Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Antietam, Andersonville survivor's tragic death in 1865

"I really hope this is the last death I shall have to record in this place," Samuel Grosvenor
wrote in his diary on Sept. 9, 1864. He was imprisoned at Andersonville at the time.

Samuel Grosvenor's small diary in the
Connecticut Historical Society collection.
Although nearly 150 years have passed since Sergeant Samuel Grosvenor’s death, I felt like I was invading his privacy as I read short entries scrawled in pencil in his small, leather-covered diary at the Connecticut Historical Society on Saturday.

An unmarried farmer, Grosvenor served in the 16th Connecticut, a regiment whose luck ran out the day it was mustered in in Hartford in late August 1862. At the Battle of Antietam, less than a month after it left Connecticut, the 16th Connecticut suffered more than 200 casualties. Many of the men and boys skedaddled, scared out of their minds; two soldiers fled all the way to England. Grosvenor was wounded at Antietam and soon returned to the regiment. But on April 20, 1864, he and nearly the entire 16th Connecticut were captured at Plymouth, N.C., and sent to Southern prison camps.

In entries in his diary during his seven-month imprisonment at Andersonville, the most notorious Rebel POW camp, Grosvenor regularly recorded the weather – on Aug. 2, 1864 it was “clear and cool” -- as well as a steady drumbeat of death. Conditions at Andersonville were appalling. Many prisoners lived in small, makeshift shelters and bathed in, drank from and met their sanitary needs in a polluted stream that ran through the prison grounds. Nearly 13,000 soldiers died.

A brief account of the sinking of the
Massachusetts appeared in the 
Hartford Courant on April 27, 1865.
“Silas Matthews of Company K departed this life,” Grosvenor wrote in a diary entry on Sept. 9, 1864 about a comrade from Bristol, Conn. “I really hope this is the last death I shall record in this place.” Paroled by the Rebels nine days before Christmas in 1864, Grosvenor slowly made his way back North. But the soldier from Guilford, Conn., apparently never saw his home state again.

In the dead of night on April 24, 1865, Grosvenor and other former Yankee prisoners of war were aboard the steamship Massachusetts on the Potomac River when it struck near its boiler by the steamship Black Diamond, a small barge propeller. The Massachusetts sank in about three minutes.

“In the excitement, many soldiers became panic stricken, seized planks and whatever could be found that could float, and hastily jumped overboard,” the Hartford Courant reported in a 184-word account buried in the newspaper on April 27, 1865. “Many were thus drowned.” Andersonville survivor Samuel Grosvenor, wounded at the bloodiest day in American history at Antietam, was among them.

The tragedy on the Potomac was pushed to the margins of history. An even bigger story unfolded that night. The Federal government was looking for Public Enemy No. 1.

His name was John Wilkes Booth.

"The finder will be liberally rewarded by returning to the owner," Samuel Grosvenor wrote on
an inside page of his diary. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

1 comment:

  1. Do you know if there are any photos of Samuel Grosvenor?