Saturday, November 15, 2014

16th Connecticut private survived Antietam, POW camps

Augustus Funck, who survived Antietam  and Rebel prisons, poses for a photo, probably
 taken in the early 20th century. (Connecticut State Library archives)
While digging through a large box of Civil War images at the Connecticut State Library archives early this afternoon, I was captivated by this cabinet card of a slender and dapper Augustus H. Funck, a former private in the 16th Connecticut. Probably in his 70s when the photo was taken in the early 20th century, the veteran, a thick gray mustache across his thin face, looked confident as he posed in his hometown of Bristol, Conn. Funck was one of the wealthiest men in town, having turned his father's furniture and undertaking business into a fortune -- a fabulous achievement for the "poor German boy" who immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1846.

"He worked harder than anybody else in the business for years," The Hartford Daily Courant noted in 1911, "and the success of the big enterprise was due to no one else but himself."

Funck undoubtedly learned a lot about grit and determination during the Civil War, when he faced more than his share of hardship. A carpenter, he enlisted with his brother Henry in the Union army on July 22, 1862, his 26th birthday. Less than a month later, Funck was wounded in the foot at Antietam, one of more than 200 casualties in his regiment in fighting in a field of head-high corn. Nineteen months later, he and his brother were captured with nearly their entire regiment at Plymouth, N.C., and sent to Rebel prisons. Funck spent four months in Andersonville and five more months in captivity in Florence, S.C., where Henry died, before he was paroled and sent north.

After the war, Funck was married twice (his first wife died in 1883), raised eight children, was active in the local Grand Army of the Republic post and served a stint as the town jailer. In 1910, veterans of Funck's Company K celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary to his second wife by giving the couple a silver bread tray that was inscribed with a reference to his service in the 16th Connecticut.  The undertaking business that he jump-started in the late-19th century remains active to this day in Bristol.

A defender of family honor, Funck legally dropped the "c" from his last name shortly before his death in 1911 to "prevent mischievous corruption of the company name by less-than-savory characters who hung around the railroad depot across the street." The old soldier's grave may be found in Bristol's West Cemetery near the final resting places for many of his 16th Connecticut comrades.

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