Saturday, October 12, 2013

Antietam: 'It was here we lost some of our best men'

A marker for brothers Philo and David Mix in East Farms Cemetery in 
Waterbury, Conn. David Mix, a corporal in the 14th Connecticut, 
was killed at the Battle of Antietam.
Three days after the Battle of Antietam, two officers in the 14th Connecticut wrote a letter to the Waterbury Republican detailing the fate of some of the soldiers in their regiment. In its first battle of the war at Sharpsburg, Md., the 14th Connecticut suffered 166 casualties, including 20 killed.

"After marching until 9 a.m., we began to receive the enemy's fire of artillery, their shells exploding in the trees above and around us," the letter signed by Company C Captain Samuel W. Carpenter and Lieutenant Frederick Seymour noted. "We had, up to this time, been marching by the flank, but were now ordered to march by the front, in line of battle. After marching some 10 to 15 minutes through the woods and some corn-fields (up to this time supported by the 130th Penn. Reg't, the 1st Delaware Reg't being in advance), and not knowing that the rebel infantry was so near us, we received a terrible fire of musketry at short range, they being in a line of rifle pits and ditches, and almost entirely concealed from view.

"It was here we lost some of our best men," the officers lamented.

Among the soldiers cut down by the Rebels, many of whom were well hidden in a well-worn road bed that later famously became known as Bloody Lane, was Henry Keeler, a 23-year-old corporal from Waterbury. A bullet entered his hip and passed through his intestines, mortally wounding him. "His loss was deeply regretted," the officers noted.

Private Michael Keegan of Windham, who had only recently transferred into Company C, was killed. The 33-year-old soldier left behind a wife named Mary and five children 11 years old and younger. Private John Jones of Waterbury was "dangerously wounded" when he was struck by a bullet in the small of the back. (He later died in a Hospital No. 1 in nearby Frederick, Md.) Color-bearer Thomas J. Mills of New London was mortally wounded.

After discharging his weapon and apparently hitting the enemy, Corporal David Mix of Waterbury shouted above the din of battle: "Stand up, boys, or you can't see the fun." But shortly thereafter, the 27-year-old soldier was struck by two bullets and killed instantly.

After the 14th Connecticut was ordered to fall back, the remains of Mix and other dead in the regiment were left on the field and recovered and buried there the next day. "The place of their burial is noted," the letter published in the newspaper noted, "in case their friends want to remove their remains in the future."
David Mix's occupation was listed as farmer in the 1860 U.S. census.
For David's parents, Anna, 59, and John, a 61-year-old factory worker, their son's death was another terrible shock. In the spring of 1862, David's younger brother Philo, who served as a private with his brother in the 1st Connecticut earlier in the war, died of unknown causes. A three-month regiment, the 1st Connecticut filled its quota only 10 days after the Rebels had bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Like many in the North, neither David nor Philo probably expected the Civil War would last long. When their terms expired on July 31, 1861, Philo did not re-enlist; David, an unmarried farmer, was mustered into the 14th Connecticut as a corporal less than a month later.

Today, the brothers' names are barely legible on a well-worn marker in secluded East Farms Cemetery in Waterbury, Conn. It's unknown whether David's remains were ever returned from Antietam.

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