little more than two months later at Locust Spring Hospital, one of several makeshift hospitals in operation in or near Sharpsburg after the battle. Before the Civil War, Main was a tavern keeper in Brooklyn, a small farming community about 45 miles east of Hartford. Married to Mary Butts, the couple had no children.

Last week, I wrote about Ripley and several months ago, I posted on McCall and Wait.

Taken prisoner after he was wounded, Captain McCall, from Norwich, was later paroled. Killed at Drewry's Bluff, near Richmond, on May 16, 1864, he's buried in Yantic Cemtery in Norwich -- the same cemetery where Wait is buried. Ripley, from Windham, lost his left arm after he was wounded at Antietam.  Disabled, he was transferred out of the 8th Connecticut on Oct. 8, 1863, and joined the Veterans Reserve Corps.

A short account in the Willimantic (Conn.) Journal in early October 1862 mentioned Main and Ripley receiving care in a field hospital near Sharpsburg.
"I saw Capt. Ripley, of Windham, of whom you speak in your last number, in his temporary hospital, on the field of Antietam. He was lying on the straw-littered floor of a barn, by the side of Lieut. Mayne, of Brooklyn, your county, and among as many more of our wounded soldiers, mostly of the rank and file, as the floor could hold. On the outside, again, wherever in the barn-yard, stacks of straw, sheds, trees, or fences, could afford shade and obstacles to the unadvised footsteps of man and beast, there our wounded lay. Our two officers lay quietly abiding their fate, taking their soldier's fortune with soldierly fortitude. I was obliged to leave them hastily, as I left more than a thousand others of our brave patriot soldiers.
Ordering his color-bearer not to abandon the national colors, Captain Hiram Appleman, from Stonington, was carried from the field after he was wounded in the leg. I wonder if he saw 8th Connecticut Private Charles Walker pick up the fallen colors after several color-bearers were shot, plant the staff in the ground and defiantly shake the flag at enemy. Appleman, who survived the war, was promoted three times after Antietam, finishing the war as a lieutenant-colonel.  Troubled by his Antietam leg wound the remainder of his life, he died on Sept. 4, 1873 in Groton, Conn., and is buried in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic.

From left: Captain John McCall survived Antietam but was killed later in the war;
19-year lieutenant Marvin Wait was killed at Antietam; lieutenant-colonel Hiram Appleman
was wounded at Antietam and carried from the field. He survived the Civil War.
(Wait photo Matthew R. Isenburg collection; Appleman photo courtesy Matt Reardon)
Slightly wounded in the left leg at Antietam, Lieutenant Eaton resigned from the 8th Connecticut about a month after the battle. In 1863, Eaton wrote a glowing remembrance of 19-year-old Wait, the 8th Connecticut lieutenant who was killed at Antietam, and he mustered into the 7th Connecticut on March 29, 1864. A pastor at Hanover Congregational Church in Meriden before the war, Eaton served as chaplain in the 7th Connecticut. He died of typhoid fever, probably contracted while ministering to sick soldiers, in Wilmington, N.C., on March 20, 1865.

"White and still" after suffering a severe wound to his left arm, Captain Russell eventually recovered and was discharged from the army on New Year's Day 1863. Severely wounded in the left leg, Lieutenant Morgan was discharged from the army on Jan. 17, 1863. From Stonington, he was buried in Jordan Cemetery in Waterford. The final resting places of Sergeant Wilcox of New Haven, Eaton, Ripley and Russell are unknown.

UPDATE:  Friend of the blog Mary Falvey, a cemetery sleuth, e-mailed that the final resting places for Wilcox, Eaton and Russell are not so unknown afterall. "There is no record of a gravestone for Eleazer Ripley -- could be buried without a headstone, but that's rare for CT Civil War veterans since the state provided a stone for free," she wrote. "Eaton is buried in Cornwall Cemetery  ...  James L. Russell is buried in Pine Island Cemetery, Norwalk. Whiting Wilcox has a gravestone at Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven."

(1) The Military and Civil History of Connecticut During the War of 1861-65, William Augustus Croffut, John Moses Morris, 1869, Page 272-73


  1. Thanks for including the gravestones, these monuments are just as important as the more common ones populating our Civil War Battlefields. And this is an interesting story too!

  2. Thanks, Mike...not my best effort today... will have a real good one coming soon on a 16th Connecticut captain killed at Antietam. Stay tuned!