Saturday, July 06, 2013

Antietam photo journal: Evidence of a family's pain

In a letter to his son Louis, Daniel Tarbox Sr. noted the circumstances of the 
death of Daniel Jr. at Antietam. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)
 Richard and Joyce Arnold, descendants of  Pvt. Daniel Tarbox of 
the 11th Connecticut,  have preserved many of the letters Daniel
 wrote home during the Civil War. Richard holds an image
of Daniel as a youngster.  (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

Twelve days after 18-year-old Daniel Tarbox suffered a mortal gunshot wound through the bowels at the Battle of Antietam, Daniel Sr. worried about how to arrange for the return of his son's body home to Brooklyn, Conn.  "Geo. Preston ... buried Daniel near the hospital in Middletown, [Md.]" Daniel Sr. wrote to his son, Louis, on Sept. 29, 1862, "and placed a board at the head of his grave so that he might be found at any time (bearing his name, etc.) Capt. John Kies writes from Sharpsburg [and] says he died next day after he was shot -- but we have no particulars yet. We are very anxious that his remains be brought home, but how to bring so desirable a thing about is the question.

Daniel Tarbox, 18, was shot through the bowels at Antietam. 
He died Sept. 18, 1862, a day after the battle.  
(Photo courtesy of Scott Hann)

"I have no idea what  the expense will be," added Daniel Sr., "but be it what it may I want his body if it is possible to get. The cheapest kind of metallic coffin will do providing it is air tight. Contrive some plan to get his body home without delay. He [Daniel] has always intended to keep funds enough by him to pay his expenses home, but George says he has nothing left but his pipe & tobacco and a pocket knife -- I think his money was concealed in his clothes."

As they awaited news of Daniel's fate, the last two weeks of September 1862 must have been excruciatingly painful for the Tarbox family, which had qualms about Daniel Jr. serving in the Union army in the first place. On Sept. 21, 11th Connecticut Capt. John Kies wrote a letter to Daniel Sr. informing him of his son's death at Antietam, but that note may have arrived in Brooklyn days after the family read the dreadful news in newspaper accounts. (Kies wrote a similar letter to the mother of Private Fennimore Weeks, who was killed at Antietam.) Louis, who lived in New Brunswick, N.J., saw Daniel's name among those killed at Antietam in a list published in the New York Tribune on Sept. 25. Daniel's name also was listed among the dead in a lengthy list of Connecticut casualties printed in the Hartford Courant on Sept. 23.

Thankfully, much of the historical record of the demise of 11th Connecticut private survives. His descendants have preserved many of the letters Daniel wrote home during the Civil War as well as Louis' letter to his father after Antietam  inquiring about his half-brother's fate and the note Kies wrote to Daniel Sr. informing him of  his son's death.

 In the end, Louis followed through on the wishes of his father, who insisted later in the letter to his son that "no matter what the expenses are, bring his [Daniel's] body home." Louis arranged to have his half-brother's body disinterred in Maryland and paid for the zinc coffin for Daniel to be transported in back to Brooklyn. It cost him $30, according to a receipt that has survived 150-plus years and remains in possession of Tarbox's descendants. Sometime in early October 1862, Louis accompanied the body back to Connecticut, where Daniel was buried in South Cemetery in Brooklyn. "Father and brothers," it notes on his memorial marker, "all a long farewell!"

Eight days after Antietam, Louis Tarbox saw his half-brother Daniel's name published 
in the New York Tribune among those killed in action. "I have every reason to believe
the list is true," Louis wrote his father in this letter, dated Sept. 25, 1862.
In this envelope addressed to Daniel Tarbox's father ...

.... this letter from 11th Connecticut Capt. John Kies, dated Sept. 21, 1862, informed 
him of the death of his son. "I did not see Daniel after he was taken 
from the field," Kies wrote.  (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)

Louis Tarbox received this receipt for the cost of disinterring his half-brother's body
 and the purchase  of a zinc coffin to transport him in back to Brooklyn, Conn.
Pennies, Lincoln side up, on gravestone of Daniel Tarbox in South Cemetery in Brooklyn, Conn.

Close-up of Tarbox's memorial in Brooklyn, Conn. Daniel "fell wounded while defending the bridge
at the battle of  Antietam, Md.," it notes.

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